Screw the Industry Weasels

Think small (bands) and youll have a good time at SXSW

Old Time Relijun

Tuva by way of Olympia, WA, Old Time Relijun seems to have spent a lot of time listening to Captain Beefheart albums and having nightmares about the Bible. I can't listen to them very long when I'm home alone, but live is another story. Frontman Arrington de Dionyso channels some kind of demon from hell and skronks on a sax like nobody's business while Aaron Hartman (stand-up bass) and Jamie Peterson (drums) keep the shit together. Word on the street is Dionyso's a preacher's son, and the fact is he certainly has some Jesus howl, enabling his voice to span octaves that most musicians don't even know about. Standout track: "Cold Water," from their 2004 LP Lost Light. A relatively straightforward track for this band, the tune grooves on for more than eight frantic minutes, sounding like the kind of music you'd want to have playing in your head during a bar fight. I believe there is a cymbal crash on every other beat throughout this entire song.

Ladyhawk

Freedom rock from Canada, where they seem to be doing it better than we can manage. At their show opening for Magnolia Electric Company at the Echo last year, they played a better set than the headliners, which kind of pains me to say. Though I hate to do it, I'm going to be lazy and repeat what every other writer has mentioned—they sound like The Replacements covering Neil Young. Sorry, but they really do! Standout track: "My Old Jacknife"—a bouncy song that for about three seconds melodically recalls Willy DeVille's "Storybook Love" from The Princess Bride before erupting into a road tune about saying the hell with it and cutting shit up.

Menomena

A band with more creative ideas in one song than most can come up with in an entire career, Menomena are playing the Barsuk records showcase late on the second night, where their complex arrangements will almost certainly result in blissful confusion for any tenacious drunkard that remains upright. Their newest release, Friend and Foe, has generated a lot of excitement, as it's one of the rare albums that's actually still interesting after several listens. Menomena create their music utilizing a computer program written by bandmate Brent Knopf, but after reading several articles that attempt to describe what it actually does, I still have no clue how it works. Something about loops. Anyway, the band claims they're sick of talking about it. I'll respect their wishes. Standout track: "Wet and Rusting"—yearning piano mixes with pitch-shifted guitars, frenetic drums, and swelling string samples to create an oddly optimistic song about getting through life when everything sucks.

The Mae Shi

Los Angeles-based quartet often described as noise rock, though the tracks I've heard from their upcoming album (the title of which remains somewhat unclear) sound like New Pornographers' covers performed by Tripping Daisy's Tim DeLaughter backed by Deerhoof, which I realize might sound shaky, but completely works in practice. The Mae Shi underwent some lineup changes in 2006, which might explain the shift in direction, and then found themselves out of a label when Kill Rock Stars' affiliate 5RC went out of business. But the band soldiers on, and their live shows remain as stirring and energetic as their recorded output. Standout track: "Run to Your Grave." This track off their upcoming album has been making the rounds of music blogs and will probably win you over if you march in place and pump your fist in the air while you listen to it. The obligatory Casio tones kick off the song but are soon joined by a plaintive descending melody that tempers the irony and makes you feel a little guilty for the dumb smile you had on your face when the song first came on. "Scream, cry, pray, confess, God will do the rest," the band howls over the mounting tension of marching drum rolls until the soothing tones of an omnichord arrive to walk you home and let you know it's okay to cry.

Marnie Stern

I could tell you New Yorker Marnie Stern has three times the normal amount of fingers—that's right, that would be 30—and you'd probably believe me after listening to her debut album, In Advance of the Broken Arm. It sounds like it was recorded by a group of elves who grew up listening to nothing but Eddie Van Halen solos. Stern frequently overdubs her own vocals on the chorus, which can occasionally sound like Kidz Bop covering thrash metal. Stern wrote the songs by herself over a two-year period and was signed to Kill Rock Stars after sending in a demo tape. Shredding as part of KRS' showcase of female performers, along with local standouts Mika Miko, there won't be an unbloodied ear in the house. Standout track: "Patterns of a Diamond Ceiling"—"I'm not looking to find a pot of gold, I will paint you a picture that's inside my head," Stern sings and proceeds to guide the listener on a visualization, kind of like the ones I had to endure every time my high school would hire a motivational speaker to stir up the teens. Except Stern's doesn't make me feel emotionally molested. Representing each piece of her mind picture with a different melodic line, the pieces eventually coalesce as Stern unleashes her army of Marnies to join her for the song's headbanging hook.

Check in to blogs.ocweekly.com/music/ for live coverage of SXSW 2007 throughout the duration of the festival. We'll fight, drink, and sweat so you don't have to.

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