Benjamin Booker is both incredibly talented and quite charming in his honesty and sincerity that seems quite evident as he performs. What could be a very simple set up of guitar bass and drums (with occasional mandolin and fiddling from band mates) becomes more complex when you think of all the influences responsible for this greatness. Throughout the hour long set, one could decipher an intriguing mix of garage rock, soul, bluegrass, and blues that seem to all come together, with one or another genre emphasized more in some songs. It's exciting that Booker is so young when you think of what he'll continue to do with all of these genres in a hopefully long career ahead of him.
Ever since Earl Sweatshirt returned from his hip-hop sabbatical in 2012, the 21-year-old Odd Future word whiz has been watched under a microscope. His murmured polysyllabic flow and vivid murder fantasies proved a skill well beyond his age; but right as 13-piece rap mob catapulted into fame, Earl disappeared.
Investigations confirmed Earl's mom had shipped him to a school for at-risk teen boys in Samoa. As soon as he returned, every verse, interview and public appearance was analyzed for a clue as to what his commercial debut might sound like. When Doris dropped, an even further matured version of the previously precocious Earl Sweatshirt appeared: altogether stoned, heady, horny, insecure and thirsty for blood.
To our surprise (and his), Earl's second album,I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, hit iTunes pre-order last week and officially released March 23. Worrisome and dark, the album covers recent hardships: a broken relationship, the death of his grandmother and troubles adjusting to fame. He's talks of losing loved ones and replacing them with fans "who you can't get mad at when they want a pound and pic/ 'Cause they the reason that the traffic on the browser quick/ And they the reason that the paper in your trouser's thick." Complete with drugged, slouched beats and a biting bass, the mischievously witty album is self-produced by Earl, under the alias randomblackdude.
Earl Sweatshirt's live performances in Chicago usually result in mind-melting freestyles, sweaty, bloody mosh pits and random articles of clothing getting chucked offstage. Lucky for you, he is playing an all-ages show alongside protege West Coast MC Vince Staples and Remy Banks at the Concord Music Hall (2047 N. Milwaukee Ave.) this Sunday, March 29 at 5:30pm. Tickets are $28.50 (+fees).
TV on the Radio have been around for a little over a decade and they have been releasing the most unique albums I've ever heard. Their music grabs inspiration from such varied sources and are brought together in such innovative ways, it seems like they are forever destined to be ahead of their time. Last year they released Seeds, their first album since Gerard Smith's passing. As a huge fan of TV on the Radio, Smith's passing came at a time where it affected me greatly. It was a loss that certainly could have stopped TV on the Radio in its tracks, but instead it strengthened and encouraged the band to continue creating. Seeds feel like a beautiful tribute to Smith, featuring some of the brightest songs the group has written. It's a testament to their ability and fortitude to strive forward without forgetting of their past .This past Monday, TV on the Radio stopped by the Metro and showed their resilience and amazing showmanship to a sold out audience.
In the wee hours of the morning today the Lollapalooza line-up was finally revealed, containing at least one bucket list performer. Legacy acts Paul McCartney and Metallica headline the festival, along with the relatively younger artists Sam Smith, Florence + the Machine, and Bassnectar.
The afternoon bookings are where Lollapalooza really shines. Locals Twin Peaks and Wild Belle will bring some Chicago flair to the Lolla stages. Pop hitmakers Charli XCX and Marina and the Diamonds are both billed, and we'll see the return of Death From Above 1979, Father John Misty, and Cold War Kids.
Three-day passes have already sold out, but single day tickets will be available this morning at 10 am. Lollapalooza hits Chicago July 31st through August 2nd in Grant Park, with tickets available to purchase here. Any chance you get to see a Beatle live, you take.
