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Sunday, April 7, 2013

"Shared Experiences" - Kenny Chesney

What a great Grand Opening event for the Austin360 Amphitheater (http://austin360amphitheater.com). With Kenny Chesney and the lovely Kacey Musgraves performing, all I can say is 'it was a perfect night.' With a beautiful crowd, and one Helluva good time, I am new citizen in the 'No Shoes Nation'.


Gotta talk about the venue first.

I was here in November for Clay Walker (http://livemusicinaustin.blogspot.com/2012/11/off-starting-grid.html) during the inaugural F1 races, from then 'til now the grass has grown, the permanent stage went up, and all the seats went in. Perfect! The set up is pretty sweet. The Grand Plaza has all of the eats, drinks, and swag you need. There was also a giant tailgate party to kick off the grand opening event, which was fun, and a great idea. To top it off, there was a stage in a large grassy area off the Grand Plaza. Here, Mickey and The Motorcars kept us entertained while everyone drank, ate, and took in the whole spectacle. -More about Mickey and The Motorcars performance in a separate post-

Once past the Grand Plaza courtyard and into the body of the amphitheater there are more food booths and drink stations. With plenty of spots to grab something, there are virtually no lines for food or drink. The staff from Sodexo that were assisting the patrons with food or drink were all great, friendly, and smiling.  In one location it was set up like an outside bar with nice, high top tables and comfortable stools. This was so cool to grab a drink (and maybe a snack), sit down next to the railing, and enjoy the music with a side view of the stage. Very nice!

I would like to see a little improvement to the lighting around the concourse of the amphitheater. Once it got dark, it was pretty damn difficult to see where you were going. Some sort of path lighting or l.e.d.'s would make a huge difference and not affect the ability to see the show. Although there were plenty of restrooms (thank you folks for getting that right), there was no type of lighting by the portable bathrooms, making that an experience I would have rather not accomplished.



Inside the actual Austin360 Amphitheater is were all the excitement really came out. The gates opened and the crowd raced in to get the best spots on the lawn for a great view of the show. As I walked around, during the Kacey Musgraves set, it seems there isn't really a bad seat in the house and the sound is just fantastic everywhere. With a couple of announcements, an intro by none other than Red McCombs himself, an explosion of streamers, and a toast to the future...it was showtime!




Kacey Musgraves (http://www.kaceymusgraves.com), what a special honor for her and a good time for us. She will forever take with her the honor of being the FIRST artist to have performed on this stage. And take it she did, she just strolled out onstage, picked up her guitar and off she went. Pushing through her songs with little fan fare, there was no doubt of her confidence onstage and in front of the crowd.  From the distant point of where I was standing, not only could you see her smile but you could hear her smile in her performance. It was also nice to see quite a few people in the crowd that had already taken their spots enjoying her tunes. To my surprise she broke out with one of her personally written songs ('Mama's Broken Heart') that is currently catching massive radio airplay from a different female artist. It was a nice performance from Kacey and a great opening for the Austin360 Amphitheater





And then there was Kenny Chesney (http://www.kennychesney.com/home.php)! The flag (No Shoes Nation) was hung, the music started, and then the flag went up, exposing what seemed to be a pretty simple stage set-up. Oh! I was wrong! The massive wall of video screens completely engulfed the back of the stage and came to life playing an intro video that was digitally and visually stunning. With folks like Willie Nelson and Matthew McConaughey welcoming all to the 'No Shoes Nation' and the Austin360 Amphitheater, it was pretty damn cool. Then, in a split second, the wall of screens rotated for a blinding explosion of light that really kicked things off. I mean this thing just lit up the night! There was also a large screen above the stage so you didn't miss the performance as it happened. No matter where you were, it was like a full on television production. That made it every bit worthwhile to be in the audience and experience this! Mariza Cruz has seen Kenny Chesney previously in San Antonio, and although she loved that show and the performance, this was the cake topper. Not only was the Austin360 venue exciting, but the performance was pulse pounding and rhythm inducing. She was happily dancing to everything Kenny Chesney performed.


