Nevermind The Posers

See ya in the pit.

CD Review Omni by Minus the Bear October 29, 2010

Filed under: CD Reviews — NVMP @ 7:02 AM
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By Alexander ‘Stigz’ Castiglione
The Seattle-based rockers Minus the Bear dropped their 6th release, Omni, earlier in 2010 and this fan of has mixed feelings about their 4th EP.  Although this new record has an uber-funky vibe coursing through it’s veins, it seems like they took the subversive funk they had before and put it under a magnifying glass.  Tracks like “My Time” and “The Thief” have almost a 70’s groove to it, complete with the poetic lyrics front-man Jake Snyder is known for.  My only complaint is that some of the funkier tracks have an overpowering keyboard arrangement which gets away from the stellar guitar work, lingering vocals, and elegiac lyrics.  They may have gotten a new keyboard player, but that is no reason to overpower the other elements that Minus the Bear fans love.
If you’re looking for something that sounds like their earlier releases, with that retro funk that keeps your foot tapping and mind hanging out to each sentence: you only have a few options on this album.  However, they took their last release Planet of Ice, and added some serious layers to it, to rock your socks with tracks like “Secret Country,” “Hold Me Down,” and my personal favorite chilled out jam on this release “Into the Mirror.”  Other parts of the album, like “Animal Backwards”, relay a nice ambient groove, perfect for a night hanging out with a glass of your favorite booze, which they really honed and mastered in their six-release career.
I’m not crazy about this record, but as a fan, I have to stick by them.  Their past releases were great in my opinion, with their best work being earlier in their career with They Make Beer Commercials Like This and Highly Refined Pirates, but you could call that bias.  You could call it musical elitism.  Call it what you will, there is more heart and soul in their earlier stuff but maybe, just maybe, that’s the mantra all lesser-known bands must succumb to.  See also: Alkaline Trio.
In closing, if you dug Planet of Ice, odds are you’ll dig this.  Check it out.
7/10
 

What Can I Say About SxSW? Part One April 1, 2010

(That stands for ‘South By Southwest,’ a gigantic international music festival held annually in Austin, Texas, by the way.)

Well there are literally, and I mean it, no words to describe the experience, but I will do my best.

First, allow me to take you on a journey with just some key phrases.  Picture this:

A quaint strip called 6th Ave in Downtown Austin lined with nothing but bars, cantinas, shops, tattoo spots, and restaurants.
Everyone has a tattoo, and I mean everyone.  Face.  Neck .  Legs.  Chest.  And other unseen places I’m sure.
Music emanating from EVERYWHERE.  Blues, Jazz, Rock, Punk, Metal, Indie-all blending together a dissonant symphony that permeates energy.
Awesome fuckin’ food and never a minute to say, “Hmm, what should I do.”

Leave it to Texas to have an ENTIRE SHOP with nothing but hot sauce.

With those phrases in mind, let me take you on a journey.

From the time I woke up in this city, I knew it was going to be a crazy weekend.  March 18th, a Thursday, I awoke to the din of an indie-blues type jam pulsing against my 11th story window.  Looking down, I could see a moat of sorts, cutting through the outside patio of my hotel, with little catwalks leading to the street.  Some walkways were al fresco and wide open, other ways took you through a little detour through a faux-cave tunnel.  The sun was shining and it was a balmy 71 degrees.

It was 10 AM, and music was already pumping, and people were pounding the pavement.
Sweet, right?

6th Ave in Austin TX...at 10AM

I hoofed it over to the convention center, a nice 2 block walk, passing a horde of music junkies, bands, groupies, wanna-be’s, and of course, locals en route.  Passing a sign that said “Austin-Live Music Capitol of the World,” I just smiled.  If I only knew how this place was going to explode at night.

So I caught a few seminars, all of which were cleverly named.  “Welcome to the Music Industry – You’re Fucked,” “Quickies 1: Branding Marketing & Publicity,” “Nerdcore 101,” and even more enticingly quirky titles for panel discussions.  Not the first time SxSW takes a conference to a rock star level.  They give out free beer to press and people with SxSW passes from 3-4 PM.  But the bad-assery has only just begun.

Other panels included names…big names.  GWAR and Smokey Robinson to give you the two ends of the spectrum.  Both the infamous and incomparable metal band and Motown phenom were equally entertaining.

On top of all of this, there were trade shows with new recording rigs, guitar gadgets, music schools, promo companies, internet networking sites.  Name it.  If it was connected with music, marketing, press, or anything between the trifecta, it was there.

Know who else was there?  What seemed like every band on the planet!

In my handy SxSW itinerary, the first thing I noticed was the fact that there were 76 authorized SxSW venues.  Authorized venues is only the tip of the iceberg.  Any place that served food and/or liquor and could squeeze a band and at least 50 people in; music was bumping from.

Just like NYC, you never know what you'll see at SxSW. Like a dude hula hooping while balancing a guitar on his nose.

And I mean every band.  From Motorhead on Wednesday night, to Stone Temple Pilots on Thursday, to Cheap Trick and Smokey Robinson on Friday, the musical spectrum was represented in its entirety.  And these were just the headliners that played the Austin Music Hall and such, with legends like Cheap Trick playing (what seemed like a festival-in a good way) in one of Austin’s beautiful parks-right outside the Performing Arts Center.

But don’t get discouraged if the classics I just name didn’t get your pulse going.  Minus the Bear, Andrew W.K, Temper Trap, The Crystal Method, Steve Aoki, Redman (Yes, fuckin’ Redman), Street Sweeper Social Club, Estelle, Sum 41 (I know I thought they were dead, too) , The Boxer Rebellion, and frankly too many more bands and artists to named.  And these were just the ones I knew.  There were tons, and I mean tons, of kick ass bands rocking the 15 block radius, pulsating all night in downtown Austin.  I was left with a couple questions though when I looked at the bill.  Like who the hell were some of these DJ’s I never heard of, who the fuck invited Patrick Stump for a solo performance, and who was the genius who came up with “Flosstradamus,” “Pigeon Religion” and “Puffy Areolas” for band names?

The overall vibe of the entire trip was simply “chill.” That is probably the most hippie statement I have ever put in print, but everyone was unbelievably nice and laid back, music was everywhere, drinks were flowing and the food was great.  Add this to a nice 75 degree sunny day, and this is a recipe for something beautiful.  Everyone was in a good mood and there was a reason to be.  Despite all the stigma surrounding Texas, I saw one fight in all my travels.  And it was at a metal show.  No surprise.

By: Alex ‘Stigz’ Castiglione