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Sun, Shows, & Shyness: Secret Saturday/Sunday + Missing Ariel Pink (& Getting Balaclavas, Instead!) [8/08/2008 02:30:00 AM]:
Sorry for the quiet, folks -- we've had to undergo some fairly major behind-the-scenes changes of late, site-wise, and things aren't quite yet working the way I'd like, so I've been having to put off the ranting/philosophizing a bit. Basically, Blogger started up with its semi-monthly Bartleby phase again, refusing to post sometimes 'til a day or two after I put in the actual post (if the post goes up at all), and only then after much kicking and re-posting.

I'm feeling a bit bad about being so hard on Blogger, though, because I realized somewhat belatedly that the problem was actually on the Network Solutions (our ISP) end. Switch to a different hosting company, and -- poof! -- my Blogger problems go away. Damn. Sorry, Blogger crew... Unfortunately, the hosting switch isn't complete yet, so this post may yet be delayed by a week or so (who knows?); once I get a few last kinks ironed out, though, this whole deal will be much, much better. I hope. Keep your fingers crossed, eh?

(BTW, yes, this site will be transitioning to WordPress one day soon -- thanks to Marshall for technical assistance on figuring out how to import the posts -- but that process is going slowly, mostly due to me being totally new to it & not having a whole heck of a lot of time...)

Part 1: Secret Saturday/Sunday
Anyway, administrivia out of the way, I wanted to post a bit about how damn cool last weekend's Secret Saturday/Sunday Festival at The Shady Tavern turned out to be. I didn't end up being able to bring The Midget with me -- The Wife declared that the sun would fry her wee brain like an egg, despite my protestations that there would be shade, and we'd be in it -- but I did make it down for a couple of hours on Saturday and had a blast.

I pulled up just as The Tontons started their set, so I was over the moon about that -- between this performance and their set at the HPMAs, I'm seriously impressed by this band. They're honestly one of the best bands I've seen lately, and that's out of a big, big list. Frontwoman Asli is really something else, even cooking in the summertime heat, and the rest of the band are like a finely-tuned machine. I felt for the Tontons' drummer, though, since the poor guy's kit happened to be situated just out from under the edge of the gazebo/stage where they played, enough that he had the sun beating down on him the whole damn time. Gah...

Hung out a bit with the guys from Co-Pilot after that, despite missing their set (sorry, you guys! I swear I got their as fast I could...). Chatting with Derek is always fun; he's one of the few survivors left around from The Kinda-Good Ole Days when I attempted the music-making thing myself, having played shows with my long-dead band as the frontguy of Scooter (who I still miss, honest) and then drifted out of the musical orbit the same way I did for a few years there. It always feels like he & I are kind of at the same place in our respective lives, so it's cool to talk to him on those rare occasions when Co-Pilot plays. Plus, I got to meet brother/guitarist Brandon for the first time, after having emailed back & forth a good dozen times, so that was a good thing.

While I sat & chilled -- quite literally, camped out in front of the big-ass fan -- with the CP folk, Lazy Horse took the "inside" stage, playing to a fairly big crowd of onlookers. I'd never seen 'em before and, seeing as there was no published schedule, had no freakin' clue who they were, but they turned out to be a decent garage-y punk band (and quite a bit, uh, older than I'd thought they'd be).

I also noticed the "Media Center" table tucked away inside the Tavern at this point, and suddenly felt ridiculously media-inadequate watching ADR from The Skyline Network and who I think was Dusti Rhodes from the Houston Press both liveblogging the shit out of the show (nice, nice coverage, y'all, seriously...). Sadly, I'd not only left my laptop at home, but the whole blogging thing was totally down right then as I attempted Stage 1 of the Grand Transition Away from Network Solutions. sigh. Next time, dammit. Good guy that he is, ADR said hello as he careened by on his way to talk to some band or another (or, hell, maybe he was just heading for the beer; I dunno)...

After Lazy Horse came Hearts of Animals (I think; I may be confusing the chronology a wee bit), so I forced myself to move away from the comfort of the fan and step out into the blazing sun again to hear Mlee & Cley weave some bubbly/hazy sunshiny melodies. I don't think I've had a bad time seeing HoA yet, and this was no exception. There were some technical difficulties, like the mic shocking Mlee every time she got near it, but it all seemed to work out pretty well.

