Our Weekend At Old Settler’s

What. A. Weekend. We ventured out to Driftwood, TX this past weekend for the Old Settler’s Music Festival. It was a weekend of the outdoors, BBQ, a bit of mud, great music, great people, and all-around one of the best music festival atmosphere’s that I’ve experienced. We started everything off by heading to Camp Ben McCollough on Wednesday night for a pre-festival party. We saw Rhythmic Statues, who were a really cool jam band, and Dead-Eye, a local Grateful Dead cover band. Both bands set things off right for the weekend that we had ahead of us. This was also the night that I realized that Russ was a celebrity at Old Settler’s. He seemed to know just about everyone.

Thursday night we came back to Camp Ben McCollough where we started things off with Bill Kirchen, who blew me away. The guy was a total badass. He was like a musical encyclopedia in the way that he impersonated so many great guitarists and his original stuff was very solid as well. After Bill Kirchen, we saw the bluegrass band, The Infamous String Dusters. They were a bit poppy and polished for my taste, but they were a fun band of talented, very skilled, fast picking musicians.

Friday night, we went across the bridge to the real festival stages where we saw a newgrass legend, Sam Bush. He was one of the highlights of the festival for me. By the end of the set, he had everyone “Howlin’ At The Moon”. With the help of a band manager of the Mavericks and the Old Settler’s staff and volunteers, Russ got a front row seat for both Sam Bush and The Mavericks (and also for the rest of the festival). The Mavericks took the stage just after Sam and closed out the night with some really cool Tex-Mex style country music.

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Saturday, we began by seeing Hot Rize, a progressive bluegrass band who put a fun little creative twist on their set. In the middle, they changed into western gear and pretended to be a separate western swing band called Red Knuckles and The Trailblazers. Both bands were great and had a lot of character to their music. After Hot Rize, we headed down to the Bluebonnet Stage in another area of the festival and saw the end of the Lost Bayou Ramblers.  They were really rocking out and bringing it with some Cajun music. After we snagged some food, we decided to check out the ukulele virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro. At points it was hard to tell that this guy was even playing a ukulele.  It was really astounding that he was playing like he did with just four strings.   The part of his set that we caught consisted of mostly instrumental songs and ended with a really awesome version of George Harrison’s classic, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Jake left the stage and we stayed for the beginning part of JD McPherson where we heard the first bit of plugged in real Rock & Roll that I had seen all festival. After about 20 minutes of that set, then headed over to check out Chuck Prophet. We got a prime seat in the front center of the stage, but unfortunately had to leave it because a storm was headed our way. I’m glad we did leave when we did because just as we got under cover it really started to come down really hard and they had to postpone the set due to thunderstorms (even some hail) in the area. After waiting around for a little while, we decided to call it a day and head home for the night to rest up for Sunday.

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Sunday’s music was back over at the campground and turned out to be my favorite day of the festival. We started things off with Pokey LaFarge, who played folk/swing/eclectic American roots music. I felt like we had been transported back in time and hearing a traveling band from a dustbowl carnival. It was really really cool. The lead singer had a killer voice and had a set of really well crafted songs. His band was lively and energetic. They were one of the major highlights of the weekend and a total surprise at that. Shinyribs took the stage after to close down the weekend of music. He put on an extremely high energy, fun, and musically eclectic set that had people up and out of their seats dancing the entire time. At one point there was a conga line going through the crowd which the lead singer, Kevin Russell, and his horn players jumped into and started parading around the stage area. It was an awesome show and the perfect way to cap off our epic weekend.

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2015 Old Settler’s Music Festival Preview

Mid-April in Texas means it’s time to drive through the bluebonnets out to the Old Settler’s Music Festival, for some Salt Lick BBQ, cold craft beer on tap, and some of the best music America has to offer. Old Settler’s is the world class festival in the Austin area that’s not over-grown, over-hyped, and over-crowded. Here’s a few of our favorites playing this weekend.

 

Sam Bush – Friday, 8:15pm-9:45pm
new sam bushPushing bluegrass into new horizons earned Sam Bush the title King of Newgrass. His bluegrass roots fuse with elements of other genres to make new but familiar sounds. An animated entertainer, Bush’s mandolin playing will blindside you, as will the rest of his backing band.

Hot Rize – Saturday, 5:45pm-7pm
Hot-Rize-624x269Old Settler’s has a long history with roots music, and knows a thing or two about booking real deal bluegrass like Hot Rize. Acclaimed bluegrass traditionalists Hot Rize influenced a generation of other musicians before they retired from the stage in 1990. The classic recipe calls for heavy servings of fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bass, and acoustic guitar. The reformed Hot Rize is still a fresh creative force, touring behind a studio album of new material.

Jeff Austin Band – Saturday, 3:10pm-4:20pm
jeff austinJeff Austin was a founding member and longtime mandolinist with jamgrass purveyors Yonder Mountain String Band. These days he’s doing his own thing with less jams, more hooks, and a focus on tight arrangements. Expect fireworks from the supergroup of sorts touring as his backing band. The Jeff Austin Band includes musical assassins Danny Barnes on banjo, Ross Martin on guitar, Eric Thorin on bass, and Cody Dickinson (from the North Mississippi Allstars) on percussion.

Robert Earl Keen – Saturday, 10:30pm-midnight
Robert Earl Keen PortraitKeen tried a different approach on his new release Happy Prisoner: The Bluegrass Sessions. The resulting album serves up a Texgrass spin on classic bluegrass. Danny Barnes regularly performs his banjo hysterics live with Robert Earl Keen, and ol’ Danny is already booked at the festival. Will we get to see Danny guest on a solo or two with Keen? Will Keen’s set feature songs from their new bluegrass album? Come on down to find out.

