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. 1

While I cannot be in Austin this year, NTSIB friend Joy is, and she has graciously agreed to be a roving reporter. Below is her first dispatch. If you want to follow her adventures live, you may do so on Twitter and Instagram.

This year, I am pleased to be NTSIB’s correspondent-at-large in Austin. It’s my first South By Southwest, and I have thrown myself directly into the deep end. Swim along with me here on the blog, with live updates on Twitter!

Since SXSW can be an impenetrably overwhelming mess of day parties, showcases, special sessions, and free shows, I’ve sorted the wheat from the chaff according to my own personal preferences. In reverse order, here are my most-anticipated acts of 2014.

7. Deap Vally

They’re loud. They’re crass. They’re women. And they crochet. This Los Angeles duo has found success in the UK and is on the verge of making it big in America. NTSIB friend Geordie McElroy describes them as “two-thirds of a girl gang” who should be “basically every teen girl’s role models”, and I am inclined to agree. Enjoy a sample of their balls-to-the-wall sound with “Hobo Playa”, off their single End of the World.

Deap Vally-Hobo Playa

Deap Vally plays South By Southwest:

Mar 14, 11pm @ Old School at Trinity Hall

6. Wye Oak

If you have ever listened to this Baltimore duo’s music and thought, “Where is the driving bass line?”, they seem to have read your mind. Their upcoming release, Shriek (out 4/29), will see guitarist Jenn Wazner switching exclusively to electric bass and the band’s music shifting accordingly. Until we hear the results, let’s tide ourselves over on the standout track of their 2011 release, Civilian.

Wye Oak plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 4pm @ Hype Hotel
Mar 13, 10am @ Four Seasons
Mar 13, 11:45pm @ The Parish
Mar 14, 12pm @ Mellow Johnny’s
Mar 14, 4pm @ The Blackheart
Mar 15, TBA @ Red 7

5. mr. Gnome

Another duo, this time from Cleveland, mr. Gnome has long been a NTSIB favorite. Their music, at times a frantic rush of paranoia while at others a sweet hymn to the void, should be heard rather than described. They are also hard at work at a still-secretive fourth album, due later this year. As a retrospective, here is a live session featuring songs from their previous releases.

Through the Turnstyle - mr. Gnome

mr. Gnome will play South By Southwest:

Mar 10, 7pm @ Clive Bar [FREE SHOW]
Mar 12, 3pm @ Cheer Up Charlie’s [FREE SHOW]
Mar 12, 11:30pm @ Javelina’s
Mar 13, 7pm @ Rowdy Saloon
Mar 14, 5:45pm @ The Tiniest Bar in Texas

4. Jessica Lea Mayfield

Jessica Lea Mayfield, the darling of Kent, Ohio (as well as an act NTSIB has been following since her first release), is preparing to drop her fourth record: Make My Head Sing … (4/15). Over the course of her career, this young guitarist’s tone has shifted from gorgeous minimalist folk to country-influenced dance pop to grunge-inspired noise rock. A sincere, down-to-earth performer, she says she calls her dog on the phone every day of tour — just to chat. Here she is performing “Our Hearts Are Wrong”, from 2011’s Tell Me.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - Our Hearts Are Wrong - David Letterman

Jessica Lea Mayfield plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 2:50pm @ Weather Up Bar
Mar 12, 5pm @ Cheer Up Charlie’s [FREE SHOW]
Mar 13, 12am @ Lambert’s

3. Kan Wakan

If you follow any of my social media presences, you have probably noticed that I am quickly becoming a Kan Wakan superfan. This up-and-coming Los Angeles band creates lush music that is like fancy dessert for the ears. Kristianne Bautista’s voice is incredibly, effortlessly deep and rich; her backing band provides intricately orchestrated but not overpowering accompaniment. Watch them play “Forever Found”, off their EP of the same name, and wait for their first full-length to arrive this spring.