As she played, I happened to finally meet Jason from local rockers Alkari, after many emails exchanged -- he recognized me & introduced himself, and turned out to live right down the road from me, weirdly enough, down here in the SW H-town 'hood. We chatted a bit 'til HoA wrapped up, and then I started thinking about how I could gracefully bail & go meet the fam for dinner.

I ran into Steven from Something Fierce, though, who commanded me to not leave 'til after he'd played (and maybe stay for UME, after), 'cause they were going on next. In the meantime, Like Yeah took the interior stage with her acoustic & big-ass sunglasses and was unexpectedly charming for a solo folky singer/guitarist-type thing. I found myself enjoying it in spite of myself.

And then, Something Fierce. I swear to God, they get better each time I see 'em -- they ripped the roof off, with a little help from an, ah, enthusiastic friend of the band whose name I'm blanking on & who charged out in a dress & not much else to dance to the raw-yet-tuneful rawk. It's funny, but while one of the reasons I love SF is the sheer ferocity (duh) of their guitars, I also love 'em because underneath lurk some damn fine, nearly classic-style pop songs. The new stuff I've heard brings that to the fore a bit more than the louder/angrier old stuff, so I'm seriously looking forward to checking out the in-the-works full-length. And the show was made all the more entertaining by the two preteen girls sitting out the far door of the "stage" and occasionally throwing sticks or rocks at the band while they rocked out. Ah, kids...

After that, I really and truly did have to bail, stopping to chat w/organizer J.D. (also ex-Over Sea, Under Stone, current Lenny Briscoe) about the show he'd put on. I told him the best thing about the whole deal was the laid-back, no-pressure atmosphere -- something Derek & I'd talked about earlier on -- like shows from when yours truly was a lot younger, and how I missed stuff like that. It didn't feel like the Scene Police were on hand, just a bunch of people getting together to see some bands, not even caring necessarily which bands they caught, 'cause they were all great. (Which is true, btw.) I drove home smiling, thinking about how awesome it all was.

Part Two: Tonight at Walter's
I hate to say it, but for me shows at Walter's are the antithesis of laid-back. It's partly the fact that it's a "venue" more than a "bar," a place where you go to see bands and not just to hang out -- at least, I don't think many people do, since there aren't nearly enough chairs. At the same time, though, it's also just more of a stressful situation than the above, in that I generally do care about when Band X is going on, I rarely run into people I know (unless I forcibly drag 'em there myself), and I always feel tense just being there. I don't drink or smoke, so what the hell can I do while Band X breaks down & Band Y sets up?

This isn't a judgment on Walter's or the folks who put on or play shows there, mind you; this is me, pure and simple. I've just gotten to the point where late-night shows when I can't cajole a friend into coming out just aren't fun for me anymore, y'know? I'm officially Old, I know, but I found myself wishing at several points tonight that I could just go home & read the new Hellboy: Darkness Calls I got at the bookstore earlier in the evening.

I think part of the problem is that I'm really not much a part of The Scene anymore. I just flat-out don't know very many people, so there's often nobody at a show that I know and/or can talk to unless, hell, I bring 'em with me. I'm trying to work on that, though -- in the past, I've really almost prized my anonymity, at least w/most people. There would be a few people who knew me, a somewhat larger number of people who knew me but who didn't know I did the site, and a ton of people who don't know me at all or that I do this thing. And I kind of liked it that way. I'm generally pretty shy, so I have to work up a bit of nerve to say "hi" to somebody & tell them I like what they're doing, and the relative anonymity made me feel secure somehow.

On top of that, I'm a bad, bad, bad, horrible, awful self-promoter. I suck at it. I just hate doing it, I feel cheesy doing it, so I don't. I cringe like a freak on those rare occasions where I "out" myself and say, "yeah, I do this Website called Space City Rock." Not that because I do this SCR thing, I'm part of some bastion of utter coolness, though -- in fact, that's kind of my point. When I say that, I feel like the cheeseball guy who looks at the doorman at the club, perplexed, and says, "do you have any idea who I am?" 'Cause honestly, I'm nobody special. Somebody referred to me recently as a "celebrity," and while he meant it in a very, very cool way, my immediate reaction was to want to run & hide. This site is special, sure -- I'm proud of it, and I definitely think that it is -- but me, no way. I'm not the important part, here.

