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After a SXSW hiatus – and, admittedly, a post-SX recovery hiatus – our Travel List series is back to help you toss around ideas about just which book will make it into your suitcase this Easter weekend. Post-SX, what better kind of author to consider than a music writer? Rob Sheffield has written for SPIN and most recently pit out two musically grounded memoirs of diffthirst periods in his life. While we missed meeting him at SX where he was signing books & getting some love, we still love him and think this is a truly great read.

Rob Sheffield – Love is a Mix-Tape (Life and Loss One Song At A Time)

For anyone with the slightest nostalgia for the ’90s, Sheffield can instantly take you back with this great tribute to both that decade’s music and his wife who he lived the music with. Framed in the context of the mix tapes that these two music lovers, and eventual music journalists, made for each other, the book will have you wishing you never threw yours out years ago. Each chapter starts out with a scrawled out cover of a mix tape that either he or his then girlfriend, soon to be wife, made for each other and for distinct moments of their lives, Sheffield takes you into his relationship as they experience the 90s opening up a whole different era of music as first Pavement and then Nirvana changed everything.

Sheffield’s book is, at the same time, poignant and heart-wrenching, with the risk of a few tears as Sheffield takes you back to this moment in his life – but which leaves you looking ahead with him and with no shortage of music to unearth. Full disclosure…This book holds a special place in my own memory today, having read it on my first trip to Austin almost two years ago, only to discover that Pavement was playing the last night of their reunion tour (after a 20 yr bitter musical divorce) on my last night in a city I was fast falling in love with, admittedly at a velocity something less than the guy I was falling in love with here. Tickets bought instantly, it would be my first of many concerts to catch at Stubb’s. And Sheffield’s mix tape lists have stirred a lot of sessions of digging up old 90s albums, our own tapes sadly having long been tossed out.

 

Montreal’s Yamanataka have a sound that reminds us of somewhere in between Asobi Seksu and Sleigh Bells – which is a great combo – and the video for Hoshi Neko off their debut album Sonic Titan has a whimsical mixed- media quality that we enjoy.  It reminds of the doodles you made in the margins of your class notes come to life.

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Portland’s Yacht can be a little hit and miss for us, but Shangri-La is a definite hit and the video reminds us of all the things we love about the wacky West Coast.

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This week’s featured book in The Travel List series is Patti Smith’s – Just Kids.

Smith chronicles her artistic diaspora from the Midwest to NYC in the late ’60s to seek out her self-definition as an artist, where she almost immediately has a chance meeting with Robert Mapplethorpe. The two go on to have an intense relationship, with a bond that endures until his death, while each forges their respective identities as artists, finding their respective practices that launches the two of them into the avant-garde of music and photography. For a close, exquisite and raw glimpse into NYC during the late ’60s and into the ’70s, this book takes you there. The details Smith gives of their time living in the eponymous Chelsea Hotel make it almost tangible and give life again to several characters now long gone who spent time there – Janis, Jimi and others.

Considering the contributions that Smith and Mapplethorpe have each made, and in her case, continue to make, in the worlds of art and music, to have such an intimate view into where this started for the two of them and how it came to be took my breath away. It felt like walking alongside two friends as they found themselves as artists, each working so desperately to find the medium that allowed them out of themselves – and almost not finding that medium altogether. Smith’s candid account of how they came to be where they are truly gives you some insight into the near misses of many artists and musicians that we have come to know today – if all it took was someone putting a Polaroid in Mapplethorpe’s hands.

This book rendered me speechless at times – and almost as fast, ensured that I could not talk about anything else for at least a month, buying copies for friends to pass along. The accolades that she received for Just Kids - the National Book Award amongst countless other nods and great reviews – could not surprise anyone given the poignancy of this book and its amazing prose. There are lines within it that just stun, leading you to read them over and truly understand that you are reading the prose of a poet – and poets, like Rainer Maria Rilke and others have proven to make excellent novelists and prose writers time and time again. Given the door that Patti Smith opens onto her relationship with Robert, if you can read this on a plane or a beach without some tears, it will be far more than just surprising.

This will definitely be coming with me to NYC in May for the inaugural Frieze NY…an appropriate re-read given the context. I may just have to make a few Patti-inspired pilgrimages to Coney Island and the Chelsea…

Since it’s the time of year that people are generally grabbing a plane to find some real estate on a beach somewhere,  a reading list seems like a good place to start before packing. It’s the least that we could do – to help marry up your wandering mind with what it will truly need while you’re laying on a beach or a boat somewhere. The key is to find the right one – that either piques your interest based on where you’re going or just grabs you on the right level, just where you need to be to get the most out of your trip.

