The Best of the Rest in Austin

So to not make this drag on forever, I'm going to finish my list of essential Austin bands with some videos:

GvB loves these next guys, White Denim (myspace) "the best new band at SXSW 2007." I'll call it dirty, anthemic, stomp-on-the-floor electro-psych-rock jams. I also really enjoy their desire to explore the song, to let it meander. They have a couple of Austin dates coming up - with fellow Austinites What Made Milwaukee Famous Oct. 5 at the Parish and at Fun Fun Fun Fest at the beginning of Novemeber (see you there, dudes). The debut EP for the following song is available now through iTunes, and as a 7" single with CD insert, direct from the band on their myspace (the lips pic).

White Denim "Let's Talk About It" - new video released a month ago

Another Austin band hitting their stride this year, with an s/t album out on Peek-A-Boo Records (Octopus Project, Palaxy Tracks) earlier this year is Peel. In them I hear some Pavement, some Flaming Lips, but in their own danceable messy distortion and keyboard-laden groove, can't wait to see these guys live. Check their site for mp3s and to buy the debut CD and their myspace for other golden tunes, and listen to the whole new album here.

Peel "Oskaloosa"

Peel "You're Gonna Miss Me" - Here they are performing the signature tune from Austin's own 60's icon Roky Erickson

And here's Roky himself at his 45th birthday party, 1992:

While some Austin bands are moving up, others are moving on, like the beloved Sound Team, whose performance at ACL the other weekend was their last.

Sound Team "Your Eyes Are Liars"

Another of Austin's more famous exports, And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead, came back from the brink of their own extinction last year with their comeback "So Divided". It was a return to form but also an apt statement, as while Jason Reece opened up the Austin branch of Beauty Bar, Conrad Keely now resides in NYC. And everyone who likes any band always says "it was better in the beginning", and I can't help but keep that feeling after witnessing a landmark Trail of Dead show in San Antonio, where the night manager of (the now burned-down) N. St. Mary's St. Brewing Company didn't realize what his booking guy had scheduled: Trail of Dead, I believe around '97, before the launch of their debut album. It was a pure noise-thrash fest... the manager demanded and shouted for them to quit playing and even tried to grab the cymbals, which were quickly hilariously bashed until he had to let go. And before he could finally pull the power and call the cops, which he did, a cardboard cutout of Jenny McCarthy had been full sodomized with a guitar and the band truly exorcised some demons. Although equipment has still been known to spontaneously combust in their hands, they're overall a bit more focused now, and even in this clip, from earlier this year playing a song from their last album, downright sunny.

...Trail of Dead "Eight Days of Hell"

... and here they read and act out the Motley Crue book "The Dirt", pretty funny:

Another Austin band that for the most part likes its sound big, epic, and moody is Explosions In The Sky. But whereas Trail of Dead mostly builds its noise around hooks, Explosions In The Sky seems more likely to crest and roll like the sea, although like Trail of Dead this can often end in a beautifully violent cacophony of wailing. Don't forget to shop at their store.

Explosions in the Sky - "The Birth and Death of the Day" (Seattle 2007)

Clap! Clap!'s debut album is on the way, and they seem determined to do their part to make Austin the best city in the country for dance-rock. Check out the songs on their Myspace, and if it's your thing keep your eyes peeled for their debut so you can be at the front of the dance line, although apparently their recognition is coming fast, as they announce on their myspace "Yes, our songs are played in Forever 21".

Clap! Clap! - Interview at Couture De Amore Fashion Show

American Analog Set have been providing beautifully cool music for over a dozen years. They've always kind of reminded me of Yo La Tengo a bit, comforting pleasantness with just the right touch of artsiness. They are originally from Fort Worth but have called Austin their base since '96. They have for the most part ceased touring since 2005, choosing to focus on other projects, but haven't ruled out another American Analog Set collaboration in the future.

American Analog Set "Punk As Fuck" (7/2/03)

And speaking of arty, I'd be remiss not to include some of my favorite Austin art-rockers, Brown Whornet (myspace). The only comparisons I can think of are Ween, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, and Frank Zappa, so of course I fell in love the first time I ever saw these guys live, playing with virtuoso chops, tongue firmly in cheek, and costumes. They jump genres and ideas like a good band should, and everything, even throwaway studio and late-night motel recordings that make their way onto albums (like TFUL 282), sounds like it's the most beautiful that lo-fi trash could ever be. Make your music collection a lot more interesting at the Brown Whornet store, and listen to other tunes at their site.

Brown Whornet "Schway" Emo's, Austin 3/9/03

Brown Whornet "Family Reunion" Emo's, Austin 9/8/00

And if you're going to truly appreciate Austin music, you gotta look into some roots country. And some of the finest purveyors of Americana in any city just happen to live here in austin: Asleep At The Wheel. From the sassy female leads to the familiar but well-played old-school country trade-offs to all the old music and Bob Wills Western swing tradition they keep bringing out, always with the musicianship and jazz flourishes to make it stay fresh, they'd make the soundtrack to any Sunday outing in or outside Austin a bit more authentic.

Asleep At The Wheel "You Don't Know Me" (Austin City Limits)

And of course when Ray Price, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard toured together as "Last Of the Breed", who was their backing band? That's right, AATW. And of course Willie has his own place in Austin music hall of fame, leaving Nashville to start his own thing in central Texas, where hippies and country guys could both get together and drink beer and smoke a joint together at the Armadillo World Headquarters. Check out my Willie post if you missed it, some great audio and video of Willie.

And two more of my favorites on the local country scene are Don Walser, the most yodeling yodeler and high-voiced country gentlemen this side of the Mississippi, whose first album (at his ripe age of 60) was produced by Ray Benson, leader of Asleep At The Wheel - and Redd Volkaert (who often plays lead guitar alongside Merle Haggard), a maestro who can seemingly noodle his way through any jazz composition yet remains true to his country roots, whose voice is as soulfully deep as his guitar playing

Don Walser and the Texas Plainsmen - this is a great slideshow put together by Don's son Al featuring some classic Walser*

Redd Volkaert "Home in San Antone" (Continental Club, Austin - hard to get more Austin than that)

*Walser sadly passed away last year of diabetes. I had the pleasure of meeting him and his wife once, and they were some of the nicest people I've ever met. To make another Austin connection, he was doing some vocal commercial work at Tequila Mockingbird for Danny Levin: composer, violinist, keyboardist, multi-instrumentalist, Grammy-winning, producer extraordinaire, who does commercials for Southwest Airlines and the Texas Lottery amongst many others and was a one-time fiddle player for Asleep At The Wheel. The Walser video above was put together by Walser's son Al for his dad's viewing last year, and by request he's graciously posted it on youtube along with other rare Walser videos, hope to see more coming, check his username, alwalser. Many Austin legends have left for good (Townes Van Zandt), some still need to be remembered (Poi Dog Pondering - still crazy after all these years), and some are at the forfront of creating today's scene. "Austin band" isn't quite (yet) the buzzword "Seattle band" was in the 90's, but "The Live Music Capital of the World" isn't Austin's official slogan for nothing.

Townes Van Zandt

Poi Dog Pondering "Natural Thing"

Single Frame "People Are Germs" (Nick Skinner remix)

Single Frame "Floral Design In A Strait Line"

What Made Milwaukee Famous - Brooklyn 2006

I'll finish off this Austin run tomorrow or Wednesday with a full concert by one of my local favorites.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

great post