Operation Every Band

The Black Cadillacs – “Run Run” (live)

 

Pairs Well With…JJ Grey & Mofro, The Sheepdogs, The Revivalists

 

While The Black Cadillacs aren’t going to wow with experimental dissentions, this Knoxville unit plays some damn killer blues-rock music.  There’s definitely a jam nature in their tone, so surely their live sets pop more than on record (I hooked up a live track here), a good sign for The Black Cadillacs’ future.  Their latest is 2012’s Run, a mix of barn-storming rock and quieter alt country material, a well-rounded representation of this tellingly tight outfit.  While this all sounds like a group of rootsy traditionalists, The Black Cadillacs’ songwriting takes as much from modern and indie rock as the porch-picking of the past.  This amount of pure power without the feedback turned to ten is impressive, making The Black Cadillacs ones to keep an eye on through 2014.

Born Cages – “Don’t Look Back”

 

Pairs Well With…OK Go, Death Cab For Cutie, The Mowgli’s

 

If there’s one thing that Born Cages is able to prove right off the bat on their debut The Sidelines EP is a sharp knack for pop hook.  This is power pop with eight capital Ps - riffs, licks and melodies that should all be delivered with a fist in the air.  While this is noticeably over the top at times, Born Cages is infectious.  “Don’t Look Back” is the marquee track, one that is aided by a little bit of fuzz to help counteract the uber-poppiness throughout the song.  “Caiti” and “Metaphor” are a bit cleaner and a little too forthright for these ears, but there are some sweet moments, especially in the latter’s chorus and balls-to-the-wall guitar solo.  These aren’t quite at a level where an eruption in their stature in happening in the next few days, they are damn close, making the upcoming promise of a full-length intriguing to hear what’s next from Born Cages.

Post-SXSW 2014 Spreadsheet 131
 
So here’s the deal – we didn’t quite finish in time.  Here at OEB, we aren’t quitters, so the spreadsheet goes on for some post-SXSW recommendations to carry us into our next exciting phase coming very, very soon!  Highlights:
 
Bob Schneider (9) - While there probably isn’t a Bob Schneider metal album in our future (oh, but how there should be), the songs throughout his entire catalog, including 2013’s Burden Proof, seem to draw a consistent punch, even when the pace slows down introspectively.
The Black Cadillacs (7) - Their latest is 2012’s Run, a mix of barn-storming rock and quieter alt country material, a well-rounded representation of this tellingly tight outfit.  While this all sounds like a group of rootsy traditionalists, The Black Cadillacs’ songwriting takes as much from modern and indie rock as the porch-picking of the past.
Born Cages (7) - This is power pop with eight capital Ps - riffs, licks and melodies that should all be delivered with a fist in the air.  While this is noticeably over the top at times, Born Cages is infectious.
The Black Angels (6) – The Black Angels’ latest is Indigo Meadow, a thicker take on blues-rock than previous efforts.  The Austin band has hit just about every SXSW the past five years and it’s nice to see a continued evolution while holding on to those big-riff traditions The Black Angels are known for.
Bob Moses (6) – The production duo of Bob Moses roots their sound in trance beats and melodies, but they are able to transition that into dark pop, new wave songs, towing the line between dance and pop/rock music.  Their originals already have a sound that you would expect out of a remix, skipping the middleman into a solid mix of tracks on 2013’s Far From the Tree EP.
Bonzie (6) – Bonzie shows some strong potential throughout her dark folk debut Rift into the Secret of Things, a haunting record led by the under-twenty singer-songwriter’s introspective and complex vocals.  Be sure to stick around to the end of these tracks – Bonzie has a knack for loading dynamics into those last few seconds.
BettySoo (5) – BettySoo is a SXSW mainstay for the past four years, a sweetly voiced singer-songwriter with a quiet, straightforward nature.  Look for a bit of blues entrenched in BettySoo’s catalog, the place where she shines the brightest.
Bill Kirchen (5) – Rock and blues singer-songwriter Bill Kirchen is primarily highlighted by his guitar talent, steeped heavily in rockabilly traditions.  The veteran local’s 2013 Seeds and Stems holds up in it’s laid back charm, aided by a tenderly delivered Dylan cover.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (5) – Blackie and the Rodeo Kings have been at it a while, throwing back to traditional Americana from the mid-90s to this year’s offering South.  Their sound is laid back and acoustic in nature, an authentic tone that pulls from folk and pop songwriting forms.

