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Jun 20, 2013

Take a Chance and Roll the Bones with Shakey Graves Tomorrow

The day is almost upon us as 3 exceptionally talented, independent and all around swell bands from Austin prepare to take the stage at PromoWest’s The Basement tomorrow night. As you handful of dedicated Columbus concert attendees and RPM readers know, we don’t post very often and rarely prior to a show, so pay attention.

Austin has always treated RethinkPopMusic exceptionally well, mostly because of JPB from The Sour Notes and the 5 consecutive years of our locally supported SXSW showcasing efforts. And now its only right that we support what is an ambitious effort to say the least: Booking a pseudo-national tour featuring 3 relatively unknown local Austin bands.

So, we’ve decided to tell you all a bit about these bands and the close knit community that is the Austin music scene.

Rule #1 – Austin bands make the best concert posters, its a fact. Shout-out to Chris Biglake in Portland who’s art is so tasty we would eat it, but as a city in general, Austin keeps it weirdest.

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Rule #2 – Austin bands are talented. Unlike lets say, Brooklyn, LA, Nashville and the entire state of Florida, bands who actually develop a following in Austin play their instruments better than you. Intricate guitar with thoughtful lyrics to match, remain pillars while the whole electro-pop movement that dominated NYC never quite got a foothold. As our dear friend Jesse from the band Isadora once said on a very similar tour we curated; “They stepped away from their instruments and the music keeps playing, thats just fucking karaoke.”

Rule #3 – If a bill of Austin bands are playing Columbus you should go, even if you’ve never heard of them. But because you’re probably only used to attending the CD 102.5 “independent” promoted shows that ONLY feature major label bands, we’re going to break down the lineup.

Shakey Graves – We’re not going to bullshit you, we’re here for Shakey Graves. Down at SXSW this year he was on the tip of many a local musician tongue. While his style of music may be incorrectly perceived as simple or lets say his method of percussion may be confused with that Mumford guy and his kids, its his guitar tones that are driving us mad. Despite a message to him, his “publicist” and sending along the below video to some of our favorite guitarists we’re still unsure what exactly is going on. So, instead of trying to figure it out now, we’ll see him and you tomorrow.

Marmalakes – We’ve known these gentlemen for a few years now and they are PROUD alumni of our SXSW showcases. Definitely not as folk as their touring counterparts with music and harmonies destined for mainstream appeal, Marmalakes as an opener is something only Wild Child and Shakey Graves on the same bill could justify.

Wild Child – This is a new band to us, featuring some familiar faces. Lets see, how do we describe Wild Child? Ummm… awesome!

Jun 19, 2013

Wexner Center for the Arts brings lineup of the summer to The LC

This past Saturday, the Wexner Center for the Arts curated what RethinkPopMusic is calling the most impressive lineup of the Columbus concert season, thus far of course.  Appropriately, this Father’s Day Eve lineup epitomized pioneering musical influences the likes of (insert critically acclaimed band from the late 60s) without ever sounding derivative.

The National, Local Natives, Mount Moriah @ LC Pavillion, 6/15/2013

At the risk of sounding cliche, the biggest surprise and delight of the evening was South Carolina band Mount Moriah.

The band launched into its early set with an earnest energy that never ebbed, the core of which undoubtably is vocalist and guitarist Heather McEntire.

The National, Local Natives, Mount Moriah @ LC Pavillion, 6/15/2013

The influences here are unmistakable. McEntire’s delivery blends a southern drawl with a little rock bite; a little Dar Williams, a little Patty Smith. Even as the opener for the opener of the show, Mount Moriah had no problem energizing the LC crowd. By the end of the set, casual onlookers were true believers.

As Local Natives took the stage, so the influences behind the music changed. Edginess gave way to ambience, and influences turned more sublime. Soon the LC was awash in Brian Wilson vocal textures and rich atmospheric guitar and keyboard sounds.

The National, Local Natives, Mount Moriah @ LC Pavillion, 6/15/2013

But the energy certainly remained. Local Natives’ live sound takes on a more driving persona than its somewhat banal radio counterpart. The performance was punchy, encased in swirling percussion and tempo changes. It was a great foundation for all of the signature sounds that Local Natives have crafted to near-perfection. These are not so much songs as miniature soundscapes, where hooks and riffs are nearly absent.

The National, Local Natives, Mount Moriah @ LC Pavillion, 6/15/2013

If there is one complaint to be made it’s that Local Natives might be victims of their own break with traditional songwriting. What they do well, they keep doing well, albeit it again and again and again.