The Mavericks – Friday, 10:30pm-midnight
mavsThe Mavericks make highly danceable music from an unclassifiable blend of country music, Latin beats, rock band energy, and soulful crooning. Their last stop in Austin was a sold out ACL Live at The Moody Theater gig. Equally at home in swanky downtown venues or Texas dance halls, this band will be fun to watch outdoors under the hill country stars, especially with their diverse group of fans.

Israel Nash – Saturday, 12:10-1:05pm
inThe former Israel Nash Gripka, now simply billed as Israel Nash, dropped his last name after relocating across the country to Dripping Springs, a symbolic rebirth of a new life and a new direction in sound. Less name, more volume, tighter Crazy Horse-like band cohesion. Nash’s recent batch of songs were crafted while soaking up the Hill Country lifestyle, so at Old Settler’s you can hear these songs in their birthplace. Music, like wine or bourbon, tastes better when consumed in the hills that produce it. Created locally, but gathering acclaim globally, his new album Rain Plans is a worthy blend of analog-era rock, Americana, and personal songwriting informed by a sense of place. During live shows, when the full band synchs together (which is usually the entire set), they appear energized from the music, unable to sit still, propelled into moving and dancing around stage, instruments in hand. A quick disclaimer for the record: one of band members has the exact same name as me, but I am not the pedal steel player hyping my own band. May we never meet in person, because like the Highlander there can only be one of us. And it would probably be him. Israel Nash and band have an early Saturday daytime set. See them up close and personal while you can, the crowds are catching on.

Lost Bayou Ramblers – Saturday, 6:10pm-7:25pm
LostBayouRamblers-624x418Straight outta Lafayette Parish, the center of Cajun culture, this progressive Cajun music band has a fun modern take on the traditional South Louisiana music they grew up with. Their songs still feature fiddle, accordion, and vocals in Cajun French, but it’s also got enough rocking drums and electric bass to earn them an opening slot on Arcade Fire’s tour.

Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express – Saturday, 9:20pm-10:30pm
cpWhen Alejandro Escovedo was booked in 2010, real animal rock-n-roll was imported straight from South Congress to the main stage of Old Settlers. This year the festival booked Alejandro’s frequent songwriting collaborator and surf buddy Chuck Prophet. These two musical brothers built similar career paths, both starting as the band guitarist before stepping into the spotlight as a band leader. Prophet’s raucous early days set the foundation for evolving into a more countrified and insightful songwriter. Time moves forward, but Prophet’s edge is still there and is on display Saturday night.

Shinyribs
Saturday, 10:50pm-midnight
Sunday, 4pm-5pm
shinyribsfront2-624x413Kevin Russell gets the honor of two closing spots, one as the Saturday night midnight finale, and another as the last act closing down the campground stage on Sunday. After years of festival appearances with the Gourds under his belt, he’s somehow still finding a way to reach new career peaks in his Shinyribs manifestation. Still rooted in the Americana universe, his sound now covers a broader range from acapella to ukulele strumming to full on honky-tonk dancing. The man’s got the creative flow I guess. Songs and dance moves pour out of Russell, if the moment calls for it, he’ll dance like a flamingo taking flight or bounce around like a dashboard Jesus. When it happens, just roll with it, that’s what he’s doing.

The 2015 Old Settler’s Music Festival takes place Thursday April 16 through Sunday the 19th. Full lineup and ticket information can be found at: http://oldsettlersmusicfest.org/

Another Great Saturdaze of Music!

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Another great Saturday night of music in Austin was had last night. We started off our night by heading out to Stubb’s to see Yonder Mountain String Band play the Waller Creek Amphitheater. Ben Sollee was the warm up act for Yonder Mountain String Band and he was amazing. He took the stage with Jordan Ellis, a percussionist playing a Cajon, a symbol and other smaller percussive instruments. Ben Sollee was equipped with his cello.   I used to be obsessed with Ben’s album “Dear Companion” that he made with Daniel Martin Moore, so it was a quite the pleasure to see his cello skills live and in person. His voice sounded great above the well crafted instrumentation. His set was lively, and jaw dropping at times.  Although it was a short opening act, it was a great one.

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After Ben Sollee, Yonder Mountain String Band headed out across the stage. I had never really heard more than one or two of their songs before going to this show and had never seen them live. They played a mix of progressive and traditional bluegrass songs and had a great familial energy to them. The band consisted of Adam Aijala on guitar, Dave Johnston on banjo, Ben Kaufman on Bass, Allie Kral on the violin, and Jacob Jolliff on the mandolin. They all played very well took turns ripping on their instruments throughout each song. I have to say, I’m always impressed with how fast bluegrass players can strum and fingerpick, but the mandolin player in the band, Jacob Jolliff , was unbelievable. His fingers were moving a lot faster than I could follow as they went up and down the mandolin fret board. Allie Kral was also incredible with her violin. She had some pretty epic moments throughout both of the two sets. Banjo solos always stick out to me and are always the ones that I remember most and Dave Johnston’s were no different. Adam Aijala was holding it down on guitar with some awesome bluegrass guitar playing. Ben Kaufman was the backbone of the entire band with his stellar bass playing skill.  He was the heartbeat of the operation.  They all sang really well together and that added to the family aura being presented to the everyone.  It felt like, as they mentioned throughout the set, “homemade bluegrass” performed by a family.  During the encore they snuck in a bluegrass take on Ozzy’s “Crazy Train”, which was really well done.  They played over two and a half hours (two sets that lasted over an hour each).  It was an awesomely authentic bluegrass gig.