Post-SXSW 2014 Spreadsheet 131

 

So here’s the deal – we didn’t quite finish in time.  Here at OEB, we aren’t quitters, so the spreadsheet goes on for some post-SXSW recommendations to carry us into our next exciting phase coming very, very soon!  Highlights:

 

Bob Schneider (9) - While there probably isn’t a Bob Schneider metal album in our future (oh, but how there should be), the songs throughout his entire catalog, including 2013’s Burden Proof, seem to draw a consistent punch, even when the pace slows down introspectively.

The Black Cadillacs (7) - Their latest is 2012’s Run, a mix of barn-storming rock and quieter alt country material, a well-rounded representation of this tellingly tight outfit.  While this all sounds like a group of rootsy traditionalists, The Black Cadillacs’ songwriting takes as much from modern and indie rock as the porch-picking of the past.

Born Cages (7) - This is power pop with eight capital Ps - riffs, licks and melodies that should all be delivered with a fist in the air.  While this is noticeably over the top at times, Born Cages is infectious.

The Black Angels (6) – The Black Angels’ latest is Indigo Meadow, a thicker take on blues-rock than previous efforts.  The Austin band has hit just about every SXSW the past five years and it’s nice to see a continued evolution while holding on to those big-riff traditions The Black Angels are known for.

Bob Moses (6) – The production duo of Bob Moses roots their sound in trance beats and melodies, but they are able to transition that into dark pop, new wave songs, towing the line between dance and pop/rock music.  Their originals already have a sound that you would expect out of a remix, skipping the middleman into a solid mix of tracks on 2013’s Far From the Tree EP.

Bonzie (6) – Bonzie shows some strong potential throughout her dark folk debut Rift into the Secret of Things, a haunting record led by the under-twenty singer-songwriter’s introspective and complex vocals.  Be sure to stick around to the end of these tracks – Bonzie has a knack for loading dynamics into those last few seconds.

BettySoo (5) – BettySoo is a SXSW mainstay for the past four years, a sweetly voiced singer-songwriter with a quiet, straightforward nature.  Look for a bit of blues entrenched in BettySoo’s catalog, the place where she shines the brightest.

Bill Kirchen (5) – Rock and blues singer-songwriter Bill Kirchen is primarily highlighted by his guitar talent, steeped heavily in rockabilly traditions.  The veteran local’s 2013 Seeds and Stems holds up in it’s laid back charm, aided by a tenderly delivered Dylan cover.

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings (5) – Blackie and the Rodeo Kings have been at it a while, throwing back to traditional Americana from the mid-90s to this year’s offering South.  Their sound is laid back and acoustic in nature, an authentic tone that pulls from folk and pop songwriting forms.

OEB SXSW Favorite Set – Sylvan Esso

 

Operation Every Band is taking this week to share thoughts on our 10 favorite SXSW sets chronologically.  Enjoy!

 

The mark of note for our favorite sets is what artists really stick with you through the following day, a tough feat following the first full day of SXSW Music.  It’s been three weeks, and I still have Sylvan Esso’s ultra-engaging set ringing through my brain.  The duo of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn cast some sort of musical spell Wednesday night at Holy Mountain, mashing genre traditions together into something strikingly unique.  While lead singles “Coffee” and “Hey Mami” present Sylvan Esso as down-tempo and experimental, they flipped expectations by pulsing intense energy off the stage.  That soft hip hop/R&B hook in “Coffee”? It hit like a banger instead of living in recorded ambience, pushed forward by the incredible frontwoman that is Amelia Meath.  Slithering across the front of stage in a manner equally casual and sensual, quirky and confident, Meath had insane star quality seldom seen in these types of experimental waters.  Musically, Sylvan Esso can be best categorized into indie R&B, but there’s some unique percussive influences that were first introduced in “Hey Mami”, another song that twisted live into a dark and piercing groove.  The rest of the set previewed the duo’s forthcoming debut (due this May), but Sylvan Esso closed out their SXSW showcase right where they started, taking on Sanborn’s reworked version of Mountain Man’s (Meath’s other musical outlet) “Play It Right” - the birth of this exciting new band ended up proving the perfect closer for a ten-out-of-ten performance.   