For me it was about enjoying the music, liking what I heard, and the smile inducing feeling that came over me. Kenny proudly performed his set and made it easy for the audience to take it all in. There was not a seated soul in the house. In the cool Texas night air it was a sight to behold, thousands of people on their feet and feeling the music. There were a couple of songs that I had hoped to hear, but can understand, with a 15 album catalog, that would not be possible. Not even in the two hours that Kenny was on stage, and that time flew by!


Thanks to the Austin360 Amphitheater for this night and opportunity, I look forward to many more.



Laters

Saturday, April 6, 2013

I almost left it

The 'Take it or Leave It' tour rolled through San Antonio with a stop at The White Rabbit. Angel Skye wanted to go for her 17th birthday and see Sleeping With Sirens, so off we went to S.A.


So let's talk about The White Rabbit (http://sawhiterabbit.com). Seems that I am always hearing about metal shows going through S.A. and hitting the Rabbit, so I was actually pretty stoked to be going and check this place out. It is a totally inconspicuous place on a corner, just off of the hub bub of down town. The whole venue is comprised of 3 parts. The actual stage, which is situated at the narrow end of a split level, pretty large size, rectangle shape room with the bar opposite the stage. Then there are two outside areas on either side of the room. There are some picnic tables to sit at, but that seating is pretty limited. Hell, if you are gonna be at this type of show with screamo/punk music, you shouldn't be sitting anyway! I did take note, and pointed it out to Angel, that one side area seemed to have all of the parents herded off to a corner. Pretty fucking hilarious, seeing them sitting around, seemingly in a daze.

The issue that titles this blog is a play on the name of the tour and the hideous sound problem that was plaguing the mics for the bands. I do not want to crucify the sound man and venue or blame the bands, but it was monstrously fucking shitty. Angelina advised me that she has been at another show at The White Rabbit previously (same style of music) and there was a similar mic problem. SO...I refuse to point and blame, but seriously, as many shows that I hear about going through S.A. and stopping at the Rabbit, you would think they would have a better quality sound system, sound board, and sound man.

The mic issues had almost a 15 minute delay for one band while they tried to get the mics on. Another band had the lead singer struggling to keep his mic on by constantly fiddling with the cord while he was singing. Worse than that, the headliners (Sleeping With Sirens) lead singer, Kellen Quinn, launched in to their performance with pretty much no sound out of his mic for the first 2 songs. They only thing that saved the beginning of that performance was that every girl in the audience new EVERY SINGLE WORD to the songs and they were all singing at the top of their lungs. HAHAHA, didn't need a mic, the die hard, hardcore fans made the performance. The mic issue got fixed on the third song, but by then I was out the door to go sit in a corner.

Okay, now back to the music.

Lions Lions (https://www.facebook.com/LionsLionsMA?fref=ts) was the first band up and on stage. These guys are from Boston and definitely put on the 'A' game. With not as much gutturals as other bands I have heard in this genre, it was pretty much straight singing with some pretty crunching sound to back up those vocals. Speaking of back up vocals, I have to give a shout out to my new friend Jon, the bass player for Lions Lions. Here is this dude on stage with this gnarly looking beard, playing the bass, and makes you instantly think "Oh shit! That dude eats nails and spits bullets." HELL NO! (and the band and his friends will bust his balls for this) He opens his mouth and the most surprising, sweet voice comes out. Completely rivaling the lead singer, it just blew my fucking mind. I laughed from shock and told Angel, "Dang! Who would've ever thought a great voice would come outta that dude?!"  Overall, this was a great band to open the show. The music was very tight, it was energetic, and most of all the band looked as if they were having a lot of fun onstage...and THAT my friends, will make YOU have a great time at a Lions Lions performance!

