Monday, January 16, 2006

Dream Up (Austin Comes Alive)

The spelling and grammar check on this program is really annoying. At this point I might just start leaving all of the entries unedited. I suppopse, being just a blog and all, it really doesn't matter.

As my dear friend Krista once so eloquently put it, "The place [Austin] is like a fucking womb." A summer camp, a velvet coffin, the list goes on... It is famously (or infamously) one of those places that vascilates between hpe and anonymity, yet somehow manages to always maintain the same sweltering, humid, self-satisfied nature. For a long time I was completely pitted against Austin, convinced that the real here and now was more likely to be found at such late night paradises as the Culture Club in Ghent, or in the Vice-land that runs through Brick Lane and all of Hoxton, but never sleepy old Austin. However, as much I still believe that (especially in terms of hedonistic culture) Europe and Britain are always going to be a wee bit ahead of the Yanks, I am starting believe more and more that Austin itself is experiencing a really exciting period of growth and fluency, something completely refreshing and unexpected. Perhaps this has been happening all along and I have just lived away for so long that I didn't recognize it, or perhaps this is not even happening and I am just excited tonight and therefore momentarily delusional, but somehow I doubt this is the case.

Recently, my friend Chris and I decided that we wanted to start some kind of a night where we could bring exciting musical acts to Austin, things Austinites probably "dig," but have not access to in a live setting before. Our first thought was Delia Gonzales and Gavin Russom, which did not work for a number of reasons, so we had to start making a list of possiblities. Exceptor, Chromeo, Jane, and of course Optimo were all things that came to mind, but then of course came the process of tracking these people down and gathering the necessary funds. We realised that, at least at the beginning, it was going to have to be local bands, and we could move outwardly from there. The first date was set with Single Frame and a band I had never heard called Cry Blood Apache. Now, let me just say that Chris and I were doing all of this ad-hoc without any kind of real experience, so when Single Frame took the stage what we'd thought to be a secure sound setup turned out to be a fucking mess beyond all logic and believe. Vocals were inaudible and completely distorted, there was raucus feedback and no monitors to speak of. Needless to say that ended really badly and the band stopped playing after two songs and left the venue as I sat cowering from embaressment in the corner. I sent Chris to inform Cry Blood Apache that if they didn't want to play we completely understood, and that on our opening night we were a little bit out of our technical depth. Surprisingly, CBA seemed totally non-chalant and agreed to take the stage regardless. The vocals were run through a single guitar amp, which I believe was projecting the drum machine as well but I'm not entirely sure. Regardless, when they began to play it was absolutely amazing. There was so much artistic presence on that stage that all I could think was "this is it." The crowd, despite the earlier misfortunes of the evening, was really responsive and really excited, and for the first time in a long time I began to think that Austin was suddenly really exciting, and that if people were into this crazy, delay-drenched, suicide-esque, Throbbing Gristle-esque, costumed montage, then that was really good news.

Other events included the Black and the Innocent, and in February we are bringing Optimo to Austin. This is a huge deal for me both in terms of music and personal history. As an entity (and this should be evident as the name is scattered all across this weblog) Optimo has enlightened me towards so many records and movements in modern musical history that I might otherwise have never considered. Bizarre though it may sound, this nightclub was definitely one of the things that made my years in Glasgow so special, or intersting, or memorable, or whatever. In addition, Keith and Jonnie are quite good friends of mine and I have only known them on the Glasgow turf. It's weird for me to think that they have reached such a point of popularity that they will be (provided all plans carry through) playing in my home town. Too bad I will be on tour with Voxtrot for the occasion. Either way, it's amazing for me to think that there is enough excitement (at least I hope there is) to bring this esoteric duo of Scottish DJs here, to the center of the Lone Star state. As the flow of information, and thus the speed of cultural absorption, increases, the world becomes a smaller and smaller place and perhaps the most obvious exampe of this trend is the recent mainstream success of MIA. I have to admit that when I first got hold of that Piracy Funds Terrorism mix tape it was one of the most exciting things I'd heard in years. By the time the actual record came out, I think anybody who had been throwing around mp3s for the last wee while was perhaps a bit overly familiar with the material. Either way I still think she's a brilliant performer and I hope she continues to make music, but I have to confess I am completely stunned at the amount of National, International, and mainstream radio attention she has received, and this is what I mean by the bizarre rate of cultural absorption. If a Middle-American Baile Funk DJ and a Sri Lankan MC out of London who crafted her style with the help of Elastica and Peaches can make their way into suburban homes in Texas by piecing together music based on Brazilian beats, something truly incredible is happening. It's like a culture free-for-all: nothing is sacred, but this truth acts as a mutual curse and blessing.