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After Yonder Mountain String Band, we switch gears completely and stopped over at the Continental Club to see T Bird and the Breaks play. They were a very high energy, part funk, part hip-hop, part rock and roll group from Austin.  It was a great eclectic mix of genres that just seemed to put a smile on your face from the first song.  They put on a really fun show and had everyone feeling all of the good vibes. T Bird and his band gave off some incredible energy and looked like they were having a lot of fun up there on stage. It was one of the more memorable gigs that I’ve seen at the Continental Club so far.

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The War On Drugs – Taping For Austin City Limits

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Yesterday, Russ and I went to the ACL taping for The War On Drugs. The War on Drugs is a fantastic band from the city that I used to call home, Philadelphia. Their latest album Lost In A Dream was crafted near perfect, in my opinion, and was one of my favorite albums of 2014. I was pretty excited to finally get to see them live. They played songs spanning their entire career from Lost In A Dream, all the way back to Wagonwheel Blues. The set started out with the first song off of their record, “Under The Pressure” which set a great tone for a great live show. Hearing the record in full continued to blow me away more and more with each listen, but actually seeing Adam Granduciel and the band play it live made those songs hit even harder. Adam’s guitar solos are atmospheric and so big. To hear him play in a venue like the Moody Theater was incredible. All of the songs played were amazing, but some of the standouts for me were “An Ocean Between the Waves”, “In Reverse”, “Lost In A Dream”, “Eyes to the Wind”, and the final song of the set “Suffering”. All of the guitar effects, keyboard melodies, saxophone riffs, harmonica solos, lyrics sang, and lively drumbeats seem so meticulous and deliberate with this band, while also sounding incredibly natural and free flowing.   It was a very well done show by an extremely talented group of musicians.

Saturdaze – Alejandro Escovedo at Strange Brew and Mike Flanigin Trio ft. Jimmie Vaughan at C-Boys

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Saturday night started off at Strange Brew where we saw Alejandro Escovedo play an acoustic set. I expected it to be a pretty awesome show and was interested to finally hear a stripped down version of the loud, high energy shows that I’ve heard him play at the Continental Club. It was even better than I had expected though. He featured Brian Standefer on cello and Elias Haslanger on the tenor saxophone.  The acoustic setting gave the songs a completely different feel. The arrangement of the saxophone and cello around his acoustic guitar was incredible. I felt like I really heard his songs for the first time. The Continental Club shows are great and a lot of fun, but at this show I got to hear Alejandro play the songs in a more bare bones (probably closer to how they sounded when they were first written) way. They had a much more honest feel to them and really highlighted his storytelling abilities. I gained even more respect for him as an artist and songwriter after hearing him in this intimate setting like this. As I told Russ, this was one of my favorite shows that I’ve attended since moving to Austin.  The atmosphere, the stripped down feel, the venue’s acoustics, everything was very well done.

After a great gig at Strange Brew, we decided to head to see the Mike Flanigin Trio at C-Boys featuring Jimmie Vaughan. I had never seen Jimmie live. Mike Flanigin played the organ and sang. Jimmie Vaughan played guitar and also sang on a few songs. They had awesome drummer, George Raines playing with them as well and they all sounded great together. It was very cool to see such a legendary blues guitarist live in person and at a local club like C-Boys. Flanigin’s vocals and organ playing, alongside the excellent drumming by Raines, created a great platform for Jimmie to show us his chops. I’m happy that we made the move to go to C-Boys. We had a great Saturday night and got to see a lot of really amazing music.

jimmie vaughan

(Photo Credit: Eric Swanson)

Grimy Styles returns to the Flamingo Cantina

We went to Grimy Styles at the Flamenco Cantina last night on 6th Street.  The show was insane.  It was a packed house for was their first gig there in a while.  I had never seen them or heard of them before last night.  I was told that they were one of Russ’ favorite bands and his old friends from when he used to do the First Thursdaze gigs down at Ruta Maya.

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Grimy Styles definitely didn’t disappoint. Read the rest of this entry »

The Nymphets

downloadWith a name like this, I thought I was getting into something risque, maybe taboo, or at least something that pushes the envelope. The Nymphets didn’t deliver any of this. In fact, the only thing I can say about The Nymphets is it was a giant tease. Writer/Director Gary Gardner must have wanted to show the audience what the ultimate blue balls looks like for a creeper.

Joe (Kip Pardue) rescue’s two young girls fake ID’s from a bouncer and then invites them back to his apartment. Joe is a fairly successful something year old who indulges the everlasting giggly twins, Brittany (Annabelle Dexter-Jones) & Allyson (Jordan Lane Price), two under age teens looking to get into trouble.

The Nymphets came across as more of a study on what happens when you let two teenage girls run their dirty mouths for an hour and a half. The two girls playfully tease and antagonize Joe, when really all he wants is to get laid by one of them. What makes The Nymphets uncomfortable is how Joe constantly creeps on these two girls that may or may not be able to legally drive. You can never tell if they want to sleep with Joe or just tease him, but either way it’s hard to really care.

I guess I was expecting something that had the ferocity of Funny Games or Cheap Thrills, but instead it played more like Lolita (the Jeremy Irons remake).

Petting Zoo

petting-zoo-sxsw-berlinWell, this film only affirmed for me why living in San Antonio doesn’t seem great. Getting past the city, Petting Zoo had potential and I’d be curious to see what writer/director Micah Magee does next.

