"Rudie Come Forward!" (South By Part III)

When I told my husband about the next show I was going to see, he said, “I don’t know. That has the potential to be really bad. And SAD.” Ever the optimist, I decided to go anyway. I mean it’s the English Beat, afterall. Well, to be accurate, it’s Dave Wakeling fronting a much younger band of polished musicians. No Ranking Roger. No Cox/Steel rhythm section. No Saxa. So you can understand our skepticism, especially since were both surprised to hear that the English Beat (or to everyone else outside of the US, “The Beat”) is still around playing music.

I have a very fond memories of that wave of ska + reggae + pop crashing through my early school years, when I was really starting to discover, explore and form my own musical tastes. From the iconic graphic design to the perfect dance beats, I Just Can’t Stop It was an album on heavy rotation at my house, and a staple of the school dances where we would skank and jump around like little kids who had too much sugar.

So guess what? The show was great. And super fun.

Wakeling has gained a few pounds and no longer has short spikey hair (looking a bit like a grown up frat boy who wandered into the wrong party) but once he starts playing and singing and performing, it all comes back. His voice is true to form and sounds exactly the same. They started in with a slowed down groovy version of Stand Down Margaret and moved uptempo into Rough Rider, Mirror in the Bathroom (gorgeous sax solo), Ranking Full Stop, Twist and Crawl, and big hit Tears of a Clown. By this point the crowd is totally jumping around and dancing, even the middle aged industry guys in their suits and beer guts. How can it be that all these awesome songs were on the same album? And why do I still know all the words, including the Ranking Roger toasting parts?

We were also treated to Save it for Later (from Special Beat Service) and even General Public’s hit, Tenderness. This incarnation of the band has obviously been playing together for a while because they were energetic and tight and just on. I’m so glad to have had the chance to see them live, even if it wasn’t the full original band. To know that the music can still move me after all these years, felt really good. I left the show invigorated and happy and nostalgic…all at the same time. Oh, and sweaty.

South By Part II

I almost didn’t make it out for the second evening of music. I think I fell asleep for what I thought would be a short 20 minute disco nap, and I ended up sleeping for about an hour instead. And when I woke up, I almost bagged the whole evening together, until I imagined how much I would be hating myself later for missing what was going to be my last night for music (I was leaving the next day).

So at rallied and off I was at 10:40 to see Liam Finn. Of course I had to check him out, being that his is the son of Neil, whom I have followed the career path of, since practically forever (ok, maybe high school, starting with the Split Enz). Now, after having grown up in an extremely musical family, played in his own band Betchadupa, and touring with his father as drummer and guitarist, Liam has gone solo and has a new album out with Yep Roc. He’s got 3 shows at South By alone, and I’m seeing a lot of promotion for the album in the press. I even saw him on Letterman the week before I came to Austin.

His show was at Shakespeare’s Pub which took me forever to find the entrance to (in the stinky alley). I had to wait a bit to get in, and the small club was packed. I had a great vantage point from above in a little alcove that felt it might fall from the weight of the people. Liam was wild! His music went from silky sweet harmonies to dissonant looped sounds to him wailing on the drums. Really interesting, driving, passionate, and kind of mad? Probably not for everyone, but I think he’s doing some amazing work for someone his age. The music sounds very DIY, but very deliberate and thoughtful. And of course I love how his voice sounds very similar to his father’s. Ah, what a talented family.

A Light Lunch and More Musings on Music

I can’t imagine eating this way any more than once a week or so, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try and discover the subtle nuances of Texas BBQ while in Austin. So here’s my take:

“Mmmm. Smokey. Good meat. Sauce is kinda sweet, kinda vinegar-ey. I need something crunchy with this. Oh man, everything is sticky. Do potatoes qualify as vegetables? Napkins, wet-wipes, where are they…”. Etc. You get the picture. Same deal at most of the places I went.