OEB SXSW Favorite Set – Zeale

 

Operation Every Band is taking this week to share thoughts on our 10 favorite SXSW sets chronologically.  Enjoy!

 

Sometimes an act forces their way onto your radar when you catch their live show. Probably the most surprising set of this year’s SXSW for the OEB crew was Austin rapper Zeale. What seemed like a one-off set in the middle of the solid Middle West/Paradigm indie rock showcase at Holy Mountain Wednesday night became one of the best hip hop acts we caught this year. Zeale stepped to the mic and instantly won the passive audience over with his high energy and polished delivery. He was able to connect with each member of the crowd, high-fiving the front of the crowd throughout his set and drawing in the back of the room with his clever one liners and word choices. His beats include a mash up of elements from indie rock, EDM, and thumping hip hop beats under solid smooth rapping. Standout tracks included “Memoriez” which pulled on heartstrings, bringing the crowd in close and the energy built from there with his building track “Iconical” and the energetic “Whomp!”. While the song titles from the rest of Zeale’s high energy set escape me, the presence he performed with and the strength of his writing stuck. Zeale did what every artist attempts to do at SXSW, he connected with and made a new fan. I look forward to hearing new music from the rising star and it’s cool to add another rapper to the list of favorite Texas rappers.

OEB SXSW Favorite Set – Jungle

 

Operation Every Band is taking this week to share thoughts on our 10 favorite SXSW sets chronologically.  Enjoy!

Our exploration of emerging artists continued on SXSW Wednesday at Red Eyed Fly with the unveiling of Jungle, a British pop-R&B band that is coming out swinging in 2014, even before a proper debut has been released.  While many new bands start out with an eclectic mix as they tread clean-slate ground with eyes open towards a foundational sound, Jungle knows exactly what they are doing from note one.  Songs like recent single “Busy Earnin”, a highlight of the early part of Jungle’s mid-afternoon set, were all groove, a thread that continued through the climatic closer “Platoon”, a track that transformed from a hypnotic haze on record to a commanding funk groove on stage.  The near-capacity crowd was in-the-know from the opening sample of “The Heat” – Jungle definitely had the air of a “SXSW Buzz Band” and the accolade is well deserved.  This is dance music that has an incredibly wide appeal, while still keeping a sense of artistry through experimental, electronic tones encapsulated within Jungle’s general air of mystery.  Even the wind-shields on the microphones acted as a barrier between artist and audience, allowing the music to be the sole connecting factor from front to back of house.  While a listen through Jungle’s limited catalog presents a stone-chill groove, Jungle’s emphatic energy on stage makes them ones to catch live at any chance in the coming year.

OEB SXSW Favorite Set – Moses Sumney

 

Operation Every Band is taking this week to share thoughts on our 10 favorite SXSW sets chronologically.  Enjoy!

 

Note: This video is taken from Moses Sumney’s Austin Convention Center set a few hours after the show we caught

 

It can go either way when you pair a quiet, introspective singer-songwriter with a rock & pop day party, but with emerging SXSW artist Moses Sumney at Red Eyed Fly Wednesday, the result was a quickly-hushed crowd that crept up closer to stage’s edge song-by-song – a ‘timeslot’ turned into a concert.  Sumney started his set just with minimal fingerpicking, allowing his rich tenor to become the musical focus at square one.  “Dwell in the Dark” and “Alchemy” established a foundation of sparse patience, reminiscent of a solo Jeff Buckley set in its combination of loose, yet complex melodies.  The midpoint of Moses Sumney’s early afternoon showcase shifted to more experimental tones through a cover of Majical Cloudz’ “Childhood’s End”, a left-field pick from a left-field artist.  By the closing “Everlasting Sigh”, Sumney had shifted into a rhythmic, looping scientist, incorporating percussive elements that went full-on Tune-Yards at a point.  As the crowd took over the handclap rhythms, Sumney built the energy of the fifty-odd crowd to a boil, climaxing a set that told a story front-to-back, a rare feat shortly past 1:00 on a Wednesday afternoon.  Sumney only has a few songs to peruse on Soundcloud, so get in early on what is an easy call for a breakout sometime in the near future.    

