Guest Post: Joy Goes to SXSW, pt. VI: Saturday, March 15

The sixth and final installment, in which our intrepid reporter won a prize, enjoyed some fine audio engineering and also photographed a clean and tidy toilet. It was apparently that kind of day.

Last post I wrote about youthful energy and the fact that SXSW will truly kick your ass. Despite the fact that I’m somewhere just south of 30 myself, I was well and truly dragging by that Saturday. Forget making it downtown by noon: I called it a success that I was out of bed and dressed in real clothes, much less getting coffee near the day’s first venue, by 1pm.

Though it helped to know I was on my last day of festivities, it helped even more that I was seeing Kan Wakan again. As much as I’d liked the band before SXSW, I grew to like them expontentially more after seeing them a few times. That’s something I find hard to say about many bands, much less fairly new bands which have been thrown into the pressure cooker of a festival.

Like most performers, Kristianne Bautista is appreciative of as much support as fans can offer and will openly admit to stage jitters, but she puts herself into star league with the grace she exhibits under stress. Maybe it’s her excellent deadpan expression, and maybe it helps that she’s onstage with six other people who are handling nervousness at the same time, but she wears “frontwoman” very well.

That was especially apparent at the Cedar Street Courtyard Throwdown show, which featured a giant video screen reflecting the band behind itself into infinity. Kan Wakan played as flawlessly as I’d come to expect and the projectors made for some really fun photo ops; the show was probably my favorite of the entire week.

Plus, as the 600th person entering the courtyard, I won a free poster from Filter Magazine. One learns to appreciate small things at SXSW, especially when it comes to free shit. Can’t beat free shit.

In addition to catching some of the free vitamin D and a little musical history, I later enjoyed some of the Take Me To The River Showcase that was clearly audible across the water. The show ended before I could cross the bridge to see it in person, but I still felt as though I’d been in the presence of greatness.

Also, I really must commend the sound techs for their work with loudspeakers: the audio sounded super crisp even a quarter of a mile away over some trees, a lawn, and an expanse of open water. Because that was the case, I felt like walking the Austin Hike-and-Bike Trail was a better and more appropriate way to listen than standing in a crowded outdoor auditorium would have been.


Besides, there were no lines for the (clean and tidy!) public toilets. Insert “can’t beat free shit” jokes here.


Life can’t be all about sunshine, flowers, the smell of early-spring river water, and free outdoor showcases of Memphis music legends, though. After a perfect little hike, I had to get back to work — at another free show, this time on the rooftop of Austin’s original Whole Foods.

A hard life, right? Perfectly drudgerous, I’m sure everyone is thinking. Haha, right. If you’re actually thinking “that sounds awesome, you terrible little asshole,” you would be correct.

At the time, however, I was exhausted. I felt drunk even though I was sober. My grip on reality was probably wavering. It was hard to keep my mind off coffee and I wondered how everyone else was managing themselves. So it was a little refreshing and very hilarious that my fellow showgoers on the Whole Foods roof were managing by lounging in lawn chairs, taking off their shoes, and drinking beer: though the stage didn’t look like much, for better or worse it was probably the chillest venue I’d been to all week.

There, in that inauspicious location, I wrapped up my first SXSW experience with a set from Best Revenge.

The new project from Keaton Simons and Deantoni Parks had a lot in common both visually — one guy on drums, one guy on guitar and vocals — and sonically — big rollicking bluesy rock — with The Black Keys, but “the derivative of a derivative band” looked good on them. They melded hook-y sing-along lyrics, blues, rockabilly, and the hint of electronic beats into extremely danceable if unsurprising songs.

Parks, his kit lacking cymbals other than a hi-hat, played bass organ and cued samples with one hand while drumming with the other; Simons indulged his self-described “music nerd” side by switching frequently between a selection of guitars. Most notably, they looked like they had a lot of fun. It made for a positive and energetic show, a good ending point for my week.

Because when in Rome: After their set, I recycled my bottle of fresh-pressed juice, grabbed a cold-brew to go from my favorite Austin coffee spot, and went home.

