POZ SXSW Preview: Our Must-See Acts And Showcases
SXSW seems to grow larger each year. What began as a small get-together of industry insiders and aspiring bands angling for a break has turned into an unwieldy, bloated clusterfuck of corporate sponsorship, headlined by arena-packing artists hoping to glom a little secondhand cool. But beneath all that surface bullshit, the heart of the little-festival-that-was is still beating.
Like last year, PropertyOfZack will be focussing on the smaller acts that hit closer to our hearts this March in Austin, while maybe throwing in a taste or two of rockstars as well. Erik van Rheenen, Jesse Richman, Ali Killian, and Caitlin DeWeese from POZ will all be on the ground at SXSW, and each team member put together a list of Our Must-See Acts And Showcases for this year’s festival. Reblog and let us know who we need to see while we’re in Austin this week as well!
In Defense Of South By South West
Tuesday, March 11th
Riot Act Media Showcase
Riot Act’s showcase features a diverse lineup, but the real must-see here is headliner Split Single. Split Single frontman Jason Narducy has made his rep as a sideman, playing with everyone from Telekinesis to indie icons Bob Mould and Bob Pollard, but before he was holding it down for scene luminaries, he was creating devastatingly great music of his own with his late-90s pop-rock outfit Verbow. Narducy’s a dynamic performer with a keen ear for melody, and I’m stoked to finally see him front and center once again. - Jesse Richman
Tomorrow I head down to Austin for my annual pilgrimage, bringing praise to and seeking blessing from the Gods Of Rock. We’ll be providing coverage at PropertyOfZack all week long — the Preview above, playlists, survival guides, daily blog posts and more. And this year, it won’t be just me, we’ve got a team of 5 headed down!
I’ll keep my socials as updated as possible, but WiFi sucks at SXSW and I’ve got an insane schedule (including 13 confirmed interviews and counting…) The best way to catch everything I write this week is to keep your eye on POZ. And I’ll make sure to get a summary post online after I return…presuming I return.
What The Hell Is A “Revival?”
March Sadness 2014 has started with a bang. To accompany this year’s tournament of sadness, PropertyOfZack will be running several Perspective pieces to highlight Emo in all its glory. Enjoy What The Hell Is A “Revival?” below!
March Sadness 2014
by Jesse Richman, edited by Erik van Rheenen
It’s funny how much can change in a year. When we launched March Sadness last winter, we called our bracket of newly-prominent bands “Modern Day Emo.” Dads, Balance & Composure, Into It. Over It., and The World Is A Beautiful Place did battle, and Dads accomplished the near-unthinkable, marching through a gauntlet to edge out not just their cohorts, but even the mighty Brand New for the championship to be crowned Kings Of Emo.
This year though, it was readily apparent from the get-go that “Modern Day Emo,” as a name, was out. For March Sadness 2014, no title but “Revival” would do.
Yep, I said it. Revival. Emo Revival. #emorevival. Each time I type that, it pisses you off just a little bit more, doesn’t it?
I wrote a thing about the #emorevival. Perchance you might read it?
RIP Pete Seeger. Here’s my poorly written review of a bad event featuring a good Seeger in 2001 from the Brandeis University Justice.
Pete Seeger live performance at Spingold Theater
To build community, it isn’t necessary that a great idea be found at the center. Communities can be built around the most sappy, cliched, trite of ideas — what counts is that everybody buys into it. Witness Monday night, as the immortal Pete Seeger and a cast of very, very mortal millions held court over a packed Spingold Theater.
Sometimes community is built through mutual suffering — see the trials of fraternity pledges for an obvious example. For those who suffered through three and a half interminable hours on Monday, struggling through every imaginable off-key squawk for the sparse bite of pure Seeger-fied goodness, I salute you; you’ve developed a bond with your fellow concert-goers that you (and they) will likely never forget, no matter how hard you try.
Perhaps it is an insult to Seeger that he was forced to share his time on stage with the insufferable Jane Sapp, countless campus groups, and pretty much any member of the Class of 2002 that felt like showing up; likely, it was more insulting to the (almost entirely non-Brandesian) audience, the majority of whom shelled out ten bucks a pop for what they assumed would be a Pete Seeger performance. But Seeger’s time on stage, though far too short, made the night enjoyable and worthwhile despite the sea of hooey that nearly drowned his set.
Sapp, decked out in all black, stayed tucked behind her piano for the majority of the show. Though she testified with a pure gospel voice, Sapp’s compositions suffer from a samey-ness that began to wear extremely thin by the third hour, and her nonsensical rants against everything from tracking in school systems to multinational corporations were each accompanied by indistinguishable sing-alongs.
Still, those who remained in the crowd refused to be fazed, lapping up her invites for audience participation (they accompanied each and every number). Not that the audience was paying very close attention — how else do you explain the ecstatic response to a blues-rock rendition of that timeless classic “Old MacDonald”?
For his own part, Seeger held strong like a rock. Though his voice (and his memory) have faded since his glory days, Seeger’s spirit outshone the hundred who shared the stage with him, combined. Ever the populist, Seeger hit the stage in a simple peach button-down shirt, blue jeans and sneakers, toting with him the tools of his trade for the last 60 years — a banjo and a 12-string guitar. Not one for messy cords, he kept acoustic for the entirely, micing his instruments and gravelly voice alike.
Seeger made it obvious that he was the performing legend; everything about his character screams greatness, from the way he carries himself on stage to the ease and confidence with which he glides from children’s song to story to protest anthem. Opening up his set with a cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” and never looking back, Seeger covered all the bases of Americana and 200 years of history in his shining moments.
