March 21, 2009
“We love the Paramount,” frontman Emil Svanangen of Sweden’s Loney Dear said near the end of his band’s set at the Polyvinyl Records showcase on Friday night. “We were there a few weeks ago. It was freaking marvelous.”
And indeed, everything about Loney Dear’s opening gig for Andrew Bird at the Paramount last month was freaking marvelous — the venue, the sound, the band.
The band’s South by Southwest performance wasn’t bad, but it was certainly different. Svanangen had a few less members and thus a few less instruments backing him. Paired with the lack of the Paramount’s stunning acoustics, Loney Dear sounded less like a twinkly, floating folk with charming melodic sensibility than stripped-down, hard-driving rock backed by electronic samples.
And unfortunately for audience members near the back of the venue, the door to the bar had to remain open for the majority of the show because of fire hazard restrictions, so the sounds of the pounding blues band inside collided with Loney Dear’s melody-driven music to create an awful mess of sound.
But that was hardly the band’s fault, and near the front of the stage, the samples that backed songs like “Airport Surroundings” and “Everything Turns to You” from the band’s latest album, “Dear John,” raced forward and got the crowd moving, while the backing vocals from the new female keyboardist resonated with a haunting echo.
Other songs, like the ambient “I Was Only Going Out” just sounded out of place at a venue that gave the music such a rough edge.
It was a decent performance by Loney Dear, but it definitely highlighted the difference a venue can make.
March 4, 2009
After two and a half years, his fourth full-length and a slew of international dates, Chicago’s Mike Kinsella of Owen returned to Austin to play Thursday at Emo’s, much to the excitement of a group of dedicated fans.
As Kinsella took the stage after fellow indie-icon Caithlin De Marrais, formerly of Rainer Maria, the crowd began clamoring before the stage in hopes of seeing some of Kinsella’s intricate acoustic riffs in action.
And even though live the songs were stripped of the many instrumental layers that make his albums so engaging, Kinsella’s unconventional tunings and complex guitar lines made the music sound full. “Bad News” created the illusion of two guitars, while during “Playing Possum for a Peek” the rapid classical fingerpicking brought the crowd to a hush.
“How do you do that?” one listener called out during the latter.
Between songs, Kinsella was laid back and conversational. He talked to the crowd about everything from the recent election to their drinks of choice for the night. During songs, he seemed enthused by the audience’s response. He belted out an energetic rendition of “Nobody’s Nothing,” and sang just above a whisper to the tongue-in-cheek “Good Deeds.”
He even had some listeners singing along to “Good Friends, Bad Habits,” despite telling them beforehand that they probably wouldn’t be familiar with the hard to find track.
Near the end of the show, Marrais and openers El Mays joined Kinsella onstage for a playful blues-rock version of Huey Lewis’s “If This Is It” to close out the night.
September 28, 2008
Originally published on the Austin American-Statesman’s Austin360 on 26 September 2008.
The quirky pop tunes of husband-and-wife duo Mates of State have always sounded full, even with just the two members. Kori Gardner’s electronic organ pumps out so many diverse sounds over Jason Hammel’s pounding drum beats, and the two belt out such meticulously layered melodies that both their live shows and studio recordings create the illusion of at least a four-piece band.
But at the ACL Fest the duo took their live sound a step further for many songs by adding a three-piece string ensemble to the mix. The violin and two cellos soared over the doo-wop piano rolls of “Like U Crazy,” while in “You Are Free” they melded with the organ to create an epic sound.
Aside from a couple of shaky moments, the vocal delivery of both Gardner and Hammel was impeccable as always. On many numbers, their voices blended in harmony so well that it was hard to tell which member was singing what.
Equally as impressive was their seamless flow between the shifting rhythms in many of the songs. Fan favorite “Ha Ha” in particular changed drum beats at least three times, but the shifts always sounded natural. Whether they’re playing as a two-piece or more, Mates of State always seem to make it work.