Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Chrissy Murderbot is on my plane.
En route to my first South by Southwest (SXSW), my eyes seek out notable musicians also making their way to the 25th annual music conference and festival in Austin, Texas. In this distorted world, a DJ like Mr. Murderbot counts as a celebrity (well, enough), though not compared to actual names your mom knows, like Bruce Springsteen, Norah Jones or Jay-Z. The conference, established to help new bands get discovered by the music industry and break out internationally, has also become a magnet for big fish looking to get a lot of buzz going quickly amongst 16,000 of the most dedicated music professionals in the game.
While Springsteen’s keynote address and live, full band performance dominated some of the conversation, new bands about to break through, like the Southern soul-rock band Alabama Shakes and the Austin-based next Hendrix, Gary Clark Jr., also earned attention. New Orleans legend Dr. John used the event as a platform for his Black Keys-produced comeback, and the Shins and Fiona Apple re-emerged, this time as influential veterans. At the same time, representatives from Taiwan to Tel Aviv hosted parties, and corporate sponsors shoved their products down the throats of the throngs, from Austin’s Dell Computers to the grotesque Doritos “Jacked Stage,” a tower-sized stage shaped like a vending machine, hosting hip-hoppers like the GZA and Snoop Dogg while encouraging punters to eat chips from planters designed to look like trees … but filled with Doritos.
For first-timers, the event can be overwhelming, as 2,000-plus acts play at more than 100 locations over four days. Those attempting it without good walking shoes and plenty of water soon learned that, like a 14-year-old on his sixth beer, there can, indeed, be too much of a good thing. One detail that makes this quasi-conference unique is that, for the most part, it’s open to the public — if not in some venues, then at least on the streets leading to those. So, true music lovers must often run through a gauntlet — a la “Escape from New York” or “The Hunger Games” — of blitzed sorority girls downtown wanting to see or be seen … just not so interested in the music.
The height of the contradictory nature of the event was found Friday night, as a tragically drunk 30-ish woman vomited violently all over her seat during a performance by the band The War On Drugs. The irony was likely lost on her at the moment.
It’s a veritable “Sophie’s Choice” of auditory pleasures. Louisville’s raucous rockers Natives played Wednesday night at the same time as Sharon Van Etten, Big K.R.I.T., Natural Child, Thee Oh Sees, and Dessa, any one of which would alone constitute a great night of music in Louisville. While many showcases were arranged sensibly by label, genre or region, some were thrown together randomly, leading to puzzled Latin dance music fans waiting for an acoustic Magnetic Fields to finish so that Colombia’s Bomba Estereo could begin. A long line kept LEO from getting to see Deafheaven’s symphonic metal set, but it could be heard clearly outside, proving to be an odd pairing with punk vets OFF!, who followed.
A half-dozen other Louisvillians also performed, including Cheyenne Marie Mize, Bro. Stephen, Justin Lewis, Houndmouth, Trophy Wives and Coliseum, plus ex-locals The Phantom Family Halo and VHS or Beta. Other locals, representing Crash Avenue, The Kentucky Center, Music WithMe, Production Simple, sonaBlast!, and WFPK, also joined in the sights, sounds, barbecue and breakfast tacos.
And there was certainly plenty to see, from the plentiful pedicab operators (some of whom dressed to distinguish themselves from the crowd, like the Mexican-American “Where’s Waldo?” and the oft-seen Wonder Woman-costumed gal) and the young team giving out free sushi on the street, to the ironic hipster tribute to Whitney Houston during Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s set, the girls holding signs offering “Free shrugs,” and the guy in a thick crowd of walkers overheard on his cell saying, “I took a paternity test, and it’s not mine — which is not what I expected and not the way I wanted it to go.” And LEO didn’t even get to see the riot that broke out at rapper A$AP Rocky’s 3 a.m. set Saturday night. As disco-punk Gossip singer Beth Ditto exclaimed about the teen idol turned evangelist, “I wish Kirk Cameron was here to see this.”
Photo by Ron Jasin
c. 2012 LEO Weekly
Country favorites The Bottom Sop can be seen Wednesdays at Baxter’s and Thursdays at the Highlands Tap Room; this Saturday night at the Tap Room, they celebrate a record release show and a “Barn Party USA” TV taping. Singer/guitarist Derrick Manley tells LEO about their plans.
LEO: Explain your name for the good folks.