As usual, people were still partying in my wake, making the most of their time on earth. I guess we had all learned something from our experience. But even if some people hadn’t, even if they were just partying on into the night because partying was what they knew how to do best, it seemed like everyone had a good damned time.

Final Thoughts: Even though it was often frustrating, could be frequently obnoxious, and drained a body’s energy quicker than my Android sucks battery life, South By Southwest was pretty awesome. I am SO doing this again next year. Probably still sans badge and maybe with a fuller schedule. But hopefully with all 10 functional fingers and long after a total recovery from pneumonia.


Guest Post: Joy Goes to SXSW, pt. IV: Thursday, March 13

Our intrepid reporter goes to see some (more) live music. Also a mechanical bull.

On Thursday, I woke up to more than a dozen text messages asking if I was okay. Until I saw a news story about the night’s fatal accident, I had no idea why so many people would be concerned and wondered if I’d been sleeping for more than one day.

Once I read about what had happened, I debated skipping the day’s festivities out of respect, but eventually came to a conclusion: those who could party should get on with the partying in honor of all those who cannot party. I waited for the downtown bus with a spirit of gratitude.

That spirit started to fade after three city buses, from two different routes, passed our stop with partygoers packed inside to legal capacity. Everyone who could party definitely seemed to be partying, and I found myself wishing they had timed things a little more conveniently for us old people.

The bus ride, when I finally got one, was appropriately interesting.

I made it downtown just in time to miss several shows. While trying not to miss the final Doe Paoro show of SXSW 2014, I happened to see a band called Bear’s Den playing the New Shapes Day Party; another ensemble from the Commonwealth Nations who played Americana, they were upbeat and much more musically interesting than Mumford & Co., but they weren’t Doe Paoro. I moved on.

Ultimately, however, the effort was fruitless and I took a break rather than harshing any mellow.

Way to overachieve. The first show I actually saw that day was mr. Gnome, onstage at Rowdy Saloon at 7pm.

At least, the schedule said mr. Gnome went onstage at 7pm. Actually, they went onstage at 8pm. I got there early, left to get dinner, and still returned with enough time to watch the venue’s mechanical bull do its thing by itself for a little while.

Rowdy’s definitely got points for, and set the right party atmosphere by, being the first venue in my memory to feature a mechanical bull. Singer Nicole Barille agreed, and tried throughout the night to talk audience members into giving the bull a spin, but sadly nobody did so while I was watching.

To be fair, this was probably because the night was young and everyone was too busy watching mr. Gnome. I hadn’t seen them since 2010, so didn’t know what to expect — and they hadn’t changed much in the past four years.

That is not an insult. With a sound as unique as theirs, they don’t really need to change: because no one is doing anything too similar to what they’re doing, they don’t have to worry about standing out in a sea of sound-alikes, and a significant departure in technique would risk upsetting their formula anyway.

Newer tracks from their upcoming as-yet-unnamed fourth record sounded like a logical evolution from 2011’s Madness In Miniature, which was itself a subtle progression from 2009’s Heave Yer Skeleton, so the fresh material flowed easily and seamlessly back and forth from familiar older songs.

Other people who write about music have noted that the band’s sound is hard to pin down, but I felt it was nicely represented by the mix of people in their audience that night. Most showgoers were hipsters, seeming dazed but impressed by what they were hearing; an enthusiastic minority were metal fans and punks, and at least one psychedelic burnout evened out the mix. One young man wearing liberty spikes proclaimed early in the night that he’d buy a mr. Gnome hoodie even with his last dollar, and spent the entirety of one song holding his cigarette lighter aloft with the sincerity and reverence some would devote to praying at a shrine.

mr. Gnome might be weird and hard to describe, but they’ve obviously found and earned devotion from their people.

After I realized no one was ready to ride the mechanical bull, I headed over to watch Kan Wakan play at Lambert’s Barbecue. This time, the seven members were challenged to fit onto a stage best fit for a four-piece, but Kristianne Bautista assured me they’d fit on stages even smaller than that.

Sure enough, they all piled neatly on and got to work with another somewhat-shortened set, this one incorporating more unreleased songs. Watching them in this second, very different environment reinforced three things for me: 1. I really like this band, 2. They have all the goods to get famous, and 3. Their song “Are We Saying Goodbye” is super good stuff.