DANGERKIDS (http://wearedangerkids.com) were the next up and yet another surprise. The drummer was a chick. Another 'Holy Shit!' kinda moment. Sorry, I am not sexist, I think it is awesome, but all of you know damn well that the music industry, this style of music, and that instrument is dominated by dudes! I thought it was pretty cool as I even addressed that question of chicks in the music scene with Chris Shelley from At The Skylines in a video interview I did (http://youtu.be/PXQMiVwZTdM). ANYWAY, gender aside, here was another performance that was top notch. I don't think any of the three bands that came on before SWS deserve to be called opening acts. DANGERKIDS absolutely took it to that next level, launching into song after song that had the audience in a frenzied mosh pit. Yet again here is another band that smiled and laughed the whole time they were onstage. Just great fun to watch and hear!


Conditions

(https://www.facebook.com/conditionsband) was a big surprise for Angelina Skye. She told me that she had sen them previously hear at The White Rabbit. Her complaint was that they seemed to have so much going on onstage, it gave her a headache. That was then, this is now. I understand what she said, there was no headache this time. They are technically pretty fucking amazing. They are super tight with their sound and performance and they seem to do things with the music and go places that some of the other bands in this genre don't do (I can name only one other band that is out there on the road right now also). Angelina was so blown away by the performance this time that she begged me to go get the CD for her when they got off stage. "Dad please! Dad! DAD! Please please please please? Dad dad dad dad please please please? DAD!" and then she was pissed when I didn't get the guys in the band to sign it, WTH!? So go see them, see them on a tour with multiple bands like this and you will get more than your moneys worth!


Sleeping With Sirens ( ) also know as Kellen Quinn's backing group of musicians or "OH MY GOD IT'S KELLEN QUINN AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" Jusus Christ! You would think that The Beatles and Elvis had a love child  thirty years late with all of the screaming, shrieking, creaming girls. WOW! A N Y W A Y, Sleeping With Sirens hit the stage and brought some pizazz and stage show with them. Moving beyond the issues I spoke of earlier, there is no doubt the charisma this band carries in their lead singer. I have seen, been at, and listened to hundreds of bands over a few decades and I think this took the cake for audience participation. It seemed that EVERY voice in the place, sang every lyric, to every song. What was even more impressive than that to me is hearing the band play and keep it together so well for the entire set. That was a lot of fun to experience and definitely worth the price of admission.

Part of doing this blog, is for the love of music. To tell you how much fun it was to be in the audience for any particular band. The other part of this is the memories I build, and the lasting memory of having a wonderful evening with my daughter, doing something that she wanted to do, will be forever in my heart, mind and soul. So to these four bands I will owe a lifetime of "Thank You's" for a wonderful 17th birthday with my daughter.

And if Lions Lions, DANGERKIDS, Conditions, or Sleeping With Sirens actually read this, I hope what I have said means a little something to you.

Laters










Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The last straw

My final evening at SXSW 2013, and it was spent at the Heart of Texas Rockfest, located on the corner of 7th and Neches. It was free to get into, but a donation was requested. Two stages, side by side, and non stop rock and roll for hours upon hours. After leaving our Bungalow (http://livemusicinaustin.blogspot.com/2013/03/it-was-rainey-for-sxsw.html) on Rainey St we made a quick pit stop at the corner of 6th and Red River to retrieve one of the cameras from Angel Skye (apparently the crowd was WAY to damn wild at the Woe is Me show.)



Walking into the Texas Rockfest (http://www.texasrockfest.com) was like a veritable Who's Who of Austin, Texas music royalty. There was a TV personality, Dave TeeVee (https://www.facebook.com/DaveTeeVee), his royal highness MC Overlord (http://www.overlordmusic.com), radio personality Patrick Davis http://www.atxafterdark.com), and the KINGS of Austin ROCK - Vallejo (http://vallejomusic.wordpress.com)! Pretty damn impressive AND WE DIDN'T NEED BADGES!!!!! I can't say that the music was diverse because it was, after all, Texas ROCKFEST!

We had the pleasure of hearing 5 different bands with styles ranging from 'what the fuck is this shit' to Mexican metal. I will write up the performances in the order we saw the bands and it starts with 'What the fuck is this shit?!'