Kan Wakan plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 1:55pm @ Red 7
Mar 12, 5:40pm @ Palm Park
Mar 13, 12:30pm @ Palm Door on 6th
Mar 13, 11pm @ Lambert’s
Mar 15, 10am @ Brazos Hall
Mar 15, 2:30pm @ Cedar St Courtyard

2. The Felice Brothers

Paleotrees wouldn’t be Paleotrees — and wouldn’t have met NTSIB — without these guys. This famously raucous five-piece ensemble from Upstate New York has undergone several lineup changes and numerous shifts in musical direction over their career, but they have never lost their freewheeling charm. They do what they want, and we just come along for the ride. Here they play a song off their compilation God Bless You, Amigo.

The Felice Brothers - Dream On (Live @Pickathon 2013)

The Felice Brothers play South By Southwest:

Mar 11, 9:45pm @ Cedar St Courtyard
Mar 13, 12:30pm @ Weather Up
Mar 13, 10:50pm @ Mohawk
Mar 14, 4pm @ The Gatsby

They will also participate in Willie Nelson’s Heartbreaker Banquet, during but apart from SXSW, on March 13 at Willie’s private ranch. (Set time: 3:30PM)

1. Doe Paoro

Doe Paoro, from Brooklyn, is a force to behold. The woman has a compelling, engaging stage presence and a positively terrific voice. Justin Vernon apparently agrees with me about her latent star power, since he sings on her upcoming release Ink On The Walls. Recorded this winter in Vernon’s studio and produced by S.Carey, the album will drop this April; “Walking Backwards”, below, is its lead single .

Doe Paoro - Walking Backwards (Official Audio)

Doe Paoro plays South By Southwest:

Mar 12, 8:30pm @ Banger’s
Mar 12, 10:15pm @ Holy Mountain
Mar 13, 2pm @ Do512 Lounge

… and I am honored to be part of her crew for some if not all of these shows.

So, Austin: stop by when you can, and I hope to see you there!

– Joy @ Paleotrees

[A version of this list also appears on]

Friday Link Session


  • My favorite Cleveland band, mr. Gnome, have premiered their DIY video for “House of Circles” on NPR’s All Songs Considered blog. The song is rad, and the video is a tribute to the multiple talents of this band.
  • West African musician Bombino is raising funds to build a community rehearsal space in Niamey, Niger. As the fundraising page states, “Following the end of the Second Tuareg Rebellion in 2008 (during which guitars were banned) the music scene in Niger has been blossoming. However, in Niamey fully equipped rehearsal spaces are virtually non-existent and certainly not accessible to most musicians and would-be young musicians.”
  • The Elbo Room in San Francisco, California, will be hosting a Norton Records benefit concert on December 16. As many of you know, Norton’s warehouse was hit hard by Sandy and many rare recordings have been endangered.
  • Stupefaction has a very worthy John Lurie two-fer: First, a full concert from Lurie’s wonderful “fake jazz” band the Lounge Lizards, recorded in Berlin, Germany, in 1991. Then, a playlist of Lurie’s top 20 songs.
  • Steve Kilbey, most famously of Australian band the Church, has been guest editing Magnet Magazine. He’s covered everything from One Direction to the Gormenghast Trilogy, and highlighted Greg Dulli’s (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) often-overlooked solo album Amber Headlights.
  • It seems to be the Age of Music Documentaries, which is good news for those of us who totally dig that shit. This time around Mudhoney is being profiled. You can pre-order the DVD or rent a stream of the movie.

(Guest) Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Nate Burrell’s Best of 2010

Regular Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog Jennifer is taking a well-deserved vacation, and NTSIB friend Nate Burrell was kind enough to contribute his favorite photos of 2010 from his own collection. In addition to being a hell of a nice guy, Nate is a great photographer, and we’re very pleased to feature him again.

The Black Keys:
To Summarize: this band kicks ass. They have since 2002, and they are finally getting their due respect on a wider scale in 2010. Their most recent release, Brothers, opened them up to popular outlets, due to its groove-thick gnarly sound and the hit single Tighten Up; but don’t be fooled- their catalogue prior to this year’s album is disgustingly good. Get learned if you haven’t already.

Dan Auerbach stepping to the edge of the stage for the sold out crowd at the Pageant – St. Louis, MO.

Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three:
After successfully touring the US and the UK, as well as having been named Best New Discovery at 2010’s Newport Folk Festival, this St. Louis-based American Roots Music band is definitely a band to look for. Absolutely awesome to see live- energetic, tight on stage, and good musicians to the core… and just as good to put on your turntable or in your headphones. Check “La La Blues” from their album Riverboat Soul if you want to sing and clap along as you get on down! And keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming releases in 2011 – ya heard me??!!

Pokey LaFarge singing and sweatin’ at Off Broadway in South City St. Louis.

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound:
This Chicago Rhythm and Soul group is another hot ticket to see. Funky as you ever wanted to see on stage, a sound that’s vaguely familiar, but also fresh and its own. You’ll be swayin’ and head bobbin until it’s an all out get down in your own right! Good stuff for sure. Their album is dope! And they are playin’ out in cities right now.

JC Brooks reaching out to the crowd at the Beat ‘N’ Soul Festival – St. Louis, MO.

Patrick Sweany:
A soulful Nashville bluesman, Sweany is a name that you should look up. Having as much comfort on the 6 string as anyone out there today, and a comfortable banter with his audience – you are sure to see a good set when he takes the stage. His new album Southern Drag officially drops in Feb. 2011, but he’s currently out on the road touring and could be headed your way. Look him up.

Banging the stomp box at the Old Rock House – St. Louis, MO.

Those Darlins:
If you saw these three gals and one fella in 2010, you most likely saw them in a smaller to mid-sized venue… and I’ll bet it was packed… and I guarantee it was rowdy! They wail live – no doubt, and will hit you with an assault of songs that’ll soak you with country punk and soul… right after they spray their beer on ya from the stage. After basically going on a world wide tour in 2010, they just released a 7”, and I hear that there’s also a full length to follow.

Jessi Darlin rockin out and lightin’ up at the Off Broadway.

Jessica Lea Mayfield:
After a critically acclaimed debut album, Mayfield toured the world far and wide, played with various big namers of many genres and stole many hearts along the way. Her dark folk sound has a familiarity that we all can relate to and a melody that we will all want to hum or sing along with. With a major label release coming early in 2011, she will certainly be doing some amazing things this next turn of the calendar.

Jessica Lea Mayfirld looks over a theatre filled with her hometown crowd while headlining the Kent State Folk Festival.

Cassie Morgan:
Indie-folk songstress Cassie Morgan had quite a successful 2010. Her band, Cassie Morgan and the Lonely Pine, spent the majority of the year backing the release of her full length album debut Weathered Hands, Weary Eyes. Morgan (along with band mate Beth Bombara) played with a variety of well known national acts in her home city of St. Louis and embarked on a tour through the great Midwest. While ending up (deservingly) on many–o-critic’s year end best of lists, look for more great things from her in 2011.

Cassie Morgan silencing the crowd at the Gramophone with her beautiful dance of guitar and vocals.

mr. Gnome:
Cleveland, Ohio, rockers (and April’s new favorite!) mr. Gnome will melt your heart and melt your face. Creating walls of growling sonic beauty, this duo is one of the best stage bands you’ll find night in and night out. That good, no question. Screaming guitar and howling female vocals, with a pulsating complex drumming style –you’ll be standing second row before you know it… head bobbing and all!

Nicole Barille captivating the room at the Firebird.

The Sights:
Detroit is known for its soul and rock-n-roll. The Sights give you just that. I wasn’t familiar with this band until seeing them rip up the stage as part of the Beat ‘N’ Soul event at St. Louis’ premier venue Off Broadway, but when they stepped off stage, I was floored. They stomped, they pounded, they hollered and they won the crowd – all in the matter of 35 or 40 minutes. I will definitely make it a point to see them this year, and you may want to consider the same.

Eddy Baranek lets loose for the fans crowding the center stage.

photo copyright Nate Burrell – taken for KDHX Media, St. Louis, MO

Soft Speaker/HotChCha/mr. Gnome at the Beachland Ballroom, Cleveland, OH, 12.18.1010

Somewhere between home and the Beachland, I managed to lose one of my camera batteries, but I did manage to attain a concert-going companion (NTSIB friend Joy) with a camera phone. We didn’t get any shots of Soft Speaker, but we do have some fittingly atmospheric pictures of HotChaCha and mr. Gnome.

