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SXSW Dispatch: Staying put and slamming around to Against Me!, The Front Bottoms and Placeholder at Brooklyn Vegan’s showcase

Against Me! | Photo by John Vettese
Against Me! | Photo by John Vettese

Part of the appeal of the annual South By Southwest festival is no doubt wandering from venue to venue in downtown Austin, catching bits of sets by dozens of new bands, seeing where the music and the crowd may lead you.

But there’s something to be said for finding a venue – or party, or showcase, or whatever – with a lineup that’s solid through and through, and just parking yourself there for the night. For me, Brooklyn Vegan’s show at the Red 7 Patio last night was just that. The headlining set by Florida’s Against Me! would have been enough to draw me in – their new rager Transgender Dysphoria Blues is already one of the year’s best, and they were at the top of my bands-to-see list – but they shared the bill with a enticing set of their (mostly) punk scene peers, from Lancaster screamers Placeholder to Jersey popsters The Front Bottoms. And, for the most part, all the acts delivered.

California comedian / musical Harvey Sid Fisher got the night to a light start with a set that was briefly fun and mercifully brief. His shtick is pretty one-note – he’s old, and he’s raunchy, and he sings about raunchy old guy things, and yeah. It’s the kind of humor that wears thin quickly, and while he had the modest crowd chuckling at first (many were still queued up in the alley behind the venue), he wrapped it up as their attention began to wane.

Placeholder | Photo by John Vettese
Placeholder | Photo by John Vettese

In contrast, Placeholder followed with a full-throttle set that was too brief. These guys might not have the most accessible sound (if you’ve got an aversion to growly vocals, they aren’t for you) but their energy and chemistry are undeniable, and captivating to watch. Frontman Brandon Gepfer is a very physical performer, flinging himself around the stage, into the speakers and his bandmates who reciprocated right back. He told the crowd that they’re used to playing “basements with like ten people,” so this was the biggest gathering they’d played for on tour. Would have been awesome had they played for a little longer, though, since the patio was just filling up when they left the stage, setting the room up for Gainesville’s Frameworks and their melodic spin on late 90s hardcore (a la At The Drive-In, Boy Sets Fire).

Cheap Girls from Lansing, Michigan was the only real disappointing set of the night – their songs are tremendously hooky power pop earworms akin to early Replacements jams, but their stage presence is nil; singer Ian Graham stands at the mic with his eyes closed, Adam Aymor riffs on guitar with his head buried in his hair, and the crowd predictably bobs their heads while checking Twitter on their phones.

The Front Bottoms, on the other hand, are pure interaction – sing/screamalongs, hi-fives, someone buying singer-guitarist Brian Sella a Guinness and daring him to chug it. The audience packed in towards the front of the stage, and became a mass of pushing, shoving, smiling bodies by the time “Twin-Size Mattress” rolled around Amusing aside: a dude in the crowd who books shows in Orlando talked before their set about how he’d never seen or heard of them, but everybody told him they were great. I concurred, and he countered “But they’re acoustic, though?” “Well, he plays an acoustic guitar,” I explained. “But they’re pretty badass.” “Um, I’ll take your word for it,” he replied.

I guess “badass” is relative, considering he might have been there to see brutal hardcore outfit Touche Amore, who absolutely pummeled the stage with their performance that followed – think the physicality of Placeholder, amped up about five times. Think of the sense of tension and catharsis of Converge, Paint it Black or Pissed Jeans. Again, not a sound for everybody, but holy cow what a spectacle to watch.

Against Me! | Photo by John Vettese

Wrapping the night around 1 a.m. was Against Me!, playing an hour-plus set highlighting the new LP and digging back through the band’s catalog for sure-fire crowd-pleasers like the title track of 2007′s New Wave and the singalong “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” from 2010′s White Crosses. The crowd that had begun to dwindle slightly – it was a super chilly night for an outdoor show – but the people who stayed were massive enthusiasts on par with the devotion The Front Bottoms and Touche Amore saw, slamming and swaying and screaming along.

Since singer-guitarist Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012, the band kind of went into reset mode: as she said in Spin interview back in January, the path to the new album almost destroyed Against Me!, but with the enlistment of new players and perhaps her tightest collection of songs – the album is simultaneously anthemic, provocative, insightful and massively catchy – the band persevered. The patio was a smaller space than Against Me! has probably performed at in a long while, but if the reception the band saw – and the energy it brought to the stage - is any indication, it will prove to be a rare occurrence. Check out photo highlights and a full-show gallery below. Continue reading →

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Orlando emo four-piece You Blew It! brings Keep Doing What You’re Doing to The Fire 2/9

You Blew It! | via Facebook

Orlando, Florida emo / punk group You Blew It! recently announced their second full length album Keep Doing What You’re Doing will be released January 14th via Topshelf Records. In recent weeks, the band released two songs off the upcoming album, “Award of the Year Award,” and “House Address,” both which you can stream below. Each song is seemingly more mature than what we heard on their debut album Grow Up, Dude, and “House Address” particularly has awesome guitar riffs and truly heartfelt vocals. In addition to the improved song writing quality, the band had the help of producer Evan Weiss (Into it. Over it.) in the making of the record.

