Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fun Fun Fun Fest only a week away!

In less than a week from now, Fun Fun Fun Fest or the “Greatest. Festival. Ever,” as dubbed by credible music blog the Brooklyn Vegan will take over Waterloo Park. The ultra cool hipster’s wet dream features acts such as Crystal Castles, Of Montreal, Ratatat, Cool Kids, HEALTH, Atlas Sound and Les Savy Fav to name a few. This year’s highlights include Danzig, formerly of the Misfits, recently reunited 1970’s Detroit punk rock band DEATH and alternative rockers The Jesus Lizard, who originally formed in Austin back in the 80’s.

The fourth annual music fest which encompasses the notable genres of indie rock, punk, and hip hop has hosted performers Murder City Devils, Bad Brains, Dan Deacon, Cadence Weapon, MGMT and Atmosphere in the past. The brainchild of former Emo’s talent booker Graham Williams was actually conceived by accident. “I was booking for the club one weekend and a bunch of tours that were hitting Austin at the same time. We couldn’t accommodate them and neither could any other club in town it seemed, so I teamed up with my friends at Alamo Drafthouse, whom I'd done a few events at Waterloo Park with, and we rented the park to have a show...more bands were added and it ended up being a fest by default,” said Williams.

Since its beginning in 2006, the fest has added comedy, a fourth stage and tripled in artist count, bringing the amount close to 90. Also involved in the project are James Moody, owner of the Mohawk and Michael Terrazas of Club DeVille who are also partners in Transmission Entertainment, local music booking and promotions company. The trio met while Williams was trying to find a venue for a band that wouldn’t play Emo’s. He called around to a few places, including the Mohawk and the dialogue with Moody and Terrazas (who is also an investor in Mohawk) just grew from there.

“The partners of Fun Fun Fun Fest are me, Graham and Michael, but we involve everyone, from our stage managers and our bookers Joe, Rosa and Brendan, our sponsor guy---we all vote and talk about bands that would be good. Graham is sort of the final say so because he started it. He’s the founder, but we all work together,” said Moody. Transmission Entertainment was formed almost out of necessity, because the progressive underground music market wasn’t being serviced. “We started it as a market need for local bands and up-in-coming bands,” said Moody. “We wanted to service that market of really talented struggling musicians and no one was really doing it and that’s how we started.”

Before making his home Austin eight years ago, Moody resided in 15 cities. “My dad was in the Air Force and he kind of dragged me all over the world... Germany, Nebraska, South Dakota, California ( a couple times), four different places in Louisiana, lived in Seattle,” he said. Like Williams, Moody also began his music career route by booking gigs for a club in Ruston, Louisiana. “The owner kinda said, “what are the kids listening too?” so I booked some what they called at the time “alternative,” but we don’t use that term anymore.”

We had the chance to ask both Williams and Moody a couple of questions about the festival and here’s what they had to say.

CC: What is your future vision for FFFFEST?

GW: I don't know… the concept has to stay the same from the style of music we book and the mix of genres--the whole scene within a scene concept. I could see it growing a bit, but I know it'll never be TOO big...and I don't want it to be.

JM: To be great at the middle, like to be a solid-medium sized fest. We don’t ever want to be a sort of big, huge fest, because it’s already been done and it’s being done well. We want to try to hold on, as closely as we can to that intimate experience of seeing a really big and talented band in a relatively small environment.

CC: What are some of the highlights this year, which acts are you looking forward to the most?

GW: Man, that's tough. I don't mean to pat myself on the back to hard, but this year is pretty fucking awesome. I mean there are so many bands I want to watch and so many playing at the same the top of my head: The Jesus Lizard, Gorilla Biscuits, Destroyer, Crystal Castles, Pharcyde, GZA, DEATH, Mika Miko, Torche, Les Savy Fav, Buraka Som Sistema, etc, etc.... I'd say 75% of the acts I want to watch this year.

JM: Oh Danzig for me, just because I grew up with Misfits. Jesus Lizard getting back together is huge because David Yow is crazy and always puts on an insane show. Les Savy Fav, Pharcyde and one of the biggest stories, DEATH.

CC: How do you remain energetic throughout the weekend?

GW: I eat healthy; I try and get some sleep. I don't drink, so that helps. It's tough, because aside from all the set up and running the show, we also have all these big after parties at night during the festival, so we're out super late every night too and then back down there crack of dawn.

JM: I use a lot of tools, things like booze, Red Bull, gum, friends, popcorn, candy, coffee… Amongst all those things I tend to make it through plus we work all year for this, so the adrenalin alone gets me through the weekend, but I always crash real hard by the time Monday rolls around.

CC: Any advice for people who aspire to work in the music scene?

GW: You have to do it because you love it or want to do it, never because you think you'll make a ton of money. It's like playing music, being an artist, etc… if you do it right and because you want to do it and it's something you believe in, it usually works out. I think too many people go into it thinking it's going to be like any other job, but it’s not.

JM: You gotta fight for it; it’s a labor of love. You may never make money in it, but that’s not what it’s about. Those that make money in it are very few; but if you can make just enough money in it to make a decent living and pay your rent, then your blessed and lucky and that’s what you should fight for being able to do what you love and live in a place like Austin… those are my goals. Stay committed to it and it’ll happen, but also, make sure your goals are more around the music than around the business… then you’ll probably do well.

CC: What's currently rotating in your CD player? (What are you listening to?)

