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South by Southwest Awards ’09

March 25th, 2009 | Comments Off | Posted in Entertainment, Music, Personal, Photos

This is the last SXSW post for a while, I swear, but it’s the only one that really matters. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honor to present to you the second annual (last year’s awards are here and here) SXSW awards, which I am hereby affectionately dubbing “The Rutty Swesties.” Get it? Too bad. Let’s begin with…

Best Suprise

Monotonix (Tel Aviv, Israel)

Holy moly. I’m not even sure if I’m that into these guys’ tunes, but you cannot help but be completely hypnotized by their antics. They seriously spent more time crowd surfing or climbing up the walls than standing on the stage, and most of the time they were playing their instruments on top of the crowd.  Did I mention the fifteen minute drum solo while they changed an amp that they blew in the middle of the show? I’ve pretty much never seen anything like this, and what a way to close out the trip.  If only they did fire tricks… OH WAIT:

The “I Can’t See These Guys Enough” Award

Gil Mantera’s Party Dream (Youngstown, OH)

Two clinically insane geniuses who strip down to their banana hammocks while simultaneously dancing their asses off, playing the shit out of matching Lucite guitars, and blowing everyone’s minds with their incredibly catchy electro-pop (which is drenched in vocoder vocals, brain-crushing hooks, and Stevie Nicks covers). Just go with it.

Runners up: Marnie Stern, Still’ Flyin

Most Overrated

Vivian Girls

My take on the Vivian Girls record was that it was highly mediocre, so I was sure there was a reason these ladies were getting so much attention.  I figured the live show was the key, and I really wanted to see what they were all about.  Turns out they are all about: being somewhat cute, wearing short shorts, and not being able to play their instruments (or faking as such, which is even worse).  I’ll take Marnie Stern’s sick chops any day of the week over this derivative slop.

Worst of the Worst

Kevin Devine and the Goddamn Band


Best Show of the Festival

Titus Andronicus

The Titus Andronicus debut The Airing of Grievances is an odd and invigorating combination of erudite wordplay and punk rock sensibility; these guys have no problem quoting a few lines from an existentialist philosopher and then closing a song by screaming “Fuck you!” at the top of their lungs.  It’s weird, and kinda great. But walking into a show after hearing an album like that, it’s tough to know if you are going to get the punks or the professors.  About five seconds into their set, it was clear that the punks had come out to play.  The setting was perfect: no stage, just a cleared out corner of a parking lot at a backyard barbecue. The crowd was stocked with uber-hipsters and gutterpunks alike, and everyone in attendance was treated to a simple, unpretentious, and completely furious ass-rocking.  Kudos to you, Titus Andronicus.  You win SXSW.

Runners up: Mojo Nixon, Monotonix

Technical awards:

  • Most Likely to Die in a Horrific Stagediving Accident: Ami Shalev of Monotonix (Tel Aviv, Israel)
  • The “Nastiest Chops” Award: Marnie Stern (New York, NY)
  • The “Prima Donna” Award for longest and fussiest soundcheck: The Rosebuds (Raleigh, NC)
  • The “Please Don’t Ever Hang It Up, I Don’t Care HOW Fat You Get” Award: Mojo Nixon (Chapel Hill, NC)
  • Shortest Shorts: Hutch Harris of The Thermals (Portland, OR)
  • The “Nice Job Pissing Off The Meatheads In Front of Me” Award: HEALTH (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Most Judy Garland T-Shirts Per Capita: Abe Vigoda (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Most Brew Grooves Jammed: Still Flyin’ (San Francisco, CA)

And if you think I am going on about Marnie Stern’s chops too much, suck on this:

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New Lens Fun

April 9th, 2008 | Comments | Posted in Personal

2401536683_f4f3f64f60_mSo my new Sigma 30mm f/1.4 arrived at the office today.  I bought mine here, although I don’t know if I’d recommend using these guys since they screwed up three different things in this one order.  Then again,  I did finally receive the item I ordered and for a great price.  Regardless, I’m very stoked to have this thing, because this lens is 1) super fast (f/1.4) which will be great for indoors and other low light situations and 2) has an amazingly narrow depth of field, so I can take really cool shots like these ones I’ve posted here, where the subject is in focus and the rest of the shot is really blurry.  The focus field is so thin, in fact, that I actually took some portrait shots today where the subject’s eyes were in focus and tip of their nose and their ears were blurred out.  The downsides to the lens are 1) it’s fixed at 30mm, so there’s no zooming in or out whatsoever, and 2) it’s fairly heavy for a fixed lens (it has to be big 2402365466_2ba379fc1e_mto open so wide and take in so much light).

I’m really pleased with the sharpness of this lens as well; in the original of this shot I took of Keith, I can zoom in on his eye and actually see myself holding the camera, clearly reflected in his iris.  Pretty awesome.  I’m really looking forward to using this in most casual situations, and it should also be great for shooting bands from the front row.

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I’ve Been Robbed

March 27th, 2008 | Comments | Posted in Music, Personal, Photos

DSC_1579Some of you may know about my “shoes project”, which I came up with after last year’s SXSW festival, where I happened to get a few great shots of a few bands’ shoes as they were playing.  The idea behind the project was to take a shot of the shoes of every band I saw this year at SXSW (whenever humanly possible) and make them into a framed collection of cool shoe shots to put up on the wall, with the name of each band represented in the collection.  On the right, for example, you can see the triumphant shot I took of the band Blitzen Trapper.