Craft Spells, primarily the project of Justin Paul Vallesteros, started out with some instantly great electronic pop. But in the three years between his debut Idle Labor and last year's Nausea, there was a shift to a more organic sound. Vallesteros produced a more mature tone than his first album by bringing in live instrumentation and writing songs for the piano. It was a change that showed just how diverse Craft Spells and the genre he operates in can be. Last week, Craft Spells was joined by The Bilinda Butchers and Tiny Fireflies at Schubas, where the three bands showed off how varied and interesting dreamy pop can be.
You can't argue with free and Schubas knows it. The venue started putting on free shows for local bands back in February, with $2 rolling rock, $5 vodka cocktail specials and $5 "rock and shot" combos to encourage people to come out. In a city teeming with local talent, this is a great way to get a little exposure to the overwhelming number of Chicago bands.
In our final SXSW Tour Diary update from The Waco Brothers, guitarist Deano answers the age-old question: Was it worth it?
The end is near.
In many past years, SX Sunday was a day to get some last minute face time with out of town friends and industry folk. We generally didn't have any gigs on Sunday and often were flying home that day. But the schedule seems to get more packed each year. This year, I've got four sets and a brief late night appearance at the Continental Gallery. It would not surprise me if I'm writing about our Monday gigs next year.
At about 11:30, Ice Cold Singles arrive at the Hole In The Wall for our noon set. The club is just getting ready to open. The bartender who unlocks the front door proceeds to have some sort of manic episode. Some issue with his keys is enough to send him over the edge. After the craziness of the weekend, staff at these joints are on edge. ICS plays a nice bloody mary set to about 15 people. Note to self- next year, no sets before 2pm on Sunday. If the fans can't get outta bed, we'll sleep too.
From there, it's off to Lucy's Fried Chicken for another Ice Cold Singles set, followed by a set backing Jon Langford as the Far Forlorn. The Lucy's party is a sprawling, mellow, family friendly affair. Kids and dogs running everywhere. We gorge on the provided fried chicken and set up on the tiny stage. Soundcheck mostly consists of trying to get singer Jo Walston to stop swearing into the mic. Family show. The crowd is great and both sets are a blast.
In our fifth SXSW Tour Diary update from The Waco Brothers, guitarist Deano lays out the what went down on Saturday. He also might be in need of a salad.
This day and night were all about Jon Langford and Buck Hogarth. The Waco Brothers had no Saturday sets. Backing up Jon's sets of solo and Mekons material would be the order of the day. A set with the legendary Buck would end the evening.
My only intake of fruits and vegetables this week has consisted of lime juice and salsa. Though I'm exhausted, sleep is difficult. I get up at 9am, put some caffeine in my bloodstream, hose myself down and head out to run some errands. Then, it's back to the office at Guero's. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Happy Yard Doggers, showing us some love!
In the early years we came to SX, I searched out and saw a lot of great shows. These days, with 15 shows of my own to do, about the only music I catch are the bands that play right before or right after us. On Friday, I saw a terrific end of a set by new Bloodshot signees Banditos. One of the singers has the tone of Janis. Lots of people try to imitate the wailing Joplin but I've never heard someone with that tone before. I'm impressed. Yesterday, I caught great closing moments of local legend Jon Dee Graham and Chuck Prophet. Langford jokes about having to play immediately after Chuck, "As he was leaving the stage, Chuck said, "Follow that, fat boy!"".
Follow we do. The Far Forlorn is now in full seven piece mode, with the addition of Yard Dog owner Randy Franklin on mandolin. The songs are coming together and the band is becoming a formidable unit. It's a shame we don't do this more than once per year!
This Saturday is going to be a very special one at the Metro in Chicago. Musician Benjamin Booker will be playing an XRT sponsored show with Olivia Jean as his opener. I caught Booker's set at last year's Lollapalooza and he had an honest and urgent energy that did not disappoint with the stellar songs to back up his stage presence. His self titled album earned him plenty of deserved accolades and it's always exciting watching a young musician come into his own sense of self and artistry.
This show is sold out but you might be lucky enough to win XRT tickets. It's an 18+ over show and doors open at 8pm.