Now back to the other bands I checked out at South by…

Goldspot. Apparently this band’s music is on the O.C and a bunch of other shows like that. Since I didn’t watch that show, I’m not familiar with Goldspot, but I can totally imagine the songs on a show with a bunch of rich kids full of angst. No, I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging them. I actually liked the music, and I thought the songs were interesting, if not a bit anthemic (is that a word?). . Check out “Time Bomb”. You’ll know what I mean.

There were a few other bands at this same venue that it turns out were part of a showcase presented by KCRW. So these bands have a bit of buzz going around them already, probably having been played on Morning Becomes Eclectic or whatever. Another band I saw here was The Duke Spirit out of the UK. Female singer, darkish, driving, and kind of goth. I probably would have gotten more into them if it hadn’t been 1:20 am in the morning. Hear a song from them here.

I dug Electric Touch…maybe the piano power chord demo that I heard on their SXSW profile page roped me in initially (because I am a SUCKER for a good piano power chord) or maybe it was the 70s classic rock stylings. They are based in Austin, but the lead singer is British (maybe the whole band is?) and looks like a cross between a baby Chris Robinson and a certain local singer-songwriter I used to crush on. This band wins the title of “tightest rocker pants” as a collective.

I also quickly ran by the Lemonheads (remember them?!) show, which was happening at Emo’s Annex OUTSIDE, meaning I didn’t even have to go into the venue to hear them. I peeked over the fence, and yes, it sounded exactly like Evan Dando always sounded like and I also observed that he is quite tall. They performed the entire tracklist of “It’s a Shame About Ray”, although I didn’t stay. I have the cassette somewhere at home I should dig out.

Lastly, my favorite show of the night was The Ting Tings. They are a guy/girl duo from Manchester who do an upbeat electro poppy kind of thing. The female takes lead vocals and the male plays the drums (like the White Stripes in reverse). She’s super cute with a pretty voice, kind of reminding me of Debbie Harry meets Terri Nunn, with the wardrobe trendsetting potential of Gwen Stefani. It was hard not to bounce up and down to the synth-ey and bubbly sound. I’m definitely gonna buy their disc once it comes out.

Destination, Austin

Well, the sun’s coming out and I’m seeing less and less people texting on their iPhones or hunched over a laptop in the hotel lobby. The crowds here are getting younger with a thriftscore meets Urban Outfitters chic. This changing of the guard can only mean one thing…South by Southwest Interactive is ending and the Music Festival is starting!

I’ve been here in Austin since last Friday and it’s been like watching the seasons change. Considering that the weather dipped down to 35 degrees in the evening just a few nights ago, it’s hard to believe it’s completely turned and is now a pleasant and comfortable 77, at 6 pm, no less.

I just got back from a checking out a short set by the band Ra Ra Riot. I was instantly struck by the lead singer’s shirt, which could very well have been the same plaid Alexander Julian button down that I bought for my Sadie Hawkins date back in the 80’s. Kind of good foreshadowing for their sound, which I might describe as:

(The Cure + Morrisey) backed by the string section of our high school band and members of the Chess Club.

Lots of energy, though, and I liked them. Boy did they look young. Listen to a bit of their music here.

More to come on later music shows tonight!

Some thoughts on the past year


1. Validation for my love of Journey (“Hold on to that FEE-eh-lee-eh-hen…”).

2. Trips to Maui and Kauai with friends and family.

3. Low rise (butt-crack muffin top) jeans finally over.

4. The humor of Judd Apatow + Company finally appreciated (including “Undeclared” on DVD)

5. Finally finished the bathroom renovation.

6. “Challengers” by The New Pornographers

7. Felix turns 2 and now we have conversations.


1. Mom getting totally inebriated at French Laundry.

2. Missing all the good shows on Showtime (and wondering why we even bother with HBO).

3. Lack of exercise leading to poor health and getting stuck in the sofa.

4. Moving out of one demographic and into another.

5. More frequent hair coloring.

6. Rob’s truck getting sideswiped out in front of our house.

7. Not getting out enough.

Hey you kids get off my lawn!


