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.
"Hey, so do you guys know where the nearest gym is?"
"Turns out, the kid's dad was a nazi."
"Oh man, I love Jersey Shore."
Okay, so this isn't twitter, but I have become obsessed with ridiculous hash tags that function less as trending and more as punch lines. Either way, I think you get the point. My experience with Jake Casualty was incredible, spontaneous and unforgettable. For the guitarist of a band that has so much attitude and has done so much, Jake was the nicest dude on the planet.
As Jake explained to me how the band pushed through the first few years, I realized the true meaning of "punk". Often times, "punk" is lumped in with the "slackers". When in fact, the Casualties are the exact opposite of lazy. Since the formation of their band, the Casualties have been one of the hardest working groups in the business. There is no mistaking the level of dedication that the Casualties have to not only their music, but their fans as well. Jake told me about how he would work faster than all the other kids in his high school graphics class just so he could use the spare class time to print band t shirts on the school equipment. Seems to me the punk slogan should be, "f*ck the system, take every advantage you can from it, then rub it in their face by being a bad ass"... at least the Casualties have been doing so for the past couple decades.
Aside from being super motivated, Jake was also extremely genuine. When the interview was finished, Jake asked if we could point him in the direction of the nearest gym. Instead of sending him on a wild goose chase, we decided to give him a lift. On the way we discovered that he was originally from Jersey, thus, a fan of the Jersey Shore. I mean, we were taking him to work out. However, tanning probably is not too good for his tattoos and being in a punk band does not always require clean clothes. Needless to say, Jake was not ashamed of his roots. At first I thought it was crazy that he worked out before every show. Later that night, I realized that due to the speed of the Casualties playing, it was probably a good thing Jake was a fitness nut.
As I stood shoulder to shoulder amongst the crowd, the band members began to chant, then eruption from the pit reciprocated the chant. The roar of the masses was terrifying. I fully understand why any authoritative figure despises and/or fears punk music. I felt as if the Casualties were preparing for war, alongside hundreds of troops... I mean fans. The idea of a bunch of angsty kids uniting even frightens me, and I am by no means in any position of power. Even being relatively new to the Casualties music, I understood the gravitational sense of belonging and brotherhood that the Casualties fabricate. Well, now that I say fabricate, I don't feel as if it is by any means artificial or fabricated. Desiring to be apart of something is human nature, it is an emotion that is instilled in every being. Some bands, like the Casualties, are just incredible at pulling that feeling out of a horde of people.
I recently purchased the Casualties live record. Instantly, I could feel the same emotions just from hearing the roar coming from the crowd on the recording. Love, fear and hate are all words that have at some point been attached to the Casualties music. Even though these are not all typically positive, all that matters is the fact that the Casualties provoke genuine emotion.
I'm not surprised, but I never feel quite prepared -
[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.
If your circle of friends is anything like mine, you guys are passing the colds around like a game of rotten hot potato. Sometimes there is nothing like a nice hearty bowl of soup to warm up those innards and punch that cold in the face (even if the effects are only temporary). Why does soup always make you feel better? Is it just the warmth? Perhaps the variety of ingredients and flavors? If I had to speculate, its probably the nostalgic value. My mom always made me soup when I was a sick little boy. Now the people who truly care about me bring me soup when I'm a bit under the weather. Soup is the universal food that says, "here taste this, now get better". I'm rambling a bit, but I guess the point is that soup is often prepared with emotion and experience. Just something to keep in mind. So many things go into a simple bowl of soup.
While talking with Wes and Allie from Ra Ra Riot they mentioned that the Vietnamese soup, pho, was getting them through their little sicknesses on tour. I thought I misheard her when Allie said "fa", I had no idea what she was talking about without a bit more explanation. Needless to say, I felt a bit uncultured. Within minutes of meeting Wes and Allie I immediately noticed their well spoken and sophisticated natures. As we got into our conversation, I discovered that they all met each other while studying at Syracuse in New York, where their studies ranged from music to physics to architecture - and I can totally see that in their music.
At first glance on stage, Ra Ra Riot is quite intimidating. The ensemble of six members wielding a wide array of instruments create a sound that fills every empty and occupied space in a room. The Granada could have been vacant and the sound coming from the stage alone would have fooled me. Along with the different stylistic approaches of Ra Ra Riot comes many different types of fans. It is always refreshing to see genres overlapping.
