There's now less than a month to go until we here at Rocks Off throw sobriety and sane living to the wind at this year's SXSW festival. This past week we learned of a boatload of new stuff about the weeklong liver-damaging voyage in March, so here goes...
The list of bands keeps growing and growing, but we have noticed that some of the events are not as extravagant as years past. Many festivals, including the Vans Warped Tour, have scaled down their theatrics for the sake of saving cash. There's not so much dough to throw around when folks are worried about getting laid off. The music industry and many of those surrounding it, like us in the media, have been watching anxiously to see what this could mean for our colleagues. So far, it hasn't gotten so bad, but we can bet that the free booze and swag may not be flowing as freely as usual. But who needs six new tote bags anyway?
The weirdest news we became privy to was the awkwardly awesome March 19 bill at Stubb's. This night, and this night only, one can see MySpace pinup queen Katy Perry (above) followed by influential grunge legends the Meat Puppets. In the span of an hour, you can hear "I Kissed a Girl" and "Lake Of Fire" without moving an inch. I would say that Kurt Cobain would be rolling over in his urn, but by now we all know that dude would have dated an Olsen twin and would have been on Dancing with the Stars if he had lived.
Echo and the Bunnymen will be making the party rounds this year, doing advance work for this summer's new album The Fountain. Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant (right) are the only two original Bunnymen left. McCulloch himself left the group for an aborted solo career before reforming the Bunnymen in 1997. The Fountain will be the band's first since 2005's Siberia.
Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys took time out last year from that band's heady touring schedule supporting Attack and Release to record his own solo debut, Keep It Hid. It's currently streaming on his MySpace profile and is full of Sam Cooke-style vocals and Southern Gothic ballads - imagine the mega-mournful Bon Iver after a few cups of strong coffee and a cigarette. It's amazing how hymnal Auerbach can be when his voice is stripped of all the extra Keys layers, like on the sleepy "When the Night Comes," which sounds like downing a bottle of Nyquil. But in a good way. Keep It Hid hits stores today on LP and CD.
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Our favorite band of the moment is Glasvegas, a gloomy lot from Glasgow, Scotland, who dress like rockabilly thugs but play like angels. They have been blowing up satellite radio and are getting plastered all over blogs and magazines. Glasvegas somehow bridge the gap between the epic Phil Spector-produced singles of the 60's and the sludgy Jesus and Mary Chain. This isn't surprising seeing that their biggest fan is Scottish music wag Alan McGee, who managed JAMC early in their career.
Newer bands we are following this year are Jaguar Love, which contains ex-members of the Blood Brothers, and Blank Dogs. The latter is a super lo-fi tape project by one man based out of Brooklyn. It combines the drum-machine dirge of early Cure tracks with squiggly watery vocals. If you dig Houston's own Balaclavas, also performing at SXSW, then you must check out Blank Dogs.
We also got word that gin-loving Little Joe Washington will be hitting up the Continental Club for a showcase, as will the Tontons. The band is on a German-curated bill called the Reeperbahn Festival - repping the U.S. (and Houston) among mostly British and Teutonic acts.