We landed at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport yesterday afternoon around 2 p.m. Central time or so, but the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 35 as we entered downtown Austin reminded us more than a little of rush hour in Los Angeles. It’s no surprise that the infrastructure of this college town is stretched to its limits during the annual South By Southwest Festival, as upwards of 50,000 people temporarily relocate to Austin from wherever they normally call home during this ten night extravaganza. After having their run of the town for the last few days, technology companies began ceding ground to the music industry yesterday as the Music portion of SXSW began in earnest.
When we finally got settled yesterday afternoon and picked up our badge from the cavernous Austin Convention Center, we made our way over to the Warner Sound Showcase at La Zona Rosa, located at the far east end of 4th Street. The showcase wasn’t set to start until 7:30, but when we strolled up at 7:00 or so, there were already hundreds of people lined up in the street hoping to see the likes of Neon Hitch, Theophilus London and Santigold.
After a dubstep-heavy DJ set from Alex English (Note: NOT the same Alex English that was the highest-scoring player in the NBA during the 1980s), Neon Hitch took the stage promptly at 8:30 p.m. Flanked by two shirtless dudes with tribal paint on their faces and drums around their waist, Neon Hitch opened her three-song set with “Bad Dog”, an electro stomper in which she declares “You know I’m yours so rip my clothes off.” Well, truth be told, she wasn’t exactly wearing a ton of clothes to begin with, but nonetheless, she succeeded to whip the crowd into an early frenzy with her provocative attire and compelling stage presence. She proceeded to belt out the hook to “Ass Back Home”, her hit with Gym Class Heroes, before closing her too-brief set with her current single, “Love U Betta.” She curiously refrained from dropping the f-bomb that appears in her unedited version of this song in front of the live audience, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind.
On Monday we reported Billboard’s top music earners of 2011, and there were more than a few surprises. One in particular was Adele coming in at number 10 — which The Guardian has also pinpointed as a notable occurrence, given that 80s-90s star Sade came in at number 6, making her England’s biggest music export to the US. And all this despite Adele’s staggering US chart success and multiple Grammy wins. The Guardian says, “What’s really surprising is that the No 1 British act in America isn’t Elton John or Paul McCartney or any of those obvious British behemoths abroad (although Irish band U2 did come in higher and Coldplay haven’t released anything recently). Nor is it a young stealth interloper such as Mumford & Sons. It is, in fact, Sade, who many of you will have forgotten decades ago.”
Sade made a comeback in 2010, including new album, greatest hits album and a tour, and for one reason or another — The Guardian cites Sade’s culturally ambiguous looks and the “sophistication” her music embodies — the soulful singer found a huge following in the US, which incidentally also dwarfed her comeback in the UK. The Guardian points to Billboard’s ominous opinion of Sade’s comeback, “It’s been 10 years since Sade released an album, but be forewarned – the giant has awoken.” Indeed, last year Sade made $16.4 million from combined album and ticket sales, while Adele’s sales, especially in the tour sector, were hampered by her throat surgery and late-year commitment cancellations.
The Guardian opines on Sade’s success, and throws her up as the antithesis of Adele; “The music industry still talks in hallowed tones about “cracking America”, something Adele has done with huge impact, but when Sade did it, she wasn’t so obviously British. She didn’t court the chatshow circuit with a gobby accent in the way that Adele does, so her speaking voice went largely unheard.” The publication quotes journalist Paul Simper who agrees, “Her Englishness was never a selling point. CBS just wanted to sign her and build her up to be somebody like Whitney, get her a professional studio band, but she resolutely stuck to her guns and stayed with the band from London she’d always had. And she still has – she’s always done it on her terms. Being successful in America didn’t involve any compromise or sounding any more American; her sound was always the same throughout.” Ineed, Sade has been a surprising alternative to Adele — and an unexpected candidate to usurp her throne as America’s favorite Brit.
Irish band The Chieftains are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a band with the album Voice Of Ages. The iconic band stopped by The Late Show With David Letterman to play “School Days Over” with The Low Anthem. The song is folksy and pleasant, with a rural, almost medieval vibe. The perfect way to celebrate their anniversary, the performance was filled with soul and reverence, and if you close your eyes, will take you back to a rolling, misty, fantastical landscape filled with magic.
On April 22nd New York’s Roseland Ballroom will host The T.J. Martell Foundation’s 13th Annual Family Day in honor of Train. As well as performing an intimate acoustic set, multiple Grammy Award winning band Train will be acknowledged for their charity work. And there’s even more cause for a Train celebration, as their new album, California 37, will be released on April 17th, mere days before the iconic event. Train front man Pat Monahan said of the occasion, “Train is honored to be part of T.J. Martell’s Family Day. The T.J. Martell Foundation has been doing incredible work in the medical community and we are inspired by their dedication. We hope to make this the best Family Day ever.” Joining Train on the day will be a Cobra Starship, who will put on a special DJ set, and Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande who will also play live. And along with Train, Crush Management (who represent both Train and Cobra Starship) will also be honored. The event will raise money for leukemia, cancer and AIDS research and tickets can be purchased via TJMartellFoundation.org or by calling Foundation at (646) 841-1394. We suggest you try to get involved — it’s a great opportunity to contribute to a good cause while seeing your favorite musicians perform!
