On a search for momentum in Austin with music as a compass.
On a search for momentum in Austin with music as a compass.
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
Follow Lee at http://slackerlee.tumblr.com/
1. Good News For People Who Love Bad News - Modest Mouse
2. Speakerboxx and The Love Below - Outkast
3. Bleach - Nirvana
4. Black Holes and Revelations - Muse
5. Is This It - The Strokes
Scissor Sister - Scissor Sisters
And The Glass Handed Kites - Mew
Faded Seaside Glamour - The Delays
BloodyKisses/October Rust - Type O Negative
No World - Inc.
Heartthrob - Tegan and Sara
White Pony - Deftones
Celebrity Skin - Hole
Lust For Life - Iggy Pop
Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix
Diver - Lemonade
Moon Safari - Air
Aqualung - Aqualung
Hunky Dory - David Bowie
Now Here is Nowhere - Secret Machines
The Sweet Escape - Gwen Stefani
Junior - Royksopp
Fancy Footwork - Chromeo
News of the World - Queen
Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
Born To Run - Bruce Springsteen
Hopes and Fears - Keane
Realism - Shine 2009
Hanging Gardens - Classixx
We Are The Champions - Jeff The Brotherhood
Crystal Castles I-III - Crystal Castles
Demon Days - Gorillaz
Whistle Rhymes - John Entwistle
Return To Cookie Mountain - TV On The Radio
Nevermind the Bollocks - Sex Pistols
Legend - Bob Marley
The Teaches of Peaches - Peaches
Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin
Siamese Dream - Smashing Pumpkins
Pacific Standard Time - Poolside
Zonoscope - Cut Copy
Dynamics - Holy Ghost!
Blind Melon - Blind Melon
Blakroc - Black Keys feat Various Rap Artists
Loveless - My Bloody Valentine
The Blue Album - Weezer
Hot Fuss - The Killers
The Colour and the Shape - Foo Fighters
Devotion - Jessie ware
Modal Soul - Nujabes
Ramones - Ramones
White Blood Cells - White Stripes
Middle Cyclone - Neko Case
Aha Shake Heartbreak - Kings of Leon
Antics - Interpol
All Things Must Pass - George Harrison
Chic - Chic
The Doors - The Doors
Sunbather - Deafheaven
Oracular Spectacular - MGMT
Power In Numbers - Jurassic 5
OK Computer - Radiohead
Mechanical Animals - Marilyn Manson
The Downward Spiral - NIN
Midnight Boom - The Kills
The Virgin Suicides
Saturday Night Fever
Friday Night Lights