Dream Up (Austin Comes Alive)
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.