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Posts Tagged ‘Flaming Lips’

Austin City Limits Festival

The 9th annual Austin City Limits Festival broke the festival’s long standing curse of bad weather.  No mud, no rain, no dust, no extreme heat.  It was a weekend full of nothing but beautiful weather, great music, and good times.

We kicked things off Thursday night at Spoon’s sold out preshow at the Mohawk. Aside from the really awful opening band, it was a great show.  Spoon is selling out shows everywhere they go, and whenever they come back to their hometown, they are always greeted with a very enthusiastic crowd.  Britt Daniel started their set with a solo acoustic arrangement of The Mystery Zone and ended two hours later with a five song encore.

The young and talented Sahara Smith kicked things off down at Zilker park on Friday morning.  She’s been touring extensively and getting a lot of attention following the release of her debut album Myth of the Heart.  There are many good things yet to come from this rising star and her band (Jake Owen on guitar, Will Sexton on bass and guitar, Mike Meadows on percussion).  Later in the day, local favorites Carolyn Wonderland and Band of Heathens heated things up with their unique, soulful blues.

I tried to get close enough to really experience The Black Keys’ set but they had attracted a sea of an audience and all I could see was the jumbo tron.  The crowd was so big I couldn’t get close enough to really get inside the music, one of the hazards of such a large festival.  No worries though, I was set up to photograph their aftershow on Saturday.  So I wandered over to see Ryan Bingham and caught the tail end of Angus and Julia Stone who I’ll keep an eye out for in the future.  I wish I had seen more of their set.  Ryan Bingham has had a trememdous year.  Hot off the tails of his Grammy, he’s selling out shows all over the country.  He’s a huge talent and I hope to see him again soon.

On Saturday we caught Broken Bells, the awesome collaboration between James Mercer of the Shins and Danger Mouse.  We saw them this year during SXSW when they performed their entire new album live during their showcase at Stubb’s.  This time around, they performed tons of unreleased material along with a few tracks from their debut release.  I hear a second album is in the works, and we can’t wait to see what else this amazing collaboration cooks up.  I also caught parts of sets by Gogol Bordello, Beats Antique, Monsters of Folk, Mayer Hawthorne, and Kinky.  All great bands with Mayer Hawthorne and Kinky being obvious standouts.

Saturday was a night of much anticipated aftershows all over town, most of which were sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale.  The Black Keys aftershow at Stubb’s was completely off the hook!  Foals opened the show.  They’re a solid electro pop band, not really my favorite flavor of things, but a good band nonetheless.  The Black Keys duo consisting of Dan Auerbach on vocals and guitar and Patrick Carney on drums are musicians’ musicians.  Testament to that fact, amidst the totally packed house, I spotted Britt Daniel of Spoon, Danger Mouse, Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups and a slew of other who’s who from around town. The Black Keys played tunes off their newest and hugely successful full length album Brothers and then brought a bassist and keyboardist on stage to debut some new material.  It was a seriously awesome show, one of the best I’ve seen, and it was followed by another remarkable sweaty, funky madhouse inside with Trombrone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

Sunday was a day for being reborn over at the gospel tent.  Between The Relatives and Trombone Shorty, I think the crowd was baptized in booty-shaking, soul shining sweat and born again.

Another Sunday highlight was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros.  Despite frontman Alex Ebert losing his voice, the eleven piece ensemble brought the mojo they’re known for.  Ed Sharpe’s following has grown in tremendous proportions in a very short time.  I’m already finding myself ‘remembering when’ I saw them at 4am in a funky little makeshift SXSW venue on the final night of the festival a year and a half ago.  They were still months away from releasing their debut album and no one knew who they were.  Everyone wondered why there were so many of them crammed on this tiny little stage.  It seemed to take an hour just to get them set up and sound checked.  Edward Sharpe and the who?  But upon one listen, you can’t help but be hooked.  Their music challenges the unflappable glazed over hipster stare and offers up an unrepentantly blissful, feelgood interaction and experience reminiscent of some time that is not clearly past or future.  It feels holy.  And judging by the sea of people in their audience at ACL, it’s an experience people are thirsty for.  When we first saw them two SXSWs ago, we described them as a “transcendental-spaghetti-western-hippie-gospel-rock” ensemble, and as we’ve seen them evolve for the last little while, the label seems more fitting than ever, so we’re sticking with it.

