Posts tagged Craig Grossman
Psychics, stolen cars, lying receptionists, and Gold Bond- This is my account of 2012′s SXSW. If you’re in a band, work in the music industry, live near Austin, or watch the news a lot, you’ve probably heard of South By Southwest. If not, here’s a brief summery… every bar that has live music in the live musical capital of the world has live music all day and night for five days while every other imaginable space in town is turned into a temporary live music venue. Then hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians, and other weirdos descend on Austin to feast on the insanity that ensues. So, naturally, I show up as well. This is what I remember.
I had the distinct pleasure of riding down in a van with Savannah Smith and a new band called Enemy Planes. I’ll tell you more about them in another post… But, any intense event should begin with an equally intense journey. A two hour plane ride is not enough to transport you into the alternate universe that Austin becomes in March- a Twenty hour van ride on the other hand? With one lay over for a Radiohead concert? Perfect.
We arrived in the Lone Star State late Monday night and then first had to drop a few stragglers off at a ritzy subdivision of a swamp of some sort. We took a wrong turn down a gravel road, and didn’t know if we’d be able to back out or turn around with the trailer in tow. The headlights of the vehicle did a poor job of lighting the dark and foggy terrain that sloped unevenly down and out of site in front of us. We all sat motionless in the van while trying to decide what to do. Naturally, sleep deprived and delirious, I presumed this was the end and we were going to die here, so I volunteered to leave the safety of the van and scout ahead on foot. There are alligators in these parts of Texas, vicious nocturnal hunters that are hard to see during the day, let alone at night! …I mean, I presumed there were alligators anyway. It made sense at the time. There was a lake for sure, and where there’s lakes, there are alligators. Long story short- I didn’t get eaten. But I did find a spot for the van to turn around. …I guess this part of the story isn’t exciting at all… but pretend you think there were alligators too- then it sort of is. Anyway, I would soon find out that many more dangers awaited me in the heart of the city.
Tuesday morning we all rode into downtown Austin early. The city comes alive around noon with day parties, some sanctioned by SXSW, many more sanctioned by no one in particular, but all luring pedestrians in off the street with free food and drinks. My primary goal in going to SXSW is always to network. My secondary goal is to see how much free crap I can get- weather I need it or not. My first official stop of the day as at a Mexican restaurant called Casa Chapala where Savannah was playing. After eating some free things and watching Savannah play, I went to catch up with the rest of my troupe including Craig (if you’ve been following the last several years of posts you know him) at Club Deville. I like this place a lot only because it’s built like a fort into the side of a hill with steep rock faced walls surrounding it’s patio.
It was while I was photo bombing a group of individuals by this very wall that I met Mimi. After the snap of the flash her friends all scattered, but Mimi stayed, transfixed with the dashing and mysterious stranger who had just jumped into the photo and into her life. At first she seemed like an ordinary drunk who was likely unstable to start with. She stated that she also liked the wall, and that she could climb to the top, twenty feet up, with ease. Given her current unbalanced state, naturally I encouraged her to try. She got a foot off the ground before she realized this was a mistake. But, upon turning from the wall she looked at me as though seeing me for the first time, and grabbed my hand. Trembling she told me that she was a ‘Ren-rat’ and had special powers. Ren-rat is a slang term to describe the hordes or goths, larpers, and other unfortunates who participate in the Resistance Festival on an annual basis. She described growing up at the Renfest in Shakopee- which is a suburb of Minneapolis, because her parents were also dorks. She had gained acute psychic abilities while she grew up- more than likely in a vain effort to wish herself somewhere else.
It didn’t all add up to me- after all, she was dressed like a normal person- but she was intensely concerned for my safety, and I was intensely amused, so I heard her out. She proceeded to tell me that I had great powers myself. Perhaps this was why I was able to foresee I couldn’t climb a sheer rock cliff without trying. She grasped my hand and gazed at my palm and bit her trembling lower lip. I was in danger. I helped people, but I may soon help them so much that I hurt myself. My fortune line also didn’t follow my life line. She said that I would earn lots of money, but for other people, not myself… Stupid clients! I thought. Soon I grew bored with Mimi and made my departure. It was only a few hours later when we would meet again.
Bar close released mass of zombies on to the streets of Austin. Our van arrived out front and I got the call that it was now, or never if I wanted a ride to the hotel. As I exited the club some explainable force made me look to my right down the street. There was Mimi… sort of crawl-walking around. I went over to assist her. She was on the phone with someone.
“Hey Mimi, need some help?” Mimi just looked back at my with that all-knowing drunk stair. ”It’s David, the guy with super powers, remember?” I asked. Recognition crept into her eyes.
“Oh yeah, here, talk to him,” she said as she thrust her cell phone at me.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Damn it, is she loaded again? Is she just totally bombed?” a gentleman asked on the other line. I glanced at Mimi.
“Yes,” I answered, “she’s gone.”