Kan Wakan "Are We Saying Goodbye" At: Guitar Center

Bautista tells me she once thought of her low voice as a flaw, but has fortunately changed her mind and now claims Nina Simone as an inspiration. Though I wouldn’t call Kan Wakan’s sound “jazzy”, that influence definitely comes through — and since so few indie-rock frontwomen work from the lower end of their range, hearing one this smooth and confident is a pleasure.

Even in a sort-of loud bar that kind of smells like vomit.

Jessica Lea Mayfield went on after Kan Wakan, but although I’d planned to stay for her set, I left in order to play safe again and catch a bus. However, I did see Jessica and her husband/bassist Jesse in the audience during the first part of Bautista’s performance. That, to my eyes, seemed like a good sign.


Guest Post: Joy Goes to SXSW pt. III: Wednesday March 12

Our intrepid reporter has been somewhat delayed by travel and technology, but has continued undaunted. Below is her report from her first show-filled day.

After spending numerous protracted coffee breaks trying to figure out the SXSW schedule, I finally hiked deep into the heart of No-Man’s Land — past the endless blocks of band parking, through a sea of Econoline vans and long-haired skinny-jeaned men lugging instrument cases — to The Echoplex SXSW Throwdown at Red 7. The bill featured a number of up-and-coming Los Angeles bands, but I only had ears for my new musical supercrush: Kan Wakan.

Determined to stake out a spot in front, I arrived early. But I needn’t have worried: Brandon the Swag Man still had a whole table full of free swag and the venue was far below capacity. Only a few hardcore festival-goers lingered in the courtyard, and I ran into singer Kristianne Bautista practically right away. She, too, was recovering from a fever and general travel fatigue, but was excited to meet a new fan. We chatted about her band’s rising fame while they set up, since a seven-piece act needs a little extra preparation.

Unfortunately, that extra work cut into their set time, and they went onstage with room for only four songs: one unreleased tune, the single “Forever Found”, and the two-song suite which closes their EP. And they delivered those four songs with total ease and confidence. It takes some heavy stones to play a twelve-minute orchestral piece in front of a handful of hungover stragglers at an afternoon showcase during a festival, and Kan Wakan simply threw down like it was no big deal. Bautista has an impeccable cool that makes her deep, rich voice roll like an ocean, while her band radiates technical proficiency and casual charisma. Show photographers take note, you will enjoy this band, because every single member is camera-savvy and has unpretentious stage presence.

Short as their set was, it flowed effortlessly and felt perfectly timed, like a miniature release party played live. The sound struck a sweet spot of relaxed intricacy, one that could resonate with serious fans as well as first-time listeners who were riding out a pot-and-alcohol haze. The suite wrapped up on a satisfying note, like a calling card tucked into a hand-picked bouquet, and the band amiably went on to the next gig like it was any other day in their lives. I mentally gave them eighteen months to become front-page famous, twelve-minute instrumental suite and all.

With that excellent start, I set off to Cheer Up Charlie’s, hoping to catch mr. Gnome and Jessica Lea Mayfield in one stop. To my dismay, the schedule had been updated and mr. Gnome’s set bumped up an hour; they were just wrapping up as I arrived.

Luckily Cheer Up’s is probably the most perfect SXSW venue for aimlessly hanging out, so I grabbed a cup of complimentary water and compared schedules with fellow showgoers — one of whom happened to be Nikki Kvarnes of Those Darlins. Jessi “Darlin'” Zazu and Charli XCX also happened by at the same time, so it felt like fate.

During that time, the courtyard slowly filled out until the house stood shoulder-to-shoulder. Those Darlins went on at 4, much to everyone’s delight. They growled and swaggered and laid down countryfied hair-metal-inspired garage rock for a solid forty-five minutes, part of which I spent in line for the restroom. By the time I came back, the cock rock had passed back into male hands and Adrian Barrera had the mic, which just didn’t have the same appeal.