You Blew It! joins The Front Bottoms on a full US tour, which stops in Bethlehem at the Blast Furnace Room on 1/31. After that tour, You Blew It! is staying on the road and plays The Fire on 2/9. Pre order Keep Doing What You’re Doing hereGet tickets to the You Blew It! show in Bethlehem with The Front Bottoms here, and get tickets to stacked show at The Fire with Prawn, Marietta, and Smoother here.

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Tonight’s Concert Picks: Macy Gray at World Cafe Live, Delco Pacers at MilkBoy, Astronauts Really Fly at The Blockley, and more

Photo by Jan Prunk
Photo by Jan Prunk

Ohio bred R&B artist and actress Macy Gray brings her unique vocals and whimsical musical sense to World Cafe Live tonight for the 14th anniversary of her 1999 release On How Life Is. Gray has released six album in the years since then, most recently appearing in 2012 with a full-album cover of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book. Find tickets for tonight’s show here. Watch her Jay Leno performance of Stevie’s “Tuesday Heartbreak.”

Continue reading →

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Watch The Front Bottoms’ NPR Tiny Desk Concert (playing World Cafe Live 11/14 and Chameleon Club 11/16)

The Front Bottoms | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
The Front Bottoms | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

In August, NPR hosted witty indie-rockers The Front Bottoms as part of their Tiny Desk Concert series which you can watch below. With conversational (and sarcastic) overtones, the band knows how to tell good stories that make for catchy and amusing songs. The New Jersey natives released their fourth studio album, Talon of the Hawk, earlier this year. The band is currently on the road with Manchester Orchestra and will make two stops in the Philadelphia area: November 14th at World Cafe Live in Wilmington, DE (tickets here) and November 16th at Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA (tickets here).

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Watch The Front Bottoms perform “Au Revoir” for AltarTV

The Front Bottoms | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
The Front Bottoms | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

The Front Bottoms released their fourth album Talon of the Hawk this past spring, and have been getting a good amount of attention for their unique style of indie punk. They have been praised for their creative lyrics and unconventional songwriting, which have placed them on tours with the likes of Manchester Orchestra. After touring Europe and Canada, they will be stopping in Wilmington, DE at World Café Live on 11/14 and Lancaster, PA at the Chameleon Club on 11/16. Below, watch an acoustic version of “Au Revoir” from Talon of the Hawk.

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9 live collaborations we hope will happen at Made in America

collabs

Ahh, music festivals. There are so many reasons to <3 live festivals, from the constant performances all around you, to stumbling upon your new favorite groups, to the energy and vibes of everybody else, excited to be outside, watching their favorite bands.

Yet music festivals aren’t just great places to catch sets—they’re also unique breeding grounds that allow myriad artists, who might not necessarily perform together otherwise, to come together, spurring new or unique collaborations. From Bob Dylan joining Joan Baez at the 1963 Newport Folk Festival—to Bon Iver joining Kanye more recently at Coachella—we love being surprised by artists not afraid to try something new. In honor of the Made in America festival hitting town this weekend—here are 9 dream collaborations we’ve love to see live—and a rough guess at the probability of each. Continue reading →

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Recap: The Front Bottoms threw a crazy party at World Cafe Live

The Front Bottoms | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo
The Front Bottoms | Photo by Rachel Del Sordo

To my knowledge, last night was the first time a wacky waving inflatable arm-flaling tube man was set off on the World Cafe Live. Leave it to Jersey dudes The Front Bottoms to take showmanship to a whole other level of goofy fun. One minute the crowd was bopping around the floor as the band kicked off their raucous tune “The Beers,” a second later a button onstage was hit and the tube man was raising the roof.

The Front Bottoms’ hour and fifteen minute set tore across selections from their awesome new Talon of the Hawk LP – “Au Revoir (Adios)” sounded fantastic, as did “I Swear to God The Devil Made Me Do It” and the single “Twin Sized Mattress” – and they dug nicely into their self-titled debut. Meanwhile, a sweaty, sold-out all ages crowd slam-danced around the World Cafe Live floor, and threw beach balls and glow bracelets around the room. It’s a rare that a show this amped up hits World Cafe Live, and it’s a treat every time.

Opening the night was Pogues-y Atlanta band The Wild, whose set was entertaining, if a tad bit samey. Singers Dianna Settles and Witt Wisebram put their priority on energy over vocals, meaning they were off-key a lot. But the band was loud enough that it covered it up most of the time.

Philly’s Cold Fronts kicked off the show, and had some technical difficulties to contend with – singer / guitarist Craig Almquist’s amp cut out repeatedly at the beginning of the set – but the tight crew of drummer Al Smith, guitarist Chris Baglivo and DRGN King’s Dominic Angelella sitting in on bass soldiered through some Neu 75-style jams while Almquist fixed his gear, keeping everyone engaged and entertained. And when stuff was back in working order and the band launched into a jam like “Sum Girls” or “Strange Architecture,” the crowd roared with approval. Check out photos from the show below.