I was quite proud of myself for coming up with this idea, because, seriously, it’s awesome.  Which brings us to the today; here I sit, feeling pleased and quietly developing pictures of band shoes, when out of the blue, I get a phone call from Jesse:  “Hey buddy… I’ve got some bad news.”

08326_160251_BlocPartyshoesL200308Thus enter French electro-popsters The Shoes and their new single, “Knock Out”.  Apparently, they have pressed 300 copies of the 7″, and each one comes bundled with a Polaroid of (guess what)… shoes.  And here’s the kicker; they (being significantly cooler than I) have far more famous friends than I could hope for (although I do sorta know the drummer from Lady Genius and one the guys from Altman).  Each Polaroid is of someone indie-famous and is signed by the aforementioned semi-celeb; notable notables include folks from Bloc Party (left), CSS, and The Darkness.

So what’s the moral of the story? Apparently, it’s “never try to do anything cool or fun or awesome, because someone will just rip off your idea and flaunt it all  over the internets”. Internets like NME, Pitchfork, and MixMag. Well, crap.

What do you guys think… should I go ahead with the project or toss it in the fail bin?  Jesse has already made it clear where he stands (and I’m paraphrasing here): “I dunno, man. I was just worried you’d have someone over to your apartment who would see the pictures, yell, ‘Hey, that french band The Shoes already did that!’, and then burn the place down.”

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March 26th, 2008 | Comments | Posted in Music, Personal, Photos

I’ve finished developing and uploading my SXSW pics, so here’s the final set:

Listening to: Rush – Rivendell
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SXSW Awards

March 18th, 2008 | Comments | Posted in Music, Personal

So I’m back from SXSW… I thought this was going to be my last year, but it was (once again) so amazing I’ll probably be booking my hotel for next year as soon as is humanly possible. Here are some of the high and lowlights, followed by the full list of bands we saw this year; 56 in total, a new personal record. Not that anyone is keeping score.

Best Suprise:

Call Me Lightning (Milwaukee, WI)
No doubt, this one goes to Call Me Lightning. I happened to stumble onto these guys at the French Kiss showcase Wednesday night, and they were exactly what I needed: after a day of mediocre and/or boring shows (even The Wedding Present [while still fun] was a bit of a let down, since there were no drums) these guys took the stage and shattered my i’m-getting-old-and-jaded coma by opening with "Billion Eyes". This was my personal turnaround moment of the festival; it put me in a good mood for the rest of the week. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my camera out with me Wednesday night, so I didn’t get any snaps, but take a listen:

Runners-up: Ra Ra Riot, Teeth

The "I Can’t See These Guys Enough" Award:

Tie: Man Man (Philadelphia, PA) / Jens Lekman (Gothenburg, Sweden)
I’ve seen both these bands three or four times and I still wouldn’t miss a chance to watch either of them again; great stuff. Jens played for a half-hour and I left thinking that the only problem with his set was that it was about two hours too short. Man Man blew away everyone I dragged to the show; they are the most primal band I’ve ever seen.

Man Man @ Emo's Annex

Most Overrated:

Tapes ‘n’ Tapes (Cambridge, MA)
Say it with me: sophomore slump. These dudes were not on their game; the new tunes were a serious snooze and the only people who looked more bored than the folks in the audience were the guys in the band. Ironically, seeing them at SXSW ’06 was one of the highlights of that trip; evidently it’s been a exhausting couple of years for these boys.

Tapes 'n' Tapes @ The Cedar Door

Runner-up: Fleet Foxes

Worst of the Worst:

Chester French (Cambridge, MA)
What a bunch of factory-wrapped douches. Seriously, I missed the first half of Fatal Flying Guillotines for this? I hope you nerds choke on your stupid cumber buns.
Runner-up: Roky Erikson

Best Show of the Festival:

The Pillows (Tokyo, Japan)
Uh, duh. 8 years in the making and the last show of the trip. What can I say, except… can you feel?

The Pillows @ Elysium

Runners-up: Constantines, The Kills

And here’s the full list. Next year, I aim for an even sixty…


White Denim
Oliver Future
Moby (DJ set)


Foreign Born
Jason Collett
Sean Hayes
The Wedding Present
Phil and the Osophers
Call Me Lightning
Chester French
Fatal Flying Guillotines
The Plastic Constellations
The Kills
Dan Deacon
The Black Keys


The Shout Out Louds
The Stills
The Blacks
Film School
Von Iva
Two Gallants
The Phosphorescents
Bodies of Water
Throw Me the Statue
Bon Iver
Jens Lekman
High on Fire


The Weakerthans
Ra Ra Riot
Billy Bragg
Blitzen Trapper
The Coconut Coolouts
The Fall Outs
The Unnatural Helpers
Dr. Dog
Tapes ‘n’ Tapes


Jay Reatard
No Age
Man Man
Fleet Foxes
Okkervil River
Roky Erickson
Ezra Furman and the Harpoons
White Shoes and the Couples Company
The Emeralds
The Pillows

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