Saturday, January 3, 2009

Free Week 2009: Pick of the Night, Sat 1/3

Friday Recap
Last night at Mohawk was South By Southwest-esque. I got there at 10:20 and the not-so-single-file line hemorrhaged and wobbled to Club de Ville's parking lot. Something cinematic-sounding was brewing on the other side of the cement wall. The sounds echoing from Mohawk's outdoor stage were ethereal and uplifting, much like the feelings that came over me at the sight of a huge crowd waiting to get into a 100% local Red River show in January. The ambient guitar and keys were driven forward by soft but steady percussion. The music built to a cathartic wall-of-sound crescendo, and after the reverb faded into the open night sky (a cool 65-degree Texas night, by the way) a voice said into the microphone "Thanks for coming out. This is the biggest crowd we've ever played in front of." And I smiled. That's exactly what Free Week is about. The band was Calm Blue Sea, and you should definitely see them live when you get the chance. I made it in for the last song, which ended with the lead guitarist playing on his knees with what looked like tears in his eyes at one point. He then stood, pulled his guitar strap from his shoulder, and flung the guitar to the ground. He didn't smash it, Who-style, but he didn't accidentally drop it either. zlam dunkIt was the same move Chris Rock used to do at the end of his comedy specials, but with a guitar instead of a mic. Just confidently drop the thing as if to say My job is done here. And that was just the first band. Zlam Dunk (pictured left) got the kids rowdy indoors with crowd-surfing band members and lots of percussion. The Always Already, filmed as a trio by 'Nites last July, made their debut as a quartet. "We made a record and put a bunch of extra stuff on it," was frontman Dustin Withers' explanation to the crowd. And Built By Snow launched into their sweaty 1am set with the concise and catchy pop burst of "All The Weird Kids Know". Good times.

ugly beatsTonight's Pick
Tonight, the two biggest names playing Free Week will vie for the ears and eyes of Austin's indie rock aficionados: What Made Milwaukee Famous (Emo's outdoor) and Riverboat Gamblers (Mohawk outdoor). WMMF is the "obvious" choice, but 'Nites isn't about doing what's obvious. Nothing against WMMF; they put on a fun show when I saw them play a pre-ACL Fest gig at Emo's last September. But if you've seen them before, I'm gonna ask you to take a pass this time, in the spirit of discovery that is Free Week. You won't have to venture too far, though, because the must see-show is going on at Emo's indoor stage (Red River entrance). You have a good ol' fashioned rock 'n roll show waiting for you with upbeat retro-rockers The Ugly Beats and hard-chargin' Amplified Heat. Dans La Lune and The Jungle Rockers round out this 1960s garage-rock revival showcase. I have to admit, though, I'll be at Mohawk for a second straight night. I've never seen the Gamblers live, so I don't want to miss out. Also, Bankrupt and the Borrowers play the indoor after-show. They're a great band to rock out too when you're at your drunkest and rowdiest.