Wednesday, March 26, 2008

BUZZ BANDS: David Ford is Converting the Masses One Live Show at a Time

How often is it that one sees a show that drops jaws while simultaneously calling into question the very nature of live music?

It's an odd question, I admit. But the moment you see David Ford perform, that awfully fuzzy question instantly crystalizes.

Photo by Kyle Dean Reinford at Flickr

Must a band play the instruments at all times in order for a performance to be considered "live"? Anyone who has ever seen a DJ or an electro-pop band will instantly answer, "no, there's playback, and it's totally legit." To them I say sure, sure, there's a place for playback in music today. But playing a canned recording is a far cry from being truly "live". And that's precisely why most bands don't like to draw much attention to their reliance on playback.

OK, so playback isn't precisely live. But what about looping?

Enter the maestro, David Ford. The Englishman's solo live performances are the stuff legends are made of. Witness the buzz building to a deafening pitch on blogs and ye olde print medium magazines. What sets Ford apart from the usual slate of solo singer-songwriters? He is a one-man-band -- a fully self-contained orchestra of sounds playing simultaneously, with only one dude on the stage.

How does he do it? He’s loopy.

As CafĂ© Eclectica explained so eloquently after catching last week’s Bowery Ballroom show, “Ford blew me away with his one-man looping band, where he would play a part of the song, record it in a loop, and continuously add to it.” With a number of instruments on hand to build out his orchestral montage, Ford loops to create lush, many-layered, moody atmospheres with his melancholy tunes. It’s an approach that he raises to an art form.

It also raises that tricky “what is live music” question. We’ve agreed playback isn’t live, even when it’s used in a live show. But in the case of David Ford’s loops, where he plays the part right there in front of you, you can witness for yourself that the first instance of the part was, indeed, live. And though it is played back repeatedly, it’s not playback. Dambit Gumby, it IS live.

And in David Ford’s deft hands, it’s electrifying. It’s unique. It’s what makes him stand apart from the Damien Rice and David Grey comparisons. It’s what enables him to stand apart from the lush backgrounds and refocuses our attention on his emotive vocal performance – the part he uses to really connect with an
audience. Most importantly, it makes converts out of all who witness the hitherto unheard of artist, and inspires them to spread the gospel.

Check out one of these upcoming shows and witness the loopiness yourself:

Mar 28 2008             8:00P            TOWN BALLROOM             BUFFALO - USA
Mar 29 2008             8:00P            ST ANDREW’S HALL             DETROIT - USA
Mar 31 2008             8:00P            MERCURY LOUNGE             NEW YORK - USA
Apr 15 2008             8:00P            HOTEL CAFE             LOS ANGELES - USA
Apr 16 2008             8:00P            HOUSE of BLUES             SAN DIEGO - USA
Apr 19 2008             8:00P            SINGS LIKE HELL             SANTA BARBARA - USA
Apr 22 2008             8:00P            Paradise *SOLD OUT* Boston, Massachusetts
Apr 23 2008             8:00P            Irving Plaza *SOLD OUT* New York, New York
Apr 24 2008             8:00P            TLA *SOLD OUT*             Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Apr 28 2008             8:00P            9:30 Club *SOLD OUT*             Washington DC, Washington DC
Apr 29 2008             8:00P            Neighborhood             Charlotte, North Carolina
Apr 30 2008             8:00P            Variety             Atlanta, Georgia

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

SCENE IN NY: Cut Copy Interview & Sold-Out Show at NY's Mercury Lounge

It was another pinch-me moment on Monday, when your very own TixGirl sat down with one of my favorite bands of the last several years - Australia's Cut Copy - just hours before their sold-out show at New York's Mercury Lounge.

Cut Copy @ DBA for TixGirl Interview
L to R: Cut Copy's Mitchell, Dan and Tim sit down for a beer with TixGirl at D.B.A. before the Mercury Lounge show

Here's what Mitchell, Dan and Tim had to say about their SxSW experience, breaking into the US market, and their sound on the (phenomenal!) new album, "In Ghost Colours," hitting the virtual shelves on April 8th.

So I understand you're here in NY fresh from SxSW. How was it?

Yeah it was good, it was a busy schedule. A lot busier than last time we were there. A lot more shows, a lot more press. We had a lot going because we have a new record coming out. A lot of Mexican food, as well. It was good, actually.

Cut Copy @ NY's Mercury Lounge 3/17/08
Tim @ The Mercury Lounge, New York, 3/17/08

I looked at our schedule once we got there, and we had no time to see any other bands. So we didn't even really look at who was playing. But we happened to catch about two bands. One of the shows was all suits. Yeah, it was a bit weird - very SxSW experience.

Were the shows down there the size venues you're used to playing?

Well I guess it was a bit more intimate, which is kinda good at times, I think. Yeah, I like that, it'sgood. And sometimes you do the big scene, too. I mean they catered it for us, anyway. (laughing)

SxSW isone of those events that's really geared towards breaking bands. And you know exactly what it's like, coming from Australia, to be trying to break into the American market. Have you had any challenges there?