Billy Corgan Compares Modern Musicians To “Strippers” Billy Corgan got all “grumpy old man” in an interview at SXSW and said things like, “I was part of a generation that changed the world — and it was taken over by poseurs.” Everyone has an opinion, right? [Spin]
The Black Keys have a lot of opinions — from feeling sorry for Lana Del Rey to accusing Nickelback of killing rock and roll, the duo don’t mind courting controversy with their comments. And it hasn’t seemed to hurt them in any way, as their El Camino tour boasts two sell out shows at Madison Square garden this week. In their most recent bout of foot-in-mouth, drummer Patrick Carney said, “Perfect music is boring music — that’s the kind of stuff they play in an elevator. I think people are losing an ear for [raw music]. I think everybody has it but you’ve got to exercise it… When you turn on the radio it’s all kind of perfectly sequenced, perfectly written, perfectly performed by machines. It’s hard not to listen to The Who and really understand these are wild men going crazy or Led Zeppelin — these are human beings that play that, it’s all hard to kind of put that in perspective. We just try to make music what we love to make and have fun.” While everyone is entitled to their opinion, we think the Keys are forgetting that their “raw” sound has literally taken the world by storm in the past year. Moreover, it seems the Keys have a fairly blinkered vision of what “real music” is, and we’d love to teach the boys to appreciate some seriously upbeat dance-pop with us because we think there’s room enough for all styles and genres! Can anyone say, Lady Gaga?
We heard that Jay-Z‘s performance at SXSW last night was riveting, sweaty, and iconic. With Hov reportedly letting the crowd take over for him from time to time, tickets to the show were highly sought after and hard to come by, and largely given out to American Express holding contest winners. So imagine our luck when the whole thing got put up online at American Express’ youtube site (here), after being streamed live last night. No really. We know what we’re doing tonight — inviting all our friends over, putting the concert on the big screen and moshing around the room throwing out some very, very loud singing and rapping. If you need to get into the mood, watch the fan filmed video above of Jay performing “99 Problems” — a classic and crowd favorite. Jay also played the newest edition to his repertoire, “Glory”, an ode to the tiny baby Blue Ivy Carter. After the jump you can see the full set list if you need even more inspiration to watch, but get in quick; the stream is only available online for a week!
By now, you can pretty much take for granted that a new Katy Perry song spells a pop-tastic, super fun hit. But Katy’s revealing a whole new side with her fresh singles for the soon to be released Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection. We’ve already heard “Part Of Me”‘s angry, empowering beat, complete with a blue haired Katy and the Grammys giving a powerful and emotional performance, and now it looks like we’re about to see a whole new sexy side. Not that we haven’t seen Katy Perry being sexy before, but this is something dirtier and darker than the sugary-sweet, coquettish sexuality of songs like “I Kissed A Girl” and “California Gurls.” In a snippet of her next single, “Dressing Up,” (which you can listen to here), Katy sings about some might dirty sex things, with lines like, “Are you ready for your blood to rise?/Tonight’s the night/I’m dressing up for you.” We’re imagining Katy in a series of sexy role play scenarios, and our blood has well and truly risen in anticipation of the new track!
Gavin DeGraw took us behind the scenes on the set for his new video for “Sweeter”. On set, Gavin told us that the video is about a girl being “Under-appreciated by her man. She decides she’s going to get out of the place and grab me on her way out.” With a cheeky grin on his face, he adds, “And I’m a guy, so I’m going to go along with this!”
Talking about his work, Gavin is upbeat, except for when it comes to the 4am wake up calls; “I thought I was just going to be writing songs and playing at The Garden. And we all just started laughing cos that’s not the music world… I love what I do, but an early morning like this, that’s work!” Although it doesn’t all sound so bad, with Gavin talking about the casting process, “You get to look online at beautiful women and say ‘Oh i want that one? Can i get that one?’… I get to be in a room with that person and feel like she likes me!” Sounds like a dream come true! Watch this space for the full video, coming soon.
VH1 Classic has a new promo trailer for 2012, and it’s bound to get you thinking. With references to iconic bands and the music you’ve always loved, the cryptic commerical recreates all your favorites. And here’s the fun part — while some of the references are the simple recreation of iconic imagery, others are more pun-tastic, and ask you to flex your powers of interpretation and deduction to figure out what the reference could be. Salt and pumpkins falling from the sky? A pepper on fire? A guy with a boom box for a face? What could all these things mean?! Watch the video and see if you can pick the references!