Get in Line Ahead of Me – A SXSW Editorial

By Kevin McStravick, Operation Every Band

Every year, the week after SXSW is one of sifting through articles and reviews, finding even more recommendations and confirming the special moments I was able to catch myself in the course of five days and nights in Austin.  In 2014 there seems to be a consistent theme as I move from site to site, piece to piece.  For every excited review of a life-affirming new discovery, there are tales of self-imposed misery from journalists and music industry heads overwhelmed by the whole SXSW experience.  For the latter, I have a few words to share.  In short – you are failing us.

Before expanding, it’s worth noting the multitude of industry and media folks that make SXSW what it truly is – an arena for new artist discovery in an intimate setting.  Whether it comes with tossing energy drinks from truck or placing a stage in a gigantic vending machine, there are companies and outlets that are footing the bill for tastemakers like myself to indulge in what is truly a music lover’s dream.  That term ‘tastemakers’ is purposefully applied loosely, covering veteran, respected journalists to the one guy in a group of friends that always has a band that you ‘have to hear’.  The only price we have to pay is to withstand viscous marketing in our peripheral vision on the way from stage to stage.  It’s the smallest price to pay and the eyes that can’t look past that, especially in what is essentially an aural experience, need to really keep perspective of the expected value of give and take.

This brings me around to the real point here – there are a lot of folks veering their heads out around SXSW that are frankly getting it completely wrong.  “It” being what music listeners care to read and hear, or even which artists are chosen to get big-time promotion treatment in the coming year.  Rather than being guided by passion for excellence, exhibiting the same traits you see coming off of so many stages during SXSW, it’s evident that this sense of drive, regardless the cost or barrier, has evaporated from the media and industry establishment.  It has spread elsewhere, however, dissipating into a wider web of influencers, but it doesn’t excuse the attitude coming down from the top.

The most egregious piece, the real inspiration for my written rage, comes from a ‘music’ journalist that chose to flaunt getting paid to write what is essentially a few paragraphs of whining rather than attend a grab-bag week of new artist discoveries on a series of small stages.  Vice’s publication of such an eye-rolling article is a curiosity upon itself, but Kathy Iandoli is certainly not alone in her viewpoint.  The most entertaining, yet inwardly crushing, examples of these gut-punches come from SXSWhine, a collection of complainers from all over the world descending upon Austin with head-scratching expectations, doing their ‘job’ by thumbing through the SXSW Guide with a complete lack of preparation.  At the same time, they are missing moments that are begging to be shared with listeners looking for something new, something challenging, something, well, good.

Luckily this is a limited population – most attendees at SXSW are all levels of awesome.  There are so many people that just care so much about what these artists have to say through their words and music.  It’s about having a good time, for sure, but SXSW is also taken relatively seriously by most of heads in front of the myriad of sounds happening at once throughout Austin.  They are the ones who fully embrace what it means to be part of this whole musical complex, even if it is just as a rep for a few friends with Facebook walls.  I was asked last week if I feel like I have a responsibility to my readers and social followers by recommending new artists while glossing over others.  After much thought, I want to embrace this responsibility rather than dismiss it as subjectivity, and hope that other journalists and music movers/shakers feel the same – a responsibility that comes hand in hand with a flaming passion for everything that makes new music an invaluable part of everyday of our lives.

Personally, SXSW is the nucleus my music world revolves around.  I work in the financial industry for my real-life job, but that didn’t sway me from picking up a mission a few years back to listen to all the bands on the SXSW roster.  That’s about 2,200, give or take, over the course of four months, but most of the heavy lifting comes from roster additions going all the way up to the week of the conference.  On a whim, I decided to capture this as a journal online, snowballing into Operation Every Band, a site dedicated to sharing SXSW recommendations to now over 35,000 Tumblr followers.  This commitment has turned into hours every evening from November to March, for which no company or publication pays me a dime.  My compensation comes from a wealth of new music discoveries every year followed by a chance to catch many of them live within city blocks of one another. 

