Show Review: Jose Gonzalez, Okkervil River @ Emo’s, 09.26.2008

September 30, 2008

For those of us who have braved the hell of the Austin City Limits Festival one too many times in our lives, and/or those of us who are too old, poor and/or lame to go anymore, there are still plenty of other options in a sweet town like Austin to tide over your rock ‘n’ roll soul.  One feature that always comes along with the ACL Fest is the ACL aftershows, held all over town at venues such as Stubb’s and Emo’s.  The great thing about these shows is that you can see some of the best acts around in a slightly more intimate, much cooler (temperature-wise), and less sweaty setting.  The awful thing about these shows is that the price of a ticket almost triples.

Anyway, on Saturday night, Gordon and I took an excursion down to Emo’s to see one of our favorite local bands, Okkervil River, rock out the Emo’s stage once again.  The first time I ever saw Okkervil River was at Emo’s on 8/21/2004, when they opened for perhaps my favorite rock band that’s still playing together, New Jersey’s The Wrens.  At that time, Okkervil River was still fairly unknown, with less than a year to go from the 2005 release of their breakthrough and critically adored 2005 record Black Sheep Boy.  They made immediate fans of both Gordon and I, playing a restrained yet emotional set that hooked me from the beginning.  Gordon has seen them several other times, while I’ve remained content to follow their progress by way of each successive album release.   With the recent dropping of their latest record, The Stand Ins, and over four years since my last time seeing them live, I knew it was time.

By coincidence, José González happened to be playing the first set of the night on the indoor stage at Emo’s at 10:30, with Okkervil River playing outside much later.  This may have been partly responsible for the tripling of Emo’s ticket prices from their usually reasonable amount, along with the madness that is ACL.  Either way, I was stoked.  I’ve been a fan of José González since first hearing his 2003 record Veneer.  I was curious to see how his quiet lullabies were going to translate to a live setting in a small club.

Let me tell you, José blew me away!  I have seen many a show on the indoor stage at Emo’s, and one common thread is that the sound is usually awful.  Of course, the indoor stage usually plays host to many loud punk and metal bands, and the brick walls don’t do a great job of absorbing any of that crunchy sound.  However, I have now discovered that the indoor stage is the absolute perfect setting for a quiet acoustic folk act like José González.  With just his classical guitar, two pitch perfect backup singers, and some very sparsely used bongos, José absolutely owned that room.  His voice was immaculate, his guitar picking a wonder to behold.  He played several familiar tunes, such as “Crosses”, “Lovestain”, “Broken Arrows”, and “Remain”.  It was a great show, even though someone in my near vicinity had a particularly bad case of gas.

It was now time fto move outside for Okkervil River.  And what a huge disappointment it was.  I cannot blame the band for the poor show, though.  Frontman Will Sheff bounced around the stage with fire and energy, engaging the crowd at every turn, and the rest of the band played with precision.  The thing that ruined this show was the sound.  I don’t know if they have a new sound engineer at Emo’s, but this was hands down the worst sounding concert I have ever attended there, and I would estimate that I’ve been there somewhere around 50 times.  Beginning with opener “Plus Ones” and continuing all the way through closer “Westfall”, the bass guitar was turned up way too loud, the vocals were turned down too low, and the whole band sounded muddled and almost indistinguishable from one another.  The bass was so fucking loud that the hairs on my legs were vibrating.  Later, the bass got turned down a little bit, but then the organ on new song “Singer Songwriter” was so loud that nothing else could really be heard.  There was also a heavy haze of white noise throughout the entire set.  It was disappointing to say the least.  Gordon made the comment that he would have been disappointed if he had spent just $10 to see that show, but instead we paid $30 apiece.  So Emo’s, what the hell?  If you’re going to triple your prices for admission, at least give us a set worth listening to!  Bad form!

Maybe I should have just gotten drunk.


New Releases of Note: 9/30/08

September 30, 2008

Via AMG.

Box sets from The Jesus and Mary Chain and Roy Orbison are this week’s most interesting new releases.  In addition, nearly every single artist in the world seems to have simultaneously released a Christmas album, including Faith Hill, Bela Fleck, Melissa Ethridge, and The Archies(!).  I’m not going to list them, so check your favorite bands’ websites to find out if they have some Christmas joy for you!

The Jesus and Mary Chain – The Power of Negative Thinking: B-Sides & Rarities

Roy Orbison – The Soul of Rock and Roll

T.I. – Paper Trail

Robin Thicke – Something Else

The Fall – Imperial Wax Solvent

Ben Folds – Way to Normal

Megadeth – Anthology: Set the World Afire

Tom Morello, The Night Watchman – The Fabled City

Kellie Pickler – Kellie Pickler

U2 – Under a Blood Red Sky [Deluxe Edition]

Full list here.