After a few more expletives he asked if I could get her into a cab. Asking someone to get a cab at bar close in Austin during SXSW is sort of like asking someone to go find the Ark of the Covenant real quick for you. But, it appears I have special powers- so I actually did find one quickly. But my powers were no match for Mimi’s. The Cabby refused to drive her anywhere in here inebriated state. I took her back to our van to freak out the boys. We offered to give Mimi a ride to where ever it was she comes from, but she wisely refused a ride from five weird looking dudes in a large nondescript white van. I left her peacefully curled up on the sidewalk, and I have no notion of what may have become of her. God speed Mimi, God speed!
With knowledge of the future and what Austin had in store for me looming ominously in the back of my powerful mind, I headed back to the hotel room for much needed rest. Soon the morningafternoonish time would be here, and we’d need to wake up and head back into the belly of the beast.
To Be Continued…
Day one free items collected: Taco platter, four shots of tequila, psychic encounter, two dozen vitamin waters, and two boxes of cereal.
I hate how you can’t really advertise your true feelings anymore. The internet turns even the most mild blogger into a gossip whore. I can’t even talk about how I hate my day job and I want a new one because it’s likely that someone I work with will read this, and let me boss know, and then all the work pot lucks will be awkward. Not to mention, that dude I called a douche is probably going sneak up on me and say something designed to intimidate me. The world is more dangerous than ever.
So I try to keep things positive. These guys do that too. If they mention you, they like you. If they don’t, they probably just wont mention you. That’s a sound, friendly approach. But what about everyone else? Should we never be able to talk about things that we think suck? Should we be afraid to let people in our vicinity know that we don’t like their work? Should people even get upset if someone doesn’t like what they do in the first place? Who knows, but I do hate my job. I don’t hate The Alarmists though, so lets talk about them.
I don’t know Eric Lavold super well, but I do know him and his cohorts Drummer Boy Schwandt and Bassist Brian who are also in the bands White Light Riot and So It Goes respectively. All great guys. So, when I was told that the City Pages peed on them, I wondered what was up. A friend alleged they had recently called them poop heads, and ass clowns who couldn’t play instruments. …or something like that. It’s sparked a huge debate about whether or not The Alarmists suck and/or whether or not the City Pages sucked. Also how in the hell do you spell the Star Tribunes music guys name? I had to know the truth, so I decided to investigate.
Like all important people in the Twin Cities, I had an advance copy of The Alarmists new album, The Over-head Left to listen to. I also went to the release show, and then I read all these articles AND all the blog comments on the City Pages site. Then I read Chris Rachmaninovschneider’s interview in the Star Tribune. I’m pretty much an expert about now, so, I will tell you all the truth. But before I act like I know everything, let me first drag out this story by adding in personal experiences that are unrelated.
As I mentioned, the entire cast of Maudlin showed up to the show. The first bit of evidence that I collected came when I saw the Rock The Cause table in the Varsity Theater. As you may or may not know, Priscilla and I sit on the board of directors for Rock the Cause. If you’re not familiar with how we help the community and music scene, please take a look.
Eric Lavold approached Rock the Cause with an offer. Bands approach us with offers all the time. Some of them are good ones, some are a little self serving. Some would be really difficult and some more realistic to do. Eric’s offer was both generous and easy. At a time when our org could really use some extra cash, he offered to let us accept donations for digital downloads of the new album on our site and keep 100% of the proceeds.
This might not seem like a huge deal to you, but the amount of work, money, and liability that goes into RTC putting on an event to raise money is huge. This required nothing of us other than we upload the song.
The comment was made that The Alarmists drama may have over shadowed their music. Why can’t someones generosity and good nature over shadow the drama surrounding their band? I guess because People magazine would go broke, with the City Pages along with it.
The crowd at the show was great, and the bands selected where right on too. Maudlin had a great time running around and mingling. I let my agent buy me a drink, and Eric’s dad tried to buy Priscilla a drink because she adjusts his glasses at work, but Craig beat him to it and bought her a drink too. Primarily we like Craig as our agent because of the drinks. Anyway, Jason bought himself one too many drinks and then ran around taking pictures for posterity.
The Alarmist show was actually really good. The new line up is great. Someone on a blog made a comment that all the new musicians couldn’t stack up to the old ones, and made special citation of the drummer being included. Their old drummer was very good, but complaining about Mark Schwandt’s drumming is pretty retarded. Aside from being a solid show, it was more raw than the album and had a more personal feel to it. I enjoyed it quite a bit. It actually made a few songs I was a little luke on from the album really grow on me.
The Album itself is certainly nothing at all to scoff at. I can see how it differs from previous releases with less edge, but it adds a more haunting feel- actually reminds me a bit of Chris Isaac on some tunes. (course I was just watching True Blood so…[At least, when I first wrote this pharagraph I thought that Chris Isaac wrote that song, but today Barb Abney *cough cough name drop* corrected me. Some random hillbilly wrote that song. ]) The vocals are more stripped and personal. They bring out a great contrast against synths soaked in reverb. There are some dark sounding melodies and hooks, but the album still feels hopeful even if melancholy. Something for a rainy day if you’re not the kind of person that gets super depressed and hates rainy days. I definitely favor the first half of the album with tracks like, “Rhyme and Reason,” ”Car Crashing,” ”Flutter and Fly,” and “Hollywood’s Not My Home.” Not feeling songs like “The Country” or” We Belong” as much, and I flat out do not like “The Elusive Mr Albright.” …not sure what the motivation is on that one.
