Friday, March 15th, 2013 – SXSW 2013: Day II Part II

After that, it was time to head to another venue, Easy Beat, where Sorted Noise had put together a day party, and capping it off was the Dallas based, Sleeperstar.

I hadn’t seen them in way too long, so why not catch a free show from them?

First off, the venue, Easy Beat, was billed as being a new joint, and indeed it was. So new in fact, it was just bare bones, no sheet rock on the walls or anything, just the wood.

That didn’t pose a problem for the band, though, who was quickly setting their gear up.

They’ve kept their opening number the same, which is fine by me, and after a mixture of light guitar, bass and keyboard notes and some softer beats on the drums, Chris Pearson went from singing this little “intro” of sorts to the first actual song of their set, “We Go Tonight (Say It Again)”. “Even if you’ve heard it enough say, say it again…” he sang, while the music started to quickly build. The high energy track makes for an ideal opening song, setting somewhat of a hopeful mood as well. Once it was finished, Chris asked how many people in attendance had heard of them before. Just guessing, there was easily one hundred people there, possible more, and quite a few hands shot up in the air. “Wow! That’s honestly a lot more than I was expecting…” he said surprised, and thanked everyone for coming out. He went on to quickly say that they had initially passed up some offers to play during SXSW, but once they got the call from Sorted Noise and heard what they were putting together they wanted to be a part of it. He sped through all that, since they had a limited amount of time on stage, then told everyone they were going to do their upcoming radio single, “Replay”. It has that catchy little hook that all radio singles need, specifically on the chorus, “…The never loved you, they always runaway. Did I ever know you? This is not a new way, this is just a replay…” The ebb and flow of the song is great, too, swelling on each chorus when the guitar and keys, played by Nick Box and Jake Lester, respectively, then subsiding slightly on the verses. Before starting it, Chris asked everyone to give them a show of hands afterwards if they approved of it or not, and tons of hands shot up in the air, giving them a thumbs up now when he asked what everyone thought of it. He then joked, saying something like, “…If it doesn’t do well on the radio it’ll be y’alls fault then…”. He then formerly introduced some of his band mates, including Graham, who was filling in on the bass, and evidently had only rehearsed with them once. You never would have guessed it from watching him play. They then did another new track, which I think was named “Who You Gonna Be?”, and will presumably be on their next release. It was a solid song, and once it was over, Chris talked about what most people there had probably been thinking. “Yes, I aware I look like I’m twelve…” he said. “…But if I stand next to Shaun and his beard, I look cool…” he said, walking back by drummer Shaun Menary, demonstrating it. “But if I stand next to Nick, then we look like we should be in high school…” he added, moving over next to him. It’s good he can laugh at that, and even better that he doesn’t mind a roomful of people laughing along with him. Hey then got back to it with another fan favorite from their “Just Another Ghost” album, “Disengage”. This is also the song where they will usually do something to further entertain the crowd, and this show proved to be no different. Shaun kept on with a beat from the kick drum, while the rest of the band pretty much dropped out. Chris explained that they started this “game” while on tour, and when Shaun kept on with the beats, it meant he [Chris] has to do a rap. He said that since they were in Texas, he was going to do a fitting one, and even reminisced about when he first heard it, recalling his art teacher whose class he was in. After borrowing a pair of sunglasses from a guy, he proceeded to spit out part of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby”, before they eventually got back to and wrapped up their song. Chris put his piano to use on their next song, but it wasn’t the crowd pleaser I was half expecting. Instead, they performed the title track of their new EP, “Blue Eyes”. It might not have been the sing along song about Texas from their LP, but “Blue Eyes” was every bit as good, and even more beautiful. They only had one song to do after that, and Chris explained the reason to everyone. “We have about thirty minutes to navigate through Whole Foods…” he realized what he said then. “Well, that would be interesting, too…” he noted, before correcting himself and saying they had that much time to navigate the streets to Whole Foods for another show. So, to conclude their 34-minute set, they first covered a portion of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, which eased them into “Just So You Know”, which made sure they ended on the same note they began on, a rather positive, uplifting one.