In our fourth SXSW Tour Diary update from The Waco Brothers, guitarist Deano talks Bloodshot celebrations and SX traditions (of which he is a part of both.)
I'm just tryin' to get me some SLEEP! But my neighbors, apparently feeling the SX vibe, decide to crank Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons "December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night)". Not only is this a crap song but it's of a creepy genre. Why people ever wanted to hear the "I look back fondly on finally convincing a girl to let me lose my virginity" song is beyond me. But I digress....
March weather in Austin is reliably about as picture perfect as can be. When you overhear someone yelling, "I'm TOTALLY moving here!" into their cellphone, it's always in March, never in the midst of 60 straight days of triple digit temperatures. Coming here from Chicago at the end of a long winter was always a treat. In 20 years, I can remember only one SX with cold (by Austin standards) weather. It was 2000. Here's footage of a younger, sexier Waco Brothers playing at Scholtz Beer Garden that year. Note that I am wearing a jean jacket. You cannot find any other year where outerwear in use at SX! Note that Alan is still stripped down to a wifebeater. Because he is Alan.
But yesterday, the rains came. This is bad news for the day parties. If you do not have some corporate entity handing you a big check, that is. These parties cost tens of thousands of dollars to put on. If no one's there to buy beer, there's nothing to offset the cost of renting tents, stages, PA equipment, etc. Most of the little guys who do this, like Yard Dog, lose a little money each year but consider it a worthwhile investment in raising their business' profile. Yesterday, that advertising just got a lot more expensive.
In Tall Buildings' Erik Hall wraps up his time at SXSW with (what else) seeing some excellent live acts.
On our last day in Austin we venture out as festival goers. After enjoying some of Mi Madre's tacos we're walking four-deep into downtown, each bearing a cold Topo Chico and half-joking about the sparkling water endorsement of our dreams. (This is not an uncommon aspiration for a band to hold, I've found.)
We head to Red Eyed Fly to meet some friends and hear some bands. We're pleased to happen upon our pal Michael Libramento chill-ly holding down the bass for a should-to-shoulder Natalie Prass set. Afterwards I'm finally able to catch fellow Chicago jammers Twin Peaks and am glad to affirm that those dudes put on a seriously rocking and aptly composed show.
Next we try our luck at the Fader Fort, the ominously imposing makeshift festival-within-a-festival east of the highway. At this point it's officially cold and raining, and folks are crammed underneath the shelter of the main stage tent. We're lucky to score some fancy wristbands and are watching Viet Cong pound out their set from the side of the stage. Their drummer seems unimpeded by the cast on one of his arms, and I give the band much respect for their super heavy, super minimal arrangements. The crowd is equal parts wide-eyed and dumbfounded.
As In Tall Buildings, Erik Hall had just one show to play in Austin for SXSW this year. Here's how he spent the day before and after, in the mix with other Chicago friends and musicians who traveled south.
Morning: There's cool air and cloud cover. We drink coffee for a while and then sit down to breakfast tacos at El Chilito. (Funny how much more American the Mexican food tends to be here than back home, despite the proximity to the border.)
Afternoon: We're casually running through tonight's set around the dining room table when Quin receives an urgent invitation via text to join Ryley Walker and his band at the Austin Psych Fest day party at Hotel Vegas. The astoundingly effective Uber — which I've only just started to use this week — gets us there within minutes, and we're suddenly taking in our first show of the week. The band is already playing its first notes when Quin slides onto the stage, seamlessly drizzling cymbals and drums into the mix. Lots of friends present, and it's good to say hey. "Delicate" Steve Marion, Ben Boye, Scottie McNiece, Grey Gersten, Dustin and Kristin from CHIRP.
In our third SXSW Tour Diary update from The Waco Brothers, guitarist Deano talks side projects, art projects, and why not to judge a band by their name.
