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Metric Energizes and Electrifies Audience at ACL Live

Trudeau is under investigation, maple syrup is being diluted with corn syrup but Canada’s greatest export are still as potent and powerful as ever.  Indie rockers, Metric, came to ACL Live on Saturday night and leveled the crowd with an evocative and ear-pinning set.  The opening set from tenured Mexican space rockers, Zoe, gave the show an exciting outset, and a sense of North American bonhomie, with all three nations present. A 16-song set from the headliner would eventually satiate even the most rabid Metric fans.

Emily Haines…. That name is enshrined in the psyche of men and women alike as a goddess who deserves to be fanned and worshipped until the pillars of civilization fall. Haines has a cavalier but seductive air about her that has not lessened since the band began in 1998. Yet the transcendental baptism truly immerses listeners when Haines begins to sing, her vocals pristine and effortless. Sauntering around the stage with a panther-like gait, Haines owns every inch of her path, assiduously stealing the focus of every single member of the audience. 

The show erupted with the sugary “Love You Back” and quickly segued into a sneeringly addictive “Synthetica”.  Guitarist, James Shaw, played an electrifying counterbalance to Haines, unleashing his frenetic energy on songs like “Risk” and “Gold Guns Girls”.  An early set crescendo was reached when a newer hit, “Dressed to Suppress” was played with all the cocksure moxie the band could muster, and followed with the vulnerable and uplifting, “Breathing Underwater”. 

A nostalgic reminiscing took place mid-set, where Haines ruminated on earlier Austin shows that featured BBQ, Barton Springs and playing Stubbs. Yet the driving momentum was hardly diminished and the band then plowed into the surprise of the night, “Cascades”, which had disco charm and a futuristic cocktail party vibe. Little did the audience know that a ‘Sophie’s Choice’ was soon about to be foisted on them by Haines.


“This is the existential part of the set where I decide whether to embrace a time of innocence for the band, or a time of recklessness – Should we play ‘Gimme Sympathy’ or ‘Dead Disco’?”


Despite my own decibel and octave levels reaching Everest-esque heights for “Dead Disco”, it was “Gimme Sympathy” that would be played, with little to no complaining on m end. The building inertia was only further propelled by “Gold Guns Girls”, which layered Haines’ sirenic vocals over frenzied drums and guitars.

An encore of “Dark Saturday”, “Now or Never Now” and the audio equivalent of Thor’s hammer, “Help I’m Alive”, would conclude a colossal show. A curious energy shot through the audience; a motley mix of liberation, adoration and even aggression (a fight broke out in front of me) swirled into the ether. Whatever your motives were for seeing Metric, old fans and new, the sheer force of their sound and eclectic emotional range was delivered with devastating effectiveness, and we  the audience, were gifted the with a 90 minute escape from ourselves.

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BluMoon Curates Soulful Electronica On New Album

 A drop of audio prozac on the pacified mind, BluMoon stirs up a soothing elixir of neo-soul, alternative R&B and experimental jazz.  A quartet that doesn't shy away from retro and outlier soundscapes, these Texas State students are eons ahead of the curve as far as their songwriting and their suave aesthetic. Front woman, Kendra Sells, layers on her warm vocals that exude a mellowed aura devoid of strife or struggle. The flotsam and jetsam of trip-hop and vaporwave elements float through the fluid composition of BluMoon's mellifluous vibes. Having just released their second album, Slow Burn, the band continues to grow musically and consistently electrify with their live shows.  Catch the band at Hotel Vegas on March 24th!



Indie Rock

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Louis Black Reminisces on the Austin Music Awards

The Austin Music Awards is closing in on nearly four decades of disseminating accolades to exceptional Austin musicians and industry rock stars. Now in its 37th year, the event has evolved from a backyard barbecue aesthetic in 1982, to a local equivalent of the Grammys. Winners of the Austin Chronicle's music poll will share the stage with national artists like Jakob Dylan, Suzanne Vega and John Doe of X; while surprise guests always threaten to steal the show. A regular staple of the AMAs, Louis Black is a founding father of many Austin institutions. A serial entrepreneur and tireless creative;The Austin Chronicle, SXSW and The Austin Music Awards all have his finger prints on them. We spoke with Louis to learn about the AMAs inception, history and dig up a few of his best memories.