Other big highlights of the day include (there were so many!) Devandra Banhardt, Flaming Lips who we reviewed just before SXSW this year (and thank you Wayne for not spewing confetti all over our park!), local funky soul favorites T Bird & the Breaks, and of course the one and only Richard Thompson.

In addition to perpetuating Austin’s reputation as the Live Music Captial of the world, event producer C3 is making progress on their green initiatives for ACL.  This year they had free water refill stations which saved somewhere around 200,000 water bottles.  The run off from the refill stations was captured and diverted to misting fans which were quite delightful to stand in front of during the heat of the day.  The Rock & Recycle program gave trash bags to festival goers to collect recyclables, and once the bag was full, they could turn it in for a t-shirt.  There were also recycling bins next to every trash can.  And the efforts to maintain the grass on Austin’s Great Lawn are evident to all of us who live here and enjoy Zilker Park throughout the year.  While there is still more that can be done, we really enjoy seeing the progress that is being made and look forward to even more innovative developments for future festivals.  For that and all the great music yet to come, we’re already looking forward to next year.

Written and photographed by Laura Lea Nalle, all rights reserved.

See more of Laura Lea’s live music photos here.


SXSW 2010

We just wrapped up another year of SXSW, and wow was it a wild ride, as usual!

For the Sake of the Song: The Story of Anderson Fair, world premier, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleFor the Sake of the Song:  The Story of Anderson Fair premiered at the historic Paramount Theater on the opening day of SXSW music festival.  This documentary tells the story of one of Texas’ oldest and most significant live music venues, the iconic Anderson Fair in Houston, with interviews and archival footage of many of the musicians that have performed there in its forty year history. Legendary musicians like Gurf Morlix, Nancy Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Carolyn Hester, Robert Earl Keen, Lucinda Williams, Slaid Cleaves, and Townes Van Zandt have all played there and are included in the documentary.  This film contributes a significant piece of the story about the history and evolution of live music in Texas.

Probably the biggest highlight of SXSW for me was NPR’s showcase at Stubb’s opening night of the music festival.  It was hard to top this lineup, and while I experienced a feast of amazing music the rest of the week, I was still riding high on the wave created by Wednesday night at Stubb’s.

That night, one of the biggest revelations for me was The Walkmen.  I was not very familiar with their music before I saw them live, and inspired by their show, I went home and purchased a bunch of their music which has been in heavy rotation here at the world headquarters of ever since.  The Walkmen do not disappoint, in fact, chances are they will totally blow you away with their melancholy melodies, substantive lyrics, and soaring vocals.  I particularly love how frontman Hamilton Leithauser steps back from the mic and gives his band plenty of room to flesh out the amazing instrumental parts of their songs.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleSharon Jones & the Dap Kings live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings followed with an epic performance.  I’ve seen them three times now, and each performance is a unique experience to behold.  Sharon Jones is a spectacular vocalist and performer, her dance moves evoke the spirit of James Brown, and the Dap Kings bring the funky soulshine like few others.  Led by Bosco Mann, this group is unbelievably tight, they can – and often do – turn on a dime while leaving plenty of space for Jones to do her thing.  They dance the fine line between sophisticated complexity and simple elegance, and they do it with loads of style.

Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings are the most well known group off the Daptone Records label which is co-owned by Dap King bandleader Bosco Mann and tenor saxophonist Neal Sugarman.  Every single album released on Daptone is well worth your time – and if you are a vinyl enthusiast and funky soul lover as much as I am, I highly recommend getting every Daptone LP and 45 you can get your hands on!!  Seriously!  I am particularly fond of the releases by Sugarman Three, Poets of Rhythm, and Naomi Shelton.  I also have to give a shout out to Dap Kings guitarist Binky Griptite who produces the Ghetto Funk Power Hour radio show which is included in some of the Sharon Jones deluxe cd packages.   He is smart, hilarious, and brings the deep funk back with impeccable class and style.  Check it out!