Over all it sounds very much like a liberation or a rebirth than a swing and a miss. These guys knew exactly what they were going for, and while it’s not going to thrill everyone, I think it will win a lot of people over. As to whether or not The Alarmists will take over the world, who knows- and who cares. They’ve already carved out a place for themselves, they’re making music that’s rewarding to themselves and still have an audience to listen. That is what success is.
I believe in real criticism though, real honesty. If there isn’t anything bad, then, of course, nothing is really good. It’s just all double plus ungood. We don’t want that. I’ve met Andrea from the City Pages before, and even if she hadn’t been talking with me about my band being good, I still would have thought she was really nice. Not at all the kind of person who seems out for a vendetta. The City Pages article is pretty scathing, but, if it’s honest, then it’s not meriting retaliation.
Chris Rumpelstiltskinschneider said that The Amarmists are big enough to take a hit. They are. His own article in the Strib praises the album and gives a great inside look at what’s going on with the band and what’s transpired. It’s hard for me to not take a step back and see the two biggest papers in town arguing about a band and think, “Any press is good press.” Ultimately the controversy made listening to the album more fun for me. …Although, if it was my album getting shredded I would release angry bees into the office of the offending party. Not killer bees, just kind of having a bad day bees.
My biggest complaint with local press has always been what they miss, not what they criticize. There’s so much music here in Minneapolis, and way too much for everyone to go out and see what every band has going on. A scathing review here and there is a service. Just like letting people know about a new great band, and keeping up with what the bands we’ve all heard of have been up too. The more reviews the better, good ones and bad.
So what are my conclusions? People may have differing opinions about whether The Alarmists new album is good, just like people have many different opinions on how to spell Chris Rasputinschnieder’s name- and that’s ok. Because, in the end, there really isn’t a right or wrong answer. And, if that conclusion offends you, blame this guy.
Well the long awaited pool opener at the stately manor of Scott Herold came upon us a few short weeks ago. Naturally, not only was Maudlin attending, we were also planning on favoring our fans with a few songs while we were there. But first we had the first in our series of shows at Hot Topic.
This was one of those kind of deals where we needed to do some thing completely different from our normal stage show and, to prepare, we spent weeks creating a bold new acoustic set. …course if you regularly read my blog you knew that was a lie. We had no freakin clue what we were doing.
Anyway, after that pit stop, we were off to the pool party! Nothing at all could stop the greatest party of the summer! (So far. …I don’t want to limit myself.) But that total d-bag, Minnesota Weather, sure tried. (foreshadowing!)
The first day of the party, the snots from the Melismatics took the stage and hoarded all the good weather. They did play The Jesus Mary Chain at my request though, and Pony also came to the defense of Priscilla ninja style when some creepy dude was hitting on her that night… so I suppose I won’t hold it against them. Naturally the show made me embarrassed to even tell people I own a guitar.
Then… I really don’t know what happened because I was mingling too much. I remember chatting with Ryan and then my agent, and then a few other people, and then the next thing I know there are a bunch of naked people in the pool, which means that all the normal people had already left. We stayed a little longer when Scott made biscuits and gravy… His biscuits and gravy are so good that they are going to appear in a cook book that Priscilla might make some time maybe. That’s good.
So, anyway, then we went home and slept for a long period of time. At some point on Saturday we woke up and basically just went right back to the pool. Only now, the weather sucked. It was like 65 American degrees and raining all day. The only thing cool about that was that the pool was actually 85 degrees, so it was steaming all day. Seeing as the weather sucked it was more of a regular style party rather than a pool style party. One disgruntled party goer actually smashed the tank on one of the toilets. (Probably the dude above. …I mean, just look at him. Seriously.) True to form, Maudlin played and brought the noise regardless of the weather. Following the example sung by Queen and set by many a mailperson, Maudlin plays regardless of weather conditions. …although we did move things inside to the Rock The Cause world headquarters in a secret underground bunker below the pool.
After we rocked out, we were really hot, so we all ran out into the rain and jumped into the pool. After that refreshing experience Maudlin actually started requiring that there be a pool in the green room for all of our shows.
Anyway, that was that.
The next weekend we traveled with our pals So It Goes down to our stomping grounds of Winona to play Rock Roll music. I think Mr. Mike Minehart who came down to document has a short video up of this already, but I’ll probably leave that till next time. …When we got home from Winona we had sad, sad things waiting. Our cat, Ebony, couldn’t walk. We tried to help her up when we realised she was having difficulties, but she couldn’t even stand. We took her to this vet. I’d recommend them, normal hours go till 9pm seven days a week. Turns out poor little Ebony is diabetic. So we have her on a regiment of pills to help her get on her feet, and daily insulin that she’ll probably need the rest of her life. The good news is that, as of today (I’m writing this at home from work cat sitting), she seems to be doing a bit better. She is now moving from room to room with some effort, but unassisted. We’re hoping she makes a full recovery… I’ll keep you posted…