Petting Zoo Takes place in the aforementioned city, and centers around a shy teenage high school senior, Layla (Devon Keller). Although I can’t say I remember what it’s like to be a teenage girl, I could never tell if Layla was acting on teenage angst, apathy, or maybe both. When we are introduced to her, she is just about to graduate and ride a scholarship to The University of Texas. When she is forced to with a game changing decision (teen pregnancy), Layla is forced to grow up (sort of) quicker than expected.

Most of the characters seemed wooden to me. I didn’t care or buy into Layla’s world. Part of this was due to the very unnatural dialogue that just didn’t seem to have much flow. To boot, the story didn’t go anywhere until maybe the last 20 minutes. I’m alright with a slow burn, but this just kind of caught a spark and fizzled right away. I think that was intentional because Layla’s ambivalence about things made for an ambivalent response from this viewer.

One particular scene was tough to watch where she has to have an induced labor after discovering her 3 month old baby is a stillborn. Not for the squeamish, so if you don’t like seeing dead fetuses, you might want to cover your eyes.

Petting Zoo wasn’t all bad. There were brief moments when Layla seemed like an actual person and not just flying on autopilot. She snapped out of her daze in one particular scene in time to argue with her and her man friend. The dialogue felt very real and raw, which was not felt in many of the other scenes. There were also some odd choices for edits/cuts, but the acting was fairly solid, throughout, especially by Layla.

Deathgasm will melt your face

deathgasmThis film was so metal, I might have had a Deathgasm after viewing it. This has probably set the bar for films at SXSW this year. I mean it’s about teenagers forming a metal band that happens to play a piece of music, the “dark hymn” that summons the devil and causes the townspeople to turn into demons. It’s a metal themed movie that didn’t disappoint.

I’ve been describing it as Shaun of the Dead meets The Evil Dead I and/or II. A film born out of New Zealand, the genius behind the film, Jason Lei Howden, came on right before the screening and said if we liked it, we should petition online for a sequel because he needs more work. I hope he has already written a script because I’d watch another ninety minutes of gore and mayhem.

I knew I was in love when the main character, Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) daydreams about being a metal guitar player on top of a mountain shooting lasers out of his eyes to remove the clothes of the girl of his dreams, Medina (Kimberley Crossman).

Filled with plenty of gore and some pretty gnarly deaths, one particular scene involved death by sex toys which was maybe the most brilliant scene ever conceived on film. A film that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but never loses its eye on the prize, Deathgasm is a must see for everyone ever.

Night Owls

nightowlsI’m not usually into romantic comedy’s, but Night Owls was particularly clever thanks to the chemistry between the two main characters, Kevin (Adam Pally) & Madeline (Rosa Salazar). The story really grabbed my attention for about forty-five minutes. Somehow it just lost its charming momentum and started to feel stale as if the characters were running out witty things to say.

Kevin & Madeline enjoy a one nightstand where Madeline brings Kevin back to what he assumes is her home. He wakes up to find Madeline missing and he quickly discovers that she brought him to his bosses home. Kevin finds Madeline laying unconscious in the bathroom with an empty bottle of Xanax. Kevin has to keep Madeline from falling asleep for the rest of the night so the two are locked in and forced to get to know one another.

Tony Hale (Buster on Arrested Development) makes an unexpected visit, as a podiatrist for about five minutes and that was probably the best part of the flick. Also, Peter Krause has about five minutes of screen time. Man, he’s looking old.

The chemistry between the two main characters was solid and there were some well timed jokes with a splash of slapstick here and there.  I wasn’t able to buy into the budding relationship between the two characters based on the dialogue, but Night Owls was still enjoyable.

 

Assscat and a night with Upright Citizens Brigade

unnamedI felt like doing something a little different during the film portion of the festival on this particular evening. I went to check out UCB’s (Upright Citizens Brigade) Assscat, an improvisational performance at Esther’s Follies. I encountered the kind of crowd filled with drunk bros that muster the courage to try and make their own jokes by blurting them out in hopes of getting recognition from the actual comedians. Not my favorite kind of crowd, but definitely a cool departure from the other things I have done so far.

Matt Besser and Matt Walsh were in attendance as original cast members from the television show, Upright Citizens Brigade.They opened up the show by speaking to a crowd member who happens to be a reality television producer from Singapore and other crowd members that had developed their very own mobile apps. After some interviewing, they were joined on stage by Horatio Sanz, Katie Dippold, Lauren Lapkus, Mary Holland, Shanon O’Neill, and a few other comedians.

The way Assscat works is, someone from the audience yells out a word and a monologist on stage tells a story (usually embarrassing) involving this word. After the short monologue, the rest of the actors on stage play out various improvised skits around said subject.

Most of the time, I was in stitches and appreciated some well deserved fart and boob jokes. I noted that Horatio Sanz kind of seemed shy and hung back a lot during the skits. There was one guy who was jumping in to the limelight left and right. I understand stage etiquette and nobody appreciates a showboat. Either way, it was great to see that the two Matt’s haven’t lost their touch.  

 

 

Breaking a Monster

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I was sold on this documentary when I read that it was about a metal band consisting of three African American 8th graders. Their stardom was born after a youtube video went viral of the three jamming out on the streets of New York. Malcolm Brickhouse (guitars/vocals), Alec Atkins (bass), and Jarad Dawkins (drums/backup vocals) make up this juvenile power trio named, Unlocking the Truth.

Malcolm, the front man, is definitely the most talented in the group. He is definitely a monster on the guitar and with more years, he could be infinitely talented and start burning guitars on stage or playing with his teeth. He is also easily the most difficult and immature of the bunch, but he is outspoken and seems compelled to continue on and make music no matter what anyone thinks. Malcolm also sings (not well), but I was thinking, there are plenty of metal bands without vocals, but this was important to Sony for marketing.

