music

Heaven’s gonna burn your eyes

Went to see Thievery Corporation at Stubb’s last night. Thanks to Gwen’s friend Mellie, we were able to get free tickets in return for a favor Gwen had done testing Mellie’s new project.

I’ve been a fan of Thievery Corp for some time, and had recommended that we use our freebies to get into this show, but still, it was with some trepidation: the band is one of that crop of studio-oriented duos (other examples: Zero7, Chemical Brothers). I was a bit concerned we’d be treated to two guys standing behind keyboard racks for the whole show. And in fact, that was exactly how it opened (to “Treasures” from Mirror Conspiracy, if I recall correctly). After that, other musicians and singers filed in. The bass was mixed a little too loud.

The show wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. Why was it less than great? A few reasons:

  1. Very little spontaneity and improvisation in their performance. A few numbers had some, but most of them were very much like listening to album cuts really loud. While the other musicians kept the show from looking like two guys frobnicating their keyboards, I had the distinct impression the show could have been done without them, and at one point, the vocalist was clearly not singing at some moments we were hearing his voice–it was being played from a sample–though he held the mic up to his mouth to maintain the illusion.
  2. A little too much reggae for my taste. The first half of the show was their more exotic/neo-loungy/dreamy stuff. For the second half, they brought out a couple of reggae singers, who had a more energetic stage presence, despite the fact that the music was still basically downtempo. The contrast didn’t exactly work.
  3. Short show. They started pretty much at the announced 8:30 start time, and ended at 10:30 (though the end time has to do with noise ordinances).

In short, I don’t regret going, but I won’t feel like I’m missing out if I don’t go to their next show. I’m glad I didn’t pay $23 (or whatever) to get in.

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A night of surreal sights and sounds

The Alamo Drafthouse was having a “stag night” downtown. Gwen and I thought this sounded like fun, so we hied ourselves on down. There were a couple layers of difference between what I was expecting and what we saw. I was expecting, you know, stag movies. Grainy black-and-white porno shorts where the guy’s eyes had black bars across them. In fact, what they had planned to show was a more conventional porno movie, Fantasex Island (not even in the IMDB, but hey, look, it is in the Adult Film Database, mysteriously listing Holly Near in the credits!).

Well, it turns out that, according to the jackbooted thugs at the TABC, establishments that serve alcohol cannot show porno. So the people putting on the stag show edited it down to the non-pornographic parts–about five minutes (which, frankly, was enough)–and ran that.

For the main feature, they showed something much stranger: Sinful Dwarf, AKA “The Abducted Bride.” This was an English-language Danish horror movie, where a depraved dwarf and his hideous, washed-up showbiz mother lure young women into their attic, get them hooked on heroin, and use them as sex slaves for hire. Part of the schtick was that the sound was turned off, and a crew of four (?) live performers in the room took over all the voices, sound effects, and music. As near as I could tell, they stuck pretty closely to the original dialog, adding in a few of their own zingers along the way.

[Later] It turns out that none of the people in this movie have a Bacon number higher than 4. Amazing.

So, okay, that was weird. Watching it, we wondered two things: 1. What ever made anyone think that the movie had any artistic or commercial merit? and 2. How in the hell did somebody in Austin ever find this stinker and decide it would be fit to show in public?

After that was done, we then headed over to the Ritz for a night of ukulele music. The opening act was Sonic Uke (a great name that unfortunately appears to have been taken already). The three members all work at Cafe Mundi, so they were more or less familiar to me. The guy singing was doing a Bill-Murray-Lounge-Singer routine, and the chick had on a bizarre wig (as did Carl, on the uke). Most of their material was pretty weird, but not unpleasant–they do have musical talent, and they weren’t going out of their way to conceal it.

They were followed by Shorty Long, which always puts on a good show. The Ritz was filling up at this point, and not a lot of people really seemed to be into them, for some reason.

The third act was probably what most people came for: Petty Booka. A couple of Japanese chicks who cover a wide range of pop and country numbers in their quasi-Hawaiian style (along with some original numbers). I’d heard their stuff before, and appreciated it for the novelty value (which is high), but seeing them live, I realized that they really had serious musical talent, singing in harmony that reminded me a little of David Seville and a lot of a 60s girl-group like the Ronettes. I expected to see just the two of them–in fact they were backed up by a standup bass, guitar, and a very young-looking but talented Mexican guy on a slide reverb guitar. They covered everyone from the Ramones to Patsy Cline. Great show.

There was a fourth act on the bill, the Meat Purveyors, but I’ve heard them and it was already pretty late, so we left.