Despite the almost overwhelming vibe of intelligence I got from the band, they were extremely grounded and humble. The fact that they enjoy things like street hockey and candy on tour reminded me, yet again, that tour musicians are still human beings. So many people view performers as nothing more than just that: a show. These kids are just trying to make a living while sharing their music with the world. It is a brilliant concept and I'm pretty envious. Let's be honest, the American economic system is not in a good spot. Now a days even a college degree doesn't ensure you a job. Ra Ra Riot has repurposed their collegiate skills into an entrepreneurial and musical medium. Every aspect of a musicians life has an effect on their song writing. In my eyes, Ra Ra Riot is a prime example of a collective that stirs a little bit of everything into their work. Regardless of what you think about Ra Ra Riots music, it is prepared with more than just instruments. Those six kids from Syracuse just want to share some musical life-soup with you. Maybe give it a taste, feel better.
I look pretty young, but I'm just backdated,
Sometimes I wish I was a master of onomatopoeia. The melody to Matt and Kim’s song, “Daylight” has been stuck in my head for weeks. Unfortunately, I cannot share it with you at this moment. Perhaps if I studied up on some old Batman episodes I can achieve a sufficient grasp on onomatopoeia to do so. Since we are on the subject…
Matt and Kim are an explosion of smiles. I cannot stress enough just how joyful these wonderful people are. Even more importantly, it is contagious.
I was rather nervous, being invited on to the tour bus to do the interview. Since the moment I stepped on the bus, I felt a strong sense of comfort. It really was like visiting Matt and Kim’s home. Clues of the dynamic duo’s lifestyle were strewn about the cabin. Chips, candy and cookies? Yeah, I was going to get along with these two quite well. As introductions began, I realized that this band just might be the definition of music that is a direct expression of personal beliefs.
(Note: said allegations have been confirmed.)
To be quite honest, I haven’t been on many tour buses. If they all are as homey as Matt and Kim’s, I’d like to start making a habit of it. We discussed all sorts of aspects of their tour life. My favorite has to be the discussion of their ideal superpowers. For some reason I just knew that Matt and Kim had thought about this before. Next favorite part: Brownies! Matt and Kim were kind enough to share some homemade brownies that I think might still be stuck in my throat. By no means am I complaining.
The crew and I ventured into the Granada for Matt and Kim’s set, brownie still lodged in my esophagus. It was packed; kids were so stoked on Matt and Kim. With dance music already blazing, Matt and Kim made their entrance and the real party began. The pure energy in the room was unreal, not a frown in the building. Due to excessive energy levels, both Matt and Kim could not resist jumping atop their respective instruments multiple times throughout the set. Each song proved to be, with an additive quality, even more enjoyable than the last. (This is the exact opposite of how I feel about classes with accumulative finals.) Between songs, Matt and Kim added yet another dimension to their already stunning performance; personality. Matt had a story for everything, all of which increased the span of my smile just a bit more. The party never stopped. At one point, the duo played a cover of an ODB song that may or may not promote safe sex; I assure you, it was done in good taste. Kim even danced on top of the crowd, also done in good taste. Everyone held her ankles as she traveled above the mass of kids, proving that no plastic bubble is necessary to do so, sorry Wayne (not Bruce). Matt and Kim truly are super heroes in their own right. They can do no wrong on stage. They create more than a show, generating an entire atmosphere that encompasses every person in the room.
Smile. That is what it all comes down to. If you are having trouble grasping this concept, consider picking up a Matt and Kim album.
Pulling us from them, to we-
Ohio is for… Hotchacha. I am at a loss of words. The interview with Hotchacha was out of this world incredible. From the moment we met up to talk, there was nothing but pure personality. Those four girls make me smile just thinking about how much they love life, and what they get to do on a day to day basis. True passion may be a fleeting idea, but after a serious game of pool and an hour long interview/conversation with HotChaCha, a bit of my faith in the human race has been restored.
The crew and I met up with Hotchacha at Harbour Lights. The girls grabbed a drink and then proved that they are unstoppable at Erotic Photo Hunt. Then, all of Hotchacha challenged me to game of pool, 4 v 1. It was a tough tag team effort, but I emerged victorious, of course. Once I was finished rubbing it in their faces, we sat down to handle business for real. Great stories, group hugs, free Jimmy Johns, drinking beer out of straws, and way too many jokes. Everything was so comfortable; aside from the occasional awkward, yet welcome, inappropriate joke from the girls.