GW: I've been listening to DEATH a lot and that new Phoenix is the jam too. Been playing Negative Approach on my iPod a lot since they're playing a FFF afterparty and it's got me in the mood. And for some reason I've noticed me playing "Tim" by the Replacements a bunch these past few weeks. Not sure why, but it's been on regular rotation and all that. The Burn 7" I've played a good amt lately for some reason as well. The new YYY’s is underrated… Oh yeah, that Mayer Hawthorne record is really good too.

JM: I’ve been listening to Fugazi, School of Seven Bells….The new Dinosaur Jr. is amazing. I’ve been listening to the Junior Boys, Murder City Devils and rotating some more Danzig into my system just to get ready for November.

Tickets for the two-day festival are still available and you can purchase them HERE.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Review: Dino Jr. & Built to Spill

Disco Doom, a relatively unknown band from Zurich, Switzerland was the opening band for Saturday’s 90’s indie explosion at Stubb's. The Swiss rockers were a perfect addition to the full lineup with their mixture of instrumental distortion, exploding atmospheric rhythm, mesmerizing guitar vibrato and down-tempo vocals. Second on the list were Dinosaur Jr.’s bassist Lou Barlow & The Missing Men, which were sort of a back-up band for Barlow’s solo stuff. Serving double duty, Barlow mostly played songs off his new record Goodnight Unknown which was released earlier in the month. Despite stopping and restarting the opening track twice, the rest of the set ran smoothly.

Following were notoriously loud alt-rockers Dinosaur Jr. Fans unequipped with ear plugs found themselves covering their ears more often than not as guitarist J Mascis’ distorted sonic waves boomed loudly over the three Marshall quad cabinets behind him. Almost from the beginning, a rowdy mosh pit consisting of mostly younger men slamming and shoving into each other occupied the front of the stage. “Murph is sick, he has the flu” announced Barlow over the microphone which loud applause from the slew of varied demographic of younger-aged and “back in the day” fans. The crowd went wild when the trio played “Feel The Pain,” off their 1996 release Without a Sound, the band’s most commercially successful album. “I Don’t Wanna Go There,” off the new album Farm concluded the deafening performance.

Before Built to Spill, the evening’s headliners, came on stage, Chicago based poet Thax Douglas recited a few lines inspired by the band. Douglas is a notorious “rock poet” who has read poetry before other notable acts including Andrew Bird, the Arctic Monkeys, Guided by Voices, The Flaming Lips, Of Montreal, Wilco, The White Stripes and Modest Mouse to name a few. He has since moved to Austin and has been spotted around town reading poetry for acts such as Sunny Day Real Estate.

Several minutes later, Built to Spill emerged from the darkness and commenced with “Three Years Ago Today,” a track from their latest release There is No Enemy. They followed with crowd pleaser “Distopian Dream Girl,” which solicited dancing and singing from fans. Front man Doug Martsch uttered “thank you” almost after every song. Mid-set, guitarist Brett Netson went into a political rant stating that “tonight is the 80th Anniversary of the American Stock Market crash, we’re in the second” while he pointed at the apartment complexes around the venue. He then said, “the next two songs are for the Texas Liberals.” The first of the two was “Wherever you Go,” a very jam and spacey melodic track off their 2006 release You in Reverse followed by “Planting Seeds” off of recent album There is No Enemy.

“We’re going to have to skip a song,” announced Martsch before going into “Big Dipper.” After finishing and thanking the audience, the band walked off stage only minutes to return to a crowding chanting “one more song, one more song.” “Stop the Show” from the band’s third album Perfect from Now On was the encore. The distorted chord progressions, swirly-psych riffling and upbeat drumming were a wonderful exit piece for a night of mind-blowing and eardrum busting music.

All photos by Ed Lehmann. Go to to see more.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Why There Are Mountains- Cymbals Eat Guitars

Why There Are Mountains is the independently released debut for indie rockers Cymbals Eat Guitars. Heavily reminiscent of Built to Spill, Pavement, and early Modest Mouse, Cymbals Eat Guitars encompass that familiar indie 90’s era with their slow disheveled strummed verses and loud boisterous choruses. Forming in 2005, the quartet hails from Stanton Island, New York and consists of lead vocalist/guitarist Joseph D'Agostino, drummer Matthew Miller, bassist/vocalist Neil Berenholz and keyboardist/vocalist Brian Hamilton.

The first track entitled “And the Hazy Sea,” erupts into an explosion of noise rock and screaming, but quickly defuses into a more passive melodic harmony only to skyrocket back into an outburst of guitar-saturated bombast. The song moves into a pattern of quiet, hushed moments followed by clamorous intervals. The back and forth bipolar rollercoaster ride concludes with an intensely layered concoction of distorted guitars, almost inaudible vocals and gentle cymbal tapping. This track is also the album’s debut single.

“Indiana,” features a Polyphonic Spree melody gracefully accompanied by D’Agostino’s nasally adenoidal vocals. This track is probably the most upbeat and “happiest” of the album with its poppy composition of soft piano and bubbly guitar.
Despite being engaging and convincing, transitions between songs of the album are seemingly non-existent. While many of the tracks sound like they’ll lead flawlessly into the next song, they usually don’t and are often followed by a track which is completely different from the preceding.

The album’s concluding track “Like Blood Does” starts off tranquil and slow-paced, but like most of the other songs mutates into an orchestration of loud vocal resonance, guitar distortion and prolonged reverberation. The crazy instrumentation lasts 40 seconds which is long enough to take someone for a ride mentally.
The band, which is currently on tour with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart played the Mohawk a few weeks ago. While we were unable to attend, we heard that they absolutely killed it!

Why There Are Mountains drops next Wednesday, October 14th.