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Ganesh

Caught a performance by an Indian drummer named Ganesh above the Clay Pit last night. Some of the usual suspects were there, including Adina. Ganesh was playing a tiny handheld drum–smaller than a tamborine–that produced uncannily deep, liquid sounds, somewhat like a kettle drum. I believe it’s called a kanjira. It was a good show, and despite the Indian connection, it was really more of a jazz improv session (they even played Billie’s Bounce, I think it was).

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Caetano Veloso

Saw Caetano Veloso last night at Bass Concert Hall with Gwen and another friend (who just happened to know the cellist). The local alternative weekly did an interesting piece on him recently.

The show was great. Although he played a number of old standards, there was nothing stale about his show, or about him. Unlike some musical acts that have been around as long, he clearly continues to innovate musically, not resting on his laurels. He’s also just damned talented.

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Towering hypocrisy?

Out running errands yesterday, I stopped by the Tower Records near the UT campus, which had marked down a lot of CDs to $8.99.

Although a lot of the marked-down items were best-of collections, there were some good standbys lacking from my collection, so I took the opportunity to fill these gaps–things like Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde and Highway 61 Revisited, Neil Young’s Harvest, and Thelonious Monk’s Monk’s Dream. While not cheap, $8.99 starts getting into the range of what I’d consider a fair price for CDs (of course, I buy a lot of music at what I consider unfair prices, too).

Right next to the checkout counter, I noticed a big floor display of blank CD-Rs. By all rights, the RIAA should be outraged that a major music outlet is essentially condoning and profiting from piracy, but I haven’t heard any cries of indignation on this subject. I’ve messaged them–if I get any feedback, I’ll post it here.

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Orange Mothers & Meat Purveyors at the Cactus

Last night, Gwen and I saw the Orange Mothers and the Meat Purveyors at the Cactus Cafe. Gwen and I had seen the same line-up at the Continental Club when we had been dating for about two weeks. We’ve been dating for just about six months now.

The show was good. There was a bizarre opening act–three white guys doing traditional Indian (err, Native American) chants. Can’t say as it did much for me. But the Orange Mothers are fun, and the Meat Purveyors are fun as well as being really talented, energetic musicians. The Cactus has the advantage (to us) of being cigarette-free–the only bar I know of that is. And it is convenient. As is so often the case, we had several tempting options for Saturday-night activities, but the show at the Cactus won out.

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Shorty Long

Went to see Shorty Long again last night. They’re fantastic. No, it’s not enough that they have a seven-foot-tall nose-flute player, he stands up, sways rhythmically, and makes funny faces while playing it. And the music…Where do they hunt down stuff like “Flaming Ukulele in the Sky”?

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Fairtunes to the rescue

OK, you can stop feeling guilty now. About downloading MP3s, anyhow. Fairtunes to the rescue. I like this. A website that let’s you make a payment directly to a musician in return for MP3s you’ve downloaded. This leaves the record labels out of the loop. Boohoo. If you donate even a couple bucks for one album’s worth of music, the artist is getting more from you than they’d ever get from the sale of one CD.

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Sir Finks

Went and saw the Sir Finks at the Carousel Lounge last night with Tracy. The band has been augmented with a chick on keyboards, wearing her Carnaby Street finest (as were some folks in the audience). The smoke and percussive volume (they’re usually not that loud) started getting to us after a while, so not long after her friends Georgia and Cheryl finally showed, we wound up leaving.

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Dave Edmunds at Cactus Cafe

Tracy and I went and saw Dave Edmunds Saturday night at the Cactus Cafe. What a great show! It was a solo show. He had on this shirt, a swirly purple and black pattern on velvet that would make suitable wallpaper at a goth-hippy whorehouse. He was playing a pretty black Guild acoustic run through four effects boxes. A lot of thumb-picking, with a bluegrass style that threatened to lapse into Smokey Mountain Breakdown at times. A lot of old standards played in inventive ways–he did an instrumental version of the Beatles’ Lady Madonna, and the audience would all shout out “see how they run” at the appropriate moment. He played a little classical guitar, then he played Classical Gas and followed that with his very unique take on classical music, in this case Mozart.For his encore, he came out with a Telecaster that had some weird device lashed on below the bridge; it turned out that this was a remote control for a rhythm box that accompanied him on a wild version of Flight of the Bumblebees.

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Victrola

Checked out a band that was on my “to check out” list last night. Victrola. They’ve got a regular Monday-night gig at the Empanada Parlour. They’re good. Early New Orleans style jazz, torch songs, that sort of thing.

On my way home, I snapped one of the brake cables on my bike. This has never happened to me before. Fixed that today, and replaced the other cable as a preventative measure. Also installed new brake pads, as long as I was in there. I hate installing new brake pads. Takes forever to get them adjusted, and I never get them quite right.

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