The documentary chronicles the three from their infancy, as a band, (although they are young) all the way up to recording their first music video and recorded single. They struck a record deal with Sony for 1.8 million before they ever had anything recorded. Their manager, Alan Sacks, who brought up The Jonas Brothers and had a part in the creation of a little television show called, Welcome Back Kotter, has more patience than a Buddhist monk (he does meditate in the film). Sacks helped seal the deal with Sony although it seems like he thought these kids would be as focused as the Jonas brothers.

The documentary also explores how difficult and stressful it must be for kids that young to have the responsibility of transforming into a well groomed and marketable band, especially for Sony’s standards. It doesn’t help that the company is run by a bunch of rich white people, who all seem to have an opinion about what’s right for the band.

You can definitely tell from many scenes that the band does not seem to grasp how fortunate and lucky they are to have the music biz cushion and their veteran manager, which makes sense because they are teenagers that want to be able to act as teenagers, rightfully so. They’ll have to grow up pretty quickly if they continue down the path of stardom.

There were some exploitative references coming from the film, especially because they are African Americans that are not fitting the stereotype by not being immersed in the hip-hop community. There are notions that Sony and their manager are just in it for the money (of course they are). I’d like to know how the band does in the future and I hope that their egos can stay in check and they can minimize spoiled behaviors.

 

Unfriended

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I now know what it is like to stare at a teenagers computer screen for an hour and a half. Unfriended was an unlikely pick at SXSW, but it seems like the theme for this year is horror/suspense. Unfriended is probably the best representation of the video chat/web formatted films out there. I had pretty low expectations going in, the trailer made Unfriended look like a shock horror film, but to my surprise it ended up as a supernatural slow burn.

Cyber bullying is explored in Unfriended, when a friend of a teenage group kills herself after an embarrassing video of her goes viral. The film starts off marking the anniversary of her death when the friends decide to get online for a nice unsuspecting video chat. Quickly they realize they are not alone in their video chat, but there is someone who knows their secrets and plans to terrorize them.

Prior to watching Unfriended, the exec. Producer came out and talked about how the film the audience was about to screen may or may not be anything like the final film that hits the theater in the following months. That was a first for me and I didn’t understand why he mentioned this until after the film. So basically each take was the length of the film without any cuts because of the fact that the characters are basically on screen the whole time so it plays out kind of like a play. This also explained why there were some odd lulls in conversation, for example there are multiple scenes where the lead characters are talking to one another in a private message with the other friends hanging out in the background. So the filmmaker wanted the attention to be drawn to the private conversation which required the other background characters to be quiet. This kind of had an unnatural feel to it, but it only periodically occurred. Overall Unfriended was a pretty solid pick for SXSW.

The Final Girls world premiere at SXSW 2015!!

photoKicking off the festival this year on Friday the 13th no less with a high energy horror/slasher comedy, The Final Girls. The crowd was rowdy and it made this a memorable experience indeed. This film will definitely score points with slasher film aficionados and horror fans alike, but don’t expect the tautness of Cabin in the Woods, another film striving to hit meta status in poking fun at the horror formula. The Final Girls is one part, an homage to 80’s slashers and one part a story of coping with loss. Sometimes it struggles by trying to commit to both themes in 90 or so minutes.

Max (Taissa Farmiga, notably from American Horror Story) is a bashful teenager who is in the midst of dealing with her mothers untimely death from three years prior. Her mother, (Malin Ackerman) is best known for cheesy slasher films in the 80’s entitled “Camp Bloodbath” (basically Jason films). Max’s best bud, Gertie (Alia Shawkat) has a relentless stepbrother, Duncan (Thomas Middleditch from Silicon Valley) who desperately wants Max to attend the anniversary screening of Bloodbath that he and other fanatics are attending. Reluctantly Max does attend the screening and after a freak fire breaks out in the theater, Max and her friends are supernaturally transported into the film, Bloodbath. Max has a chance to reconnect with her mom, sort of, and The Final Girls tries its best to set the rules of the this world.

Sometimes the pacing is off of the film and it feels like there is too much space for improvised lines that could have been cut a little earlier. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some really fantastic and hilarious moments in the film. There is one particular scene that gave me a newfound appreciation for the beauty of slowmo, even if it was intended to demonstrate its overuse. The scoring is pretty cool and there is some pretty sexy dancing that is the detonator for the killer to appear.

The Final girls is a notable attempt by director Todd Strauss-Schulson and although it might not be an instant classic, it definitely is worth checking out.

Sundaze Conversations #12: Topaz McGarrigle

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Get to know Topaz McGarrigle with us. Topaz is my favorite sax player in town. There are so many phenomenal players here, so that statement has merit. We became friends long ago. I have followed all of his projects. I just like the guy. He has been a featured interviewee one more time than Toni Price. If you know me, you know that is special. The Daze sign now resides just above the back door of his club, Sahara Lounge. This guy has done much for me over the years. Here is a fond memory and example of that:
“Hey man, would you put together a backup band for a dream gig for me?” “Sure,” he replied.
The respect that exists between us is very cool. His new project, Golden Dawn Arkestra, is one of my favorite gigs.  Be sure to check this show out.  For years, I have been referring to Topaz as Carlito.  My name hasn’t caught on yet.  However, I’ll keep calling him that.  Thanks Topaz for the conversation. Our team this time was Belinda, Rockslide aka Grubbs and me. (Transcribed by CC Bonney.) Thank you for reading…

AustinDaze: Does owning a venue change how you play or think about music?