While that seems fair enough for me, it apparently isn’t nearly enough for others.  It’s shocking to see the consistent surprise from industry and media folks alike when I speak to what I do.  I’m equally shocked, but in a different light completely.  I’m shocked that they don’t put in that same time and effort.  For those heads and influencers, I question if nearly enough is begin done to not just be ‘the best’ in terms of prestige and vocabulary, but the most valuable, the most helpful to people that just want to know about good music.

Every night of SXSW also follows a pattern, best seen in the sociological microcosm that is the SXSW Line.  It is a perfect example of where different segments of our music community seem to, well, stand.  Around 7:30 every night, a few lines start forming at most venues, many of which keep up well past midnight.  One line is for badges, folks who have either dished out some decent cash to get into the conference portion of SXSW or want to move towards the front of any of these segregated lines.  A majority of badges are sponsored, added on company dime to report back on what they see and hear or maybe set up some relationships for future projects.  If you have a badge, you have priority, clear as day.  Unfortunately, certain laws of mass and physics prevent venues to fill above capacity, a fact that seemed to befuddle so many that spent their time trying to peek into a show with a current chart-topper about to take a stage at the end of a dive bar.

I waited in line for no more than twenty minutes total any day of SXSW, seeing top choices in most of the time slots and checking out artists-of-interest in between.  Often a line would just cause me to shift to option two or three or ten.  I spend five months preparing, so I have a pretty decent plan.  In five days, my band count hit well above fifty, striking quality sets from noon until close from Tuesday through Saturday.  Most notably, I didn’t even have a badge.  So why was I capturing the next wave of indie and popular music while you were waiting in line or using your time to write about how much SXSW sucks now?  It’s because I cared more, plain and simple.  Every writer, listener and even the drunk guy stumbling back and forth to an open bar, got there before you.  That reflection of status versus passion plays itself out in true form outside every crowded bar in Austin that week.  Even more telling, social media outlets have pulled back the curtain that this isn’t merely a SXSW thing, it’s a reflection of what is happening in the music industry as a whole.

Kathy Iandoli’s piece takes this unaware portrait of self-diminishment to a new level of transparency.  She uses the term ‘bloggers’ as a derogatory descriptor, blaming this new wave of entrepreneurial spirits and self-guided writers for tarnishing something that was apparently so pure.  The truth is that Iandoli, and the many industry veterans that follow her line of reasoning, are just revealing how lazy and formulaic they have all gotten.  Why were you not in line ahead of me?  Why, as a paid journalist or industry rep, do you care less than I do, just a guy who digs good music?  Hopefully journalists have already reflected on Ted Gioia’s excellent reflection for The Daily Beast, which in essence makes the same argument, but from more of angle lifestyle reporting versus descriptive and helpful music writing.  For SXSW, there are journalists who actually came back reporting primarily about the lines and the scene rather than the breakout artists that have their heads spinning and will jump into 2014 playlists across the web and waves.  Question for you - do you even like new music anymore?

This attitudinal plague stretches well beyond the written word.  I spent the weeks leading up to SXSW complimenting my daily new artist discoveries with a rare foray into modern pop radio.  It was a mission without a clear purpose, but there was so much to learn from soaking in a world that I’m normally able to avoid given the unlimited musical channels lying in my pocket at all times.  While there were some pleasant gems on the first couple days, a wall was quickly reached realizing how little songs had been in a repeatable rotation, and this was across six different channels.  Is this all you have to offer?  There were zero stretches into the unknown and then oversaturation of anything that has caught the masses as something great over the last year.  While it was nice to see how a Great Big World ballad can be paired with the power pop of Bastille with ease, why not just take things one step further?  SXSW is a perfect example of the open-arms attitude of music fans in 2014, from the insane variety of music presented, many times within the same party or showcase, even stretching to Lady Gaga’s artist-centric messaging of empowerment during her keynote address.  Hell, even the artists that are mainstream mainstays are willing to take risks (Beyonce and Kanye both come top-of-mind for their recent explorations), but there’s an ever-present force that for some reason thinks that safe works and a marketing department that hasn’t changed it’s mold in the last twenty five years, except to add a hashtag in front of everything.  What data are you guys looking at driving these decisions or is that you really just don’t care anymore?