That said, I am trying to be less of a hermit, these days. I'm trying to be braver about introducing myself to folks, whether they're scenesters, musicians, media types, or whatever else, because I'm starting to feel like isolating myself and running away is a bad idea. For one thing, eschewing the self-promotion also means maybe missing a chance to promote SCR and the bands/musicians we like. Which is pretty dumb. And I'll admit that I do get tired of staring blankly at the floor or scribbling notes to myself on scraps of paper in-between bands, when I could be talking w/people I've at least met and talked to before.

So, if some random guy named Jeremy comes up to you, says hello, & tells you he really likes your band, I swear he's not a stalker or anything; he just wants to chat with you music-making people. (No mace, please.)

Anyway. This is what happens when I stay up too late, all foggy-headed to begin with, and have free access to the computer with only Bessie Smith as background... So I went up to Walter's tonight in part to see a couple of local bands I've been meaning to see for a long time and in part because writer Brandon encouraged me to check out headliner Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. (I tried, man, I swear...) I'd been kicked out of the house for the evening so the moms' group could get together & par-tay, so I figured it'd be a perfect time to head up to the Heights & catch some bands.

The first of the night, The Wiggins, was playing when I came in, to an almost-empty dancefloor. Which was a shame, because one-man-band Jon was damned interesting -- he beat raggedly on an electric guitar, pounding out chords that were barely audible over the distorted, dirty-as-fuck beats crashing out of his drum machine and yelling in an almost-monotone about something I couldn't figure out. All while wearing sunglasses, naturally. It was garage-y, it was noisy, it was crazy, and it was primitive, and there was something endearing to the whole mess, like listening to the Velvet Underground or The Modern Lovers. Jon Wiggins is like a man out of his time, and I wish more of the crowd there tonight had gotten where he was coming from.

The followup act, though, pretty much ruled the night for me (and for a lot of other folks, I suspect). Tonight's show was the official LP release for Balaclavas, who've re-released their six-song Inferno EP in totally remastered format; I talked with bassist Brian afterwards while snagging a copy of the vinyl, and he declared it to be a totally different listening experience from the original CDEP, with a shitload more bottom-end and a very different sound throughout. Haven't tried it yet, but I'm hoping to give the CD & the LP a side-by-side test this weekend, so I'll let you know how it goes...

I'm serious when I say the band ruled, by the way. I'd hear the two EPs before, but I'd never seen Balaclavas do their thing live before, and it was freaking great. They play this wiry, riding-the-edge kind of post-punk, the kind I don't hear nearly enough of these days. Okay, let me amend that: I don't hear enough good stuff like this these days. These three guys bring the spirit of Gang of Four or Wire more than anybody I've heard in quite a while, local, national, or international. Bassist Brian and drummer Charlie(?) lope along underneath with almost a reggae/dub feel, while guitarist/keyboardist Tyler(again, ?) screeches, chimes, and howls over the top. Awesome stuff to hear, even with the technical problems the band had to deal with tonight.

I didn't realize Wicked Poseur or out-of-towners Chairlift were playing tonight, so seeing them each threw me off a bit, unfortunately. Wicked Poseur were intriguing, with the dual-guitar attack and all, but it felt like the crowd (including me) just wasn't into it. Sorry, y'all... Same goes for Chairlift, but the NYers ended up actively irking the crap out of me by taking what felt like a half-hour to tweak the sound in their monitors. Yes, at Walter's, where the sound isn't bad, mind you, but it's definitely more bare-bones than a lot of places. It just seemed over-the-top, esp. for a band nobody knew was playing opening for a band people were dying to see (i.e., Ariel Pink). The band's singer/keyboardist kept putting off the crowd, telling them "don't worry, guys, it'll be worth it." My response: eh, not really.

So I did the Old Dude thing, and I bailed. Didn't get to see Ariel Pink, sadly, but I just couldn't hack it any longer, I'm afraid. Ah, well. Maybe another time...

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