Topaz: No. Not really. Having the Sahara has been a blessing. We started our new project here, so its been a blessing to have a platform where I can do whatever I want.   Read the rest of this entry »

Sundaze Conversation #2: with Alex Marrero **UPDATED**

Get to know Alex Marrero with us. Alex is currently exploding all over the national music scene as the front man for BrownSabbath. We sat down with my old friend for a few words at 7 flags Coffee.. The team this time was John Grubbs , Caity Shaffer and I. Thank you to Alex and my team for helping me continue to do this. Here is #2: UPDATED WITH NEW QUESTIONS AND PHENOMENAL ANSWERS.  WE TOOK A NEW PHOTO AT JO’S.**
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**Daze: Since we talked last I think you’ve had a chance to hear what Ozzy has to say and I’m not sure, but I think you met him. I just want to know what your reaction to this info was?
Alex: Well, it was through our friend Eddie Torres who gave us a copy Read the rest of this entry »

Sundaze Conversations #1: Barfield- The Tyrant of Texas Funk *UPDATED*

Get to know Barfield with us. We sat down with The Tyrant after Sinners Brunch at Jo’s. The team this time was John Grubbs , Caity Shaffer and I. We had a good time. Make sure you see the Barfield show live. Trust me, you will be entertained! **This interview was updated by Russ Hartman and Greg Etter.  There’s lessons to be found if you’re paying attention.**IMG_0396

**AustinDaze: How do you stay healthy on the road?

I stay healthy on the road by drinking lots of coffee in the morning and salty snacks after the show.

AustinDaze: What do you think about SXSW?

 SXSW has become harder to navigate after Austin’s growth but I still enjoy playing a couple of events and catching up with friends. It’s also a great time to hear a variety of good music. **

Daze: When and how did you know that you’d be a channel for funky soul music?  Tell me a story of how it all started?

Barfield: It kind of morphed over years.  I started out in a garage band when I was in junior high school.  I came from the school of thought of how the classic 60’s guys like Mick Jagger and James Brown fronted those kind of bands.  Then I grew to love country music too, so I sang in some country bands, country rock bands.

I was born in Houston and was around a lot of that kind of music–high school soul, funk. It was all mixed, everything was kind of no holds barred.  It was like you can like anything.  So my dad didn’t play an instrument, but he liked whatever he liked.  He might like a rock song, and he might like some classic jazz song or something.  I grew up with that, but I think as time went on…

I was playing in Wisconsin with a little band when I broke off on my own, doing more R&B and blues and soul, and a little bit of funk with my other stuff. This guy billed me as Mike Barfield and said, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind, but I called you “The Tyrant of Texas Funk.”  I said,  “No.  That sounds good.”

When I came back here, that’s been ten years ago I guess, I told Steve about it.  That’s how I became billed as that.  I gradually started doing more and more of it, and met Johnny Moeller, the guitar player and Mike Flannigan, who plays organ upstairs.  Mike was originally in the band with me too, and when I was doing the funk thing we wrote songs together.  It just kind of came that way–we didn’t really consciously plan it as such.  We got into R&B and soul, then gradually started to morph it into the funk thing.  I think with me it’s like if I had horns and all, all the time, you’d watch it and someone with my persona would get lumped into Blues Brother things.  What we do, it’s not really pure funk and soul, it’s more of a garage approach, a small combo. I love all that stuff.  The fun of it is just doing it I guess.  Just being able to live life and enjoy it as much as you can.

Daze: You’ve always had a great band.  How did you meet all those people?

Barfield:   When I first moved back in here, in 2000, I was still playing with the Hollisters, and I was on Hightone.  We had a record, and the guitar player moved to Seattle. I had to grab somebody, and I grabbed Chris Miller.  He left the Marcia Ball band and came with me.  Chris’s kind of open, in the genre sense, and came up liking the same things even though he was from Portland, and I’m from Texas.  We did that for a couple years and I started wanting to make a record on my own.  I made a record called Living Stereo with Fort Horton Studios, and it had some covers on it, some country songs I wrote, and soul, R&B, a couple blues tunes.  That was kind of my stepping out thing.  I did a soul tune by a friend of mine and Chris and Dave Miller were on that.

I was playing one night with Chris Miller doing a little thing I don’t normally do, playing an acoustic gig at Flipnotics.  And Chris said, “Oh, Johnny Moeller is here, “ and was talking about Johnny’s guitar playing.  So, I went out to the Poodle Dog Lounge where Johnny happened to be playing and Lazy Lester came out.  That was the first time I met Johnny and his brother Jay, and Mike Flannigan. I started hiring Johnny a couple times, and we just got to know each other. I never believed that much in cornball destiny things; but, in some ways, you wonder why you connect with certain people or not.  It’s just happenstance. I don’t know, but as soon as I saw him play, I just knew I’d be playing with him, or I wanted to.

I met Nick Curran years ago too when he first moved to town; that’s how I met Damien.  Nick and Damien were playing together, and Damien goes “hey man, I’d like playing with you, give me a call.”  And, I called him.  I was a big champion of Nick and Gary Clark Jr.  I did a show opening up for Southern Culture on the Skids one time.  It was just me, Gary Clark, Jr., and Jay Moeller; we all set up in the front–the drums, and then Gary, and then me.  We had no bass player; I just played maracas and sang.  We did the opening show and called ourselves The Solution.  I’m proud of those moments.

It’s all kind of a good friendly big camaraderie here and that’s what I like–a lot of that kind of intermingling from people that play in different groups.

