Last night was this Soundcheck staffer's third straight night of clubhopping here in Austin. For the most part, I've decided to wander around without a clear itinerary of bands to see. The result: lots of good shows, a few stinkers, and a few excellent ones. But there's a problem: I often don't have the foggiest idea who I'm watching. I'm a contestant on a game show called 'Who the Heck Is This Band?' It's actually kind of refreshing, the indie-rock equivalent of the 'screen' audition in classical music. On the other hand, it's maddening when someone asks me who I saw earlier, and I respond: 'They played guitars. Loudly.'
Thank god for the internet machine. The morning after, I can decipher who I saw. Like Seattle's The Boss Martians. Could this be the same band whose CD I reviewed like 10 years ago at my college radio station. Indeed, it is. They don't sound quite as twangy as they did back then. Now, the group is full-on, aggressive power pop. Super high energy and sweaty. It's the kind of show where, when I'm walking in the door, someone is getting 86'ed. (Not the last time this would happen that night.) The Boss Martians' Evan Foster gets the award for greatest rock 'n' roll statement of the night. He introduces one number with a growl: 'I looooooooove playing this f*@king song.' At first, I think it's lame and promotional, but then I think about it ... I kinda wish more songwriters would be honest and say how much they love playing their f*@king songs.
Later, I end up at Jaime's Spanish Village, a restaurant Vic claims is never open during the rest of the year (the web site begs to differ: 'After a Longhorn victory, we will play the Texas fight song full blast and everyone will be singing along.') Out on the patio, on a beautiful night, the six-piece Portland, Ore., outfit The Upside Down is rocking it Brian Jonestown-style. And let me tell you, it takes guts to dedicate one member solely to the playing of a tambourine. (It's expensive to come to Austin from the Pacific Northwest, and some groups might be tempted to 'forget' to tell the tambourine player about the show. Not this group.) I don't know the name of the band until their label head spots me writing in the dark, and he fills me in. Yes, there are Brian Jonestown Massacre and Dandy Warhol connections. One guy works for Nike (hey, it's Portland. In a six member band, at least one person puts on Airs.) And the tambourine player is a very valued member of the ensemble. Awesome show, al fresco. You can follow the band's adventures in their van, 'Steve,' on this blog.