As great as the interview was, the real treat did not come until later that night, when Hotchacha took the stage. Even before the first note, it was obvious that there was a force to be reckoned with in the Replay. The four girls have such a strong presence even while not playing their instruments. They aren’t just there to look adorable; a strong command of their instruments was obvious. Not a single member in Hotchacha knows the meaning of the word timid. Beginning with the backbone of all bands, the drummer, Roseanna pushed the intensity; mixing driving tom parts with “you cannot stand still” dance beats. The other half of the rhythm section, bassist, Heather held down often dirty and in your face bass lines, complementing the amazing crescendos that were being achieved by the entire band. On top of the strong rhythmic foundation, guitarist Mandy, played catchy riffs based heavily in reverb and delay pedals as she swayed and jumped around. I absolutely love when she takes a lead part and jumps up an octave.
But the stand-out performer was right where she belonged; Jovana should release a work out video based on Hotchacha’s set. There is no limit to how far this front woman will go for the sake of performance - I think she spent more time dancing through the crowd than she did on stage. As the set came to a close, Jovana ended up doubled over on the floor in front of the stage, surrounded by the audience. It is a shame that not every musician loves what they do as much as this band. I will never get tired of watching someone play who gets entirely lost in the music.
Since Hotchacha left Kansas, I have been missing them ever so dearly. However, I recently acquired a copy of their newest EP, Fantastic Static. It's been in constant rotation since then. With a stage presence so demanding of attention, it is tough for a band to release a studio recording that encompasses that same emotion. Maybe it is due to the fact that I spent some quality time with the band, but I can hear, see, smell and even taste the raw power on Fantastic Static. Not to mention that the vinyl comes in multiple different marble presses and the sleeves are all recycled. If you are looking for a “girl band” that defies the stereo types of “girl bands” check out Hotchacha’s EP, Fantastic Static, available on Exit Stencil. At least get a laugh or two by following them at twitter.com/hotchacha and www.facebook.com/HotChaCha.
Stay tuned to the Heard for Little Teeth, a brilliant San Francisco band that cannot be described in words (at least with my vocabulary) and the dynamic duo, Matt and Kim.
A E I O U nothing, Nicholas
Editor's note: Roseanna Safos' name is spelled wrong in the beginning of the vid; sorry Roseanna, I used your myspace to spell check!! Argh! Hope you see you guys soon :)
Love and Sunshine,
Look out Captain Planet… Cowboy Indian Bear has added another element to their already stunning powers.
Last year’s KJHK Farmer’s Ball winner Katlyn Conroy has officially joined forces with this year’s Pitch Music Award winner for Best Indie Pop Artist: Cowboy Indian Bear…. Holy cow… boy… Indian… bear. Sorry, sometimes my cheesiness exceeds its limits. But seriously, I am beyond stoked about this. If Lawrence ever had a super group, this new alliance would definitely be its sidekick. I love both Katlyn and CIB beyond belief. Katlyn has been playing with CIB for awhile now; she is featured on their debut full length, Each Other All the Time. If you haven’t heard it yet…get on it. Now. (http://therecordmachine.net/blog/store).
For those of you who haven’t seen Cowboy Indian Bear yet, I’ll let this one slide, but only if you make an effort to change your ways. The next show in the Lawrence/KC area is October 2nd for The Record Bar Fifth Anniversary Party with The Republic Tigers. Shortly after, they will be playing with the reincarnation of a local legend, Ad Astra Arkestra on October 8th at the Bottleneck. Do everything you can to experience the perfect four part harmonies in person, your ears will thank you. If that is just out of the question, check out www.myspace.com/cowboyindianbear. Also, follow them on twitter at www.twitter.com/bearmusic.
Keep watching, up next on The Heard is Hotchacha, a super rad post punk band from Cleveland. Their energy on stage would make Karen O run for cover. Come out to the Replay tonight (Wednesday September 15th) for their set… I’ll be there, come say “hi”.
Peace Out Girl Scouts,
p.s. - Rachel here, checking in. Welcome to the first episode of The Heard.
This lil' show is the...sequel, if you will, to Backstage with Kacie Faye, a show featured on lawrence.com that I directed for the lovely Miss Kacie Faye. Kacie has left Lawrence, :( , but the show lives on. Wheeee.