This weekend I went to see a movie with my mom and aunt. We had the unfortunate luck of being seated behind 4 pre-teen or early teen girls (I’d guess they were probably 14 or so) who proceeded to annoy the hell out of me throughout the movie. They talked, giggled, fidgeted, opened their phones and texted for the 2 hours, sometimes paying attention to what was on the screen, but mostly not. At the very beginning of the movie an usher came down, shined his flashlight on them and asked them to keep it down, but they didn’t seem to take him too seriously.

It bummed me out because I was feeling like one of those “old” people, complaining about “kids these days” and how they don’t know how to behave, etc etc. Have I become the square, uncool adult I said I’d never become? Trying to have some sympathy, I thought about what I was like at their age, when the world seemed to revolve around me and I was just having fun. The thing is, I don’t remember being that disrespectful or acting that stupid and rude. I just wanted to smack the one with the ponytail onside the head with her own cell phone. Man, I will not raise any daughter of mine to act like that in public.

Ok, enough venting. Anyway, speaking of being a teenager, I had a party a few years back that was an 8th Grade Graduation party. The idea was to reflect that innocent time right before you enter high school and you’re all excited about the possibility but haven’t become jaded and hateful about the cliques just yet. Or maybe you’re just figuring out which clique you’re going to be in? Well, as usual, my friends rose to the occasion and got really creative with the outfits and personas they came up with (special thanks to The Chess Kings, aka The Holiday Band for providing appropriate rockage for the party and over all stone foxiness). I finally got some pictures up on Flickr and created a photoset of all the shenanigans. Bear in mind that this was five years ago, BEFORE much of this clothing started being re-interpreted by today’s young retro hipsters. It was so awesome — nerds dancing with popular girls, prepsters and private school kids hanging with the the art misfits, drama clubbers and burnouts sharing a drink. I grew up in the central valley suburb of Fresno, California, but everyone seemed to have their version of stoners, brains, “soches” (from “social”) and jocks wherever they went to school. And at the party– all the cliques got along famously.

If only it was like that in real life.

What I wore (episode 1)

Day wear for 7th grade
Tenaya Middle School, Fresno, CA

1. Maybelline Eye Shadow Compact Duo: Peacock (teal and mulberry)

2. Chemin de Fer Denim Jeans with lace up front and backs ($22 at Miller’s Outpost, purchased with babysitting money)

3. Famolare Hi-Up Sandals (w/nude colored knee highs)

5. Love’s Baby Soft

6. Barettes

Reunited and it feels so good…

Anyone who has known me for a while knows that am (and have been) a huge Crowded House/Neil Finn fan. They were one of the first bands I discovered when I went off to college…I’m sure I heard them on the radio (probably SF”s “The Quake“, when they still played awesome music) and immediately rushed out to Rasputin Records to buy the cassette tape. Once I got a player at at school, I followed up with the compact disc.

I saw one of their first shows touring the states, at a place called Wolfgang’s, in North Beach, which eventually burned down in a fire (it came back many years later as the 7th Note). Small club, small crowd, but I was there with my closest girlfriends, fawning over Neil as he and Crowded House perfomed literally 10 feet away from us. I just remember being so excited about the band and the music and feeling like they were playing the music just for us.

Through the years, I’ve proceeded to see them every time they came to town, I’ve bought all the albums and limited edition EPs, joined the fan club, and followed the separate solo work once the band broke up. I even called in sick to work one day just to drive out to The Plant in Sausalito in hopes of getting into a “secret prizewinners only” concert that Neil was performing for KFOG a few years ago. I had no idea where this place was, but a fellow fan (that I only just met through the Fan Club) knew how to get there. Once inside, I was psyched to see that Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors was recorded there. Seemed like it hadn’t changed much at all since the 70’s. Anyway, it was worth it as we were grudgingly included in the group of 20 people or so for that private concert and meet and greet with Neil and his band. He’s fairly short, by the way.