Though he stayed away from his hits (save for the unsurprising “Turn Turn Turn” set-closer), his presence kept the audience in the palm of his hand, letting him go pretty much in any direction he chose with the performance. The resulting set hit on everything from “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” to “the hit song of the Selma Montgomery March in 1965,” “Oh Wallace! You Can Never Jail Us All!”
Seeger spends most of his time now singing to elementary school children, and it showed in his set choices; still, it was his presence, even more so than his status, that allowed him to pull it off with poise and compelling clarity. Rarely has singing for children seemed both so noble a cause and so compellingly artistic.
Ultimately, the night was never designed to be a performance, but rather an interactive community creation, organized by the Brandeis Initiative in Intercommunal Coexistence and the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. To that end, there were performances by Brandeis’ Gospel Choir (hiding under the pseudonym “Women of Faith”), the Brandeis Reform Chavurah, Spur of the Moment, and members of the Junior Class.
Unfortunately, while it was a truly communal gesture to include as many groups as possible in the performance, the results were somewhat less than pretty. The contributions ranged from mediocre to downright painful; apparently the price of community building is serious self-sacrifice on the part of the audience. (The one exception to this was Spur’s gentle performance of the Beatles’ “Blackbird”; tinkering with the tempo, melody and phrasing played in their favor).
Accompanying the endless Brandeis-centric performances were speeches galore from the organizers; typical themes included creating a safe space for ideas. Noble causes all; if only the execution had been more convincing. Instead, the performance was a powerful argument for self-censorship and the need to limit performance to the truly talented. “Pete Seeger and Jane Sapp in Concert: Building Community Through Songs of Social Justice” was a sloppy mess of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink performance disguised as inclusiveness.
Still, it was worth wading through it all just for a bit of Seeger’s strident performance. He may be getting on in years, but there’s no question that the man’s still got it. There’s just no substitute for talent; Monday night in Spingold made that all too clear.
originally written 1/30/01
#1 - KANYE WEST - YEEZUS [spotify]
(feat. track - “I’m In It” [spotify])
What are two things that Foxy Shazam’s Foxy Shazam, The Bigger Lights’ Battle Hymn and Motion City Soundtrack’s Go have in common?
- They were my album of the year (2010-12, respectively)
- There wasn’t a whole lot written about any.
That #2 there greatly effected how I decided to write about those albums — that combination of experiential and evangelical writing that was sort of the basis for this blog to begin with.
But there’s no sense in me evangelizing on Yeezus. It’s the most-discussed album of the year. Discussed to death. Everyone has weighed in, not the least Kanye himself, numerous times. If you haven’t read either the New York Times interview or the one he just did with Steve McQueen in Interview Mag, or watched the Zane Lowe interviews, I can’t recommend them highly enough. He’s enthralling. Scattered, sure, but so are lots of the smartest people I know. And doesn’t give a fuck about code switching half the time — not sure if that’s because he doesn’t care or because it’s a thought-through stance. I really don’t care which it is, either way, those would be terrible, pedantic reasons to dismiss what he has to say. I love his brashness, his embrace of ego, his intransigent honesty, his intelligence, his desire to live ArtPOP (rather than just call things ArtPOP) — and if you don’t, I’m not convincing you. I’m not about to thinkpiece the most-thinkpieced-about record of 2013.
So what I will say is this. I listened to Yeezus more than any other album in 2013. In the car, on the train, at work, hanging out with my fiancee* in our apartment, in concert. All year long. And I’m not even a little bit tired of it — if anything, the more contexts I hear it in, the more it reveals itself to me. It’s pleasing intellectually and it’s equally pleasing viscerally. I loved the glitchy, blipped-out sonics of the first half on first listen. I came around to the slower, uglier, less musical tracks** later, after many listens, and now I love those even more. It, like 808’s and Heartbreak and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (my #7 album of 2010) before it, will prove to be massively influential*** five years down the line. I saw the Yeezus tour in concert four times; the staging and pageantry were both astonishing, Kanye was vibrant and engaged and present in a way that I’ve found few performers to be, especially those on large arena tours, and each night was a progressively better performance, culminating with Lindsay and I on the floor for the final show at Madison Square Garden, maybe 10 feet from the man himself as he did work — as he jumped, stalked, was raised as a god and prostrated himself to another one, as he
ranted spoke Swaghili soliloquized — an experience I will truly never forget among the thousands of shows I’ve seen and will see to come.
In short, Yeezus absolutely dominated my year; it wouldn’t make sense to have it anywhere but at #1. I’d place it higher if I could.
* She’s the biggest Kanye stan I’ve ever met. It’s one of her finer qualities. Is there anything more inspiring and wonderful than people who are really passionate about something?
** That’s the big secret about Yeezus — while it is an oblique, harsh, not-readily-approachable record, the Daft Punk tracks are actually the most approachable ones. The synthesized tracks aren’t nearly as gnarly as they’ve been made out to be; spiky, to be sure, but tuneful. It’s the knotted treetrunks of tracks like “I’m In It” and “Hold My Liquor” and “Guilt Trip” that really require some serious listening time to find footholds in.
*** That said, while I think a lot of folks agree that Yeezus will reverberate in a way that changes modern music, I don’t think it’s going to be for the harsh, Daft Punk electronic elements. I think the combination of the chopped-up, jump-cut, seams-showing aesthetic and the use of manipulated dancehall samples are both going to prove to be the real lasting legacy.