My trip into Radio Land has ceased and it was a pretty easy divorce.  There are so many places to turn for new music and somehow a programming language in Spotify is educating me more than the people that should be experts.  They should be better than Spotify.  They should be better than me.  It’s that education piece that has been lost and that’s the real responsibility I was asked about earlier, that same responsibility we all should hold as a privilege.  Listeners are turning to bloggers and friends to get their education, but they still look in some degree to a popular establishment and they always will.  Get beyond the lifestyle, gossip and marketing gimmicks and let’s talk some music.  There is a wealth of artists that could catch hold with a larger audience and there’s a looming opportunity to give them a chance.  Just see what sticks and you’ll have your ‘hits’.  Writers, programmers and industry alike, it’s time to pony up and get in line before us.  Listen to music, see music and believe in the dream that you can see within grasps of so many guitars, keyboards and microphones across SXSW.

The week after SXSW is full of stories, so I’ll end with one of my own.  I spent the bulk of my Saturday at one venue, a yellow and orange haven just a few yards from the site of unimaginable tragedy only days before.  I picked The Wild Honey Pie and Pretty Much Amazing’s day party, aptly titled The Beehive, based purely on research, knowing I could catch eight bands that were on my radar in the space of an afternoon.  A rainy entrance delayed things a bit, but looking up at the drops allowed me to take in a venue that had been transformed into festival with creative and comforting design.  Paper and plastic cups turned a bar into a celebration, like a birthday party with a big gang of friends.  In fact, Cheer Up Charlie’s was one of the few venues I saw decorated at all during SXSW and it was that little touch that made me put my schedule away and know that I wanted to spend my day at The Beehive.

Hours of enticing music and kind spirits followed, ending with a packed house for a de facto headlining set from recent indie breakout Kishi Bashi.  The loose vibe in the crowd laid a great stage for Kishi Bashi to turn out an incredibly creative and energetic set, a true celebration in the waning hours of SXSW.  The talented frontman paused the music for a brief moment halfway through to acknowledge the man who was throwing down enthusiastically at side stage, waving to the crowd as if he was receiving a tribute, a gift given back from a band and audience that obviously had much meaning to him.  Kishi Bashi shared a story of his first entry to SXSW two years back, heading to Austin in spite of not being one of the artists making the cut for the official SXSW roster.  One party curator gave Kishi Bashi a chance on his unofficial showcase’s lineup that year based purely on what he heard, like one of the many tastemakers like I spoke of earlier, just choosing one of his favorite new sounds.  Eric Weiner, the leader of The Wild Honey Pie, took in the applause that turned towards him, a recognition for someone who obviously put his heart and soul into this party and continuously through his corner of the internet. Passion was seen all over the backyard-style venue and as Eric danced, we danced with him.   This is what SXSW is to me, a moment that shows how close that connection can be between artist, tastemaker and audience, all in the same place at the same time if only for a few short days.  I for one am already ready to come back to Austin next year and for once, I hope there are some people ahead of me in line.  Hope you enjoy the show, there’s this other band I’ve heard of next door that someone told me I just had to hear.

Kishi Bashi’s violin and vocal loops of madness and majesty has a packed crowd locked completely in here at The Beehive. This is the band’s final set and its coming across as a triumphant encore.

I’m starting to get bands all mixed up - this is actually Pure Bathing Culture, a hypnotic pop band living in mid-tempo grooves.

Back to back sets from Oberhofer and Pure Bathing Culture continue this final SXSW afternoon with passion and energy.

Small Black bringing their electro-pop groove to the awesomely decorated Beehive.

Boy & Bear dropping a late SXSW highlight with a five-song, entrancing set of folk-based rock music.

Gossling plays to a tight crowd at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Sound nice, bright and full.

The Eastern Sea enter the Beehive after a brief rain delay. The larger than normal crowd is right there with them through their rock-oriented pop tunes.