Thursday, March 29, 2012

Better late than never, A South by Southwest photo journal


This mural on Sixth Street should say "self-proclaimed Live Music Capital of the World", but whatever, we love you anyway. Love the little buttons on the top there of Stevie Ray Vaughn, Willie Nelson, Janis Joplin (who spent like a year in Austin, but shhh), Townes Van Zandt and Roky Erickson.


I was super excited to catch a Planned Parenthood Rally right next to the Texas Capitol building (I LOVE that building so much). Texas-born President of PP Cecile Richards made it out for this rally, along with powerhouse Congresswoman Dawnna Dukes. There were performances by Marcia Ball, Carolyn Wonderland, Jimmie and Dale Gilmore.

Pro-lifer Rick Perry has shut down dozens of Planned Parenthoods in Texas, saying "no" to federal money. There were protesters across 11th St., one male high schooler had a sign that said "Don't' believe their lies". It broke my heart a little bit.

And on that note, this is a random sign I liked a lot.


At one point while walking down Sixth Street late at night, I thought to myself "there really is a distinct smell to this place that I would recognize anywhere". It's sausage, mixed in with sweaty people and beer. Tasty, right? I've eaten at BestWurst a few times in my years in Austin. That stuff is good at 2am. Smells like freedom. Tastes like Texas.


Yes, that is a guitar squid costume. I think someone off camera is climbing a tree.

I went to a Family Friendly show at an Organic Farm with ducks and chickens and saw Mother Falcon (again), and Japanese comic action punk band Peelander-Z. What Awesome fun NUTTY NUTTINESS!

My favorite song? WHY SO MANY MIKE? hahaha.



I did not take this photo, but you have to see these costumes.

And then there was my Okie Heights Hootenanny, which was a huge success. The bands had a great time, Elaine and Brian rented a bouncy house for the kids, all of the beer and milk was gone and we raised $500 in tips for the bands. It was great.

The Family Crest rocks the house... uh yard, as always. (See the yellow bulldozer behind them, yeah, it had just knocked down a house the day before and was still working that morning, but it quieted down before the bands started to play.)

This photo comes from Mashable of Backwords from Brooklyn (yeah, my party made it to Mashable). The caption read:
"Slightly off the beaten path, we had one of our most relaxing, best shows this year. Front lawn, sun shining, beautiful trees and cactus all around and people just lounging out. Cans of Lone Star on ice in the turtle-shaped sandbox nearby."
So awesome. The Backwords folks were so nice.

Stroller parking lot. Love this.

The ADORABLE Bella Ruse from Minneapolis. She played the typewriter and had kazoo solos. That's Marcus in the back futzing with the speakers. He helped us book the bands and took care of the sound system. He's awesome and we thank him enormously.

Brooklyn based Miracles of Modern Science and the crowd in the front yard.

Miracles of Modern Science (or the "taped up F-holes") have the instrumentation of a folk or bluegrass band (fiddle, cello, mandolin, drums) but sound like a rock band. This band is super excellent.

Awesome puppets at a Rubblebucket show. This might have been one of my favorite new finds, imagine Flaming Lips zaniness, but with a horn section. And the lead singer lady doubles on baritone saxophone, which of course is super appealing to me.



Frontyard parties are fun. Too bad this one (Brooklyn County Cookout) was shut down by the Fire Marshall.

Man, I wish I took this photo of the Austin bluegrass band Whisky Shivers with a better camera. My cousin has been talking about them sing Hardly Strictly Bluegrass last year. Here's a pretty weird and awesome video from them.



That's it folks. Jamie's headed to New York City tomorrow morning at 7am. Gotta be up in 4.5 hours.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Gospel Brunch in Austin, Texas - my Masters Report


The Shields of Faith perform at Gospel Brunch - Stubbs in Austin, Texas

In 2006, I wrote a 100 page book in partial fulfillment of my Master's Degree in Ethnomusicology (the anthropology of music) about Gospel Brunch in Austin, Texas. It's called "If Church was like this, I'd go Every Sunday". For the last five years, it's been sitting in the University of Texas at Austin's library on a CD (they didn't even make me print it).

