FPSF 2012 Rundown, Pt. 3: Erykah Badu + Starfucker + Two Door Cinema Club + Eyes Burn Electric + Orgone + Sideshow Tramps + More
On to the next one, y’all. Here’s the third installment of our little writeups/rundowns/previews of Free Press Summerfest 2012, aka The Best Music Festival in H-Town, Period. (Can you tell I’m getting a little excited?). Here goes:
Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids
I must confess that I haven’t had a whole lot of exposure to Erykah Badu; I’d heard the stuff that made it on the radio from her earlier albums, naturally, but never really thought much of it. I liked her on The Roots‘ Things Fall Apart, too, but still didn’t really do much beyond shrug when it came to her solo stuff. Then I happened to catch her late, late at night back in 2003, when she was on Showtime At The Apollo performing “Danger,” and it caught me completely off-guard and knocked me flat out. It was raw and snarling, nothing like the light, almost easy-listening soul of what I’d heard previously; I seriously couldn’t believe it. Thinking back to that now, I’m pretty psyched to finally see her live.
Oh, and as a side note, apparently Badu has been collaborating recently with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips, who also happen to be playing Summerfest. Keep your eyes out during their respective sets for any cross-pollination, eh? I mean, seriously, how badass would it be to see/hear Erykah Badu singing that awesome backing vocal line from “The Great Gig in the Sky,” while the Lips melted the stage to glass?
[Erykah Badu and the Cannabinoids play at 6:25PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the Budweiser Stage.]
And here’s somebody I know even less about, namely Bart Black, aka “The King of Raves.” Never been to a rave, not even back in my kinda-misspent youth, so I’ve got no clue what that’s about, but hey, I’m game. The one track of Black’s music I’ve been able to listen to (okay, so it’s an hour long) ain’t bad, with a relentless beat and an actual use of AutoTune that makes sense for once, morphing a sampled voice out into something supremely robotic while the thumping bass shakes the floor.
[Bart Black plays at 1PM on Sun., June 3rd, at Stage 3.]
I can’t honestly keep straight what the hell this band’s name is. Sometimes they’re Starfucker, sometimes they’re STRFKR, and apparently sometime recently they changed their name briefly to both PYRAMID and Pyramiddd. Dammit, people, pick something and stick with it, will you?
Anyway, whatever they’re called, the shimmery, lushly layered electro-shoegaze (is this what The Kids are calling “chillwave” these days?) the band makes is ridiculously addictive, filling your skull with dense, gorgeous sound while forcing your feet to tap and head to bob along. No, really — I’m doing exactly that right fucking now, and I can’t freaking help it. Musically, I’m reminded somewhat of the more overtly retro-’80s poppy moments of M83, but more than that, these guys make me think of M83′s countrymen, French electro-popsters Air, if that band decided to get seriously into My Bloody Valentine some weekend. Here’s “Bury Us Alive,” off last year’s Reptilians, for proof:
I think I need to (finally) see this band.
[Starfucker plays at 2PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the Jeep Power Amp Stage.]
Hrm. Okay, now I’m well & thoroughly stumped. Is this a band? Like, say, San Pedro, Californian surf-grrrl-rock trio Bombón? Or is a monthly “tropical dance party” featuring Gracie Chavez & Panchitron, among others? I think it’s the latter, because the CA band doesn’t say a thing about Summerfest on their FB page, but still, I’m somewhat confused. I guess what’s probably happening is that the local Bombón DJs — Chavez, Panchitron, et al. — are playing Summerfest, and hey, if that’s the case, I’m cool with it. I’ve liked what I’ve heard from Chavez, in particular; her tracks are danceable but also nicely layered and smart, stitching together all the disparate sources like they were meant to go where she puts ‘em.
[Bombón plays at 3PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the 29-95 Stage.]
These guys were at a disadvantage with me right from the start, I must admit, because of their goofy, goofy-ass name. I mean, c’mon — Infantree? Luckily for them (and, yes, for me), the band’s music and utter confidence brush aside my sneering complaint without a backwards glance. They play a strange, murky, dramatic-sounding kind of heavily-layered, orchestral pop that points towards The Decemberists and Nick Cave at the same time, all with a weirdly “old-timey” vibe to it. There’re mandolins, dark baritone vocals, morose lyrics, and a late-night-at-the-bar feel, all combining to form something that’s pretty damn neat.
[Infantree plays at 6PM on Sun., June 3rd, at the 29-95 Stage.]
Two Door Cinema Club
Ever liked a Death Cab for Cutie song but thought the music to which Ben Gibbard’s lyrics were set was just too damn downbeat? C’mon, we’ve all been there (okay, maybe; work with me, here). Northern Irish band Two Door Cinema Club is — to me, at least — what it might sound like if Gibbard’s low-key, melodic, shy-boy vocals were paired up with the best damn Brit-rock band you’ve ever heard. TDCC have the driving urgency of Bloc Party without the desperation, the synth-heavy bounce of The Killers (who, yes, are pretty much a Brit-rock band despite being from Vegas) without the pretension, and the jagged-edged guitars of The Libertines without the half-drunk fury, and they mash it all together into this gleaming, silver ball of shiny-clean, utterly addictive, speeding pop. Holy shit, this is awesome.
[Two Door Cinema Club plays at 5PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the Budweiser Stage.]
