For years now, Centro-matic, a band that began in Denton well over a decade ago, has been known as a prolific group that has risen to a rather lofty status in the world of American Indie-rock. Led by Will Johnson, now an Austinite, the band hasn’t yet put out a record that one would consider anything less than stellar.
The band members themselves are highly sought after when it comes to contributing their individual talents to other’s projects, even. Johnson was the touring drummer for the massive Monsters of Folk project, and he also played guitar on Patterson Hood’s (Drive by Truckers) last solo album. Of course, that’s aside from his many producing projects. Drummer and sound engineer extraordinaire Matt Pence has toured with Jason Isbell while multi-instrumentalist Scott Danbom has played with Slobberbone and Sarah Jaffe. See? In-demand!
Their new album, Candidate Waltz, has reawakened many to the greatness of this band and has already began earning more than its fair share of rave reviews and predictions of the album finding its way onto a solid amount of year-end-best-of lists (Hint: There’s no way it’ll avoid landing on this blog’s list of 2011′s Best Texas Albums. Not a chance).
Enough of me blabbing. Since it’s always nice to see fellow Lone Star dwellers win praise from outside of our own borders, I’ll just let you see for yourself, OK?
- PopMatters digs Will Johnson’s prolific nature…
- Paste loves the straight-forward rockness of the album…
- Prefix Magazine is also a fan of the album’s somewhat “un-hip” straight-forward nature…
- Spin Magazine is yet another admirer of Johnson’s ability to create so much, so well, so often…
So, there. Centro-matic might be a band from our state, but it’s clear that their appeal lies beyond the Red River. Still not sure? Check out the tour schedule for the guys. There aren’t many corners of the great 48 they wont be hitting soon, if not later…
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how I really want to hit the Disc Golf course soon. It’s something I haven’t done before and Texas provides many an opportunity to do so. Well, here’s something else I want to do, but haven’t yet. Hit Marfa!
The dry, West Texas town not too far from Big Bend National Park has obviously become quite the trendy locale in the past few years, and from what I can tell, that trendiness is for good reason, really. It’s often referred to as a sort of artist’s retreat of hideaway; a bohemian enclave deep in the heat of our state, away from the typical artistic areas of the Hill Country or even certain parts of the Gulf Coast. In recent years, the town famously provided the backdrop for the Oscar-winning Coen Brothers film, No Country For Old Men.
Something even more than all of that recently caught my eye and really made me understand what I’ve been missing by not having visited Marfa before. Back in April, Mumford & Sons, along with a few other bands condcted a tour where they were carried by train and performed at various, funky spots along the way. Marfa was one of the stops and word of the show that resulted is that it was one heck of an event.
The concert took place at El Cosmico, a spot that seems to only be possible in the arid environs of the west. Run by Liz Lambert, who is responsible for the always in-demand Hotel San jose in Austin, El Cosmico’s website describes itself as “part vintage trailer, yurt and teepee hotel and campground, part creative lab, greenhouse and amphitheatre – a community space that fosters and agitates artistic and intellectual exchange.”
Sounds pretty cool, right?
Look, I’m sure there are tons of cool bars and foodie spots in Marfa, and I’m sure the lights are cool and all, but I think I’d be fine figuring all of that out once I got my teepee all set up, first…you?
Look: I know that we can get very wordy here and get all kinds of crazy with trying to label artists and detail exactly what nice, neat little corner of the musical universe a song or album might fit into. No biggie, really. We all just want to understand music and know what something sounds like before we even here it. You know, if someone tells you that a band reminds them of the Replacements, and you aren’t a fan of that band, then you may want to avoid them if you dont want to make the effort to judge for yourself (hey, we’re all busy, you know?). Maybe a friend tells you that a certain song sounds “like what country music should sound like,” and you despise country music in any form, then again, it’s good to have a general idea of what to expect, thanks to a comparison someone you trust provided.
Well, I don’t know what to tell you about Dead Rider. Their sound is just so…so…perplexing? Maybe? I guess? I know that the Chicago-based band’s new album, Raw Dents is a masterwork of odd angles, off-kilter tempos and general weirdness…which is 100% greatness.
Some call them art-rock, others have called them industrial, some even detect some funk in the mix. OK, fair enough. I get all of that…I think. How about this for a description. When I click on their video for “The Pointed Stick” (below), or listen to Raw Dents, I can’t easily tear myself away from either. So, addictive and enthralling. How’s that for describing their sound without actually describing their sound…HUH???