About a month ago, I was finally inspired to actually print the thing out. I made two copies: one for me and one for the Austin Public Library. On my visit to Austin, I saw the record, it's officially in the system!

I've also posted it for download if you were so inclined.


My Masters report on official record at the Austin Public Library

Why Gospel Brunch? Every House of Blues across the country has an brunch buffet and gospel show every Sunday morning. And other than a couple other venues (like the Cotton Club in New York) the House of Blues is about it... except in Austin, where there are three every weekend.

Maria's Taco Express Hippie Gospel Church in South Austin

The research for this paper was really fun, every Sunday morning I would head down to one of three spots: Stubb's, Threadgill's (the South Austin location) or Maria's Taco Xpress (the old location). This little Jewish girl would settle into some good food, booze (sometimes) and music about Jesus.

The three venues couldn't be more different. As you can see from the photos, Maria's is full of wonderful dancing hippies and the bands are mostly non-religious bands singing Bob Dylan tunes, traditionals and spiritually themed original songs. Stubb's is more likely to hire Evangelical bands coming from the Salvation Army. Threadgill's was somewhere in the middle. It was fun to compare and contrast the venues.

The Shields of Faith perform at Gospel Brunch at Stubb's

One chapter is about the City of Austin, and why it has grown to be a cultural and liberal oasis in one of the most conservative states in the country. I even got to mention Janis Joplin's brief stint in Austin before she headed to San Francisco.


I wrote a chapter on the history of African American scared music outside of the church. One of the more interesting examples I discussed was how Northern abolitionists used African American spirituals for humanitarian purposes pre-civil war. From the Tuskegee University Choir to Ray Charles changing gospel tunes into secular ones, there is a pattern of African American sacred music being used outside sacred spaces for various purposes. Pairing the music with a brunch buffet on a Sunday morning is no exception.


LZ Love performs at Maria's Taco Xpress

One of the wonderful things about being an ethnomusicologist is talking to people. Through hours of interviews I found out why Austinites would come to these venues on Sunday mornings to listen to religious and sacred music, instead of being at church.


The youngest member of the Shields of Faith

I was curious as to why Evangelical musicians would leave the church and perform in secular venues for beer drinking heathens (my words!) and why non-Christains like myself are so drawn to this music.

One of the more interesting moments of my research was when an 80-year-old reverend told me in an indirect way, that as a non-believer, I was going to hell. But, and I really do say this in most sincere way, he meant it in the nicest way possible (as someone who I saw being genuinely concerned for my soul). It was at that point that the hour long interview ended and we went to a fish fry. It was a relief.


Rose, my favorite Hippie Church dancer at Maria's Taco Xpress.

Just last Sunday, I headed down to Threadgill's for Gospel Brunch. I'm glad to see Gospel Brunch at all three venues is still going strong, and six years later, many of the same bands are still in rotation. The food is good and the music is great. What else could you want on a Sunday morning?

Anyway, if you are at all interested in check out my report, you can download the pdf here, or get a hard copy from the Austin Public Library.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus & 'Wicked' composer Stephen Schwartz at Davies Symphony Hall

The Gay Men's Chorus fills most of Davies' Symphony Hall's Stage

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you'll know there there's nothing I love more than dozens of singing men in tuxedos. How about HUNDREDS of singing men in tuxedos? Yes please. And no, I don't care if they're all gay, they still sound and look amazing.

I'm pretty excited that I can be at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas (more posts on that to come, sorry to have slacked) and the day that I get back, I get to see the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus perform the program "Enchantingly Wicked" in Davies Hall WITH Stephen Schwartz, composer of Godspell and Wicked. Seriously, I'm pretty lucky.