The Austin Music Awards began in 1982 and there was concern that if local punkers, The Big Boys, won ‘Artist of the Year’, that The Chronicle would be seen as too ‘street’. 

What happened was, Jeff Whittington, who was the music editor; really wanted to do the poll. We all agreed and we were ready to run it and I suddenly had this concern, well we were having problems with were we too ‘street’ at the time. We were only a few months old. We were all pretty crazy. We were working all the time. And so I had ... briefly I had this thing where I said, "Well, maybe we shouldn't do this. Maybe people will think we're too punk. And I took one look at Jeff who was about to have a nervous breakdown and dropped that. I’ve brought it up more recently because I'm friends with Chris Gates and Biscuit and I thought it was indicative of how l wrong I had been on many occasions.


When the actual awards are taking place and the planning is all done, what do you take the most pleasure in once the ceremony is actually started? Where do you have the most fun?

I think the awards are really remarkable in that it is really collaborative and cooperative and it's about music and it's not about money or celebrity. You can make a lot more money in New York or LA or Nashville. You can become a bigger star. I think most people in the Austin scene really are into thecollaboration ... not that they don't want to be successful, of course they do. But there's a nature of which this community really works together. And so the awards now, having done it for 37 years, I don't think it's about the accolades ... and even early on I would get nervous about that. Because I think that kind of competition thing, I think is counterproductive. But it's really about who's had a really good year.

And since we've being doing it for so long and so many categories. It was 50 then we cut it down to 35 but we added another 10 to make the music industry awards. So it's like 60 categories now. And so many people have won it. So many people have been honored. And I think there's only a handful of people who might have deserved to get it and didn't. I can't think of anybody offhand. So really ... It seems to me to be very much an Austin event. It's like a high school reunion or something. Everybody's happy to see everybody else. The community votes on it. It's not critics. It's not industry. And so I think there's something very organic about it. And I realize ... And I hadn't even thought about this but I realize like last year, everybody shows up. And I think that says something. Out of the 35 categories, maybe two people won't be there because they're on the road or they didn't allow time.

When we just did the Austin Music Industry Awards last Sunday, for the first time we didn't tell people who had won. It was just they knew they had been a finalist. But the didn't know who had won. And every winner was there except for Jody Denberg who thought hanging out with Yoko Ono in New York was more important.

Yeah, I can see why hanging out with Yoko might be ...

A little bit more important. I've been bitching about Jody but I'm kidding.


The awards look like a reunion. It’s exciting just seeing some legends run into each other and have those interactions. Do you have any favorite moments from the awards?

There's a lot of them. Actually the second year we did it, Stevie Ray Vaughan flew in on his own nickel and did two-thirds of Texas Flood and then he played with Jimmy. I think it was one of the first times he and Jimmy played together on stage, at least in Austin. That was like the second year.

There were two with Roky Erickson. One where he was going to play with Doug Sahm. He agreed to come and to play but he basically wandered around the stage and didn't play. And then other time with Roky when he played with the True Believers and he wouldn't get off stage. They were doing "Two-Headed Dog" and Roky kept running up to the microphone and singing "Two-headed dog, two-headed dog, stuck inside the Kremlin with a two-headed dog" again and again. At one point, three of the guys had him cornered with their guitars and had him pushed off to the side of the stage and he broke through and sang "two-headed dog" again. I thought that was pretty cool.

There are so many times though when different people played together. Margaret got Okkervil River and Roky to play together and then they recorded an album that did really well. Having Pete Townsend come out with Ian McLagan or having Alejandro Escovedo go, “Oh here's another guitar player”, and Bruce Springsteen walks out, was pretty cool. You know the backstage is where everybody is waiting because they come in groups. And all of those people ... Some of them haven't seen each other in a while and there's a real camaraderie.

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Leah Wellbaum of Slothrust Expounds on Influences, Music and Making It Through Life


Leah Wellbaum is the sole guitarist and vocalist for the grunge-influenced indie rock band, Slothrust. Having been playing in the group for nearly a decade, Leah has made her signature brooding lyrics stick in listener's minds, and combined with the band's technical and inventive musicianship, it's earned them a sizeable indie following. Slothrust released their fourth album, The Pact, in September 2018 and have been on tour supporting it. We checked in with Leah to dig into the origins of the band, influences and how to pass time in a touring van.


    Slothrust met while attending Sarah Lawrence. Were you all musicians when you enrolled?

