Tuesday, March 20, 2018

New Stuff from Ella Ross, The Cold Seas, A Deer A Horse

"Cold Shoulder" artwork and layout by Rachel R. Adler.

Gettin' Back into the Swing of Things

I won't be able to ride this excuse for much longer, but I've spent the better part of March getting ready for, attending, or recovering from South By Southwest. The world keeps turning, though, even when I'm on my little musical Spring Break; and there are a few things I wanted to share with you even though I may be a little late to the party.

Ella Ross, "Hurt."

Asbury Park-based singer / songwriter, Ella Ross, is working on the follow-up to last year's Uncharted Waters EP. Her sophomore effort, Wasted Youth, is due this summer; and, earlier this month, Ross shared single "Hurt."

Ross co-wrote "Hurt." with Tor Miller; and, like she did with Uncharted Waters, Ross went into Asbury's Lakehouse Recording Studios to record the track. The song is expansive, danceable pop rock about moving forward with someone against your better judgment. "Hurt." has a sound that I could see taking Ella Ross pretty far.

"Hurt." is available from your favorite digital music outlet.

The Cold Seas, "Retrograde"

Another Asbury Park band, The Cold Seas, released the video for their single "Retrograde" last Friday.

The Cold Seas are Eric Rudic (guitar / keys), Nash Breen (drums), and Chad Sabo (vox / guitar / keys). The band are coming off a string of successes that include a tour with NJ compatriots, Armor For Sleep, a set at Brooklyn's Barclay's Center alongside Deadmau5 and D.R.A.M., and Sabo's production and songwriting work on Rihanna's platinum-selling Anti.

"Retrograde" is the first of several singles the band plan to release throughout 2018 as a follow-up to last year's Bad Dreams EP. "Retrograde" is brooding, synth-heavy pop; and the black and white clip directed by Dom P plays right into the song's overall mood. The song deals with longing for the past, and there's a dreamy quality to the video that has moments that play like memories.

A Deer A Horse, "Cold Shoulder"

From slick, Asbury Park pop, we turn to jagged, Brooklyn rock.

A Deer A Horse are back with a new single "Cold Shoulder." The song finds the trio of Rebecca Satellite (guitar / vox), Angela Phillips (bass / backing vox), and Dylan Teggart (drums) hammering out another artfully aggressive slice of post-punk noise. Confrontational both sonically and lyrically, "Cold Shoulder" builds tension and demands your attention through tempo changes and some off-kilter beats.

It's available now over at A Deer A Horse's Bandcamp page as a download or as a limited edition cassingle from GP Stripes.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Premiere: New Video from Michael VM

"Oh Susie"

At the end of last year, former Everymen frontman and our very good friend Michael VM, released his debut, solo album. the happiest man on earth traded the beer-soaked, sweaty rock of The Everymen for more subdued, more studied Americana. The album grew from the many changes that Michael had experienced in the preceding years, from marriage and impending fatherhood to his move to North Carolina to the loss of his mother.

It's that last, most devastating change that Michael VM addresses in the song "Oh Susie." Back in November, I wrote:

"Oh Susie" deals with Michael's despondency following the loss of his mother. The song itself, though, is a sonic party. It features handclaps, whistling, and a saxophone. It's possible to celebrate those we've lost even in our darkest moments of missing them.

Michael's partner in crime, Emily, has called the song "the happiest, saddest song there ever was."

Today, I'm happy to share Michael VM's video for "Oh Susie." The clip, shot by Madden Meiners, combines lyrics, live performance footage, and some joyful moments with friends and family into a montage that captures the idea of living the best life you can as a tribute to those you've lost.

Michael VM recently announced that he'd be playing a show back in his old NYC stomping grounds on Sunday, May 20th, at Mercury Lounge. It's an early show with doors at 5:30. Joining Michael VM on the bill will be Metal Mountains.

In other news, Michael's impending fatherhood recently changed to, simply, fatherhood as he and Emily welcomed a baby boy to the world. I'm sure, somewhere, Susie is smiling.

SXSW Day 6 w/ The Gloomies, Dentist, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Fruit & Flowers, BOYTOY, Sharkmuffin, Kino Kimino, High Waisted, Honduras, A Giant Dog, and Roky Erickson, 3/17/18

A Giant Dog on the big stage.

Rock Or Die

Saturday was the big day of our "Rock Or Die V" showcase. Little Dickman Records, The Garden State Beard & Mustache Society, and I worked on it together; and we held the show at Valhalla Tavern right in the thick of it on 7th and Red River St. The line-up was chock full of friends and favorites with The Gloomies, Dentist, Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires, Fruit & Flowers, BOYTOY, Sharkmuffin, Kino Kimino, High Waisted, and Honduras. All of these bands were super-busy throughout the week, and it was great to be able to get them all for our show.