If Those Darlins had a great turnout, Jessica Lea Mayfield did them just a little better, packing the courtyard from edge to edge. I grabbed a spot in front, just in time. She went on at 5, rocking a pair of glittery gold Martens and looking more like a Kurt/Courtney hybrid than Frances Bean currently does. Anyone deceived by Mayfield’s sparkly pink Gretsch and the kitty stickers on her pedals was quickly put right, since she laid immediately into a hard and heavy set. I stood directly in front of her, beside the central speakers, and it became quite clear why she titled her new record Make My Head Sing … : that shit will make you dizzy, in a good way.

The new, toothier treatment might be too strong to suit some of her earlier fans, but I felt it improved tracks from 2011’s Tell Me. Her band during that period was a very capable country-rock ensemble, but her current outfit has leveled up: she’s wisely eliminated a second guitarist and streamlined down to an extremely capable rhythm section, which highlights her own guitar prowess. Though she is clearly aiming for a spot in the neo-grunge pantheon, her voice is so sweetly emotive that she can never quite achieve true deadpan — which is for the better, since she can convey all the simmering resentment and barely-contained restlessness needed to layer her material with more than mere ennui or existential angst. I left impressed, my ears still swimming.

My day ended with back-to-back Doe Paoro shows, first at Banger’s Sausage House for a Dickies’ Roadhouse showcase. The band was sound-checking as I arrived, providing a pre-show teaser for the line forming outside. Although the venue did host Biebs earlier that week, they provided free gourmet sausages and a well-stocked green room trailer for talent, which slightly redeemed their karma. Talent was abundant, as well: after soundcheck, cellist and producer Yuri Hart gushed about crossing paths with Polica‘s Channy Leaneagh.

Despite taking stage while the venue’s barbecue was still heating up, Doe Paoro captivated the gathering dinner crowd. Singer Sonia Krietzer’s nimble vocals, influenced by both R&B and Tibetan opera, were rounded out by Hart on cello and keys, Tatiana Kochkareva on moog and vocoder, David Lizmi (fresh from touring with MS MR) providing bass and additional keyboard, and Chris Berry on both electronic and analog drums. Their sound was big but not overwhelming, fresh but not brassy; Krietzer tends to open shows by beckoning the audience closer, and this group didn’t hesitate. People danced and enthusiastically made iPhone videos, then talked praise after the set.

Because many downtown Austin streets were closed to auto traffic, I grabbed a keyboard case and trekked with the band on foot to the next gig. Although navigating South By Southwest crowds can be a chore even without gear, we managed to arrive at the aptly-named Holy Mountain by sheer force of will (and the people-parting powers of Hart’s cello).

Immediately upon entering the large tented courtyard, my equilibrium shifted. Until the following band mentioned the gig’s strange lighting, I thought I was having an acid flashback. Therefore, my observations of Doe’s set were slightly blue-tinged and wobbly, but I did notice the crowd having a great time; a drunk guy at the rail had an especially good experience and even seemed to know all the words. Krietzer had been worried about the logistics of singing two nearly back-to-back sets, but her voice — and characteristically dynamic stage presence — stood up perfectly to the test. Strange lighting only made it more memorable.

After the set ended, the band packed up, and I caught a licensed photographer sneaking my picture, I decided that “exhausted daze” was a bad look and headed home. The streets were full of more drunk people, most of them venue-hopping, some of them standing in groups to discuss intense interpersonal dramas; the pavement was strewn with empty bottles and discarded flyers, the city’s party not even close to winding down.

A few hours later and a few blocks away, a drunk driver would plow past police and through the traffic barricades into the crowd; four people would lose their lives and dozens more would be injured. But at the time I went home, the boogie was still swinging at full tilt strength and no one knew it would be anyone’s last.

– Joy/@paleotrees

Postcards from the Pit: Panic! at the Disco / The Colourist / X Ambassadors, Roseland, 2/4/2014

It’s a rare thing, getting to watch a band grow up.

My first (indoors) Panic! at the Disco show was at Roseland Ballroom in May 2008. I say indoors because my actual first Panic! at the Disco show was at Bamboozle a few days earlier, and when I saw them I couldn’t really see them, because I had just broken my glasses in the Bouncing Souls pit. I could hear them just fine, though, and against all odds – they were in their hippie phase, wore lots of beige and had four tattoos between them – I loved them.