First off, this was an odd Sleeperstar show for me, simply because the handful of shows I have seen them do they’ve had enough time to do 80 to 100-minute long sets, doing a large majority of the stuff in their entire catalog. So getting such an abbreviated version of that was just strange to me.

That was the only difference, though, and the quality of the show was as good or better than it always has been.

Chris not only has an excellent voice, but I like the way how he connects with the audience, and actually makes an effort to interact with everyone. The musicianship of Jake, Shaun and Nick accounts for a lot of the show, too, really rocking out at times. Especially Nick, who is an insanely good guitarist, but stays humble about, not doing anything flashy just to showoff.

The band doesn’t have any shows listed at the moment, but when they do get back out on the road, I’d highly suggest going and seeing them, ‘cause it’s just a fun, entertaining show they put on. And until they do start touring, keep yourself busy with their albums, which can be found HERE.

After getting a bite to eat, it was back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest where the California band, 8Stops7, was just finishing up their set, and the Kansas City band, We Are Voices were getting ready to take the other stage.

To be honest, I failed to take notes on their set for whatever reason, making it harder for me to elaborate on their set. From what I recall though, I can say that they’re a really awesome indie/rock band, and what I did see of their set I thoroughly enjoyed.

Check ‘em out, or at least the two records they have for sale in ITUNES.

About ten minutes till eight we left and headed for the Thirsty Nickel and some more Red Gorilla Music Festival goodness, where Vajra, who had come all the way from NYC, was getting ready to go on.

Oddly enough, I discovered the band last year through MusicSubmit.com, and was excited to be seeing them live.

The band’s music is an interesting mix of melodic, progressive rock, with a certain dark quality to it, as well as having some Eastern Indian themes, all of which were on full display during their opening song, “The Apple”. It’s an interesting blend of genre’s for sure, but it was completely enthralling, helping make eight plus minute long song not seem nearly as lengthy as what it is. After quickly dropping the band name, vocalist, Annamaria Pinna, and her band continued with the next song, “Almost One”, which has a mesmerizing music bed that’s slow, yet strong and very melodic, and was provided by bassist, Doug Wright, drummer, Luke Markham, and guitarist, Will Dahl. After finishing up that semi long track, Annamaria removed the cloak of sorts that she had on, revealing the more skimpy attire she had on underneath, as they proceeded on to “Blind”. I had enjoyed the unique sound that the previous songs had, and this one did include some of those same elements, but above all it was a real Rock song that pulled you in with its intensity and was one you could rock out to while Annamaria belted out the chorus, “…Don’t ask me why you’re blind to that truth. Don’t ask me why, just pocket the awful truth…” They kept up that pace with another single from the “Pleroma” album, “Erode The Will”, which just escalated things, leading to the culminating point of the show and the final song of their 30 minute set, “Inside The Flame”. They really had saved the best for last, and that song is a beast all its own, especially on the chorus, “…Wash, washing you away. You’ll see what I see, you’ll say what I want you to say. Pray for your existence, keep your distance, meet you inside that flame…”, which suddenly became rather eerie at one point when Annamaria started to whisper it.

I must say, as good as their music is on the album, it’s something totally different live. It comes across with more force, and is really something to behold.

The stage at the Thirsty Nickel isn’t the biggest, which kept the band members confined to their spots, but the music more than made up for it. It really is unlike anything I’ve heard before, even if it is in more subtle ways, it still sets it apart from most other bands. Also, Annamaria has a really good vocal range, most of the time singing in a more normal tone, but when required to, she could really dig deep and pull out a booming voice.

If you live in New York, go see one of their shows sometime. If not, well, you can get a free download of “Inside the Flame” on the bands REVERBNATION PAGE, and if you like that, go buy the full album, “Pleroma”, in ITUNES or BANDCAMP.