They (the band) are all inspiring to me.  They are younger than me, and you naturally feed off that energy.  I’m always looking for somebody that wants to have fun on stage too.  That wants to be original.  That is my thing as the band leader or front man- to have that freedom where you know that the guys you’re working with are all good at what they do.  You don’t want to press on anybody too much like, “I want you to it play exactly this way,” which would be more of the James Brown approach probably.  He was more of an architect in his way.  My blueprint is different. I have to let somebody do their thing and thereby get even more out of it, I think.  They enjoy it more ’cause everybody can take a little advice or something, but nobody wants to be told to play just “that.” They might take it for a while, but it’s more enjoyable to have freedom in music.  I call it just playing from the gut.  It’s strictly from your soul and from your insides.  Why would you want to hold that back in anybody?

Daze: You don’t hold back much.

Barfield: That’s great because I’m hoping that’s what’s happening. If you’re not feeling as good as you normally are…say you are feeling tired and what not, that will bring you up, make you feel better.  It helps the audience have a good time if you are enjoying playing, and I like whoever plays for me to always feel that.  You have parameters of course on the songs you are doing…

Daze: Do you have a preference between The Continental Club and C-Boys?

Barfield: I like both. I like the small, relaxed hang out at C-Boys with the little deck in the back.  So, that’s nice; it’s a little more intimate.  But, the stage sound on stage at the Continental Club is one of my favorites in town.  I love it, and I’m used to that site.  It’s got the perfect size.  The Continental has probably been my main stay and most favorite club in Austin for years.  I’ve been really lucky because I’ve been working there for a long time. Without that club, I think I would have had a rough time.  Steve Wertheimer is  a great club owner, the guy that owns both C-Boys and Continental Club. He’s been very, very good to musicians.

Daze: When did you decide to drop the guitar and be a front man?

Barfield: I never really was a guitar player anyway, really.  At first I started out as a front man only.  Then, later on when I started playing with this other band, the Hollisters, I had to get a chord book and learn basic acoustic rhythm to do that music; and so I did that for years.  I still enjoy that, still do it sometimes; but, when I’m doing this band, that just has no place at least right now.  There is something freeing about not having that to worry about.  Then, I can dance and I can do whatever I want to do.

Daze: Who taught you how to dance?

Barfield:  Just watching TV.  When I was a kid I used to love all of the dance shows on TV, even local in Houston–that would be the Larry Kane Show where they would just have dancers.  It would be like the old Dick Clark show.  You’d see kids dancing, and the bands would come on and play or they’d be taped and just had the music…and then Soul Train.  I grew up with that, my age group.  To me that was the epitome of free form dancing.  My last years in high school, the white kids wore platform shoes, long hair, and blacks had fros, whites too.  Those were the styles I grew up with in the 70s.  I think it’s timeless–I don’t think it’s ever gone out of fashion.

You can be free and ridiculous; you quit worrying about what people think.  If someone wants to laugh at me, that’s fine too.  I don’t really care.  It’s like I know that I’m going to enjoy my life as much as I can.  You want to make fun of that, that’s fine.  Some people just want to go “look at him” but I think it makes people relax too and they aren’t as inhibited about dancing.  Some people need somebody to be that for them, so that’s what I tell them, “I’ll take care of the embarrassment for you.  You don’t have to worry about it.”

Daze: Is that part of what’s behind lyrics like “Popping the Cooch?”

Barfield: Yeah, subconsciously, I’m sure that is a lot of what it is.  I got that because one of my friends used to talk about this guy he worked with, who would brag, kind of joking around humor like, “This is how you pop that cooch,” and make that sound and do it (clicks his tongue).  It’s nasty, but at the same time it’s harmless fun.  I had a whole group of girls in Lincoln, Wisconsin.  They came out and said, “We’ve got a surprise for you tonight.”  I was like, what is it?  “It’s about music.”   And I thought, are you gonna bring me a record.  So, I get to this show, and all of a sudden they’ve got this look on their face and they pull their shirts off and they all have tank top or a black t-shirt that said “Popping the Cooch” on the shirt.  My point there is that some girls don’t find that offensive.  It’s not my wife’s favorite song that’s for sure.

Daze:  You mentioned James Brown before.  How do you feel about being compared to him?

Barfield: I’m flattered if someone even thinks about comparing me to James Brown.  There are only a few musicians that have been giants, Mount Rushmore type figures in music.  He would be one to me.  He took some musical form like rhythm and blues and soul music, and all of a sudden he accents it another way.  Just by his natural instincts, and lack of formal training, comes up with this thing that nobody has come up with.  He truly is the Godfather of Soul.   He started out more as soul and became funk.   I can’t think of anybody I would say has been more influential.  There’s a movie coming out about him that Mick Jagger produced.

Daze:  Did you ever get to meet James Brown?

Barfield: No.  I saw him once in his later years, but even at that age, he was still very tough.  He was like 70 years old and still doing a couple moves.  Maybe he didn’t sing as good as he used to, but he was great.  The band was machine tight.  I mean, I wish I could have seen him way back.  A lot of my favorite singers are people of that era.  I wish I could have seen Jackie Wilson.  I love him.  He’s a singer, and his vocal range is so different from mine.  I am naturally a baritone, but I kind of have a high end to my voice; so, I have always admired someone who has that higher range.

Daze:  What is your writing process like?