Eyes Burn Electric
Shifting back over to the locals, there’s H-town band Eyes Burn Electric; they’ve been around a few years now, both in their current incarnation and as Dremnt The End (don’t ask, I don’t know), and they’ve steadily been making inroads, playing bigger & better shows with their melodic, post-emo alternarock. I’m liking these guys because, hell, they’re just a band playing alt-rock, y’know? No dumb-ass haircuts, no freaky makeup, no gimmicks, just four guys playing these heavy-yet-sweet rock songs. And believe it or not, it works. Just listen to the awesomely roaring guitars on “Hurricane” and tell me I’m wrong; that’s one monster of a chorus, right there.
Oh, and the band also did a music video a year or two ago, for “Part of Me,” that’s set in quite possibly the creepiest factory in the universe: a “mannequin refurbishing plant.” That’s right — we’re talking hordes of mannequins everywhere, all just waiting for the moment to strike and kill us all. Dear God.
[Eyes Burn Electric plays at 3:30PM on Sat., June 2nd, at Stage 7.]
phew. For a second there, I felt sure that I was running face-first into the Bombón/Bombón thing yet again, with multiple bands called Orgone floating around out there. But nope, it appears that LA funk band Orgone is the one playing Summerfest this coming weekend. And thank Bubba for that, because I’m enjoying the hell out of the band’s Southern-fried, horn-heavy funk; think New Orleans legends The Meters, think Funkadelic before George Clinton got too into the spaceman thing, think Maceo & The Macks, and think the soundtrack to every cool-ass ’70s Blaxploitation movie you’ve ever seen, and you’ll be in the ballpark. I was all ready to hate this, honestly, because these days “funk” seems to be code for lame, awful bands with whacka-chicka guitars — but I can’t hate this. It’d be like hating joy or air or sunshine; I’ve got to have it.
[Orgone plays at 4:30PM on Sun., June 3rd, at the Presented By Chipotle Stage.]
Black Magic Marker
Um. Yeah. I’m fairly sure this is an actual band, but I’ll be damned if I can find much on ‘em beyond some scratchy videos of main Black Magic Marker man David Larry Lorrack meandering around a stage hitting different instruments and making weird sounds over a thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk beat that threatens to drill into your very soul. It’s somewhere between music and performance art, to my mind, and apparently there’s some serious thought behind it, strange though it is — see this interview over at Free Press Houston for a little bit of illumination, at least.
[Black Magic Marker plays at 2PM on Sun., June 3rd, at the SHFL Stage.]
Damn. I wasn’t sure these guys were still around, but it seems the band reunited for the Axiom reunion show a few years back and decided to give it another go, 25(?) years on from their last real hurrah; they’ve even been recording new songs. All of that’s extremely cool, because these guys are bona-fide punk legends, all boasting impressive pedigrees with bands like Really Red, Happy Fingers Institute, and The Pain Teens, besides.
I’m a relatively recent convert, admittedly, having looked ‘em up after hearing about ‘em back around the time of the Axiom show, but I’ve been liking ‘em quite a bit since. They’re punk rockers of the truly old-school variety, from back when punk wasn’t a fashion statement but a way of looking at the world without being bound by rules and restrictions. John Reen Davis talk-shouts obliquely sociopolitical lyrics about our anesthetized modern society, while bandmates Scott Ayers, Torry Mercer, and Bob Weber rumble and shiver beneath.
[The Anarchitex play at 1PM on Sun., June 3rd, at the SHFL Stage.]
This is going to sound weird, but I wasn’t always the biggest fan of the Sideshow Tramps. Sometimes, it turns out, seeing a band live can actually put you off their music, and that’s what happened with me. I caught the band a few years ago, and while they weren’t bad, they didn’t live up to the hype, at least not at that show. It happens. I liked them okay, and a subsequent show I saw (at the inaugural Summerfest, actually) was far better, but I was still wary. So I cringed a little bit when I got the band’s most recent album, Revelator, in the mail, figuring, “ah, crap — I have to listen to these guys again?”
One listen through, though, and I was sold. I’m not sure what went wrong those times I’d heard the band previously, but this time they were something incredible. The closest comparison I can come up with is to Russian/etc. gypsies Gogol Bordello, but it’s less because of a musical similarity than it is a shared sense of crazed, fuck-it-all abandon both bands possess. Revelator isn’t a performance, it’s a party, thrown by a wild bunch of ramblers who’ve come to town to get drunk, get loud, and break things.
[Sideshow Tramps play at 12:20PM on Sat., June 2nd, at the Jeep Power Amp Stage.]
What Made Milwaukee Famous
Try as I might, I can’t help but think of Pabst Blue Ribbon when I think of Austin-dwelling band What Made Milwaukee Famous. And that doesn’t even make any damn sense, because the “Beer that made Milwaukee famous” slogan was for Schlitz, not Pabst, I don’t drink Pabst, never have, and my main memory association with the beer is the movie Midnight Madness, which I loved as a kid…and which is set in Los Angeles, not Milwaukee. Go figure. The brain does what it wants, apparently.
Anyway, ignore all that (hah! Now you’re screwed just like me…), because WMMF is actually a damn worthwhile band to check out, alternately blazing and stepping delicately through a slew of carefully-crafted guitar-pop tunes that come off like something you feel like you’ve heard before but that’s actually brand new. There’s a great, great familiar warmth to it all, with plenty of subtle nods to the band’s influences — Spoon, The Beatles, and (no, trust me) Barry Manilow, for three — and by the time it sneaks into your head and makes itself at home, you’ll be glad it’s there.
[What Made Milwaukee Famous plays at 6:30PM on Sun., June 3rd, at the Presented By Chipotle Stage.]
Alrighty; that’s all I’ve got for right now. Two more days, and more previews on the way…