                                       Yeah. Yeah. Yes.

                                                      You can definitely tell that the band is a bit more technical than your average grunge band in some respects. What influences led to Slothrust?

                                       We studied blues and jazz with two really amazing teachers, which are Glenn Alexander and Matt Wilson. Matt Wilson's one of the head, top jazz drummers right now. And Glenn Alexander is an amazing guitarist in all respects. So we had played in blues and jazz groups together. We all can be accompanyists too. Like, yes, I'm a front person in this project, but at the same time I'm equally excited to just accompany another vocalist, another front person. We all really give a shit about older music. The new stuff right now, there is a lot of things that are still awesome about it, but we also, I think, are pretty traditional in some senses in terms of what we value in music.

                                                      You guys spend a lot of time together obviously as a band. What do you like doing outside of music?

                                         We played a really lackluster hand of cards the other night. Kyle invented a card game recently that we played in the car that was really cool. I gotta say I just really, really, really love Will and Kyle's personalities. And that makes this whole circumstance a lot easier. Because I think we all get along as friends. We share similar passions and have similar pastimes and want similar things in life. So that's nice.

                                                      Your songwriting is incredible but Will's drumming also stands out as a bit more elevated than other bands in your genre.

                                      Yeah. Will's the shit. I've worked with him for a really long time. He works really hard and he's really... Honestly, he's one of the most special people I've ever met in my life. You know, drumming aside, he's just a very kind, special individual. He and I really see each other in a specific way and in terms of playing, he's flexible and he's down to work. And I still find it exciting to jam with these people and I think that's really special and uncommon.

                                                      If you weren't doing music, what do you think you'd be doing right now?

                              I've been asked this question before and it's hard to answer because the other thing I do besides music is teach music.

                                                       Some people are like "If it wasn't for music, I'd probably hang myself" or something to that extent.

                                 I don't think I'd kill myself or anything. I mean, you know, we all have our times, but I like to teach. I'm happy working with kids. I'm happy working with adults. I like to spread music as a means not to draw financial success, but as a form of not only self expression, but focus. Because in the end we're all so tortured by our own minds and having something to focus on sort of detracts from that. This is a good quote I'm giving you.

                                                      Nice. Was there a certain time that you felt Slothrust was finally picking up? You did the Jam in the Van, but was there a moment where you were like, "Okay. This band might stay together for a few years?"

                                         No. I always knew we'd stay together but I think it's pretty clear to all of us that we're a slow burner. But we don't really give a shit. That's fine. We'll just slow burn forever if we want to. If not, then not. We probably will. I don't know. I like these people. They like me. It's all good.

                                                      “Magnets Part Two” is my favorite song of yours. I'm just guessing here, but is that about addiction?

                                      I guess I'll be explicit with you because this question has been asked to me particularly frequent amount. I feel like my syntax is shitty right now. I wish it was better. That's about my old roommate Jack. He ended up killing himself in, I think, 2011. I thought about him very frequently. I had trouble processing all of it because I was in the situation where I needed to graduate from college. And I wanted to do what he wanted me to do and I wanted to do whatever felt right for everyone. Whatever that means. It doesn't really mean anything. But yeah, I guess, to sum it up it's about losing someone that you weren't ready to lose but eventually you have to gain acceptance in that. Because if you don't, you'll just be tortured forever. And if you and that person had a certain kind of lock, which Jack and I did, then they wouldn't want you to be tortured forever.

                                                      Lou Reed or Bowie?

                                     I hate that you asked me that. I just hate that you asked me that. That's about it.

                                                      Beer or wine?

                                     If I had to die with either in a goblet in my hand I would pick wine because it's closer to blood.

                                                      Paradise Rock Club or Roseland Ballroom?

                                       Didn't exist when I was growing up. Paradise did but it didn't let people under 21 in and Roseland Ballroom, I don't think it existed. So fuck both those places. Access and Avalon forever. Neither exist. Fuck what's happened to Boston. The police destroyed it. We used to have a good punk scene. And they took that away from us because of noise ordinance. And everyone can go and-

                                                      Fuck themselves?

                                     ... have a bad old time.

                                                      If you had to pick anybody to share the stage with, who would you pick and why?

                                         Oh, I'd pick John Fahey. He could come on and do some amazing finger picking set during any song and I would be so pleased to hear that melodic contour. That's it.



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