Barfield: When I am writing for this band, or trying to, sometimes I will have an idea on my own; or, other times, Johnny will have an idea about a rhythm or chord progression, and I’ll put lyrics to that.   Sometimes I’ll have both.  “The Struggle” I wrote myself.  “Popping the Cooch, I wrote.  With the Struggle, I originally wanted a song that just stays on the one all the time.  And that’s what that song was.  Some stuff I will start off on the acoustic guitar.  Lately, I am writing a lot with Johnny.  And I used to write a lot with Mike Flannigan too.  I like having a partner in crime.  Sometimes the whole band will get in on it.  Sometimes they just help arrange it.  It just kind of depends.

That’s what’s fun about being in a group.  Feeling like if it is really going good on stage, or if you come up with something good, you almost feel like you are part of a big wheel that’s turning.  You’re making this whole thing go.  At the same time, you’re just a big spoke in it, part of the thing that’s pushing it forward.  When everybody is in that, and the whole band can feel it, there is nothing like that.  I love that feeling.  It is kind of like you are tripping in another way.  You are physically involved, and mentally involved, but it’s relaxed.  It’s just happening.  All those things you’ve worked on before.

But “good’ and “bad’ you know.  Some nights when I feel it’s not as great, that’s when everybody goes, “Man, that sounded so good!”   And you’ll think, “Oh, I thought we were a little bit off.”  It’s a strange thing.  That makes you realize, “I don’t have a whole handle on it either. The people out there; they are the ones making it too.”

Daze:  What’s next for you?

Barfield:  We are trying to get a little EP out.  We’ve got a recording we are waiting on to get mastered.  Hopefully, we’ll make some vinyl.   Some CDs.  Have a release party.  Try to get out more.  I am looking forward to that.  It’s always hard too—the waiting.  I just try not to worry about things like this as much as I used to.  Take it day by day…

Daze:  Do you have a lot of gigs this week?

Barfield: Tuesday night, at the Continental.  Just about every week.

Daze:  Your gig is one that, definitely, everybody in Austin needs to go out and see.  Thank you for doing this.

Barfield:  Ah, you bet.  Thank you, man.

Bill Frisell and the Big Sur Quintet Live at the Texas Union Ballroom 03/08

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This Sunday 3/8, Bill Frisell and The Big Sur Quintet will be playing the Texas Union Ballroom in the legendary Cactus Café starting at 8pm. We have covered some of Bill Frisell’s shows at the Continental Club in the past and it is definitely a gig that you will NOT want to miss! Frisell will share a jazzier take on some Woody Guthrie classics, but the night will not be focused solely on Guthrie’s prolific career. Bill and The Big Sur Quintet will be drawing from on a wide range of musical selections.
Tickets are available at https://cactuscafe.thundertix.com/

Visit Bill Frisell’s Website: http://www.billfrisell.com/

Premiered at Jazz at Lincoln Center, where Frisell has been a guest curator with Jazz At Lincoln’s Center’s Roots of Americana series since September 2013, Guitarist Bill Frisell and the Big Sur Quintet (violinist Jenny Scheinman, violist Eyvind Kang, cellist Hank Roberts and drummer Rudy Royston) will examine the music of one of folk music’s preeminent figures, Woody Guthrie. Best known for the classic “This Land Is Your Land.” Guthrie was at the helm of the folk music revival of the mid-twentieth century and a major influence on Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, among countless others. Frisell has established himself as one of the great storytellers of jazz guitar with an exceptional ability to convey a range of aesthetics with skill and heart. Drawing inspiration from Guthrie’s music and views on the racial, social, and economic struggles of his time, Frisell will explore the lineage of protest songs, whilst re-imagining familiar melodies through his characteristic adventurous perspective. Whether his multi-faceted music is deeply intimate or epic and orchestral, Bill Frisell and the Big Sur Quintet, provide a wide-ranging repertoire where the musical possibilities are limitless. —

Sundaze Conversations #11: Andrew Trube

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Get to know Andrew Trube with us. Andrew is a killer guitar player and also a good friend. I say that a lot in these intros, I know. Most of my friends are the musicians I go to see. It just happens. One of the coolest lines came out on a Wednesday night long ago, I was talking with this gal and she wanted to know who was there with, I said, “The band, I’m with the band.” I doubt that I’m as cool as that sounded.
Years ago, the Bluefish guys turned me onto the Greyhounds. I have been a fan ever since. I don’t remember why, but many years ago Andrew and I started telling each other to “Be Somebody.” I know it refers to  “The Jerk.” The other day while heading north on 35, I saw that someone is using our line for an ad campaign. Made me laugh out loud when I saw the billboard. Thanks Andrew for the conversation. Our team this time was Belinda, Rockslide aka Grubbs and me (transcribed by CC Bonney). Thank you for reading…

 

AustinDaze:  Tell us how music became a part of your life?

Trube:  Originally, my great grandmother, she taught me piano when I was five.  And it all Read the rest of this entry »

Sundaze Conversations #10: John Nelson

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Get to know John Nelson with us. El John is one of the nicest guys I know. I know that we have crossed paths before because this is Austin and we have been in the same scene for a long time. He ” slaps skins” on Wednesdaze night up at the Gallery. I park my chair right by where he sets up. We have become great friends over the years. El John is a respected figure in the music community. He has played with everybody. Maybe one day I’ll take a good picture of him at the Gallery. Maybe… :-)  I am so fortunate to have these conversations and to have these people as friends. Thanks John for sharing words with me here. Our team this time was Belinda, Rockslide (aka Grubbs) and me (transcribed by CC Bonney). Thank you for reading…

 

AustinDaze: When and why did you start to become a musician and what were the influences that made that happen?

El John: Early on, there was music just around when I was growing up, so Read the rest of this entry »