Soft Speaker

This Chicago quartet, whom my brain persisted in thinking of as the Red Guitar Brigade due to the color of all their string instruments, weaves in and out of styles, sometimes moving from a more funked-up groove to treble-heavy indie rock within the same song. And it may just be my background playing up things that weren’t there, but it seemed at times that the vocals and lyrics were influenced by a dusting of late-’90s goth. While it is easy to hear how a track like “I Stand To Lose My Fortune, Easy” can grow quickly on the listener, Soft Speaker’s encompassing style is perhaps too much for a first-time listener to process at a live show, and they never seemed to spark with the audience.


HotChaCha are swiftly becoming an NTSIB favorite, bolstered heavily by their energetic live shows. As most live reviews of the band will mention, much of this is thanks to frontwoman Jovana Batkovic and her complete lack of inhibition or pretension. She will engage the audience, whether they like it or not – and they usually end up liking it. Especially the men who gather up around the front of the stage, eagerly anticipating Batkovic’s eventual leap into the audience to dance through the crowd, sliding up against various audience members as she goes. In an era when most live performances will consist of a group of shy hipsters standing still behind their mics, not making much eye contact with the crowd, Batkovic definitely stands out as she lets the music take her, using her mic and/or mic stand as a phallus, crawling between the legs of her bandmates, making eye contact with any and everyone and folding herself backwards on the stage.

But it is Mandy Aramouni, Heather Gmucs and Roseanna Safos who perform the massive springboard from which Batkovic launches. Aramouni’s atmospheric guitar and keys are never in danger of becoming lighter-than-air partially thanks to the heavily solid low end held down by Gmucs and Safos. And while most eyes tend to be on Batkovic, the rest of the band is giving their all, Aramouni rocking and headbanging, Gmucs prowling across the stage and Safos propelling everything with her power hitting.

At one point Saturday night, Batkovic asked the crowd, “Who wants to dance?” She then proceeded to pull about ten audience members on stage – including Joy – for a dance party, which she soon left for the floor to let the stage dancers take the spotlight while she took a rest from being the center of attention. Audiences will often reflect the attitude of the band they’re seeing, and while those shy indie hipsters have shy hipster audiences, HotChaCha’s audience is one of the smilingest crowds you’ll see.

mr. Gnome

I suppose it is a common cry among fans and bloggers who concentrate on independently-produced music, but every time I listen to mr. Gnome, I ask, “Why isn’t this band huge yet?” Finally seeing them perform live (after having failed to make it happen three times previous), this question has only grown louder in my mind.

Nicole Barille and Sam Meister eased the crowd into things with the soothing, pretty “Titor” before plunging directly into the bounce beat of “Plastic Shadow” (one of my favorites). When listening to mr. Gnome recordings, I’m usually too caught up in the atmosphere, the feeling of their songs to notice the skill involved. That probably sounds counterintuitive to some of you, but I always latch onto emotion in music before I get around to pesky things like skill or even lyrics. Being able to see Barille and Meister work their instruments Saturday night brought my levels of respect for them from merely high to through-the-roof. While Meister is a power hitter of epic proportions, he’s also precise and complex, his syncopations and fills far beyond the skill of most rock drummers.

Most press on Barille focuses on her voice as she plays between low roars, tenor howls and pixie trills, but her guitar work is more than just a backdrop to her vocals. Barille moves easily between the heavy power chords and experimental atmospherics you would expect when listening to mr. Gnome’s music, but she’s also capable of intricate fretwork, which she displayed on a brutal “Deliver this Creature”. Oh, and she also belts out the vocals like a hellion live.