So maybe this connects to what I'm saying about Austin. The world is shrinking and Austin is shrinking. Trail of Dead are playing alongside country rockers and twee pop bands, and the same people are equally willing to pay money to see 1990's grunge ressurection or 1960's Supreme's-esque girl groups. God knows if Cult Hero had disposable we would be catching this wave of creativity in vinyl and disc form but other Austin labels are certainly picking up the slack. There are definitely bands like Sound Team and The Black that we have played with or been friends with for a couple of years now but it seems like these days I find there's much more of a community feel, and there are so many more exctiting new bands, and what's more, people are excited to be excited about the exciting new bands, regarless of the style or genre, because it's more about the concept and the philosophy of the supporting community than it is about the limitations. People are taking risks again. The other night I saw Peel and I had a similar feeling to the Cry Blood Apache feeling, despite the fact that the music was entirely different. There's a detectable energy in both bands that is simultaneously referential and fresh.

Maybe I'm being overly idealistic or romantic and this can all be blamed on the internet, file sharing, and myspace.com. Either way, it seems that suddenly it's okay for somebody to be into both Throbbing Gristle and Belle and Sebastian, and I'm pretty sure that's a good thing. Hopefully I haven't jinxed the movement by acknowledging its existence, but i don't think so. Austin has waited a long time for this kind of renaissance, so onwards and upwards.


PS. If anybody is interested, Optimo Espacio play the Whisky Bar (strange venue, I know, but good sound sytem for dancing) February 23rd, via Badd Taste (Opulence Krew) and Factory People. For more information on Optimo itself, you can visit www.optimo.co.uk.

Comments are still actively encouraged.

15 Comments:

Blogger Jose Luis said...

Optimo in Austin, hooray! I'm so glad for this. I started listening to them after they released kill the dj pt 2 and fell in love with their taste in music as they've released other things. I'm glad Austin is chanigng a little too :4

11:55 PM  
Blogger The Memory Girl said...

Dear Long-Winded Boy,

It is so nice to see you excited about Austin finally. But perhaps realising that it will be your home for a stint has made you learn to sew silk purses from a sow's ear. I only mean it seems that you yourself are bringing a lot of the new culture you speak of to Austin through your DJ efforts and show organizing. True, there have been many more new bands in the past year than in the three previous, but I feel many are trendy or fleeting, that they lack a certain drive. Many are infact just side projects of side projects and excuses in and of themselves to stay in that womb you referenced.
As for Trail of Dead playing with twee pop bands and country rockers, well, their personal hayday has long since passed and they may even be reaching out for youth lost or new scenes to bite into and drink up to keep their apperarences young and fresh.
But you may be right. It may be your own personal Sixties-experience in your very own backyard.
Keep up the good work. Voxtrot is doing so well.

Much Love,
The Memory Girl

11:04 AM  
Blogger The Memory Girl said...

Dear Long-Winded Boy,

It is so nice to see you excited about Austin finally. But perhaps realising that it will be your home for a stint has made you learn to sew silk purses from a sow's ear. I only mean it seems that you yourself are bringing a lot of the new culture you speak of to Austin through your DJ efforts and show organizing. True, there have been many more new bands in the past year than in the three previous, but I feel many are trendy or fleeting, that they lack a certain drive. Many are infact just side projects of side projects and excuses in and of themselves to stay in that womb you referenced.
As for Trail of Dead playing with twee pop bands and country rockers, well, their personal hayday has long since passed and they may even be reaching out for youth lost or new scenes to bite into and drink up to keep their apperarences young and fresh.
But you may be right. It may be your own personal Sixties-experience in your very own backyard.
Keep up the good work. Voxtrot is doing so well.

Much Love,
The Memory Girl

11:05 AM  
Blogger The Memory Girl said...

Dear Long-Winded Boy,

It is so nice to see you excited about Austin finally. But perhaps realising that it will be your home for a stint has made you learn to sew silk purses from a sow's ear. I only mean it seems that you yourself are bringing a lot of the new culture you speak of to Austin through your DJ efforts and show organizing. True, there have been many more new bands in the past year than in the three previous, but I feel many are trendy or fleeting, that they lack a certain drive. Many are infact just side projects of side projects and excuses in and of themselves to stay in that womb you referenced.
As for Trail of Dead playing with twee pop bands and country rockers, well, their personal hayday has long since passed and they may even be reaching out for youth lost or new scenes to bite into and drink up to keep their apperarences young and fresh.
But you may be right. It may be your own personal Sixties-experience in your very own backyard.
Keep up the good work. Voxtrot is doing so well.

Much Love,
The Memory Girl

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Derek said...

Nice read Ramesh. I definitely agree with your feelings on the rebirth of the Austin scene. I, myself, am excited to be an Austin music enthusiast again. For the first time I can remember, Emo's free week packed the house and I couldn't even get in on the action (maybe just because ILYBICD was headlining... who knows).

Bands of all different types seem to be friends and swapping members and ideas (This Microwave World, The Arm, Zykos, Single Frame, etc.), especially those folks on the other side of the street at Whiskey and Apples. However, I think it has yet to really turn into something substantial. I don't know what it is... I can't put my finger on it... maybe too many different styles, too many bands trying to get a slice, maybe everyone is just too different and can't see past themselves. Whatever it is, the bands and the crowds still aren't gelling enough to sell me on the idea of a real scene. And no one seems all that sincere about helping the others out or hyping any other band but themself (I'm not talking about Voxtrot here).