By comparison, The National avoids this trap. The National primed the LC crowd by projecting a live feed from the green room onto the stage; dovetailing into a live stage show nothing short of psychodelic.

The National, Local Natives, Mount Moriah @ LC Pavillion, 6/15/2013

The National’s sound easily evokes shades of Bauhaus, The Fixx and Psychedelic Furs while fleshing out its own signature sound. Combining the sounds of seven band members while keeping the music clear and meticulous is an often insurmountable task especially in the massive open aired space of The LC.

The National, Local Natives, Mount Moriah @ LC Pavillion, 6/15/2013

The music was as rich and ambient as that of Local Natives, but never fell into the trap of monotony. There is, in addition to richness in texture, a richness in structure and the songwriting of Matt Berninger that defines them as a headliner… an influence that could serve the other bands on the bill quite well.

The National, Local Natives, Mount Moriah @ LC Pavillion, 6/15/2013

Apr 24, 2013

What I learned at SXSW… I’m too Bro to be a Hipster, yet too Hipster to be a Bro

2013 was my fifth consecutive year attending the music portion of the SXSW conference, however it was the first time that I was less concerned about the music and more focused on experiential marketing and branding. In the madness that was hosting three events for Ninkasi the following observations were first published over at Marketing Fun With Mike, but since SXSW is in the title you lonely music elitists may enjoy.

In the highly evolved digital data mining era, where frighteningly detailed information about any individual is readily available, how does a company fail to reach target consumers? Despite clever messages, multi-platform advertising and unprecedented incentive programs (Axe is offering a trip to space) there may be an emerging demographic slipping through the cracks.

In addition to the mass consumer, marketers need “tastemakers” and “influencers” within each demographic that actually have enough disposable income to purchase their product. The ideal tastemaker has a large social network and willingness to advocate the products they like. And when you look at the marketing campaigns aimed at the educated, unmarried, semi-professional “Man-Boy” demographic you are pretty much relegated to two subsets: The Hipster and The Bro.

Do I really think either of these demographics exist? Would anyone actually self-identify as a Hipster? A Bro? Irrelevant. Do I constantly feel as if advertisers are forcing me to be one or the other? Absolutely!

Though I admit I am of the “Man-Boy” demo, I feel myself, like many others are too Bro to be a Hipster and too Hipster to be a Bro.

Fortunately, I can’t take credit for the Hipster/Bro paradigm and will never have to explain if I’m being serious or ironic. The phrase actually came from a conversation I had with a member of Rare Monk after a performance at a client event in Austin during SXSW.

As legend has it, the phrase was on a sticker in a bathroom of a venue in their hometown of Portland, OR. And while I can’t verify it’s actual existence at this point, they, like myself, begrudgingly self-identified.

Who am I? Well, I take pride in my knowledge of indie music and most things relevant, but I’m not a judgmental “artist” of the trend chasing variety. Additionally, I enjoy competitive sports, but you won’t find me wearing a skull embroidered t-shirt pounding Jager shots while cheering on a UFC fight at Hooters. I’m lucky enough to work in a creative field but it’s not necessarily a lifestyle. I’m an inbetweener who marketers may be trying to reach, but if so, they’re doing it all wrong.

Take this K-Mart commercial for example:

The commercial is genuinely funny and I’ve only seen it advertised on Facebook. However the characters in the commercial are definitely older than the daily Facebook user who would enjoy it most. Not to mention K-Mart’s merchandise is hardly appealing to someone used to paying $25 for an Homage t-shirt.

And what about the random Little Caesar’s commercials?

Once again brilliant, successfully airing on television during sporting events, but people who find humor in the absurd are generally conscious of where their food is sourced. Sorry LC, but imitation cheese on cardboard is hardly edible, let alone organic.

The messages and platforms appear correct, so maybe it’s the products that are wrong.

How do I decide where to shop and eat? As a mass consumer, my decision making process involves a consultation with my socially, politically and environmentally semi-consciousness, although admittedly vainglorious. The actual vetting process is usually by the referral of friends without day jobs… a combination of the bar employed, self-employed and unemployed.

These friends get to stay out late, sleep in late and spend hours each day reading blogs and trolling social networking sites. Unfortunately for me, I’m getting older, spending more time focused on my career and as a result slowly losing touch with said friends. And while I realize that I can no longer keep up, I’m not giving up my Man-Boy status and I’ll be damned if I get duped into eating Little Caesars or shopping at K-Mart.