The Gloomies
Lee Bains & Tim Kerr

As for the show, what can I say? With the amazing folks on stage and in the crowd, it was a beautiful day. The Gloomies won me over during their 11:30 time slot, their Southern California vibe a perfect start to the day. Dentist's Emily Bornemann took a pretty serious spill following one of the band's shows on the way down to SXSW, but she played all of Dentist's showcases -- including Saturday's -- like a trooper. Except for the Band-Aid on her chin, you would never have known she was injured. Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires played at around 1pm with all of the abandon and passion that you'd expect to see in a packed room on a Saturday night. High Waisted have a new line-up, and brought a rainbow of color to the darkened bar. As Honduras were finishing up their set, a group of us bounced along with the music while cheering CoolDaughter #1 on in her 200 yard breaststroke final as I livestreamed it on my phone. Everyone else was, without exaggeration, fantastic, ripping through 25-minute sets and leaving us all wanting more.

Fruit & Flowers

And this is the kind of stuff I live for. Lee Bains or Kim Talon (Kino Kimino) bringing their guitar down into the crowd to play a bit in the scrum. Tarra Thiessen asking us all "Are you still having FUN at SXSW??" during Sharkmuffin's "Fun Stuff." The crowd screaming for more from BOYTOY or Fruit & Flowers as the house music came up.

Kino Kimino
High Waisted

Almost as important, the show ran on time; and everyone was able to get to their next gig. After packing up and loading out, a bunch of us -- the Dickmans, Matt Beardo, Joe Stalker, the guys from Dentist, and I -- headed over to the big, outdoor stage for A Giant Dog and Roky Erickson. The stage was set up in a vast green space next to Austin's Lady Bird Lake. The photo pit was huge, and that left a giant space between the audience and the main stage.

A Giant Dog
A Giant Dog

A Giant Dog played their set and were maaaaaybe slightly more subdued than they were at Hotel Vegas on Monday. They didn't censor themselves at all for the family audience, which was welcome (by me, anyway); and they owned the big stage.

This got me thinking, though. The show was such a stark contrast from the show we just threw at Valhalla and even from A Giant Dog's own set earlier in the week. I missed being thrown around by the crowd at Hotel Vegas as the dust flew up from the ground and as Sabrina Ellis or Andrew Cashen got right in my face. I missed the connection you feel with the band and the audience in those close quarters.

This is no knock on A Giant Dog. Their songs are more than strong enough to bridge much of the divide created by the big stage. And they deserve to be playing the biggest stages in the world. They are that good. But the contrast made me understand what it is I love about going to shows. It's the music, sure. But it's also the shared, communal experience of living those moments -- an experience that doesn't really happen for me when the band is several yards away and several feet above my head. (Aside: I realized that I'm not as comfortable shooting those kinds of shows either.)


Following A Giant Dog's set, we hiked around the grounds in search of some food. I hadn't eaten anything all day. We got back in time for the set by psych-rock pioneer, Roky Erickson. Both times I've seen him, the experience has reminded me of seeing Brian Wilson in recent years. Neither is the same as they were when they were younger (Who is?), but they are surrounded by a band that seems to know all of their idiosyncrasies. And the chance to hear classic songs ("Night of the Vampire," "Don't Shake Me Lucifer") performed by the person who created them is a chance I never like to miss.

Roky Erickson

There was a lot more stuff going on late into Saturday night and into the wee hours of Sunday morning, but I had walked / stood / bopped / bounced / taken pictures about as much as I could for the week. My flight was at noon the next day (Which, in SXSW time, might as well be 6am), so I went back to the hotel to pack and get some rest.

And so my third year at SXSW drew to a close. As I've said before, if I were better at this music website thing, I probably would have had a bunch of artist interviews or photoshoots or whatever; but I'm first and foremost a fan. I pretty much just went to shows and took it all in. There were bands I missed for one reason or another (A Place To Bury Strangers, METZ), and I had some pangs of FOMO as I watched the Instagram feeds of my friends who stayed through Sunday for the "hangover parties;" but this was my most rewarding year in Austin. By now you know that I'm all about shared experiences, and there's just something so cool about being away from home and sharing this experience with friends. I hope I can do it again next year.

I've got a ton of pictures to edit, so keep your eyes peeled for a few big photo blasts in the coming days. For the most part, though, it will be back to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

SXSW Days 4 & 5 w/ Common Holly, Little Dickman Records, Pujol, The Wedding Present, Sunflower Bean, Nikki Lane, The Frights, Starcrawler, and more, 3/15-3/16/18


"C'mon You Dads!"

Yesterday got away from me a little bit. My alarm went off, and I kind of just sat and stared into space in my hotel room before deciding that it was time to venture out and get some coffee. I planned on taking it kind of easy, since we have our big show today with a 10am load-in. Things didn't go quite as planned.