My dad and I headed right back around the corner after that to the Heart of Texas Rockfest, where We the Ghost was supposed to be starting, but they had gotten a little behind schedule, so instead of starting at 8:30, it was more like 8:40 when they got going. I hated it, ‘cause it meant I wouldn’t get to see but the first couple of songs, but at least I had seen the band exactly one week before when they played Dallas.

I really hated to miss this, though, because for the first time that I’ve ever seen them they had the complete band, which boasts a whooping seven members.

The opened with the standard, “Your Remedy”, which was given a multitude of new layers, simply by adding in violinist, Jocelyn Rowland , and the extra percussionist, Dain Samuelson, who plays a Djembe. I’ve said before that, that is my favorite song of the bands, and it sounded better than ever now. They wound it right into “She’s Gonna Fly Again”, where singer and acoustic guitarist, Beau Tyler, really gives the song a bit of a reggae vibe, just in the way he sings the lyrics.

That was all I was able to see, but part of me wanted to stick around for the rest of the set. I guess I’ll just have to hope that they can bring the full band to Dallas sometime soon, ‘cause I’d love to experience a full set with all the members of this stellar group.

They have two EP’s available in ITUNES, and if you like infectious music that will stick with you and leave an impression, you should check them out. They also have some dates booked in Oklahoma and Arkansas, as well as some festivals they’ll be playing in Las Vegas and New York, so visit their REVERBNATION PAGE for all the info.

It was a little before nine at this point, and I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time to get over to The Blind Pig, where Tommy and the High Pilots were another one of the many bands playing the Red Gorilla Music Festival.

The Santa Barbara, California based band was still setting up when we got there, and the upstairs patio was so packed you could barely even navigate through the people. Somehow, I managed to wind my way up to the front of the stage, though. After several minutes, they finally got everything sound checked, and they were ready to go.

The band is gearing up for the release of their new album, but luckily they still made room for a couple of staples from their previous albums, like one of my favorites, “Round N’ Round”, which kicked off their 37-minute long set. Tommy Cantillon started them off on the song with his acoustic guitar, and the chords he churned out are intoxicating to me, creating a moment of sheer bliss. “Round and round and everybody knows it. Let the people say what they want to, I don’t mind…” on each chorus, with some help from the audience, most of whom were singing right along with him. They followed it with one of their many new songs of the show, this one being called “Get Up”, before doing another from their 2009 debut, “Everynight”, which was the splendid, “Bluesy Floozie”. For the record, the beginning notes of that song are also glorious. It was another that the audience really enjoyed, singing right along with the chorus, “…I listen at your window, I listen at your wall. I listen to your footsteps. I listen to it all…”, while bassist, Steve Libby, and guitarist/keyboardist, Michael Cantillon, led everyone in clapping along to Matt Palermo’s drumbeats. Three songs in and it was already a blast, and would just continue to get better. They did another new one, “Innocent”, which before starting Tom joked was about OJ Simpson. Following it was one of the bands most stand out new tunes, “Devil to Pay”, which features some amazing harmonies from the Cantillon brothers. Tom had switched to a electric guitar by this point in the show, but now he put it down, and began setting up the next song by telling everyone a lesson he had learned several years ago while in Austin. “…There is no wrong dance move…” he told everybody, adding something like you just need to have the confidence to pull it off. He went on to say that they didn’t write this next song, all while he climbed up on some of the speakers on stage left. I had almost forgotten that the last time I saw them they were covering a Talking Heads song, and I was ecstatic that they still had it in the setlist. The song is “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”, and they do an incredible rendition of it, and give an uplifting quality to it. They did another newer one afterwards, “Out of My Head (And Into My Body)”, which got them to their final two songs. “Can you do one?” the sound guy asked, meaning they were running short on time. I was expecting their newest single (which was on the setlist), and after all, wouldn’t it make sense for any band promoting their upcoming album to do the lead single from it? Needless to say, I was a little shocked, but pleasantly surprised when they launched into “Where To Start” from their “American Riviera” EP. “I’m taking a bite, right out of Austin, Texas in my every way. Where everyone’s an asshole, but in the kindest way…” sang Tom on the second verse, changing up the words ever so slightly, using Texas’s capitol city instead of “The Big Apple”. As they approached the bridge, they welcomed a friend up on stage to sing it, as Allen Stone walked on stage. “Will I be depressed, when I am forty, getting horny, having no sex. Can’t catch a break I’m too damn dirty… I wish I was sixteen, I didn’t know where to start…” he sang, with Tom soon joining him, as they wrapped up the song.