Um, not so much, um, we found that a lot of people automatically knew a lot about us already. I guess because we already had a record out, and had toured around on a bus. So we had a bit of an advantage on the bands coming to the States for the first time. If anything it was just a really positive experience. We got some really good size crowds, and a lot of people said we were the best thing they'd seen at the whole event. So yeah, it was really positive. We hadn't released anything or toured in a while, so it was a good thing to get in front of some really key people - the tastemakers and industry people, and especially the real fans who will spread the word about our release when the new record comes out. And it was good for the band to play from the record.

Cut Copy @ NY's Mercury Lounge 3/17/08
Dan @ The Mercury Lounge, New York, 3/17/08

The new album is called "In Ghost Colours" and it's out April 8th. Congratulations on that, by the way. I love it - I was lucky enough to get an advance copy, and everyone I've played it for has been just amazed. I'm curious about the title...

With Cut Copy it has always been about the whole creation of our kind of music - past and present. Yeah and I guess it was kind of like that, like ghosts of the past.

Well musically, it harkens to your first album, to me. But it sounds like a bit of a departure from your EP. Were you trying to go in a different direction for the EP, "Lights & Music"?

Ah, well, the EP was more like kind of a single, really. At least in Australia. I think releasing it as an EP was more in America. But when you talk about the sound, it's really about the album that's just coming out. With this one, the album is a lot more realized than the first one. I think all of us, when we think of the first one, we agree we sort of got half way there. But on the new one we got a lot closer to the sort of sounds we're after. There are some different aspects to it - more layered, more dynamic, as well as some more loud, dance-y sections to it. And with the guitar there were many-layered sections as well. It got the real highs and lows, the real floaty bits, which I think is sort of a secret to our sound, with a lot of segues so that it just sort of flows together. And I think it's a lot more, kind of... complete.

Cut Copy @ NY's Mercury Lounge 3/17/08
Dan @ The Mercury Lounge, New York, 3/17/08

I'm curious about how you approach writing. Cuz I mean, it's such an original sound. I hear elements here and there of things that are familiar, whether they're New Order, or maybe a little Brian Ferry. I'm curious how you approach the writing process, and your influences.

I guess with us it's just that we like challenging ourselves, and I guess internally exposing each other to all sorts of different music.

It sounds like there's such a scene in Australia right now. Or at least bands are making it over here more. The Presets, Sarah Blasko. I feel like I'm hearing more from Australia than I'm used to hearing. Is it a "scene", so to speak?

Yeah, I think there are a bunch of bands that are all touring the US at this point. I mean there's us, The Presets, the Midnight Juggernauts... I think it's a bit easier for Australian bands to become more prominent in the US, just because, you know this new modern world of technology. It took the power away from record bosses and gave it to people you know you want to have live with the music. I mean, you've probably heard lots more from Swedish bands, as well, right?

Cut Copy @ NY's Mercury Lounge 3/17/08
Mitchell @ The Mercury Lounge, New York, 3/17/08

Right, it kind of cuts down those international barriers. So you're from Melbourne, right? Is Melbourne known as a music city?

Yeah, there's a lot of bars, and a lot of bands, and a lot of places to play. So it's definitely a good place if you're just starting out in music.

Sydney's the biggest city in Australia. But Melbourne is more like the cultural capitol.

Get a glimpse of the Cut Copy sound with these videos from the unusually tiny, turning-them-away-in-droves show at NY's Mercury Lounge, including a tune off the forthcoming album, "In Ghost Colours"...

And be sure to catch them live when they're back on US shores -- first for Coachella, and then for a full US Tour with CMJ 07's big buzz band, Black Kids.

--See Photos: Cut Copy live at Mercury Lounge in NY
--Watch Video: Cut Copy live at Mercury Lounge in NY
--Find Tickets: See Cut Copy in concert

Sunday, March 9, 2008

SCENE IN NY: Plug Awards with Nick Cave, Jose Gonzales, Dizzee Rascal, Patton Oswalt @ Terminal 5 NY

It's awards season, so why should indie music go without some honorifics of its own? In steps the Plug Independent Music Awards to A.) save the day, B.) give indie artists some well-deserved exposure, and C.) give NY hipsters an anti-awards show to not dress up for. (Ironic t-shirts being the only exception, as comedian and Plug Awards host Patton Oswalt pointed out in his opening speechification.)