The playlist for the night concentrated on Deliver this Creature and Heave Yer Skeleton material, ending with “Three Red Birds” from the recent Tastes Like Magic EP. They also broke out a couple of new babies from their forthcoming album, which land on the more head-banging end of the Gnome spectrum. Check out this footage from the omnipresent kingofthecastle7 of their new song “Manbat”.


mr. Gnome Return Home

Now that the news of the Black Keys move to Nashville has been officially announced, I can christen mr. Gnome as my favorite-local-band-that-is-still-local*… though, as seems to be the way of things, this will probably precipitate Nicole Barille and Sam Meister’s move to distant lands. I’d like to apologize to all the other mr. Gnome fans in advance.

But until then, we have the chance to enjoy them here at home this Saturday when they headline a show at the Beachland Ballroom with another band of local awesomeness, HotChaCha, and Soft Speaker from Chicago. Our friend Nate Burrell was kind enough to share some beautiful photos with us of mr. Gnome’s recent show in St. Louis, Missouri.

And here’s some footage from their recent show in Tucson, Arizona:


mr. Gnome Official Website
HotChaCha @ Exit Stencil Recordings
Soft Speaker Official Website
The Beachland Ballroom

*For the record, I begrudge the Black Keys not one bit for their move, am glad they stayed in Ohio as long as they did and am really happy for them and excited for all the opportunities they have now.

photo copyright Nate Burrell – taken for KDHX Media

Bits: Cadillac Sky, Stephen Calt, The Magnetic Fields, mr. Gnome, Twain, The Low Anthem

  • Bryan Simpson has announced his departure from Cadillac Sky. An announcement about his replacement is forthcoming. We are grateful to Bryan for the great music he’s given us and wish him much happiness.
  • Dust-to-Digital reports the passing of blues biographer Stephen Calt, author of King of the Delta Blues: The Life an Music of Charlie Patton and I’d Rather Be the Devil: Skip James and the Blues among other tomes.
  • Now on to better news: the Magnetic Fields would like to bring their film Strange Powers to your town. Learn how you can help make it happen.
  • mr. Gnome has almost completed it’s third album and has announced tour dates starting in November.
  • Mat Davidson of the Low Anthem has released his second album with his project Twain. Interesting stuff. Check it out.

Speaking of the Low Anthem, we’ve been slowly falling in love with them since seeing them open for the Avett Brothers last winter. Here’s a nice little docu-video on them.


Slackday: Better than porn.

mr. Gnome: best band to come out of Cleveland or best band to come out of Cleveland? Those sexy-ass kids played a little loft gig in Seattle on their recent tour. Here’s some footage from Jonathan Houser.

Mr. Gnome 1 from Jonathan Houser on Vimeo.

Mr. Gnome 2 from Jonathan Houser on Vimeo.

Nicole and Sam are back home and working on their next album (or will be if Nicole can lure Sam back from going feral – it’s best not to ask). They’ve also added some massively cool shit to their already massively cool online store, like a spectacular vinyl “bag” set and the regenerated “Better than porn.” shirt.

Bits: mr. Gnome EP, Wayne Coyne is a model citizen, new Bonnie Prince Billy Daytrotter session, new Bob Pollard, Hell and Half of Georgia’s first show

  • Clearly Alarm has good taste as they have voted mr. Gnome’s Tastes Like Magic EP one of the best albums of the week.
  • The Flaming Lips are always popping up in the most unexpected places. Model citizen Wayne Coyne could be seen last Sunday evening on Extreme Home Makeover as he donned hard hat and worked volunteer labor to help build a home. NTSIB is not choked up. We’re just clearing our throat.
  • Daytrotter trotted out (Ha! Get it? …the time change is making us loopy…) a new session with Bonnie Prince Billy yesterday. They’re at SXSW right now taping more great sessions to share with us, by the likes of Phosphorescent and Blair and more.
  • It feels like cheating to announce that Bob Pollard has a new album on the way since you could say that at any time of the year and have it be true. Still, it’s worth noting that you can preview a couple of tracks from the upcoming Circus Devils on Mr. Prolific’s website. They’re hot.
  • Even though we weren’t able to be there, NTSIB is very excited that our friends Hell and Half of Georgia played their first show this past Saturday. Check out a video from the show:


Bits: The Black Keys apart & together, Carolina Chocolate Drops on Fresh Air, mr. Gnome 7″, various tour dates