Thanks to Tablet for shooting out its list, “Book It: Winter Reads”, of what to read where. Any list that includes Alain de Botton deserves instant credibility and caught my attention right away. The trip envy that that list engendered in me fueled this list. So, over the course of the next several weeks, this list will grow to include books that have been with me on great trips, many of which I would take again for a re-read without hesitation. Enjoy and hope that at least one of these gets you where you need to be on your vacation.

Keith Richards – Life

Because this book is a trip in itself. Need I say more?

Having not been able to put this down myself on my last vacation, I can’t begin this list without it. I was reticent about reading it given Keith’s notorious slagging of Mick in it – with Marianne Faithfull coming to his defence – but then, wouldn’t we all have a little to say about our brothers after a five decades of hard living while running a business together?

Keith takes you from the South in the ’60s back to growing up in postwar Britain and then right along for the ride chronicling how the Stones got to where they are today – and through all the dirt along the way. For the Stones lover, he’s got you. For the guitarist, there’s so much material there. For the music historian, a glimpse at 20th c. blues and rock & roll doesn’t get much better than this. For the pure celebrity of it, well, Perez Hilton has nothing on Keith with the walk-ons of so many interesting characters over the years that he sets out for you. His perspective of these years and how it all fit together for him was what struck me the most about the book – and has stayed with me since returning home and pouring through some of their older albums.

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Happy New Year! May 2012 be filled with fun, hobbying and real issues not much bigger than these!

Let’s just say that coming home a bit late Saturday night (we’ll blame it on daylight savings) put a late start to getting us back to Auditorium Shores for Sunday – so our posts from funfunfun fest got a bit behind! All signs of a great weekend…So here goes, day two and three in a suite.

Day two got off to a great start with The Joy Formidable – a truly fantastic Welsh group, whose album The Big Roar we’ve been wearing out since we caught wind of it. Currently on tour with FooFighters, they came down to FFF to play just a spectacular show. With some stuffed Japanimation-style creatures guarding the stage. Great to hear them live & think they gave OccupyAustin something solid to start their day off with across the 1st St. Bridge. Definitely check them out. Full post to come soon on the album…

Then onto Wugazi. Figured since we had missed Joe Lally earlier in the day, we had better catch Wugazi:) and were reminded of their lineage when Cecil Otter cheekily shouted out for everyone to be sure to buy Joe Lally’s album at FFF. Great show that everyone got into, not least of all because they were clearly loving putting out a great show.

The sense of humour at FFF started coming out in full force on Saturday – combined with a pretty decent sense of pride in what the festival is about and all the work that Graham Williams has put into it since 2006. So Danzig was fair game for the rest of the weekend after starting his Friday set 45 mins. late to promptly start whining about being cold – to then go on and cut most of the Misfits tunes that a lot of people had shown up to hear. That show should have made the festival for so many – and just didn’t. Funniest thing ever – in a sad, princess-like musician sorta way – is reading the facebook page post from one of FFF’s organizers to get the whole scoop:

