On a search for momentum in Austin with music as a compass.
On a search for momentum in Austin with music as a compass.
Birkenstocks, Bill Clinton, Pogs, Tomogachis, and CD books were all that was missing last Wednesday night at ACL Live when the SummerLand tour came to town evoking 90’s nostalgia for every person in attendance. Spacehog, Soul Asylum, Eve 6, and Everclear , while each band is still creating music, share one overarching similarity in that their heyday falls in a decade where people listened to their CDs all the way through and MTV actually played music, if you can believe it, on their television channel. While none of the four bands have succeeded in reinventing themselves to fit into the current Top 40 stylings. There is something refreshing in that Everclear hasn’t collaborated with DeadMau5 or that Eve 6 and Katy Perry aren’t bouncing around to a pop song that has more layers than Nicky Minaj has personas. People who enjoy the Summerland Tour, enjoy reliving the sing-a-long hits that set the score to one of the greatest decades of music.
Wednesday night’s show began with the most underappreciated and therefore the most underrated group of the four bands, Spacehog. This British group will never escape the shadow of their mega-hit “In the Meantime”, but the animated and charismatic presence of lead singer, Royston Langdon, and the alacrity of the rest of the group to impress, was not lost on eager and anticapating crowd.
Eve 6 came on next and assumed the stage like the Rolling Stones coming out in front of a sold-out crowd at Wembley stadium, exuding an almost comical air of self-seriousness. Although the music sounds exactly the same as it did a couple of decades ago, which to their credit is an accomplishment, of the four bands they are the most obvious case of self-delusion and stunted growth as they went through their handful of recognizable song like “Think Twice” and “Inside Out” but failed to connect with the crowd, and left the stage like they had done the world a favor by gracing everyone with their presence.
Soul Aslyum came next with a magnanimous roar of approval from the crowd that treated lead singer, Dave Pirner, like the sex idol of yesteryear. Hits like “Runaway Train” and “Misery” were exciting to hear once again but the musicianship of the band far outweighed the novelty of hearing the expected radio favorites live. Though their set seemed short and left the crowd wanting more, the band still maintains their dignity and their fans respect goes unquestioned.
Art Alexakis, who is the ringleader of SummerLand, also played emcee of the night, introducing each band before they went on and, incessantly hyping the crowd to force cheers for every inane cheerleader comment he made. Art even employed his daughter to introduce one of the bands, exploiting her cuteness for the show. Art is a known businessman, and while his bankruptcies and failed relationships have piled up like parking tickets, he still finds ways to reinvent himself and his band Everclear.
Art started SummerLand in 2012 with the help of Mark McGrath, who is the self-professed Vanilla Ice of the 90s. While Sugar Ray is no longer part of the equation, Art has succeed in creating a laundry list of 90’s bands to be part of SummerLand, all in effect playing their role as opening bands for Everclear; Live, Sponge, Marcy Playground, Gin Blossoms, Filter, Sugar Ray, and Lit have all participated in past tours.
Everclear, more so than other SummerLand bands, has a larger repertoire of hits to choose from which allows them, in addition to Art’s ownership role, to play a set that is twice as long as any of the other bands. Songs like “AM Radio”, “Father of Mine”, “Wonderful”and, “I Will Buy You A New Life” remind the audience of Everclear’s hit making ability. Despite laughable comments like “ Lets give it up for family! If you’re not around family right now, then you are fucking up!” coming from a guy on his fourth marriage, the show was great and the audience relished in the bevy of 90’s hits that washed over them.
Despite SummerLand being a tour that dwells in the past and feeds off people’s fascination of a decade that in retrospect seemed simpler and perhaps more wholesome, the tour fills a need, and that is essentially all you need in order to sell tickets and revive bands with one foot in the grave. As long as people are buying tickets you can count on Art Alexakis to bring his circus to your town, but with 12 of the 90’s best bands already used, it will be interesting to see whom Art will bring on for next year’s tour. Dare I say House of Pain, Chumbawumba, The Cardigans, and the New Radicals might be getting a call soon. Trustin Art, it’s not an impossibility.
By: Lee Ackerley
Originally posted at ATX Music Mag
Monday night at the Mohawk offered an eclectic smattering of Indie rock that culminated with Philadelphia-based quartet, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, offering up their dreamy yet abstruse signature pop sound for a more obscure-indie inclined Austin audience. While the headliners were clearly the draw for much of the crowd, local openers, Wildfires and even more so an all-female band called The Villetes, quickly won over fans and turned heads with their performances.
Wildfires were on first and can be characterized as your prototypical indie rock sound with some singer/songwriter influence that is tangential to Ty Segall, Kurt Vile, and the band Tennis. Each of their songs was predictable in its structure and their lead singer’s eyes-closed whine for each chorus began to cross from endearing to annoying by the end of the set. Wildfires is at its best when the synergy of their guitars begins to sound more like Shoegaze rock, becoming more similar to the bands like Oshin and Wild Nothing.