Plug Awards 030608 232_edited

The Pros
A few things I love about the Plug Awards:
1. Their mission.
2. Their choice of Terminal 5 as a venue. Nothing says "independent" more than the city's newest venue floating on its own as the lone outpost of hipster street cred in the dead calm of Midtown West Manhattan. I mean, seriously, the only other venues remotely nearby are Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center! Opera buffs would be scandalized if they only knew what lurked past 11th Ave.
3. The upstairs VIP area. A-buzz with excitement, lush without being too luxe, lots of famous-face photo ops, and free drinks. Oh, and a kick-ass view from above  for when your feet just couldn't stand the floor anymore.
4. Their inclusion of best music site, best music blog, and best music zine in the nomination categories. It's like a crib sheet for any new scenester worth their salt. Get thee to Google and set up your RSS's today, my friend. You'll have all the music news you can handle from these three lists alone.
5. They understand the power of the indie online radio station. KCRW and KEXP are among the brightest stars in that firmament, and despite the public's rapid movement away from terrestrial radio, these online radio stars show no signs of dimming.
6. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Jose Gonzales. Michael Showalter's Mixtapes. Dizzee Rascal. That first duo that opened up the whole show. (Who were they, anyway? I must know!)

Plug Awards 030608 638_edited  Plug Awards 030608 733  Plug Awards 030608 652_edited  Plug Awards 030608 758_edited 
L to R: Nick Cave, recipient of the Plug Impact Award, performing with his legendary band the Bad Seeds

The Cons
While certainly deserving of our attention, admiration, and ceaseless celeblogtion, there were a few spots where this year's installment fell flat:
1. This year's lineup of live performers left a little to be desired. I mean compare this year  to last year's lineup. Um hello, what are we? Chopped liva? Don't we deserve the same kind of stellar lineup as last year's crowd?
2. Nobody showed up to accept their awards. I take that back. Only St. Vincent, The National and Nick Cave showed up to accept their awards. Even the Battles took the stage only to hand out an award -- not to accept their own for Best Video. What's up with that?!
3. Ok so you couldn't be there in the flesh, but why was it that only Justice bothered to do a video acceptance of their award? You other winners too lazy? Or did you somehow know in the backs of your minds that a video acceptance would be just as awkward as no acceptance at all?
4. Technical difficulties. Poor, poor White Denim and their unlucky bassist. And that's all I have to say about that.
5. Bad band branding. I still have no idea who the very first band (twosome) was,and they were among my favorite performances of the whole evening. So if you're here to spread the word about unknown artists, then by all means, spread the word. In print. In big lights. Over the stage. And leave it up there the whole time they're playing. Or somewhere. Or at least put a list of the performers on your official website. Not just the
highlights you thought newsworthy enough. The Plug Awards are just as much about the little guy as the bloggable behemoth, remember?
6. What do all of the previous 5 Cons have in common? Do they speak to a larger problem? Maybe the industry wasn't ready to embrace an awards show that is all about embracing the unknown. But if that's the case, how come last year's lineup was so strong? I know there's a message in there somewhere. I just haven't quite figured out what it is.

Plug Awards 030608 026_edited  Plug Awards 030608 499  SNL's Fred Armisen Presents Annie of St. Vincent with Plug Award  Plug Awards 030608 098_edited
L to R: Dizzee Rascal, Jose Gonzales, Fred Armisen presenting Plug Award to Annie of St. Vincent, Ian of the Battles

Pros and cons aside, the 2008 Plug Awards are like a one-stop-shopping list for all your indie needs. So open a new browser window, pull up their nominees/winners list, and settle in for a Spring that really sings.

Thanks, Plug Awards! Can't wait to see what (or who) is happening in the scene next year...

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

FESTIVAL NEWS: All Points West Festival is Coachella for the East Coast

Have you snagged your All Points West Fest tickets yet? Seriously, have you? Got mine today, and it's the one thing consoling me over my depressing inability to attend Coachella. But believe it or not, this is actually better than Coachella, if one can even conceive of such a thing. Yessiree, my 3-day passes to the All Points West Fest guarantee that I get to see Radiohead twice. Yes, TWICE! Wait, think about that for a sec.  Now run and go get your tickets here!

Yes, you East Coast Radiohead naysayers still have many reasons to catch the All Points West Festival. Spanning the weekend of August 8-10, it's the first festival to attempt on the Eastern Seaboard what Goldenvoice has achieved so magnificently in the desert with Coachella: A multi-day, must-see festival bringing together a diverse array of genres and the buzziest of buzz-worthy bands. Yep, this is your shot at bragging rights for the next full year, cuz you caught all the bands the cool kids will be talking about. And you'll have the photos to prove your newly cemented indie kid cred.

My favorite things about the All Points West Festival:
--Radiohead headlining TWO nights (and I'll keep saying it, thank you very much!)
--The Roots
--The New Pornographers
--Mates of State
--Cat Power
--Animal Collective
--Amadou & Mariam
--Rodrigo y Gabriela
--Grace Potter & The Nocturnals
--Oh yeah, and Jack Johnson is headlining day 3. How's that for switching it up?

The All Points West Festival 2008 Official Lineup

All Points West Festival

Friday, August 8th
Blue Comet

Queen of the Valley
Saturday, August 9th
Blue Comet

Queen of the Valley
Sunday, August 10th
Blue Comet

Queen of the Valley
>>Get Tickets: All Points West Festival<<