But at Roseland I could see them, and they looked like sweet-faced deer in the headlights. Their stage presence was probably best described as “charmingly awkward.” But the songs still made me happy. And so, for good or for ill, I was in for the long haul.

This past Tuesday night – six years, two records/style-shifts, and three line-up changes later – they were at Roseland again, one last time before the places closes down in the spring.

The openers this time around were X Ambassadors and The Colourist.

X Ambassadors had a dark dreamy-draggy-occasional-burst-of-thundering-drums vibe going, which I rather liked. Plus their lead singer is also their saxophone player, which was unexpected and awesome. Verdict: A++, would see them at their own show.


The Colourist was a little bit bouncier; apparently they describe themselves as “majestic rock” and/or “math pop” which, okay, I guess that makes sense. All I can tell you is they had super-intense, high-energy drums (majestic, indeed) that were precise but not cold or stiff, and that when they were done I definitely wanted to see them at their own show as well.

And then Panic! at the Disco came out, and – though I have seen them many times since 2008, I’ve watched the show evolve, I know what’s coming – I was struck, again, by how Brendon Urie has evolved as a front man. Gone is the almost-bashful boy who once wore a ringmaster’s costume, and his place is an actual showman in a glittery jacket and skin-tight leather trousers with a signature back-flip move – which he deployed twice – who finally seems comfortable in his skin.

(I really love that back flip. So graceful, and he makes it look effortless. I live in hope someone will put him in a Broadway show while he can still stick the landing.)


Postcards from the Pit: Andrew WK / Team Spirit, Irving Plaza, 12/31/13

My first post of the new year goes to my last concert of the old year and/or first concert of the new year: Andrew WK and Team Spirit at Irving Plaza.

The night began with punk rock heavy metal karaoke – live band, audience participation – which was more sublime than ridiculous, due mostly to the assembled crowd, which included multiple generations of headbangers, punks, and miscellaneous People In Black as well as others who had come down to capital-P Party with Andrew WK.

I was there because, frankly, 2013 was kind of shit, and Andrew WK – in many ways heavy metal’s holy fool – is about fun in an uncomplicated way that I find very attractive. And that was how I wanted to start 2014, with uncomplicated fun.

But back to karaoke. There were a lot of beautiful moments: the dude in the Lil Bub hoodie who led us in a sober, stirring rendition of War Pigs; the girl who grabbed Oh Bondage Up Yours! by the throat and made it her own; the girl and the guy who led a gleeful sing-along of Fight For Your Right to Party; the last dude, who slammed through Communication Breakdown like he did it every day. They were all rock stars, and I have the pictures to prove it.

The first band was Team Spirit, who I mostly enjoyed, though their set started to drag a little bit towards the end.


And then, as midnight approached, Andrew WK’s band slowly began to appear:

There was a countdown, and at the end, the clock and year flipped over, Andrew WK walked out and the pit went bananas. All pictures after this juncture were taken while I was being moshed into the barrier and/or during lulls in crowd surfers. Make no mistake: it was a hot, sweaty action-packed good time and I enjoyed myself thoroughly, but I was glad I had that barrier to cling to.

After the final encore, as the band was walking off, the crowd the started chanting Thank you, Andrew, which surprised me, and made me wonder if his pit does that all the time, or just on special occasions. In any case, then and now, I echo the sentiment. Thank you, Andrew WK, for dropping us into 2014 on a tide of sweaty enthusiasm, grace and the simple but beautiful pleasure of jumping up and down and banging our heads.

Postcards from the Pit: The Architects / DeathSpells / The Scandals, the Knitting Factory, 11/19/13

I went to see the Architects, DeathSpells and the Scandals at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn this past Tuesday, and it was awesome.

The Scandals are from Bayonne, New Jersey, and they play Jersey punk at breakneck speed.



DeathSpells is a new venture from Frank Iero (My Chemical Romance) and James Dewees (Reggie and the Full Effect, The Get Up Kids) and is more pop-industrial than punk.

And by “pop-industrial” I mean it’s weird experimental noise you can dance to – well, stomp-sway and headbang and bounce a little – which the crowd and I did, enthusiastically.

