By Mary Chang on Monday, 26th March 2012 at 3:00 pm
With my previous music festival experiences, time proved to be my greatest enemy. At SXSW this year, I found a new foe: distance. While I’m a native Washingtonian and our town ranks in the top 10 of most walkable American cities, even I was flagging after day 2 in Austin. When you’re subsisting on less than 4 hours of sleep per night, dehydrated and hungry, all signs point to you not crossing the road to meet Adam (Duritz of Counting Crows, whose name was on a sign I spotted in the airport the afternoon I arrived but sadly did not accidentally run into at baggage claim). After a brief respite sat on Cashier No. 9’s guitar cases, sitting out in a fenced in section outside Tap Room at Six after the Northern Irish showcase there, my next stop was Easy Tiger Patio on the east side of town to catch the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) showcase. Predictably, the place was already near full and rammed with people of varying stages of inebriety. Wending my way through the crowd was about as simple as walking through quicksand; I’m also not a fan of people smoking during gigs and I guess because it really was a patio covered by a tarp, smokers thought it was still outdoors enough to light up. Ugh.
I could hear (and liked what I heard) but could not see Three Blind Wolves playing. By the time I got halfway up towards the front of the stage, their set was over and the sea of punters parted, many of them dashing over to meet the band off the side of the stage. Now’s the chance to get down the front for a band I was dying to see at SXSW and expect to also catch at the Great Escape and Liverpool Sound City this year, Django Django. I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t know they were Scottish until I saw them listed on this showcase’s line-up, but I should be forgiven, seeing that it’s not like their music is all about tartan flag waving? While they set up, they looked like four average blokes from anywhere. Three days later I saw them wearing football kit, leaning over bar tables and getting drunk during a Slow Club set. They looked like ordinary punters…
But then they changed into outfits that could make you believe they were male nurses from Planet Cheeto. How unusual! I hope I’m not the only person making note of their stage clothes: it reminds you just how unique Django Django are. They have this dance vibe that underlies some great harmonies and guitar riffs harkening back to the great California rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s (think the Byrds and the Eagles); the combination sounds unsettling on paper but somehow resolves into this extremely tight and fun unit live.
The atmosphere was amazing for ‘Skies Over Cairo’; I’m positive there’s never been such an enjoyable dance party in the Egyptian capital. Their set was unfortunately cut short due to a curfew, so shockingly they didn’t play ‘Default’ but they ended instead with ‘Wor’, complete with its warning sirens and surf-y guitar riffs not heard since the Surfaris (watch it below). YES. That’s it. I’m plastering myself on their appearances in Brighton and Liverpool in May.
So after the brill party atmosphere of the Djangos were the actual headliners of the Scottish showcase, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and I felt their set was a bit of a letdown. Don’t get me wrong, I thought they sounded great and the fans were certainly up for it, going completely manic for Adam Thompson’s impressive showing with the vocals for ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’. But they couldn’t elicit the same kind of energy Django Django could. Also detracting from the performance was a very pissed woman whose mates kept bumping into the new friends I made, not caring that they were being completely obnoxious. The woman was so drunk, she kept testing the invisible line separating stage and band from the crowd. At one point, she stepped onstage and her boyfriend was taking a photo of her “with” guitarist Michael Palmer, who was trying to do his job and play and really wasn’t having any of it, giving her bunny ears; later, he yelled at her to shut up and “back off”. Not wise to anger a Scotsman!
I’m sure you can tell from this portion of the review that I was really cheesed off by these few bad apples ruining the show; part of me wondered about the ambience at the Lionel Richie show at the Moody Theatre on the west side of town, where the Austin City Limits tv programme is filmed, taking place at that very moment and if I’d made the wrong choice. (Turns out Kenny Rogers showed up as a special guest. Humph…) But I’m glad I caught the Djangos when I did. Further, after the showcase was over, I went over to thank Radio Scotland’s Vic Galloway (pictured above introducing the Jetpacks) for having a hand in putting the show together but was quickly steered clear that Stuart Thomas of the Scottish Music Industry Association (SMIA) was really the man to thank.
Then, all of a sudden, Planet Cheeto’s drummer Dave Maclean of Django Django showed up and we were chatting away. In these electronic times, it’s all too common for bands, radio folks and bloggers never to meet in person even if they know of each other over the internet; as a blogger, it’s a rare treat to put names with faces and make new friends in places like SXSW. It’s moments like these when I really treasure and come to full realisation how lucky I am to be able to do what I do in my free timeVic and Stuart hoped I’d come out to their Discovering Scotland show, part of the British Music Embassy programming on Friday afternoon, and I promised I’d try my best. So after receiving Scottish hugs and thank yous all around, I went home to rest my weary head on my pillow, smile on my face. Tomorrow was another big day in Austin.
By Mary Chang on Thursday, 8th December 2011 at 4:00 pm
Scots We Were Promised Jetpacks recently filmed a performance of their latest single ‘Human Error’ (backed by double A side ‘Ink Slowly Dries’) for posterity. This was filmed at London’s XOYO in Shoreditch. Enjoy it below.
By Mary Chang on Tuesday, 1st November 2011 at 6:00 pm
We Were Promised Jetpacks have a new video for the first half of their forthcoming double A-sided single ‘Human Error’ / ‘Ink Slowly Dries’. The Wombats in their single ‘Jump in the Fog’ sing “life looks better when it’s wrapped in debauchery”, but is it true? This video might provide the answer.