James Mercer and Dangermouse of Broken Bells live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleBritt Daniel of Spoon live at Stubb's, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Next up was Broken Bells, the recent collaboration between The Shins’ James Mercer and Danger Mouse.  I was anticipating this show more than any other.  Their first single, The High Road, has been in regular rotation on KUT, my favorite local radio station, for what seems like months, and I went out and bought the LP as soon as it came out the week before SXSW.  I wondered if the atmosphere of the studio recording could be captured in a live performance.  There is a lot going on instrumentally and vocally, and the seven piece live band certainly delivered.  The complexity of the aural landscape that Mercer and Danger Mouse create comes through brilliantly in the live performance.  The band performed their entire debut album, set to a moody, dark video projection that created a totally engrossing experience of the music.

Austin’s own Spoon headlined the opening night’s showcase.  To be honest, I didn’t stay for much of their show.  I took a few photos (I’m glad I stuck around to do so, one of them was chosen for the cover of SXSWorld magazine!) and then headed off to an after hours party some of my favorite rockstar friends were throwing.  Regardless, Spoon is riding high in the wake of their seventh and most recent release, Transference, which debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200.  Austin is proud to call them our own.

Jakob Dylan live at the Day Stage Cafe, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleCourtyard Hounds live at the Day Stage Cafe, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleDiane Birch live at the Day Stage Cafe, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea NalleThe BoDeans live at Auditorium Shores, SXSW 2010, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

I saw a lot of other great shows the next few days, including the Thursday night showcase at La Zona Rosa with John Hiatt, The 88, Ray Davies, and Roky Erickson with Ockerville River.  Friday, I was pleased to see Diane Birch again at the Day Stage Café.   I loved her sound and presence the first time I saw her at Stubb’s back in August of last year, and her performance at the Day Stage reaffirmed my very positive initial impressions.  She opened for a sweet lineup that included Citizen Cope, Courtyard Hounds (the recent formulation of Dixie Chicks members Martie Maguire and Emily Robison), and Jakob Dylan.  All of these performances were great in their own right.  Jakob Dylan’s songwriting ability has become particularly impressive, and his band is top notch and even included Neko Case on backing vocals.  I then made it on over to Auditorium Shores to check out the BoDeans.  Austin’s own Bukka Allen plays keys and accordion with them, and they definitely put on a hell of a show.

Raphael Saadiq live at Austin Music Hall, SXSW 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleLater that night, I saw another festival highlight, a showcase at the Austin Music Hall that included Austin’s Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, Raphael Saadiq, Smoky Robinson, and Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings.  Raphael Saadiq is one amazing performer who stands out even amongst the tremendous talents with whom he shared the bill.  On a somewhat tangential note, I’m very happy to report that there is still plenty of orange and yellow confetti from the Flaming Lips show that is stuck in the rafters at the Austin Music Hall.  Every so often, a big booming bass sound will dislodge a few pieces and come floating down into the unsuspecting crowd.  The magic from that show continues to live on…

As always, there is a plethora of high quality unofficial SXSW shows.  Among the best this year was Music Fog’s multi-day showcase at Threadgill’s.  Among my new favorites who performed there are two young musicians and songwriters that ought to be on your radar, Sahara Smith and David Beck.  Sahara’s debut album, produced by T. Bone Burnett, will be released in August.  In the meantime, she and her band (Jake Owen on guitar, Will Sexton on bass and guitar, and Mike Meadows on drums and percussion) are building their fan base while opening for the likes of Los Lonely Boys and Mason Jennings.  David Beck’s debut album, Grand Island, is due for release in the next couple of weeks.  You can see him weekly here in Austin at his Wednesday night residency at the Saxon Pub.  Music Fog also featured a bunch of our longtime local favorites like Guy Forsyth, Carrie Rodriguez, Gurf Morlix, Ray Bonneville, Joe Ely, Asylum Street Spankers, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and a slew of others.  Be sure and keep up with the fine folks over at Music Fog, you can bet that if they’re in on it, it’s got to be good!

I also had a great time at Leeann Atherton’s Full Moon Barn Dance, what better way to come down from ten sleep deprived days of SXSW than with this long standing South Austin tradition.  The lineup included one of my favorite Austin-based musicians, Ray Bonneville (with Mike Meadows on percussion).  Ray’s groove is earthy, often uplifting, sometimes dark, and always takes me on a journey that I don’t want to end.  Be sure and check out our video footage of Ray and Mike from that show, I know you’ll be hooked on his groove as much as we are!

Ray Bonneville w/ Mike Meadows, Who’s that Talkin to Me from AustinLiveMusic.Org on Vimeo.

Last year, we caught up with Mike Meadows at the Austin artist showcase at Momo’s where he was performing with his band, porterdavis.  SXSW 2009 marked the official launch of his Black Swan drum, and things have really taken off for him in what seems like no time at all.  In addition to the Black Swan drum, he and co-inventor Eric Holland have created a number of innovative designs for other percussion instruments like a cajon with replaceable strings, a variable shaker that you can easily change the sound of by replacing the stuff inside, and a stomp box that can also be mounted on a stand and played with hands and drumsticks.  Everything these guys dream up is innovative, versatile, elegant, and impeccably handcrafted by Eric Holland.  You can find Mike playing the Black Swan with porterdavis, Ray Bonneville, Sahara Smith, and occasionally with the BoDeans when they do acoustic shows.  Mike is most definitely one of Austin’s very bright rising stars, and we at are looking forward to sitting down with him later in April to talk about everything he’s up to.  Stay tuned for our interview with Mike Meadows and other very special guests in the coming weeks and months.Simon Wallace, Dan Barrett, and Mike Meadows of porterdavis, March 2010, Austin Texas, photo by Laura Lea Nalle

See more of Laura Lea’s SXSW 2010 photos here.

Watch video footage from some of the shows discussed in this review here.

Written and photographed by Laura Lea Nalle, all rights reserved.


Flaming Lips rock the roof off Austin

Austin, Texas, March 13, 2010

Flaming Lips in live at the Austin Music Hall, 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

Flaming Lips rock the roof off Austin on the eve of SXSW music festival.  I have to wonder if these guys ever have a bad show.  With all the balloons and confetti and Wayne Coyne crowd surfing in a giant hamster ball, I seriously doubt it.  But all these awesomely outrageous spectacles would feel empty if they were not backed by the great music, joyous presence, and spiritual depth of the Flaming Lips.

Their production design and stage setup is pretty damn cool.  The show starts with a massive video projection of a brightly colored animated woman giving birth to rainbow light.  From this light, each band member appears through a door that opens in the center of the birth canal, walks down a long ramp, and takes their place on stage.  Then Wayne appears inside a giant hamster ball that is blown up and rolled out onto the audience.  He is clad in his signature grey suit and walks over the crowd like a god walking on water.  What ensues is pure, unadulterated joy with orange and yellow confetti falling from the sky, dozens of giant balloons bouncing off of everything in all directions, and lasers reflecting off a giant disco ball that is suspended from the ceiling.

All the fun is not without more solemn moments.  Wayne prefaces “Waitin’ for a Superman” by telling the audience about a friend of his who recently committed suicide.  He says, “If we wait for happiness to arrive, well, it just might not ever come.  We have to make our own happiness.”  And this is indicative of the bigger work the Flaming Lips are doing.  Through their music and live performance, they are opening people up and giving them an experience of joy that can be called upon in darker moments.  I got the distinct impression that Wayne cares for the happiness of every individual in the audience, invested in helping everyone turn on their light and shine more brightly.  One of their t-shirts said it best, “I experienced the Flaming Lips in concert, and it made me a better human being.”  Indeed, their music transcends itself and is a thing to be experienced, and that experience is powerful and transformative and can make us better people.

Wayne wraps up the set by giving a blessing to the audience, “May we all think in peace, work in peace, be in peace,” and then he plays Taps on a bugle.  The Flaming Lips leave the stage and then come back for a two song encore including “The Difference Between Us” and “Do you Realize,” complete with more orange and yellow confetti.  The audience overflows with joy and makes their way back out into the world as better human beings for having experienced the Flaming Lips in concert.

Flaming Lips in live at the Austin Music Hall, 2010 photo by Laura Lea NalleFlaming Lips in live at the Austin Music Hall, 2010 photo by Laura Lea Nalle

See Laura Lea’s (holy epic Flaming Lips photos, batman!) full gallery of photos from the show here.

written and photographed by Laura Lea Nalle, all rights reserved.