I saw a lot of good bands and good show while down in Austin, but Tommy & the High Pilots take the cake as being the overall best.

Maybe it had something to do with the enormous crowd, emitting a lot of energy that the band could feed off of, but they were just on fire this night. Tom, Michael, Steve and Matt operated in perfect synch this night, being nothing short of a well-oiled machine, which also helped in making this the best High Pilots show I’ve ever seen.

They are an amazing group, and as hesitant as I am to say this, their new stuff may well be the best collection of music they’ve ever released, which is saying a lot, because their previous records are some masterpieces in their own right.

They have several more tour dates coming up all across the country, so go HERE and see if they’ll be coming to your area. As for their new record, it’ll drop in late May, so until then, check out their previous three records in ITUNES.

After their set, I managed to work my way off the rooftop, through the bar areas of the venue, eventually getting outside, where I headed back to the Heart of Texas Rockfest to finish out the night.

Liftoff, a band from Vancouver, Canada, was getting ready to take the stage here.

They had a pop/rock vibe to their music, with a radio friendly sound, and even reminded me of Green Day a little on their opening number, ‘cause singer, Carmon Leeson, just had a similar sound to his voice. They followed it with “Falling Apart”, another tune filled with catchy guitar riffs from Gord Gemmell and Michael Aaron Keith, and the drums were perfectly synched and spaced with everything (vocals, guitars, bass), giving the song an extra push. They continued with several other tracks presumably from their latest record, “Naked”, (I say presumably because I can’t find anywhere to purchase it so I would know for sure), like “Game On” and “Can’t Get My Mind Off of You”, as well as a couple of others. That put them at the final song of their 33-minute long set, “All Alone”, which was another single of theirs, and when taken out of context, the chorus, “…I’m all alone, so far away…”, fit the bands situation perfectly, making it a good closing number.

They were just a smidge more pop sounding that what I like, but I still enjoyed it, and the energetic live show they put on was really the main focal point of their set. Carmon was often jumping around and being a very good frontman, and bassist, Marc Boily, Gord and Michael were just as lively. Very good, and very fun to watch.

Shortly after they finished, I was invited to the backstage area by the good gents of Triple SP. It was a little hard to chat with them since I could barely muster a whisper, but was still very fun hanging with them for a bit.

While doing that, Treetop Sailors came and went, and Vallejo was just getting started by the time I walked back out in front of the stages.

Now, if you haven’t at least heard of Vallejo, then you must have been living under a rock, ‘cause the band has been around for over a decade now.

I had never seen them, but listened to their stuff a few years ago, and frankly, I didn’t much care for it. But now, as I was about to see a live show, I thought, “This will surely be better.”

Frankly, it wasn’t, at least not to me. I don’t really know what it was exactly, perhaps the vocals to some extent, and even the music on some level, but it just never clicked with me.

They commanded a huge crowd, and were arguable one of the biggest bands playing the festival, but I just never felt “it”. Like, the music nor the show ever grabbed me and pulled me in.

Oh well, at least I now know I just don’t care for the band. However, if you’d like to listen to their stuff, then head over to ITUNES.

After them was another band based down in Mexico. Chihuahua, Mexico to be precise, and this band also got an introduction from festival organizer, Adam Brewer.

He mentioned that they were huge down in Mexico and had even been around for over fifteen years, before giving the stage up to Seis Pistos.