Their next single – a double A-sided one – will be released on the 5th of December on Fat Cat. The songs on the single will be ‘Human Error’ and ‘Ink Dries Slowly’.
Saturday 3rd December 2011 – Newcastle Cluny 2
Sunday 4th December 2011 – Birmingham Hare and Hounds
Monday 5th December 2011 – Norwich Arts Centre
Tuesday 6th December 2011 – Nottingham Bodega
Wednesday 7th December 2011 – Bristol Cooler
Thursday 8th December 2011 – Dublin Whelan’s
Friday 9th December 2011 – Liverpool Masque Theatre
Friday 16th December 2011 – Glasgow ABC
By Mary Chang on Monday, 31st October 2011 at 2:00 pm
Scottish band We Were Promised Jetpacks have played in DC twice before, but this was their largest headlining show to date. Along with them were two bands they were very familiar with – bands they’ve toured with before, but on the other side of the country: Bear Hands from New York and Royal Bangs from Texas. I thought they were unusual choices, given that both of these bands play with keyboards and synths, whereas We Were Promised Jetpacks has the basic rock ‘n’ roll line-up of guitars, bass, and drums. The Jetpacks, known for their loud and rowdy shows, released their second album, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, at the start of October on Fat Cat, and this North American tour was the first time they’ve played the new material stateside. (You can read John’s review of the new album here.)
Bear Hands played first. (You can read guitarist Dylan Rau’s answers to our Quickfire Questions here.) It has been 3 years since I heard them on Lammo’s radio programme but I had not had a chance to see them live yet. Surprisingly (for a Black Cat show anyway), they started at their appointed set time of 8:30. Bear Hands is an indie band that I’d best describe as a mix of MGMT (psych rock with wiggly guitars) and Friendly Fires (tropicalia with maracas and lots of drums), just slightly less dancey and maybe a bit more headbang-y? There was one fan there that was an obvious fan of all three bands; he knew all the songs and shouted “I fucking love you!” and “you’re fucking awesome!” at regular intervals throughout all three bands’ performances. Their last song was ‘What a Drag’, the single from 2008 that I’m sure you’ve heard by now. “Long nails… “ wailed *name of lead singer*, leading all the diehard Bear Hands fans down the front to move and groove to their rhythms; it was a great end to an all too short set.
In general, the genre “noise rock” scares me: it conjures up long-haired indie kids that don’t play in tune. Royal Bangs, then, were a surprising exception to the rule. I have been wracking my brain trying to think of how to describe their sound. For starters though, let me begin with something unrelated to their sound, they’re four beardy guys that wear plaid. Thankfully, they sound nothing like Kings of Leon. When they’ve got the keyboards out, they sound like Procol Harum, or maybe Billy Joel if he was cooler. But a couple of their ‘rocking like we just don’t care’ kind of numbers reminded me a bit of Led Zeppelin, particularly the way lead singer screamed his head off. Their drummer Chris Rusk gets the gold star for the hardest working musician of the night; he attacked his drum kit with ferocity, yet the way he was smiling as he did it, you just know he was having the time of his life.
The almost full Black Cat floor waited in anticipation for their heroes We Were Promised Jetpacks. As should probably be expected, songs from their 2008 debut ‘These Four Walls’ received a raucous reception, with a loud roar as the first guitar notes of ‘Keep Warm’, ‘Roll Up Your Sleeves’ (video below) and ‘These Four Walls’ were played. This band has toured a lot since the first time I saw them open on a Fat Cat North American tour of 2009 featuring the coheadlining and relative Fat Cat elders Brakes and the Twilight Sad, but the Jetpacks show no sign of compromising on or apologising for their loudness. While marked maturity is not evident on all of ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’, the mostly lyricless ‘Act on Impulse’ was a punishing wall of sound that really has to be seen and heard in person to be believed.
Perhaps it’s because I hadn’t seen a gig at the Cat since April (nearly 7 months prior for the Pains of Being Pure at Heart) but I forgot how great it was to be mere metres away from a guy really going for it on his guitar. Now that I play bass, I was in complete awe watching Sean Smith. The first time I bought guitar picks, I asked which thickness I should get. The bloke at the counter says, “well, it depends on how you plan on attacking”. ‘Attacking’ is exactly what Smith and guitarist Michael Palmer did all night: their motto appeared to be play it fast, play it loud, and play it with feeling.
Highlights of the night included the new single ‘Medicine’ (watch the Video of the Moment here) and ‘Ships’. ‘Pear Tree’, with the lyrics you be the lighthouse / and I’ll be the road…” and other you/me comparisons, was unexpected Scottish soul. Maybe this is an indication of future direction”? Their closing song, ‘Thunder and Lightning‘, was a quiet (for the Jetpacks) and introspective way to end the night.
By Mary Chang on Monday, 3rd October 2011 at 6:00 pm
Earlier today was John’s review of We Were Promised Jetpacks‘ new album, ‘In the Pit of the Stomach’. But now we have a video for you, the video for the track ‘Medicine’, which came out as a digital single on the 23rd of September (the first single from the album, in fact). In the visual below, comics meet reality as the Jetpacks’ relentless driving music plays in the background.