Coming back to the present….Ah. So Rob and I went to see Crowded House (semi-reunited) Sunday night at the Paramount. Interesting crowd–I wasn’t as old as I thought I would be (among the other fans). As usual, lots of women. This was really obvious especially during the sing-a-long parts–the voices were predominantly female! Or maybe guys just don’t think it’s cool to sing-a-long to a sensitive singer/songwriter’s work…not macho enough.

It was a lovely concert. Everyone’s voices were on and the harmonies were tight. After all these years, I *still* got the chills hearing “World Where you Live” (my favorite song). Lots of cheerful and fun banter on the stage (especially between Neil and Nick, with Mark Hart playing the straight man). I had forgotten how much they could ROCK as well! I don’t think anyone could stand still during “Locked Out”. The new drummer fits in well. And Neil’s now 23 year old son Liam was in the band playing guitar, piano, and singing harmonies with dad. It’s amazing to hear harmonies among family members (parent/child, siblings) as it’s just so natural for their voices to fit together. One of the songs from the new album has a killer acoustic piano intro that has the same power as Hey Jude. And I don’t know of any other bands that are unselfconscious enough to do an impromptu medley of disco songs in the middle of a set. They are THAT fun and THAT spontaneous. Every show I’ve ever seen has been different.

So, in many ways, following this band has made me feel like I’ve come around full circle. Sitting there listening to the music with my eyes closed, I was easily taken back to past shows when I was young(er)…goofy and giddy with my college friends, as a wannabe hipster young adult, with ex-boyfriends I had dragged to the shows, with new fan club friends, and now, many years later, with my husband sitting next to me. For me, being able to share this band that has always meant so much, with him, was a nice moment. It doesn’t matter that he probably slept through most of it.

Why? Hmm…see, ayy!

Thank heavens for my friends who find this kind of stuff and share it. Made my Friday complete.

I just don’t know where to start with this one. I do love the sense of endeavor.


1. tube socks! (or sox)
2. (as my brother pointed out) cool vintage Rodgers drumset
3. the rockstep move (as demonstrated by the background dancers)
4. the keyboard player looks like my high school band director Mr. Bilden
5. how the lead singer rocks his head from side to side when he sings “NKMY”
6. the way the keyboardist proudly looks straight into the camera during the opening synth solo

Mid life fashion crisis

I’ve become frighteningly aware of the fact that there are more than a few things that I can’t pull off wearing anymore, at my age.


–Tee shirts with humorous text…unless they’re *really* subtle. Shame because I’ve practically lived in them the past decade, having been a graphic designer. It’s like a uniform.

–Anything from the 80’s revival. I totally understand what was meant by: “If you wore it for real the first time around, you are too old to be wearing it now.” I SO want to do the pointy flats, skinny jeans and slouchy horizontal striped sweaters, but it’s just a TERRIBLE look for someone like me.

–Levi’s 646 big bells. I love the cut of these and they are much more flattering than 501s, but alas I’m too old to try and evoke the look of the stoners from my high school. The bells are just too big (14″ i think?) and I can’t take all that swishing around down there when I’m trying to dash across Market street to catch the BART. Maybe I can find a compromise that is less extreme?

–Blue eyeliner. I guess I’m sticking to neutrals now (brown, black). You’d think that after all these years I’d clue into the fact that no one is going to think my eyes are actually blue. You’ll be happy to know that I DID give up the teal eye shadow that went along with it, years ago.

–Ironic dressing in general. One of my favorite things to do back in my fashionista years working at the Gap (where everything hinged on what you were wearing) was to take the dorkiest item and with a big dose of attitude, wear the hell out of it. I was young, fearless, and, um much smaller then. I remember thinking from the fashion models we worked with that they could make the ugliest thing look cool…because they wore it like it WAS cool. Alas, I can’t do that anymore. Dorky items continue to look dorky on me now, and that makes me both dorky and embarrassed.