Derrick Manley: Bottom Sop is actually a type of red-eye gravy used in Southern cooking that mixes the drippings from country ham and leftover strong black coffee. It’s served over grits, ham and whatever else you want to mix in. You basically “sop up” everything together with a biscuit to eat it. Supposedly Andrew Jackson requested gravy as red as his cook’s eyes, which were bloodshot from drinking the night before, and the coffee was added to wake everyone up from their hangover. I feel like it’s a good fit for our music; it’s a big mix of Southern influences, and sometimes it’s the best thing to go with a long night of honky-tonkin’.
LEO: Tell me about these new songs.
DM: We began by covering classic duets from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s as our base, and eventually began working new originals into our set. This CD represents some of our new material. These are brand new songs that reference that classic country sound, but they’re new takes on that sound. You can still hear the traditions found in the music of George Jones, Tammy Wynette and Tennessee Ernie Ford, but I don’t feel like we’re just treading over that ground again. It’s mixing all the old influences of songs about heartbreak and dancing all night — with that instrumentation — but I feel like we’re writing what modern country can be. We’re not playing as a “classic country” act; the songs are what new country music in 2012 should be. A song like “Bright Kentucky Moon,” to me, takes a bit from this and that, but it’s got some rock ’n’ roll to it, too.
Read more of this interview at bluecat.leoweekly.com.
c. 2012 LEO Weekly
at 10:15:00 AM
Long Island native Steve Rannazzisi broke out as a cast member on “The League,” FX’s popular and acclaimed comedy series about a 30-something group of friends who are also members of a fantasy football league. He brings his stand-up to The Improv this week.
LEO: When is “The League” back?
Steve Rannazzisi: We start shooting again in the middle of July, and then we’ll be back again in the fall. Right around the time football starts is usually when we come back.
LEO: Do you have any TV or movie projects coming up?
SR: I sold this web series to My Damn Channel that will be coming out maybe middle of April. We haven’t set a launch date yet.
LEO: What’s it about?
SR: It’s called “Daddy Knows Best,” and it’s a series of shorts about horrific parent decisions. It’s about a guy who hasn’t really grown up and now has a son, who’s 3, and has to figure out how to maneuver that life.
LEO: Are you married in real life?
SR: I am, yeah, and I have a 3-year-old, and we have another one on the way in a month.
LEO: Your character is the heart of “The League,” the most normal of all the characters. Do you agree?
SR: (laughs) Yes, I kind of do agree with that. Though, the fact that I’m the most normal person on the show is very scary. I guess you would consider me the adult of the group, the closest thing to an adult that our group of friends has.
LEO: As a stand-up, how normal can you actually be? I guess you’re a really good actor? Or are you one of the more normal stand-ups?
SR: I feel like I am more on the normal side of stand-ups. My parents are still together, I like them, I’m married, I’ve got a kid, I don’t really have a drug problem … I’m sort of more normal, but I have anger issues. I’m probably bipolar, if I really looked at it, but I won’t, because … why?
LEO: What kind of anger do you have?
SR: Things make me upset, and I have to learn patience. I don’t deal with mistakes very well. I mean, I don’t, like, hit people, but I get frustrated very fast.
LEO: That sounds pretty normal for a stand-up.
SR: Yeah, of course — that’s what makes us really observational. The stuff I talk about is what upsets me sometimes … what’s making me upset, and why it’s making me upset.
LEO: How long have you done stand-up, and how has it evolved as you’ve learned?
SR: I’ve been doing it a little over 10 years now, and I realized, I’m just now finding my voice. It takes a long time. I did well for a long time, but doing well and enjoying your time on stage sometimes aren’t the same thing. You can do well and figure out tricks and things, but I’ve been going through a growth spurt lately, where I’m trying to do more stuff I find interesting — and also helping the audience find it interesting, as well. I think that in the last couple of years I’ve really found my voice. It’s specific to who I am, which is what I’m enjoying about it right now.
LEO: Do you think you’ve gotten more confidence from being on a successful show, where you’re encouraged to improvise a lot?
SR: Yes and no. Yes, because it’s nice to have people in the audience who know who you are, who came specifically for you. Then again, I feel like there’s more pressure now. People pay good money to come out and see you. You want to put on a good show and have everyone enjoy it, so I find that to be a little more stressful. Confidence comes from knowing that what you think is funny other people think is funny, too. I do have more confidence on stage, but it’s because I’m more comfortable on stage.
LEO: Anything else you’d like to say to Louisville?
SR: I’m psyched to come back. I haven’t been there in, like, three years. I’m hoping that Louisville is still in the NCAA Tournament when I’m there.
Fourth Street Live
$15-$17; various times
c. 2012 LEO Weekly