Hi. I book the fest. Those that are hating could NOT be more wrong. Yes, someone has your money and ripped you off. His name is Glenn. Stop by his house in LA with some kitty litter in trade for your refund, but we still had to pay him and he didn’t deserve it after what he pulled. Here is how it went down…check the timeline:
-glenn flies in this morning and says he has a cold and doesn’t want feel like playing the show. he demands french onion soup and vitamins brought to his hotel suite. he wants to soup now and wants it hot. we get it.
-glenn says it’s freezing in austin and he can’t go on. says it’s going to be 28 degrees tonight and he won’t perform (keep in mind, it’s currently 71 and sunny with a night forecast of maybe 50+). he says we have to move the show/festival inside if we want him to play (obviously, that’s not possible).
-we rent stage heaters (no other bands, public enemy, mcd, passion pit, etc need or want heaters on stage…it’s warm up there and not cold out) for glenn per demand, as well as bring in an onsite doctor to make him happy and be there if his cold doesn’t go away.
-agents and managers assure us he’s going to play now.
-glenn’s band/crew arrive before him in the afternoon and load gear. they said it all works, they get up the danzig banner, check lights, are happy.
-glenn arrives at 7:45 (half hour before showtime, they go on at 8:15 exactly and have a 90 min set…park curfew by the city/police is 10pm sharp)…when he arrives, he says he’s not going to play. says he doesn’t like how the banners are hung on stage and doesn’t like the lighting or stage size (all this was advanced in email and phone well in advance and the band/crew loaded in mid day and were happy with it and said it would work…stage wasn’t small at all). he wouldn’t leave his trailer to go look at the stage, though, so the lighting company drew up specs for him to look at of the stage lighting 50 feet from his trailer and brought it to him to look over and prove him wrong.
-in the meantime, glenn’s bodyguard gets pushy (literally) with murder city devils manager and tells them they can’t have their friends watch MCD from stage and wants them to cut their set. kicks them off stage and gets physical with the band and stafff….oh, also danzig says he’s just as big as slayer and slayer is playing a bigger stage on sunday and that’s bullshit and wants to play the same stage slayer is playing…or won’t play. makes him look bad.
-it’s now 8:15 and time for them to go on. the band is ready, corpse make ups done, guitars tunes. glenn says he’s not playing and that it’s too cold outside. he said big stages should have windscreen so wind can’t blow on him from the side. the stage managers then goes and gets tarps and tarp the entire side of the stage so now wind will hit him.
-it’s now 8:40. we explain that it’s cutting into the set and he’s going to have cut the 90 min set if he doesn’t play soon, as park curfew is 10. he says he doesn’t feel like playing. says “i got a deathbug. if i go on stage and get sick, i’ll die. i’m not getting sicker for this show” (NOTE: he totally looks and seems fine…no coughing, no paleness, no vomiting, just some balding and a gut, from what i can tell). we get the Dr and he says he can do a b12 shot or anything he needs if he feels bad…danzig says he only treats illnesses naturally, so won’t do that. we finally get him to agree to play and have already informed his crew that it’s only 60 mins (9pm at this point) and they start cutting some songs from the set list, so they can still do misfits, but obviously didn’t cut enough.
-they went on almost and hour late due to the HANDS DOWN biggest rock star moment we’ve ever dealt with and then he tries to start a riot and blames the fest, the city, the cops and everyone, but himself. goes backstage and tries to fight a few ppl and get in the van and leaves.
the end….
we’re bummed to. we wanted to hear Skulls.

Needless to say Danzig’s whole routine made for some funny quips for the rest of the weekend – stay tuned for the best part of this on Day 3.

M83 played one of the best shows this weekend. Their sound translated so well to a live outdoor show – much better than you may have expected. Playing every one of their greatest songs from the past two albums, they gave up a dish of dreamy pop that the audience ate up with vigour. The size of crowd gave you a sense that these guys have really made it defining indie dream pop.

Kool Keith replaced a broken-footed Rakim on the blue stage at the last minute. Bummed not to see Rakim for the first time, we headed over to check out Kool Keith. Have to say, while this hobbyist was thrilled to check out a legend in hip hop – especially after having just missed him in Savannah, GA while hobbying through the southeast this summer – his rhyming got dulled quick by too many trashy slags about women and just no solid content. Any message got lost in it, and certainly lost us quickly. Hip hop has had a whole lot more to say than this for a while so I expected more from one of its long-standing guys. Just not my thing.

Lykke Li packed the orange stage and did not disappoint with such a powerful, sexy and stunningly aesthetic show. She gave an hommage to Kate Bush – think a new, slightly darker, but definitely more raw Kate with a powerful sense of rhythm and drums – an hommage that definitely comes out in a lot of new indie pop these days (thinking ahead to the Austra show on Sunday or Florence’s new album Ceremonials, to be posted about for sure). She had the audience in her hands, just mesmerized with such a great sound, raw vigour and what was truly the best stage set up and most asethetic show this weekend. Loved it.

Thrilled to then finally catch former Austinites, Spoon, live in their hometown since they’ve relocated to Portland. It was great to see them take over the orange stage as the last act on Saturday night – an honour that was not unnoticed, but that they even rued that it was at the same time as The Damned over on the black stage. They played a fantastic set with all of our favourite tracks…before, sorry, guys, we too had to head over and catch some of The Damned’s set.

The Damned. Dave Vanian. Capt Sensible. Amazing. This hobbyist got an education in punk Saturday night. After having thought I had a grasp on early punk through to the beloved Sonic Youth, these guys gave me a true education revealing that I had yet to discover these legends & one of the greatest groups in punk hands down. These guys were the first British punk band to release a single (yes, before that other group led by Mr. Rotten) -New Rose in 1976. Technically gothic punk, Vanian had killer style then – all slicked back hair, proper dress shirt and suspenders – which continues today on their 35th anniversary tour. Their sound is so solid – and clearly has inspired so much that has come since. We loved every minute of it and it definitely made the weekend for some of our hobbyist contingency.

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Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah: Day one on the orange stage

And so we’re here, Austin…Day One of @funfunfunfest is wrapped & parties are in the midst at spots all around town, with everyone from Big Freedia to Kool Keith doing after parties at the local haunts.