Sadly Frank Iero’s voice got a little bit lost in the mix; this may have been because I was right up on the rail and too close to a speaker. But their songs worked great as instrumental pieces, too, so that was okay.



The Architects are at a transitional period, musically; up until now they’ve played thrashy punk mostly – to quote Brandon Phillips – “about drugs and law enforcement.” Their most recent record goes in a little bit of a different direction – I’ve already written about how much I like it – and has more of a punkabilly vibe, which in practice means they now sing some songs about girls.

They still play the old songs like bootleggers outrunning the law: fast, but nimble and focused. But I’m pleased to report the new songs were seamlessly integrated into their set. And that their set is still a glorious, exhilarating torrent of punk rock.

Also, yes, that is Frank Iero on bass and possibly specifically on Mikey Way’s sparkly bass, at that; their regular bassist is temporarily absent and Iero is filling in.


The Replacements at Riot Fest Toronto


Everything you wanted, they were.

So says our friend and Toronto musician Christian D. Christian saw the recently-reunited Replacements play at the Toronto Riot Fest date, and with all the debate flying around on whether the Replacements should reunite (spoiler alert: Too late! They already did), Christian wanted to get his take on things down into words, and he kindly let us post his thoughts.




I’m betting that, like me, a lot of the audience at Toronto’s Riot Fest, never got to see the Mats the first time around. For me, it wasn’t so much about “was it worth the wait”, but rather a chance to see what might have/should have been. Based on those songs, the critical accolades, and the snotty punk attitude, it always seemed like the Replacements should have been goddamned huge. “Best band of the ‘80s”, remember that? Maybe they were ahead of their time or too fucked up to play the game – whatever it was, it never really happened for them.

BUT – the legacy looms large. I grew up on those albums, and the bootlegs, and all the stories of the brilliant band who’d show up too drunk to even bother. I didn’t know what Riot Fest was, and didn’t give a damn who was on the bill – to me this thing was all about the Replacements.

A big question for some was whether it should even be called the Replacements – maybe it should have been the Paul and Tommy show or something. That didn’t bother me. The Replacements name was fine by me, Paul singing those songs he wrote for all of us, Tommy hammering the bass and screaming his backing vocals – that’s close enough for rock and roll, ya know? Like, they’re the Replacements: don’t ask why.

I had to be there – this show was bound to be legendary, whether it would be a transcendent blast of rock and roll or a sloppy drunken money grab of half assed covers and a half hour of the roadies jamming Hootenanny.

Here are two things you should know before I get rolling: 1) I worship Iggy Pop and the Stooges, 2) I never buy merchandise at shows.

This is important because after a typically brilliant, always-manic Stooges set, I pretty much forgot I had just seen Iggy fucking Pop the second the Mats took the stage. Unfor-fucking-givable. And I, cheap bastard that I am, bought a T-shirt and wanted more shit, but they were selling out quick. The magic of seeing the Mats turned me into a 15-year-old fanboy.

So what did we get really? A wise-cracking Paul intros the set and slams into “Takin’ A Ride”, the first song from the first record. Perfect. Then “I’m in Trouble”, “Favourite Thing.” The Westerberg ravaged voice is as expressive as you remember it; his deadpan self-deprecating humour is still intact. Tommy still wears the bass low, rips some of the coolest bass lines ever to come out of punk rock, and plays with the energy of the hyper 17-year-old he was all those years ago.

“Hanging Downtown”, thousands are screaming along: “Bus stop, pimps and whores, liquor stores, Sixth Street, Seventh Street, bus stop, bus stop, bus stop, bus stop, bus stop…” We all know it until an ad-libbed “Jim Osterberg, he’s my new best friend”, then loud fucking cheers.

Some more classic Paul half-assed, jokey stage banter – including “Does everybody feel… uptight and worthless? ” – resets the show for a great romp through “Color Me Impressed”. The band (including Josh Freese and David Minehan) are having a blast, and we’re all having our minds blown in the audience. It’s like a triumphant headline gig that really should have happened when we were all a lot younger. Maybe we’re all appreciating it more now? I don’t know. It feels great, though. The band is semi-sloppy, pulling out some half-assed covers. Paul’s whispering in Tommy’s ear, it’s all playful rock-and-roll fun, and the crowd is lapping it up, transported. Like, damn, they could have/should have done this years ago. I’m already hoping they do it again, and we’re not even halfway done yet.