Awesome Covers Corner: Cover Songs at ACL

September 30, 2008

A staple of any music festival past or present, cover songs were abound at this years Austin City Limits Festival.  So I figured I would put together a list of all the ones that I saw performed.  Please let me know if there are any that you witnessed that I didn’t list…

BeckPillbox Hat (Bob Dylan)
Jenny LewisLove Hurts (the Everly Brothers)
N.E.R.D.7 Nation Army (the White Stripes)
the Swell Season – Into the Mystic (Van Morrison)
Conor OberstKodachrome (Simon & Garfunkel)
Jose Gonzales – Teardrop (Massive Attack)
Jose Gonzales – Heartbeat (the Knife)


Gnarls BarkleyReckoner (Radiohead)


Note: I heard conflicting reports of Allison Kraus and Robert Plant playing a Led Zeppelin song… some say it was Black Dog, some say the Battle for Evermore.  Can anyone verify??
Oh, and btw… the 2 best sets of this years ACL… MGMT and Band of Horses.

The World’s Largest Record Collection

September 30, 2008

Pittsburg, Pennsylvania resident Paul Mawhinney has 3 million records and 300,000 CDs.  Thats over 6 million songs.  And he wants to give them to you for the low-low price of $3 million.  Thats a steal when you consider that his collection is estimated to be worth $50 million.   He could sell it off piece by piece and earn enough money to take care of his medical bills but he’s aging and he wants the collection kept intact.

Watch the short film.

Update (GW): I used my God-like Administrative Powers to both fix the link and embed the video. (Oddly, the embedded video is visible in Firefox on my laptop but not on my desktop. If you don’t see it, use the link.)


September 30, 2008

Hell, yeah.  Jean-Claude Van Damme.  The Muscles from Brussels was a staple of my high school and college years.  I didn’t see every movie he released during his prime, but I did see Bloodsport, Cyborg, Lionheart, Double Impact, Hard Target, Street Fighter, and Sudden Death.  Probably a few others, too–those are just the ones I can remember.

Van Damme eventually drifted into direct-to-video hell, probably an inevitable fate for a niche action star.  But I think I speak for millions of permanently immature boys in saying that Van Damme kicks ass!

Well, would you believe he’s made a comeback?  And he’s getting good reviews?  As an actor?

Introducing J.C.V.D., starring J.C.V.D. as J.C.V.D.

…I never thought I’d utter these words, but Jean-Claude Van Damme gives an exciting, impressive performance here, careening between action that leaves him breathless and comedy that leaves us laughing, revealing not only the timing and charisma that made him the action star we know him as but also a human side we probably had never imagined. There’s nothing more vain than insisting you’re without vanity, but Van Damme strips himself bare here — the aging action icon, the man who finds living other people’s dreams a nightmare, the star who is in danger of losing a part to Stephen frickin’ Seagal.

J.C.V.D. has been picked up for American distribution, but I don’t think a release date has been announced yet.  Those of us in Austin can rest assured that the Alamo Drafthouse will be all over this one.  And so will I.

In the meantime, here’s the trailer:

Music Mystery #398 – Love Rollercoaster

September 28, 2008

OK, this has to one of the most outrageous urban legends surrounding a song in music history.

Is it true a woman was murdered during the recording of “Love Rollercoaster”?

The most popular rumor states that a girlfriend of one of the recording engineers was murdered in the studio next to the one Ohio Players was recording in, and somehow her scream made it onto Ohio Players tape.

A popular variation on that is that the model for the cover of Honey was badly burned in the photo-shoot for the album cover. Allegedly, the “honey” wasn’t actually honey but some sort of synthetic resin like fiberglass and it ripped all her skin off after the photo-shoot. Why anyone would do that instead of using water soluble honey is beyond me. Perhaps they had a problem with bears where the photo was shot and they didn’t want to take any chances on the set.

So apparently she went to the studio just as the band was recording the track “Love Roller Coaster”, and when she threatened the Ohio Players manager with a lawsuit he stabbed her to death in the studio! Another variation states that the band themselves killed her because she was a groupie that would not leave them alone, and other less interesting variations on the “groupie” scenario.

Listen to the “scream” at 2:33, it is kind of creepy.

The truth is the scream is really there on the track, but it’s Billy Beck screeching off-mike and they decided to leave it on to give the song a looser feel. There are plenty of these types of casual slips on OP’s records. During live performances of this song Billy Beck often screams and laughs during the percussion break. The band stated that they were big fans of the “Paul is dead” hype The Beatles were able the generate, so when a popular DJ in New Jersey began spreading the rumor they made a decision to remain quiet to add to the hype.

The Song That’s Been Stuck In My Head All Day

September 28, 2008

Part one of an endless series.

“Homosapien” by Pete Shelley.