I think that maybe the fact that Austin is the proclaimed "music capitol of the world" coupled with it being the host of sxsw puts a lot of pressure on each band to stand out and try to separate themself from the rest of the pack. It's not like Austin is a no-name, off-the-map kind of town that's coming out of nowhere with rabid excitement and something to prove, so the kids all seem pretty complacent with the always-been-here, but-never-great scene.

I remember seeing BSS, stars, the dears, the stills... you know, all those bands from the montreal scene, wearing each others shirts and watching each others shows like rabid fangirls/boys two years ago at sxsw. I never see that here and it sucks. I mean bands watch the other bands on the bill, but it seems merely out of protocol or obligation. I don't know, I'm just a fan... I'm surely not a critic... and definitely not a scenester (no tats, no cool clothes from factory people or buffalo exchange). I just like a lot of the bands in town and love what a lot of them are doing... I just wish they would do it together and support each others efforts.

1:37 PM  
Blogger vanessa said...

I've never been to Austin, but I just wanted to say I enjoy reading your blogs. :)

4:11 PM  
Blogger Jenny Alva said...

I had no idea that you put together a show with single frame (I work with Jason) and cry blood apache. It doesn't surprise me that CBA's performance triumphed. It's all apart of this new wave of extreme DIY and performance art that people are diving head first into. My friend Chris, Hara-Kari Kitty, is involved with that sort of scene but is from a different part of Texas.
I really appreciate MP3s because it enables such extreme independent artists to produce their own as well as have the option to trade with others. That's how music should be, free for all and made by all...or those who wish to do so. but then we get to the commercial part, I guess for those who aren't so artistically inclined as others, as a way to have "ownership" of music.
Forgive me, all my thoughts aren't well mapped out and I'm going on a tangent. I will stop here.

good luck with all!

Jenny

oh, Ps. will you be selling the start of something 7" with "they never mean what they say" as the b-side at the valentine's show?

1:33 PM  
Blogger N. Huda /dumb blonde said...

Wow. I don't know much about the bands you mentioned. So thanks for the exposure.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous Steve from LA said...

Hey this is a really cool blog, Ramesh. But what exactly did Derek mean by "the other side of the street at Whiskey and Apples" and not yet "anything really substantial"? i'd say that for the fact that R. Hunter's putting on shows in abandoned busses in the middle of the night and getting international attention for it (find reviews in french, italian, on npr, australian radio interviews, etc.) without any management AND without approaching the media first, they must be doing something right! Check the March issue of SPIN in the next couple weeks and see if I'm not mistaken.

3:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think you're being overly idealistic or romantic. I'm very glad people are bridging from "PUNX 'TIL DEATH" to stepping out of the box and exploring an eclectic mix of music.

Glasgow DJ's? Interesting. I might do a semester at Edinburgh and I don't know much about the Scottish scene. Maybe I will explore it.

Sorry I don't have something more profound to say. Let's be honest, this is the first blog I've read of yours and I've only heard one Voxtrot song (I really enjoyed it), so I'm sorry I can't tell you that we share the same favorite color. I like your writing style.

-Sarah (www.myspace.com/sarahkang)

12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

way to use your words Ramesh Such long blogs you give us!

7:45 PM  
Blogger Chelsea said...

I'm overly romantic too. I'm overly everthing. I ovely care. And I'm done with it.
=] =[
What ethnicity are you?

7:59 PM  
Blogger David said...

Honestly, I'm not normally into advertising, but I rather like the fact that you mentioned B&S and Throbbing Gristle near the end there - it's a good point. And we've just signed books about "Sinister" and "Twenty Jazz Funk Greats" in the 33 1/3 series: nice timing! Looking forward to the NYC show in April...David.

2:13 PM  
Blogger Sameem Siddiqui said...

Hey
You guys sound great.
I sent you an email,but im not sure it went thru. Basically, heres what it said: Im the head editor and write for MechieTechie (www.mechietechie.com). We're small, and just started, but one of the ambitions of the site is to have a weekly podcast/radioshow to available to download that would highlight the indie pop rock scene. It'll be all indie bands, mostly DC area, but not solely, with an added mix of music from other genres. The site will also feature reviews of some of the bands that get played.

I wanted to know if itd be cool if i played your stuff on it. IF it is cool, then send me some of your stuff, or lemme kno where i can download/get a hold of it.
Let me know what you think.
Thanks!
-Sameem Siddiqui
www.mechietechie.com
metemaster@mechietechie.com

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

whiskey and apples
tonewheel
voxtrot and co
order of the owl and happy hours
and
all the support and exchange amongst all these groups/happenings...

something is happening here that really might be remembered ten, twenty, fifty years from now. im glad to see so many amazing musicians (even tentatively) keeping this as their home and not immediately abandoning it for nyc.

7:34 AM  

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