Then what? Do you want a song list? How about you go download the bootlegs instead? I sure as hell did. How about some highlights: “Tommy Gets his Tonsils Out” into Hendrix’s “Third Stone From the Sun”. A tremendous sing-along to “Kiss me on the Bus”. Paul’s misremembering/not remembering lyrics, Tommy and Dave are filling them in. Part of the magic of the Mats was that they never seemed to take themselves too seriously, and they still don’t. There’s a sloppy “Maybelline” in the best sense of sloppy. A slamming cover of “Borstal Breakout”. Was there stuff I wanted to hear and didn’t? Yeah, of course, but over all it was a mad romp through one of the best catalogs in rock and roll. We even got “Wake Up”, a sharp little rocker from the All Shook Down sessions.

“Little Mascara” into “Left of the Dial”, hell yeah! Perfect.

Paulie (as he keeps referring to himself) says, “I think we’re running out of time, we got maybe one more or something” at the end of “Can’t Hardly Wait”. And then THAT opening: the guitar break and scream that kicks off “Bastards of Young”, one of the best intros in all of rock and roll.

Do you know the feeling of a crowd of thousands shouting along to one of the best songs by a band no one ever thought would play again? It’s pretty goddamned amazing – and if you can get your ass to one of the two promised Riot Fest shows you can find out for yourself.

For the encore, Paul returns in a Montreal Canadians jersey – a classic Replacements playful fuck-you. “We’re gonna play a really stupid song that we don’t know”. It’s “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from the benefit e.p. Songs for Slim. Which is how and why we all got here, the sad backstory to a triumphant return.

Westerberg once wrote, “Rock and roll could make you quiver a long long time ago”. Well, tonight, it sure did again.

If you can, I’m telling ya: get to the remaining shows, go grab the bootlegs that are roaming around the net. Who knows how long this can last?

Postcards from the Pit: Adam Ant & The Good The Mad & The Lovely Posse / Prima Donna, Irving Plaza, 8/17/2013

Before we get started, here is what you need to know about Adam Ant: he is, was, and ever shall be a rock star.

He was the original Dandy Highwayman, a cultural lightning rod and, first with a band as Adam & the Ants and then as a solo artist, (unwillingly) associated with New Romantic movement.

Captain Jack Sparrow looks like him, not the other way around.

In 1985, he left the music business to be an actor, and did not return to the musical stage for almost a decade. From 1993 onwards, he enjoyed some musical successes and weathered many non-musical trials and tribulations, until 2011, when he returned in earnest.

All of that is to say, when I saw his name float up in my concert listings a few months ago, I was surprised he was playing again – I missed it when he came through in 2012 – and more so that he was appearing at Irving Plaza. I love the place, but it is a shoebox.

Actually he did two nights at Irving Plaza. I went to see him on the second one, and it was amazing.

The openers were Prima Donna, from California. They were a lot of fun, and had a solid punkabilly vibe lightly spiced with surf guitar. Also they have a great crowd sing-along song where one of the lines in the chorus is I am a sociopath.

Here are some pictures of them:


And then: Adam Ant & The Good The Mad & The Lovely Posse. He sounds great and looks great and we jumped and sang along and danced as much as we could, jammed in as we were. Prince Charming, which came at the end of the main set, was transcendent, with the big drums rattle-roaring and the room singing.

As I wriggled my way out into fresher air for the encore, I got a good look at the rest of the crowd, and I have to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen quite that many 40ish people grinning helplessly at the stage before. Everyone there was just so happy to see him, and it was awesome to be part of that energy.

Plus he played Goody Two Shoes which was totally my jam when I was a twelve year old nerd who desperately wanted to have a dramatic, mysterious inner life.

Some pictures of him and the Posse members I could see:


The tour isn’t over yet! Check the dates and catch him if you can.

Postcards from the Pit: Fall Out Boy / NK, House of Blues Boston, 5/26/13

In which I went to Boston for Fall Out Boy, and it was an awesome, sweaty, raucous festival of joy.