Thankfully, this weekend, many Texas (and even a few Okies) will get to form their own description of this band that has simply taken my brain hostage in recent weeks. On Friday in Austin Dead rider will take over Emo’s, and then make their way north to infest the Doublewide in Dallas on July 2nd, before hitting Oklahoma. Do not miss this band!
Ok, I told you that in order to introduce you to all of the bands on this year’s ACL Fest bill, I would have to cheat a bit here and there. So, here’s a bit of a cheat as I use this week’s video post to slip in an extra (and non-Texan) preview/intro…
Elbow, from The U.K. are a big friggin’ deal accross the Atlantic, yet they’ve failed to make a simliar splash here in the states, even with their latest album, Build a Rocket, Boys! being perhaps better than the one that nabbed them a Mercury Prize a few years ago, signifying the year’s best British or Irish album. They’ll be in the states this fall, so look for them at ACL!
In our second edition of Rockin’ The Lens, David Heidle hit The Granada Theater in Dallas this past Saturday night for a show that certainly tore it up. Denton’s Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward made great use of their time as opening act for one of their musical heroes, while Slobberbone came out and made sure everyone knew why it is people have been so excited about their return. Don’t take my word for it. Let Dave’s pics do the talking!
Recently, we’ve chit-chatted about heading for a day of fun on the Guadalupe, a stroll through some museums and even the possibility of slinging a few rounds of disc golf. Here’s another simple, but still great non-the-less idea: Catch a play!
Not that we claim to be experts in the world of theatre, but it seems to us that Texas probably doesn’t get it’s due when it comes to the theatrical offerings it provides it residents and visitors. Below are a few current and upcoming offerings from some of our favorite stages…
- Zach Theatre – Austin: All kinds of great things go down here on a regular basis. A key upcoming attraction however is the buzzed-about, Tony winning Spring Awakening. Starting in September, this rocking production will likely be packed. Of course, there’s plenty going on between now and then, too. Be sure to catch The Book of Grace, a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning Suzan Lori Parks about south Texas family that weaves themse of familial bonds ond geographical bord.
- Dallas Summer Musicals: A tradition for many North Texans, the DSM series is known for bringing in the most stories titles (West Side Story) while mixing in a few fun favorites (Stomp!), and adding some productions that have gained recent notoriety on the Tony stage, even (Monty Python’s Spamalot). In fact, the legendary British comedy style is currently on display now for another few days.
- Alley Theatre – Houston: Ready for a bit of mystery? It’s hard to top Agatha Christie in that regard, now isn’t it? Head to Houston’s long-standing thatre to catch the latest installment in their “Summer Chills” series, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.
- Water Tower Theatre – Addison: Now, for a suburban locale (don’t let that fool you into thinking that the quality is any less however), Addison knows how to put on the large, spectacular city events, and that extends to the stages of the Water Tower Theatre’s complex. While they have Little Shop of Horrors on the horizon, do not miss their current offering. Shooting Star is a widely acclaimed two-person production that has amde its way around the country and has been loved at aeach stop. Now, it’s Addison’s turn.
In our never-ending quest (OK, it will end on September 15, actually) to discuss, preview, and introduce you to every act that will play during this year’s Austin City Limits Festival, we are here again to shine a little light on an act that you may or may not be yet familiar with. In fact, in the case of Nick 13, you may be aware of this man’s work without fully realizing it, even.
As the leader of a band named Tiger Army that most seem to deem as “psychobilly,” Nick 13 has specialized in trippy, cosmic shades of country music, especially as a solo artist. Looking every bit the tattooed, greased-up punk, Nick 13′s coolness extends beyond his exterior and into the heart of his tunes. His self-titled solo album was released this month and is simply stellar. Again, it’s safe to use the term cosmic when describing the tone of what is otherwise a prime, stone-cold country disc.
While this new record is good enough to give any artist ideas of making a side project their main gig, word has it that Tiger Army fans have nothing to fear. A native of northern California, Nick 13 has stated numerous times that the band will be back soon enough. Of course, an ACL slot is no small feat. Recent gigs at SXSW and at the Stagecoach Festival (the country little brother to Coachella) have certainly primed his solo act into one that is ready to handle any doubters that may shout for tunes from his other band.
We talked about the boys of Rosehill a while back. Well, we’re not the only ones who like them, of course. Now, mainstream country giant, CMT, has certainly hopped on the bandwagon, which will surely give them a much-deserved boost in notoriety. Above, the video for “Dream it All Over Again” is receiving some countdown love from CMT, so please give it a look, wont you?
