Night of Bowed Strings and Cambodian Surf

Notes on last night’s SXSW showcase at Emo’s Annex:

Electric cello sololist Erik Friedlander at his best (to my ears) sounded like a Tony Conrad-Kronos Quartet hybrid, i.e., amazing. A couple of plucked pieces were relatively boring, in particular a Carlos Santana piece, and to a lesser extent one by John Zorn. The amazing pieces, which should’ve inspired a miniature mosh pit (as opposed to total destruction of the venue, which is what should’ve happened at the one Conrad show I’ve had the pleasure of attending — I’ll have to write about that sometime), more than made up for the uninteresting interludes. Friedlander’s set was the best of the evening, and I plan on checking out more of his music.

Dengue Fever, billed as a “six-piece Cambodian Psychedelic rock band” was decent. Lyrics were all in Cambodian, mostly sung by a Camobdian woman. One sax player worked well with the sound, which is pretty hard to do in my listening experience. Asides: I note that the Dengue Fever site lists among related projects Brazzaville, a band I’m familiar with via their use of Joe Frank, my spiritual guru, on a track called Ocean. Check out L.A.’s Brazzaville found its audience in Russia via downloads and pirated CDs from the December 1, 2003 Los Angeles Times.

Estradasphere played jammy exotica, heavy metal and banjo-led bluegrass, none of it all that effectively to my ears (actually the banjo sounded OK). Each musician played at least two instruments. They’re obviously talented, but the implementation just didn’t work for me.

I’ve seen Sleepytime Gorilla Museum a bunch of times in San Francisco. They played mostly new material I hadn’t heard before, some of it more explicitly political than their previous work, including a song about Rome introduced with a dedication to “the American Empire at its greatest extent” and another intro’d with (to the best of my memory) “a man who saw many things wrong with the world and attempted to fix them by sending little wooden boxes to strong people” about the Unabomber. They closed with the track they used to always open with, Sleep is Wrong, which made everyone very sad there was no time for an encore.

Secret Chiefs 3 consisted of all of the members of Estradasphere less the drummer, plus four other musicians, including two different drummers. They got into some OK multi-ethnic mish-mash grooves. Just OK.

(Apart from Dengue Fever, all of the bands last night employed at least one amplified bowed string instrument.)

For a hint at what the show was like, listen to my 2004-03-17 Emo’s Annex Simulacrum playlist at WebJay. Most of the songs on the playlist are just recent tracks from the artists involved and probably weren’t the ones played last night. I also didn’t make any attempt to choose representative or superior tracks — this post has already taken far too much time, apologies.

Tonight following the Magnatune & Creative Commons party I’m hoping to catch two acts to die for — experimental yodeller Faun Fables and out-of-retirement sardonic-hard-punk-rock band Alice Donut.

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  1. [...] much of last week in Austin, attending SXSW Interactive with Creative Commons and hearing two nights of good music at SXSW music showcases. I found tim [...]

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