But to back up a little bit: Up first was NK, which is Ryan Hunter and Brian Byrne (Envy on The Coast) and Billy Rymer (Dillinger Escape Plan), and they’re currently touring with Isaac Bolivar and Matt Fazzi (Taking Back Sunday).

They have a heavy rap-rock Rage Against The Machine vibe going. I didn’t know any of their songs but I could nonetheless appreciate the barely controlled surge and snarl of their drums and guitars. I’m pretty sure it isn’t possible to listen to their set and not suddenly find yourself banging your head.

Some highlights:

This really is Ryan Hunter (Envy on the Coast). He cut all of his dreads off!
Joe Trohman and Isaac Bolivar, headbanging.
The right side of the stage . . .
. . . and the left.

And then it was time for the main event. Fall Out Boy came out in a burst of light and noise and kicked it off with Thriller – their Thriller, not Michael Jackson’s – which was an absolute perfect choice and caused my heart to clench with pain and affection even as I was grinning at them like an idiot.

I have a medium-sized number of thinky thoughts about the show / spectacle, specifically: that both Thriller and This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race have gained new, sharper edges over time; that The Phoenix is both the thrilling rally cry of a band coming back wrapped around a reminder to hold on, hold on, even when your band has gone away; that if you don’t start jumping during The Phoenix, I think you might be dead inside; that Fall Out Boy has emerged from their hiatus as an energized and cohesive unit, ready to rally the troops and take on the world (and maybe take over the world, too); that calling their record Save Rock and Roll might be brash and a little obnoxious but, well, Fall Out Boy would not be Fall Out Boy if they were not brash and a little obnoxious; and that brash, a little obnoxious, overblown and sometimes overwrought is why we love them. It’s why we jump up and down and and wave our hands in the air. It’s what makes the room sing.

And now, some pictures. I was three rows back from the stage and, as you will see, deep in a forest of hands, but these are some of the good shots:



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Postcards from the Pit: Black Veil Brides / William Control / Wildstreet, 1/25/2013

This was not my first show of the new year, but it was the one I looked forward to for days in a state of nervous, fluttery happiness. It was also my second Black Veil Brides event in one week; the first one was a viewing of Legion of the Black, the movie that accompanies / amplifies their new record, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.

I say accompanies/amplifies because the movie both illustrates and provides a narrative structure for the record. You can listen to and enjoy the record without ever watching the film, but it’s somewhat like listening to the official soundtrack of a Broadway show and never seeing the stage play itself.

I got watch five minutes of the movie at the listening party in December; having now experienced the rest I can tell you it is interesting, conceptually and thematically, but I’m holding off on making detailed commentary until I can watch it again when it gets a wider re-release in the spring.

Meanwhile, onwards to the show:
Wildstreet, of New York, were up first. They have a new record out. Here are some pictures of (most of) them:


Next up wasWilliam Control, aka William Francis (Aiden), who is also the voice of F.E.A.R., a character in Legion of the Black. He temporarily pushed the tone of the evening in the direction of goth-industrial dance music.

He sounds so much like Rogue from The Cruxshadows that I spent the last half of his set seriously wondering if I had missed a memo and Rogue had cut off his dreads and renamed himself. (And if he was going to play Marilyn My Bitterness because I love that song.)

Anyway, minor case of identity confusion aside, I did dig Mr. Control’s grooves, so if goth-industrial dance music is your thing, check him out.

There is only one picture of him because singing in a pit of sp00ky darkness periodically illuminated by strobing red and purple light: excellent for atmosphere, bad for photography.


And then it was time for the main event: the Black Veil Brides. Despite the occasional rough patch – I really hope someone got Andy Biersack some hot tea liberally mixed with whiskey afterwards – they were really great.

I thought the new material mixed well with their older songs. They stuck mostly to the heavier, growlier, thrashier end of their range, this time around, but there were some softer moments. I was particularly pleased that they made room in the setlist for Jinxx (guitar) to play Overture, the instrumental track from Wretched and Divine – I have a weakness for big burly dudes playing the violin, okay – and also did their cover of Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell.

Here are some pictures of them: