Palms, Wiley One, Jared and the Mill, and Sara Robinson and Midnight Special @ Crescent Ballroom|1/9/13
South by Southwest, the sort of Mecca of indie music, is kind of a big deal. A good show there can make or break a band, even if the event itself is a tad self-indulgent. I once hitchhiked there, so it pleases me to see Phoenix music get some good representation. That's what TMI Radio 106.7 FM is aiming for, and their showcase last night at Crescent Ballroom helped raise money to bring the following local bands to Austin: Palms, The Wiley One, Jared and the Mill, Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special and decker.
When I walked in, they were just starting a cover of Lykke Li's "Get Some." They took the song by the reins, especially when the bassist began banging on an extra drum kit. The band's own tunes reminded me of Roy Orbison meets Best Coast, especially those surf guitar elements. Or maybe that's just projecting frontwoman Melody Michelle's tall, dark shades and classic microphone. She told the crowd she was really sick, but sang anyway and it went flawless (from my end, anyway.)
At the end of Palms' set, the band was thrashing about on the floor - do that for every song and not just the end, and you'll likely grab everyone's attention at SxSW. Just my two cents.
The Wiley One
Everyone uses samples in their music these days, right? But there's a delicate balance to that, a balance that The Wiley One demonstrated pretty well tonight. The disc jockey touches added by the band's saxophonist added to the overall element, rather than becoming their song's backbone.
"The Beer Song" was their chosen closer, a diddy written entirely using alcoholic beverage names. In fact, if they did the same with a song about marijuana strains and grew some dreads, it'd be hard to distinguish the band from a generic reggae and hip-hop outfit. As it is, The Wiley One stands out.
Jared and the Mill
Mandolin. Upright bass. Accordion. When you first hear the instruments in this band, you might think Mumford and Sons, Lumineers, Fleet Foxes or dozens of other folk bands that have popped up over the years. But the first thing that strikes me about Jared and the Mill is their resemblance to country gospel music. Think Jars of Clay or Brad Paisley.
It's hard to take songs like "Confessions of an Outlaw" seriously when all six lead singers (yes, six -- everybody sings in this band) look like they've never even shoplifted. But hipster kids love this stuff (no other band that night had girls hoedowning so it's safe to say, Jared and The Mill will make waves in Austin.
Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special
The drummer broke his snare, which is pretty punk rock. Sara and her band are actually closer to hard blues, so think Fleetwood Mac with Led Zeppelin and just a tinge of Pearl Jam. Their guitarist sure can shred and for a second it made me realize why they call it "shredding" -- he looked like he was ripping up bits of paper, giving the best solos all night. Maybe that's obvious, I dunno.
The band jammed forward with "Rolling On The Loose," where Sara seems to be channeling a little of Adele. They ended with a new song, which was dark at first, but included more expert guitar engineering and finished off entirely with "Traitor," a song with borrows heavily from "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" in the best possible way.
If you know decker. you understand why they headlined - they're hypnotizing. It might have to do with some of that Sedona mysticism -- each song started off otherworldly and built on it itself until it was drowning in textures. It grabs at your heart. Frontman Brandon Decker may say his music isn't religious, even if it feels that way, but metaphors like "Take this cup of my blood / I have been selfish and spoiled" really drive it home.
decker. went through a lot of shit last year while on tour when their van flipped. Hopefully 2013 is their year, 'cuz they certainly deserve it. Bassist Bryant Vazquez explained to me they went to SxSW last year in a mini-van. This year they hope to rent an econoline van - but he wryly mentions "no trailers." Nonetheless, their accident in August has brought them even closer, close as siblings, according to Vazquez and it clearly shows on stage. Their end song felt miraculous.
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The new album, funded through Kickstarter, will be released March 1st, just two weeks before decker. is due in Texas. Good luck, guys and good luck to all the musicians headed to SxSW this year.
Last Night: Palms, The Wiley One, Jared and the Mill, Sara Robinson and the Midnight Special and decker. at Crescent Ballroom. The crowd: Not bad for a Wednesday night. Overheard: "My profile says 16 year-old Catholic school boy." Personal bias: Random notebook dump: I tried to force synesthesia (words have colors for me) with each band, guessing how each one's music smells. I got as far as Palms (citrus and blue coconut) and The Wiley One (weed incense and sandalwood) before I gave up.