The Villettes were on next and, while their music is complex and seemingly profound, their appearance is not. Dressed like many girls in the crowd and, constantly joking onstage with chipper demeanors and frequent schoolgirl laughing outbursts, the Villettes would drop the levity as soon as they hit the first note in a song. The band’s sound was as if the Dixie Chicks had been deep fried in gospel music and seasoned with sprinkles of acid punk and grunge (Like the DC there are two sisters in the band). Envision if the river sirens in O Brother Where Art Thou had stumbled upon some electronic instruments, by accident, and begun making music. The Villettes were captivating and far and away the highlight of the night, especially upon finding out that these gems are localy based and this wouldn’t be the last time I would see them live. Their final song “Across the Sea” in itself is enough to declare your love for this feminine folk foursome.
A Sunny Day in Glasgow isn’t ashamed to layer their music with as many bells and whistles as they can find. Taking a note from My Bloody Valentine and Animal Collective, this band abides by no compass when composing music, and constantly lets their dream pop devolve into cacophony, only to be resuscitated later in the song. The disorder in their music can only be matched by that found in the band’s lineup which has six past members and not one current member who was part o the original lineup. The band, once touted as a contender for “Album of the Year” in 2006, is now on it’s fourth album with little direction and the unwillingness to let the natural processes take over and break up the band. While the band creates a spectacle onstage and occasionally strings together a series of comprehensible pop hooks, the music is more like a string of loosed arrows containing sound bytes, vocal snippets, and strung together choruses, of which only a few hit their mark. One attribute that is refreshing about their music is that when they do find a comfortable sound, they avoid the complacency of overdoing it, in favor of continuing their genre-defying adventure.
Walking into ACL Live Saturday night, curiosity and intrigue swirled around me as I realized I was a solid two decades younger than the majority of the audience, whom were an impeccably dressed and an impossibly stylish bunch. The riveting people-watching I engaged in was complemented by a personal recounting of how I’d first heard of Nick Cave and all of the cultural references and shreds of music news that had formed my opinion of him over the years. The gist of what I knew about this mercurial Aussie had all signs pointing to Saturday night’s show being a force of nature that would be conducted by chief rebel rouser himself, and I was not to be disappointed on this cool Central Texas night as Nick and his band, the Bad Seeds, tore through a 20-song set that held up to even the most demanding fan’s expectations.
Nick assumed the ACL live stage to a deafening roar from the eager crowd and immediately launched into his first song of the night “We Real Cool” which has a satirical view on scientific achievements stating “Wikipedia is heaven, when you don’t want to remember anyone.” The next song “Jubilee Street” begins slowly but cresecendos towards the end with a riotous eruption of musical fury. “Tupelo” was the third number of the night and had Nick diving into the crowd, taking refuge in the gropes and tugs of the crowd, which would become a running theme throughout the night.
Nick who was dressed like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust with a gothic tinge, had a silver sequin shirt and circulation-inhibiting tight black slacks that had him looking like Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas. With the energy of a jackrabbit on speed, Nick dashed from one end of the stage to the other riling the worshipping crowd, assuming an almost messiah-like persona, especially on the fourth song “Red Right Hand” in which he serenaded a sultry front row blonde for a solid two minutes. The Bad Seed’s violinist, Warren Ellis, must be mentioned as he wielded his bow like a battle axe and made playing the violin look as badass as I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing.
After the first four barnstormers of songs, the set eased into more relaxed but equally theatrical slew of songs including “Mermaids”, “West Country Girl”, “Into My Arms”, “The Weeping Song” and “God is in the House”. Nick’s intolerance of dopiness amongst the crowd flared up occasionally in the set, berating a front row fan for holding his camera up for the entirety of a song.
The set picked up again for the final four songs that featured the comical “Higgs Boson Blues” which has an odd fixation on Miley Cyrus stating:
“Hannah Montana does the African Savannah
As the simulated rainy season begins”
“Miley Cyrus floats in a swimming pool in Toluca Lake
And you’re the best girl I’ve ever had”
The highlight of the night came in a cover of a century old murder ballad by Lloyd Price, “Stagger Lee” which had Nick giving every ounce of himself in a primal scream that gave me chills down to the bone. The set ended with “Push the Sky Away” which has an ethereal aura combined with Nick’s open-hearted candor that was an appropriate ending the wide spectrum of emotions that the set contained.
After the band exited the stage and lights went off, not a soul headed towards the exit as an encore was all but guaranteed. Nick came back on for a four song encore that began with the proto-punk “Deanna” followed by “Jack the Ripper”. He played through a maritime ballad of the “The Ship Song” and ended the night with “The Lyre of Orpheus” which was the cherry on top of the comprehensive set.
Nick Cave may have a reputation that underscores his unpredictable and antisocial antics, but it is on the stage where all his misgivings come together to allow for legendary performances. Say what you want about Nick and the Bad Seeds but selling out two nights at ACL Live to an audience that spans forty years is a feat that only a select few acts in the musical world can claim to do. I tip my hat to thee, Nick Cave.
Originally Posted at The Horn Publication
Photos by Roger Ho
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