With barely enough time to wipe the sleep out of my eyes, the first stop for me and my throbbing headache is Broken Spoke. There, the Waco Brothers will play the noon set at the day party for Twangfest, the St. Louis roots music festival. The Twangfest folks have been very kind to us over the years.
If you've never experienced a true honky tonk, the Spoke would be a good place to start. This is the real deal, folks. Any other time of year, this place is all about classic, old school country and two steppin'. If not for the fact that they rent the place out for SX, we would not be allowed to grace this stage. When we played here for the first time last year, the owner's wife was overheard grousing, "There hasn't been any real goddamn country played here all day!" She probably had a point. It's certainly true in our case!
The Wacos have a tradition of leaping at the end many songs. It's part of our schtick to make rock star moves in a supposedly ironic way, all the while firmly believing that we actually are rock stars. The Spoke's ceiling is about three inches above our heads. That bit of choreographed comedy gold is out the window. Though at the rate our vertical leaps are declining, in a few years we may be able to incorporate them into the routine anywhere.
Joe, Tracey and Jon plotting the Wacos plans for world domination.
In our second SXSW Tour Diary update from The Waco Brothers, guitarist Deano climbs up out of his hangover to give us a pretty remarkably lucid recounting of the first night's events.
At five o'clock, the whistle blows, I am freed from the salt mines and my SX weekend officially begins. I step out onto West Sixth Street and I'm greeted by Austin's most perfect weather. I'm also greeted by sensory overload. Aurally, it's a mash-up of 15 bands playing simultaneously within about a three block radius. Visually, it's a parade of music players and fans, along with spring breakers (SX has become a popular spring break destination over the years). Most are doing their best to look crazy, sexy, cool. I'm trying my best not to look like a fossil. SX usually gives me the rare inspiration to actually purchase some new clothes. I'm sporting a newly acquired thrift store shirt and a spankin' new pair of PF Flyers. I'm still just as rockin' as these kids, dammit!
Are we in Toronto yet? Jon & I hobnobbing with the power brokers of Toronto.
Facebook posts inform me that my Waco Brothers have arrived. They have checked in at Polvo's and taking in some Tex-Mex rock fuel. Me, I'm making my way through the madness to eventually meet up with Jon at an annual party for Canadian industry folk. It's put on by Jeff Cohen of the Horseshoe Tavern and Lee's Palace in Toronto. Jeff saw the Wacos at Yard Dog during SX many years ago. He became a super fan and our Canadian ambassador. Over the years, this has developed to the point where we feel like we have a Toronto family. The opportunity to eat free smoked meat, drink Shiner Bock and rub elbows with the Toronto music elite proves irresistible and Jon meets me there. The now traditional Rob Ford jokes are exchanged. Consumption and storytelling begins in earnest. This is the definition of SX. Folks seem obsessed with some newcomer/old timer, Buck Hogarth, who has a Saturday night set at ABGB. This years' buzz I guess.
Erik Hall is In Tall Buildings. He's also a SXSW vet. Deciding to keep things simple this time around, he's keeping things pretty Zen. Catch him tonight if you're in Austin!
March, 2006 - Ann Arbor, MI: Young members of the band NOMO are gathering to load up the van and embark on the 20-hour drive from Ann Arbor to Austin, TX for our first-ever trip to South By Southwest. We've decided to depart in the early evening and drive straight through the night. We've heard tales of the mayhem and sheer magnitude of the event at our destination, and spirits and expectations are high as we roll out of town and turn on to I-94 West.
It's dark. The hours are long. Some brave band member is piloting the van through some part of the middle of the U.S.A., and the road drones along under us. No one has spoken for a while. At some point we discovered that if one bench-mate opts to take the floor then both can stretch out their legs and attempt to get some actual sleep. Dan Piccolo (drums) is stirring while trying his best to stay comfortable. He rolls over onto his other side, and through the darkness he can make out the face of one Justin Walter (trumpet). Justin is staring back at him, wide awake, and in his usual, darkly-comical monotone he utters two words: "Maximum pain."