What’s the remedy? I don’t have a panacea, but I’d start by using the plethora of digital analytic tools to properly get to know both the current and target consumer equally. If you’re going to launch a campaign aimed at the Hipster/Bro demo, focus on what current and target consumers have in common and avoid pitting them against each other. Always start with a new or struggling product line rather than the entire brand. In this age of virality, the creative concept of the campaign itself can overshadow the message or even your entire brand. Not involving your brand will make distancing yourself from the hype machine or a bad decision more seamless. And just like the Hipsters and Bros themselves, stop being too cool for your own good.

Apr 22, 2013

Son Step to play Rumba Cafe this Saturday

We received an email from the band Son Step last week kindly asking us if we would mention their show on our blog. So here it is…

Son Step describe themselves as an “indie/electro/experimental” group from Philadelphia. After a quick listen we can say that the intricacy of the guitar play is appealing and the experimental setup definitely adds to the progressive nature of the music.

Here’s a live performance:

We’ve yet to see these guys live so we can’t necessarily vouch, but if you want to see Son Step live they will be playing at Rumba Cafe on Saturday night.

More about the band:

Son Step is a unique collaborative effort featuring four active forces in Philadelphia’s original music scene. Hungry for exploration, the band’s members (Pat Lamborn, Matt Scarano, and twin brothers Jon and Chris Coyle) are apt to mix up both instrumentation and individual roles. Live performances often feature a communal sharing of vocal duties, and are spattered with quirky, intoxicating sounds made on guitar, synthesizer, samplers, bass and drums. This is characteristic of the band’s first EP Spooky Tooth (2011), as well as their debut full length Here Comes Dreamboat (2012), a kaleidoscope recording that effortlessly combines many elements. Dense layers of percussion and off-kilter rhythms often give way to moments of intricate composition and heartfelt lyricism. Colorful harmonies and oddly addictive grooves rise to the surface without notice. And while the band touches upon an array of influences- ambient, post-punk, world music, and beyond- they also create something urgent and distinctly original, something that should be heard by listeners and audiences seeking a new kind of music.

Apr 10, 2013

Cold War Kids: Don’t take the keys from the DD

The first time I saw Cold War Kids was in the spring of 2006 at Pianos in New York. As they started their set with “Quiet Please” — less of a song and more of a concert etiquette set of instructions comparable to that of an airline — I was instantly hooked. Unfortunately last night was hardly the same experience and I should have known better from my pre-concert crowd observations.

Indeed Cold War Kids sold out The Newport Music Hall, which just so happens to be my venue of choice as far as PromoWest is concerned. However, I felt things were awry watching the crowd ecstatically cheer when each muddled pre-show song would end, thinking the band was about to take the stage. While I’ll admit none of the songs transitioned into the next, the fact that the lights never dimmed should have quelled the applause. And not to sound like a snarky asshole, I realize everyone has to start their live music journey somewhere, but the sheer number of people who were completely clueless was perplexing.

Calm down folks the techs are still on the stage…

Cold War Kids, Newport Music Hall, April 9, 2013

Needless to say once the Cold War Kids did take the stage, they certainly didn’t start with Quiet Please. Instead they proclaimed “We’re going to play a bunch of new songs” which was met with the same rabid cheers. They then proceeded to laying into a number of unrecognizable tracks which lacked the musical prowess I have grown to expect from such talented musicians. Please note that I am not the type to start disliking a band as they get popular, just look at the name of this blog. Even my favorite Cold War Kids song is “Golden Gate Jumpers” which isn’t some rarity or b-side, instead the most structured track off their second album Loyalty to Loyalty.

Cold War Kids, Newport Music Hall, April 9, 2013

As I recall, Cold War Kids had a free jazz style of percussion who’s lack of structure was only out anarchisted by Nathan’s janky keys. Not only was this unmistakable sound nowhere to be found from the jump, but Nathan didn’t even touch an instrument until, maybe the third song? While this is probably a direct result of the addition of a fifth member it also became quite obvious the band has a new focal point: Nathan’s voice.

Cold War Kids, Newport Music Hall, April 9, 2013

The newly formed rhythm section is indeed tighter and the strategy behind the more palatable sound will expand the Cold War Kids fanbase. Unfortunately it will also alienate those who actually like the chaos. But its all understandable as after the third album its about the bottom line not necessarily the artistic process.

Nevertheless and at risk of sounding like the stereotypical aging scenester, Cold War Kids should know better than to include one of their most brilliant songs (We Used to Vacation) in an encore and skip an entire guitar solo. Then again, if you’re trying to make all the songs sound alike you’ve got to omit the elements that made them unique.

Cold War Kids, Newport Music Hall, April 9, 2013

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