The SFGMC was joined by San Jose's mixed chorus Choral Project (you can see them in the center dressed in black in the photo above), which added a some female energy to the program. A highlight was "For Good" from Wicked, a song about friendship and how good people can change your life, solos by Kristina Nakagawa and Ariel Buck.

I cried about twelve times the whole evening.

The combination of the timbre of that many male voices with the cute choreography and the uplifting and inspiring thematic material that characterizes Stephen Schwartz's work, kept my eyes damp for most of the performance.

I had never drawn the connection that the same brilliant mind created Godspell, Wicked and the song "Colors of the Rainbow" from Pocahontas. After hearing everything all together in one program, Schwartz's voice comes through loud and clear. His thematic material is positive, uplifting and the melodies are soaring, wonderfully poppy and fun to sing.

And, the dude can perform. He played several songs, just his voice and a piano. One of the cuter tunes about finding love in a big city: "Everyone wants to be in love, just not with anyone they know." How true!

The SF Gay Men's Chorus records "Testimony" at Sky Walker Ranch

And then there was world premiere of "Testimony", commissioned by the SFGMC, composed by Schwartz in collaboration with Dan Savage and the "It Gets Better Project" based on the words from LGBT video participants and their struggle in finding hope while living in fear.

OH. MY. GOD. There wasn't a dry eye in the Hall.

"You will change lives" said SFGMC Artistic Director and Conductor Timothy Seelig of the choruses performance, quoting I think Schwartz himself.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mother Falcon at the Scottish Rite Theater - SxSW report #1

Mother Falcon (playing a previous show at Mohawk)

Just got into Austin yesterday morning, and last night I found myself with members of the Family Crest at the Scottish Rite Theater to see indie rock orchestra Mother Falcon.

Mother Falcon consists of dozens of members, with an ever rotating cast of musicians. Their music is something between the twee Sufjan Stevens and the exuberance of the Polyphonic Spree.

In an interesting converging of worlds, my friend Emily Marks who started the Austin Girls Rock Camp, now works as the Executive and Artistic Director of the Austin Scottish Rite Theater. It's the oldest theater in Austin, and with constellations painted on the ceiling and classy old school lounges encircling the theater space, it's gorgeous.

Take the visual tour here, link on lower left

Emily was hired on to bring new life into the theater, bringing in folks like Mother Falcon and Of Montreal. A year ago, after telling her about the Family Crest, she turned me onto Mother Falcon as a good pairing of bands.

First getting together as most high school kids, the age range is somewhere in the vicinity of 17-25. Members have ventured to other cities and come home for spring break to play. What's funny is that they, like the Family Crest, wear mostly black with highlights of red.




Issue #4: Sanctuary - Mother Falcon from Daniel Fabelo on Vimeo.

P.S. Already had Torchy's Tacos and some beers at Casino el Camino. It's going to be a fun week, and technically, the music portion of the festival hasn't even started yet.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Update: a house show at my parent's and a South by Southwest back yard party


If you're going to be in Austin next weekend, you are invited!

Last Friday, my parent's hosted The Family Crest in their living room to around 50 people. It was a total blast.

Leah Paul, my talented friend who has recently relocated to Los Angeles, joined the extended family and played a on a couple tunes (with only a 10 minute rehearsal). Fun, good music, conversation, cheese and brownies were had by all. Even my 92-year-old grandmother enjoyed herself!

Not only does The Family Crest make good, crowd-pleasing music, they're super nice, respectful, helpful people as well. We're going to be working together again at a South by Southwest backyard party in Austin on March 17th 1-6pm. After the success of the parties I helped organize last year, we're going to do it again! This time with a whole line-up of bands coming to Austin from Copenhagen to Minneapolis.

Email me at alwaysmoretohear[at]gmail.com if you'd like more info (invite and lineup above)!


Here's a video my friend Armin took of The Family Crest's new song "As Move Forward" (good for an Obama re-elect campaign, no?)