Indofin (http://www.indofinmusic.com/) had just gone on stage when we arrived. Sounding like something between metal or punk and a little bit of confusion mixed in. My regular blog readers sometimes bust my balls for being 'too nice' or 'perpetually positive', well sorry, that's not gonna happen here. It didn't sound rehearsed, there was too much talking between songs, and just seemed like they weren't prepared. When a producer, a manager, and a videographer all remark (at different times and no where near each other) about the things I mentioned, about the quality, or musicianship...somethings up! I really don't know if these guys 'got it'. In the festival setting every band has their 30 minutes to bang out the performance, show the audience who you are and what you are about. That is the time to bring your 'A' game. I really did try to like them and really did try to hear something in the music that would make me tell you go see them or that I would want to see them again. Sorry Brother...not this one.


Liftoff (http://liftoffband.com/The_band.html) is from Canada and these guys really put on a performance. Using the full stage to their advantage with dancing girls on the speakers, lighting effects, and a front man who was pretty damn charismatic. This band really attracted your attention. There was not a lot of conversation in the crowd while they were onstage as it seemed the audience was pretty struck by them. There was, however, a little conversation at the end of the set. It seems there was a pretty interesting resemblance to the lead singer of one certain 'Green Day' band that didn't go unnoticed by some in the crowd. The music was not exactly the same as that, but definitely had the same kind of 'damn the man' feel to it.  Good stuff my friends, check them out.


Treetop Sailors (http://treetopsailors.com/band.htm) sailed onto the stage next. I have been asked several times to go to a show of theirs. I have, sadly, never really made the opportunity to go. As fate would have it, the best part about seeing them here, I was with my heartbeat...and she LOVED them! No doubt about it, these guys are freaking awesome! The lead guitar is pretty fucking outstanding and the lead singer/keyboard player is, well to be frank ...get the fuck outta here! Blues rock with a heavy, HEAVY, accent on the rock portion of that statement. It is a kind of raw and grungy sound, but so unbelievably polished. DUDE! Really, the amount of talent to make yourself sound raw while being that tight is mind boggling. My girlfriend was just amazed with the lead singer, his look and the sound of his voice. While I was sneaking around and took pictures, I did manage to slide up next to her at one point during their set. She grabs my by the arm and shakes me "Oh My God! These guys are great! Why didn't you tell me about them before?" AHHHHH the excitement and enthusiasm. Thankfully they are a local (for now) Austin band, so now I get to go to more of their performances with the stamp and arm shake seal of approval from Ms Cruz. Watch out guys, we'll be seeing ya!


Vallejo (http://vallejomusic.wordpress.com/) are The kings of fucking Austin, Texas Rock-n-Roll! This band is the epitome of fun, excitement, energy, and enthusiasm. They DO NOT know how to stop once they get on stage. They are the utmost professionals and they are musical divas onstage. Absolutely and unequivocally! They mug for all of the cameras in the audience, while they are doing their set. They will point you out in the audience, acknowledge you and make you feel like the rock stars they are up on stage. The music is non stop infectious with their Latin infused grooves underlying that rock and roll blood as they pump it through the crowd. This has been and will ALWAYS be one of the 2 premier rock bands to go see in Austin when it comes to a GREAT live music experience. I have always taken every opportunity to go see them, I have not seen them near as much as I have wanted to, and now I beseech you...GO! Seek out the fun and rock and roll that is Vallejo! and if you can't then here is a video from that show to hold you over http://youtu.be/3GDgwqSis_g.



Seis Pistos (http://www.seispistos.com/) was the final band we saw before an early, but exhausted exit from Rockfest. With the lead singer doing a lot of Spanish speaking and really horrible broken English, I thought it was a joke. HELLLL NO! These guys are straight up from Mexico, but they are great proof that rock music has no boundaries. The music had this definite and irreverent 'I don't give a fuck' attitude, but they were serious. Mixing some old classics with their new style, it was actually impressive. I really liked it. In fact, I would say that I loved it. Metal is metal no matter where you go in the world. Nope, I couldn't understand a damn thing the singer was saying (even his hilariously shitty English), but it was great. It was great in every way that rock music should be. Powerful, driven, and in the end, gracious that you were there to witness it and appreciate it. They were kind enough to pour their souls out for us and I will definitely be kind enough to go see them again!


Laters