Back up a little first.

I spent Thursday morning getting the show listings and my daily recap together; and, before I knew it, it was 12:30. I gathered up my stuff and walked the few blocks over to Sidewinder where I caught Montreal's Common Holly. The project of Brigitte Naggar, Common Holly make intense, personal music in the vein of someone like Mitski. It's amazing how early 1pm feels when you're spreading yourself thin. Naggar commiserated a bit with the audience, "Who's tired?"

After that set, I caught Snail Mail on the Sidewinder outside stage, and I could see why the band really seem to be striking a chord with people.

In my quest to take it kind of easy, I decided that I'd go sit in on a "Writing About Music Panel" that featured Ryan Schreiber (Pitchfork), Marcus Moore (Bandcamp), Puja Patel (SPIN), Chris Mench (Genius), and Andy Cohn (The Fader). It touched on a lot of things I think about a lot, like criticism vs curation and writing about emerging artists. Time well-spent.

It was already late afternoon at this point, and I figured that some time with friends over at Little Dickman's Hard Luck Lounge showcase would be nice. They had a great line-up there, and I managed to catch Stuyedeyed, Grim Streaker, Dentist, Pink Mexico, Ex-Girlfriends, and Gustaf. I'd seen all of them before back home with the exception of Gustaf. Fronted by Lydia Gammill and featuring members of Sharkmuffin, Ex-Girlfriends, and The Big Drops, Gustaf is a wild experience of dance music, poetry, and Tarra Thiessen's voice through some kind of distortion pedal or vocoder. It has to be seen to be understood.

I headed back into town from there where I sat in my hotel room for an hour or so before working up the energy to catch late sets from Nashville's Pujol (Valhalla) and the "semi-legendary" Wedding Present (7 Grand). I've loved Daniel Pujol's garage-y, southern tinged, punk rock since seeing Pujol open for Screaming Females a few years ago. The band have been busy working on some new songs, apparently, and the ones they did on Thursday have me looking forward to the new record. The Wedding Present have been at it for around 30 years now, and their jangly post-punk has been a huge influence on lots of the music that I love. For a good portion of their 35-minute or so set, I just closed my eyes and soaked it in.

Somehow, it was now around 1am already; so I trudged back to my hotel room where I vowed that the next day would be focused on re-charging. It started off that way. I enjoyed a nice leisurely breakfast and slowly strolled over to the Convention Center where I caught the noon set from Sunflower Bean. The band have a kind of a 70s, psychedelic pop vibe anchored by singer Julia Cumming's voice. I'll say it again. While the Convention Center feels like a big conference room, the sound is miles ahead of much of what you hear around SXSW.

I walked back over to the Cedar St. Courtyard for a quick set from Philly's Hop Along. Singer / songwriter / guitarist, Frances Quinlan, is even more amazing live than on the band's records. So glad I didn't miss them.

Back over to Austin Convention Center for the tail-end of the set from Natalie Prass and the full set from Nashville country music badass, Nikki Lane. I texted the Dickmans, and we met over at Cheer Up Charlie's for California surf punks, The Frights. Following that, we met up with our buds Matt Chrystal and Joe Stalker, and headed over to catch another set from Gustaf. It ended up being the most weirdly wonderful set of SXSW so far.

Gustaf had a gig at The Big Easy, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant and bar specializing in Cajun-style food. Seeing Gustaf do their thing and interact with the stunned and confused crowd, most of whom were just there to pick up their dinner, will be THE memory of SXSW 2018 for me.

Dinner at Kerbey Lane and then the Dickmans dropped us off at Barracuda downtown where I caught Spanish surf punks Kings of the Beach, another super-intense set from Grim Streaker, The Wedding Present, Public Access TV, and Starcrawler. The sets alternated between the indoor and outdoor "stages," but all the bands played on the floor like we were at a basement show.

Hinds were on-hand going bananas to the NYC garage pop of Public Access TV, and Starcrawler were everything they'd been built up to be for me. At one point, guitarist Henri Cash chastised us, "Hey! I thought this was a pit party, not a room full of boring dweebs." Singer Arrow de Wilde stalked around the stage like the scary girl from The Ring, spitting water, tossing personal belongings from people's backpacks, and taking her wireless mic all through the venue. She tried to whip up the crowd of SXSW badge holders, screaming, "C'mon you dads!" Catching a set just inches away from the band like that isn't something any of us will be doing for much longer.

After midnight and I'd been out since about 10am. Oh, well. 9 bands at our show today and then hopes of running over to the big MGM outdoor stage to close things out (for me, anyway) with A Giant Dog and Roky Erickson. Sorry for the lack of pics today, but I have to be at our show in like 45 minutes, and I'm way behind on my editing. You can always follow me on Instagram.