They were a Latin Punk band, and didn’t play anything close to what appeals to me musically. Plus, as their singer said at one point, “…We are not so good on the English…”, which meant they performed all but one song in Spanish.

While I didn’t care for any of it from a personal standpoint, Seis Pistos was proof that music can transcend all barriers and speak to anyone, regardless of if they understand the lyrics or not. They had a large crowd of onlookers, all of whom were loving it, and you have to give some serious props to a band like this, who comes to the U.S. to play something like this, knowing full well that not everyone will speak Spanish to understand the songs, yet they still want to play them for everyone.

They might not have gained me as a fan, but they certainly gained my respect. So check them out if you wish. They have two LP’s for sale in ITUNES.

Following them on the other stage was another band who hailed from my neck of the woods… Sorta. It was Triple SP, who had traveled down here from Fort Worth.

Despite being from the same area as these guys, I’ve only seen them once, and even that wasn’t a true Triple SP, and lacked the bands true lineup, so this was going to be like seeing them for the first time ever.

“This song’s called Failure” said guitarist and singer, Derek Procter, as they started into the song from their debut album, “Transmissions”. With the roaring guitar lines and strong drumbeats supplied by Alexander Lanz, it was easy to get into it and succumb to the music… At least for me, and a few others. Maybe some of it had to do with the fact that they were a little more rock than the bands before them, but they just had a hard time getting a majority of the people actively engaged. They didn’t let that slow them down at all, though, and soon exploded into a track from the forthcoming “Disrupting the Harmony” record, “Alone”. “…Well you can be alone, or you can be led on…” Derek shouted on the chorus, shortly before guitarist, Bryan Motley, briefly stole the spotlight, tearing it up and shredding on a killer solo. “I Want it All” came next, which is another newer song and one of my favorites of the bands, with some great lyrics, “…But you can’t ignore what you’re waiting for. The end of all the pain that you feel, you’ll be the only thing that is real…”, and a dynamic rhythm section from bassist, Brian Scheid, and Alex. There was also another knock out guitar solo on that song, this time handled by Derek. I mentioned that about the crowd, and somewhere around this point in their set, Brian did what he could to excite everyone. “Give it up!” he bellowed, adding, “If not for us, than at least for Adam Brewer…” which at least got a loud response from everyone. Derek ditched his guitar for their next song, “Lost”, acting completely as a frontman, and a good one at that, as he danced about with the mic stand. That only lasted for that one song, and once he got the guitar back on, he announced that the next song they were doing was the first one they had ever written. It was the heavier, “Behind Your Back”, that he was setting up, and as it came to an end, they wound it seamlessly into the equally aggressive, “The Outsider”. By this time more people were getting drawn in by Triple SP, but they only had two songs left in their 27-minute long set. One of those two was “Symptom”, which is one of the most rocking songs in the bands arsenal, while Brian introduced their last song as, “…Being one you might now…” I didn’t recognize the cover, but whatever it was, they did do a good job on it.

Triple SP definitely brought the rock, and just as individual musicians they’re great at their craft. Both Bryan and Derek are stellar guitar players, Brian owned/killed it on the bass, and Alex was the right mix of methodical and aggressive in his drumming.

It was also good seeing a true Triple SP show. Bryan, who did what ended up being his first show with the band the first time I saw them, has definitely found his place in the group, and adds a whole other level to their live show. As for Derek, he does quite a bit of moving around every chance he gets, unlike most singers who also pull guitar duty, and has a good voice, too.

Pick up their debut album “Transmissions”, in ITUNES, and expect their new record out in just a few months (hopefully). As for shows, they have a couple coming up at their Fort Worth home, Tomcats West. One will be on Friday, April 19th, the other on May 3rd.

Thus, ended day two of my SXSW experience, and I really couldn’t think of a better way to end it than seeing a band like Triple SP.

Now it was time to go get some rest for the final (and longest) day of the trip.

(Check out the remaining posts about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 17th and 19th.)