The Thermals sounded great as we walked over the bridge & onto Auditorium Shores – and sounded even better once we were right up front of them at the orange stage. A great pop rock group that we were so happy to catch…definitely want to check them out more.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Austin’s own, got it going right from the get go. Mr Lewis had way more raw stage presence owed to Stevie Ray than his stellar album lets on – but the groove that they put out there in the late afternoon today was all their own. Definitely check them out…great post to come on their album, and heard tonight there’s a new one coming out shortly. Heard a couple tracks from the new album that show there are definitely good sounds to come.

Dragged ourselves away from the orange stage to catch Big Freedia finally – and no looking back once we got there! Big Freedia, the Queen Diva herself. Nothing sissy about this bounce. She had azzzzzes everywhere for everyone and a solid homegrown NOLA voice full of power, poise & politics. Loved it & so thrilled to finally catch her since we’ve missed her everytime we’ve been to NOLA. Definitely had the place dancing more than anything we saw tonight and had this hobbyist dancing like she forgot she knew how to…

And then back to the orange stage to catch a local band that we know who have been doing great, just come off of doing Letterman – the Okkervil River. Amazing, guys. Truly great show and should have a lot of people paying a lot of attention to you. The show had the most energy of any of the shows on the orange stage that we saw this evening – the drummer deserves a standing O, the female guitarist is stellar with a cutsie dress that belies her rocking arms and technical skill and the guitarist, Mike, who we loved hearing live finally – need we say more? Look them up. You won’t regret it.

Then Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah…great to finally hear them. Have to admit that the lead singer’s voice always takes some getting used to when he’s singing most of their leading indie rock tunes – kind of like my voice needs some getting used to on any given day. But once he digs into some of their more low-key sounds, he’s mesmerizing and the crowd was in their hands. You have to respect any band that went it like they did without signing to a label for a while…tenacity breeds amazing musical chops perhaps?

Just starting to settle into their show and we had to take off to the blue stage to catch Four Tet. Their sound was something we’ve loved – and even more so live. The backdrop to their set was the Public Enemy show getting ready, which, if you’ve never seen an old school hip hop show, it’s something else. So the Four Tet soundtrack behind it as everyone grappled for a position to catch Chuck D and Flavor Fav come out was a bit surreal and definitely not what you would expect…but it worked merely because they work so well. That album can go on anytime of the day chez nous.

And then for the PE show…Chuck D, we love you. Lecturer, professor and music businessman, he’s a force and still shows it on the mike. As well as a lot of affection for his old right hand man, Flavor Flav, who has clearly come out the other side from the reality tv show experiment. And came through with one of his old classic clocks around his neck. Chuck D’s rhyming was solid, as always – and it was such an experience to see an old school hip hop show like that, hype man and male cargo-pant wearing dancers and all…Positioned right in front of the speaker like old times might not have been the best idea for that show…certainly not on Day One, at least!

Then back to the orange stage to catch the last bit of Passion Pit, which did nothing but impress…and made me look forward to M83 and the Joy Formidable tomorrow…

Say what they will of Auditorium Shores, the anticipated naysayers who are decrying the larger venue on the south shore of the lake, as opposed to the old spot in town. This is the only spot this hobbyist has known, this being the first #Fx3 and all for me, but the location’s great – quick walk if you’re across the bridge, might run into the odd guitarist before a gig (ahem, Okkervil River’s basist trekking his gear across the bridge with us plebes) and the backdrop does not get better: ATX at its finest with the 360 and her neighbours aglow behind the orange stage.

So far as far as the food worshipping goes at funfunfunfest…we can say that Mmmmpanadas are amazing. They’re based around Costa Rican empanadas with five on the menu – you’ll find them halfway between the blue stage and the black stage. Soooo good. Back to try more tomorrow…

Stay tuned for more tomorrow as the amazing Day Two lists gets going..and more details about our thoughts on the food tents….

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This has been floating around for a few days now, but we can’t resist posting it because: (1) we love Kaputt; and (2) we love Vancouver and this video shows off the best of Vancouver on a sunny summer morning.

Destroyer – Savage Night at the Opera from Merge Records on Vimeo.

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If you haven’t seen it yet, you really have to check out the new Spike Jonze directed video for the Beastie Boys and Santigold’s Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win.  Another, brilliant effort from Mr. Jonze, which will be an instant favourite for any child of the ’80s who remembers epic G.I. Joe sessions.  The song itself, off the Beastie’s latest and long over-due Hot Sauce Committee Part 2 is easily their most immediately catchy and likeable output since 1998′s (what?!) Hello Nasty.  Check out the extended video below.  Zombies be damned.