At the age of twenty-four, I know that I may never truly learn the meaning of life. However, my recent experiences have at least distracted me from caring. I have many ambitions, some I may never realize. These ambitions are constantly changing, but since I was seventeen, I developed a weird bond with music. Yeah, everyone says the same thing, “music means so much to me”. I am by no means downplaying that. Granted, it took me four years of intense bonding, but I finally decided to start playing music again. Now, three years into playing the drums, I had the chance to experience something I had only dreamed about. This past March I had the insane privilege of playing South by South West. I mean, this festival is huge. Bands from all over the world pack themselves into the busy streets of downtown Austin, Texas; overflowing into every nook and cranny of the town. Every possible place in Austin that could possibly house a band transforms into a venue for the craziest three days that this city sees all year. Even beyond getting to play this huge festival, I got to play with and spend some quality time with the hometown heroes, The Appleseed Cast.
After having seen Appleseed countless times in Lawrence, I didn’t quite understand this bands true power. It is not to say that their Lawrence shows are not crowded, but there is no comparison to the response they get out of town. I was originally planning on going down to SXSW to play the drums in Hospital Ships. When the opportunity arose to interview as well as play with Appleseed, I could not help but get even more excited about the trip. The first show we played with Appleseed was the Graveface Records Showcase at Skinny’s ballroom. Skinny’s is a venue comparable to the Jackpot. As the night progressed, all of the incredible Graveface bands took the stage, each drawing a slightly larger crowd. By the time Appleseed played, the venue was packed. Music fans from all over the world had shown up at this tiny bar in Austin to see the Appleseed Cast perform. Maybe it was just me, but I feel the crowd was in some weird trance. They swayed back and fourth, chanting along with Chris like they belonged on the recordings. Needless to say, it was incredible to see a Lawrence band receiving such a warm welcome at one of the largest festivals in the country. They may not be playing arenas, but that night I felt like the sound was could have made Madison Square Garden crumble. Even if you were there and don’t agree with how incredible the show was, I don’t really care. No offense, but music is experiential. What I experienced is irreplaceable. The combination of pure excitement of playing the biggest show I have ever played, along with familiar faces in a strange place made that first night in Austin one of the most unforgettable experiences.
That next day Hospital Ships played again with Appleseed. This time the venue was drive in movie spot that was much more of a charming alleyway. I mean this with so much respect. There was homemade ice cream, a kick ass art gallery, great tunes and amazing people. Again, even in the heat of the day off the beaten path that is SXSW, Appleseed drew a strong crowd, literally out of nowhere. Following their set, I got to sit down with guitarist, Aaron Pillar. Each time I interview someone, I feel it turns into more of me picking their brain for little pieces of wisdom. AP has incredible things to say about his experiences in music and how important playing really is to him.
Honestly, without going out to concerts constantly, I would not have gotten to play South by South West. How I got there is a long story, but it is built upon the experiences I gathered through live music. Regardless of the outcome of my “music career”, no one can ever take these experiences from me. Even before playing music, witnessing people do what they love to do is incredible. No matter what form, passion is passion. I do not understand why some people play the types of music they do, or partake in certain activities, but it doesn’t matter. What really matters is when I can tell when someone loves what they are doing… and it always makes me smile.
That's when we fell in love another first time
Begin inner monologue:
"What....? Where I am? Why...? Who? ...huh? All these people seem to be in a trance, accompanied by the occasional outburst or scream. It's hazy, there are lasers everywhere. The sounds are angry, gorgeous, sorrowful, joyous and frightening. Each one of my senses is being bombarded by some sort of powerful force. I know I should be terrified, but for some reason, I am drawn to this magnetic energy. Who are these creatures in the fog? I am at their mercy. I am a fan."
If someone were to suddenly wake up in the middle of a Portugal. The Man set, they might think the world is ending, or at least aliens had come to take over the planet. Pretty much, it would be just like "The Day the Earth Stood Still". Hopefully Keanu would be no where to be found, because that would only add to the terror.
Portugal. The Man is one of those bands that if anyone were to ask what kind of music they play, you would have to write an essay in-order to provide an accurate description. Their music has such a dynamic range that leaps from one genre to the next. However, Portugal's music never forgets where it came from, and no one can tell where it is going. It is only fitting that Portugal's live show was equally as dynamic. For having such a small crew, they have one of the most incredible light shows I have ever seen. The combination of lasers, flood lights, and fog creates a visual onslaught that perfectly compliments the auditory experience of Portugal. The Man.
During the interview, we discussed how Portugal's newest album, "American Ghetto", managed to somehow not leak until very close to its release. If you are not impressed, you should be. Keeping an album under wraps in the digital download age is nearly impossible. Perhaps "American Ghetto" was so well kept because it was protected by lasers. Everyone should at least listen to a little, well a lot, of Portugal. The Man. Just make sure not to download it illegally or they will shoot you with their lasers.
[Followers of the Heard -
We have a little extra sauce for you this week. Stick around for an impromptu performance from Little Teeth at the bottom of the page, after Nick's blog.
Also, if you have some time, check out Little Teeth's Kickstarter page! http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/littleteethmusic/little-teeth-to-record-sophomore-album
My experience with Little Teeth cannot easily be described within the restraints of the english language. If I had to attempt to sum it up, all that comes to mind is cluster f*@#k. I say that with the upmost respect and admiration. The three San Fran gems that make up Little Teeth are quite possibly the strangest musicians I have come across in a very long time. I do not even know how to justifiably discuss their music. Everything they did was so... raw.
While watching Little Teeth perform, I felt like I was apart of the music. It truly was an experience that overcame my entire body. The noises coming from the stage evoked feelings that I never thought possible from an outside source. Strange is an understatement: foreign, bizarre, beautiful, disgusting, vulgar and enlightening might be close to an accurate synopsis. Just from witnessing Little Teeth set up their instruments, way too many to count, I could tell I was in for a crazy adventure. Sean's drum set was a combination of your standard drum kit and a make shift ensemble of pots and pans. Ever since I was little I would bang on pots and pans, this got me so stoked for their performance.
During their set, the drummer, Sean, actually left the stage with a small bells kit. He ventured back behind the audience to perform. Little Teeth had completely encompassed the entire crowd. Looking around, I could tell that people did not know what to think. Some seemed excited, others, a bit awkward. Either way, it drew some sort of emotion from every person in the venue.
For their final song, all three members of Little Teeth ventured out on to the floor of the Replay to perform an a cappella song. As they sang, growled, howled and hummed, the crowd crept in closer and closer. The mass nearly swallowed the performers leaving only a small ring of space around the trio. Chills were ravaging my body. It would be hard for me to imagine other people in the room not feeling the same shivers of excitement and nerves. Little Teeth dug up feelings and emotions that I did not ever conceive possible. I urge each and every one of you to brave the storm and experience, not listen to, Little Teeth. Love it or hate it, there is no denying its power.