Obviously, Texas is blesssed with many a worthy destination for a day-trip or weekend excursion. Some of those destinations, however, are locales that seem to be slow on some weekends, and crammed on others. One hot-spot that is always sizzling with activity, almopst regardless of when one chooses to go is Fredericksburg.
The lovely, German, hilly town has more than it’s fair share of calling cards – hello, Beds and Brekafasts – but we’re not here to talk about that. We’re not here to send you there when one of th large wine festivals or city-wide celebrations are taking place. Anyone can do that. We’re just going to look at this coming weekend specifically and point you into the direction of a few understated, but cool, events and a few of the key attractions that makes this place a choice destination almost any weekend on the calendar…
- Friday 6/24: Thomas Michael Riley at Hondo’s on Main ~ The tree-covered, outdoor patio stage and dining area is pretty much the definition of the Hill Country music expecrience. Cold Beer, entrees that involve salty corn chips and chili, and stars lighting the gazebo stage from which the bands play. Shoot, whether it’s before TMR’s set or after, head across the street to The Auslander for some schnitzel and live tunes in a real-deal biergarten.
- Saturday 6/25: Get All you Need or Get Rid of It! ~ On Saturday, at the Holy Ghost Lutheran Fellowship Hall, you can learn more about green living. It’s like a free community garage sale. Whether you’re looking to discard or acquire an item, this is the place to do it! Even if you don’t have something to give, come by and find items you can use.
- Saturday 6/25: Roots Music Night Series - Americana Rock ~ In the evening, pre-order a chicken-fried steak and graba couple of lawn chairs to enjoy this well-produced concert series on the lawn of the Pioneer Museum. Each edition has a theme, ranging from Zydeco to Blues. Celebrating the hard-to-define Americana sound, music fans will be able to enjoy a 7pm performance from buzzed-about girl band, the Trishas.
- Anytime, Any Weekend: Becker Vinyards ~ We typically arent fond of wines that are too sweet, but darn it if the last time we enjoyed a few glasses of vino from the patio of the beautiful, lavender-scented Becker environs wasnt their too-good-to-be-true Reisling. They often have special events, but that’s a bit misleading, really. To paraphrase a line from the Merlot-hating flick, Sideways, every trip to Becker is a special occasion.
- Anytime, Any Weekend: National Museum of the Pacific War ~ Basically attached to the impressive Admiral Nimitz Museum, this relatively new, multi-media gem is a gripping and often-times goosebump-inducing trip through a memory lane filled with incomprehensible pain, agony and triumph. This is still a hidden gem, and is a historical center not to be missed when traveling through the area.
- Anytime, Any Weekend: Lincoln Street ~ We ahd to go back to wine, right? This cozy wine bar is just about the prefect place to sink into a glass of wine, nibble on a cheese plate and maybe even enjoy a cigar. Lincoln Street manages to feel like a neighborhood joint in the middle of a throbbing tourist mecca.
Here at the Best of Texas Blog, we like to to take in the occasional show – that’s no secret. We like to talk about many of the shows we take in also. Again: That’s no closely guarded secret. What we haven’t done much of here, but have always knws that we needed to was to better document these shows not just in words and crappy iPhone pics, but in real, live, professional shots by a bright, up and coming photographer. Welcome to a new feature here: Rockin’ the Lens
So, with that please help us in welcoming Dallas photographer David Heidle. Dave’s been a player in several areas around Dallas for years, actually. Some of you may know him from his musical work with the bands Eastwood and/or Traffico. While he is a deft lensmen in many areas, we think his experience writing and performing music makes him an ideal fellow to bring us shots from some of the state’s best shows. David picked a good one to start with, too. Last week, he stopped by Renfield’s Corner for the El Cento CD release show. Don Cento, who has been a go-to musician for many a north Texas-based artist for years now, along with being an integral member of noted bands such as Sibboleth just released a fine, eclectic album that seems to scratch whatever musical itch you may experience at a given moment. A recent Dallas Observer review of El Cento’s self-titled album detailed the Cars and Talking heads influences, and yes, they are there, but this isnt a retro album that merely rehashes the past, but is very vital and deserves to be heard now.
Below is a pictoral show review, if you will. Keep your eyes fixed on this site for more rock photography from David Heidle. You will not be sorry.