As Friday’s temperatures plunged into the low 40s, Fitzgerald’s provided some welcome warmth. Thanks to a packed-in sold-out crowd awaiting beloved Boise rockers Built to Spill, the room grew steamy in no time.
Before the band began playing, front man Doug Martsch approached the mike without saying a word, yet somehow just his presence was enough to ignite boisterous cheers. He milked the attention for a moment, smiling, before playing set opener “Stop the Show.”
At the first notes, the crowd cheered in approving recognition. Similar to BTS’s last Fitz show, this was clearly a schooled and adoring fan base.
Martsch looked like his typically unassuming self, only now with a little more grey in his beard and a little less hair on his head.
"The past year has been quite a change for us," says Chvrches front woman Lauren Mayberry, during a recent phone interview.
In the past year alone, the Glasgow-based trio have become key players on the electro-pop scene. They’ve toured with Depeche Mode, sold out headlining tours across the world, and earned an award for the best developing non-U.S. band at SXSW in March.
Much of Chvrches’ popularity was achieved before their debut album, this year’s The Bones of What You Believe, was even released: Last year they released their first song, “Lies,” solely online, which instantly garnered attention. Their next single, the infectious “The Mother We Share” was one of last summer’s indie-pop anthems.
Photo: Jim Bricker
“I promise not to party… too hard,” sings Kurt Vile in Wakin On a Pretty Daze track “Too Hard.” Earlier this week, Vile spoke to us about the importance of maintaining his role as a responsible husband and father of two while on tour. This apparently has something to do with not partying too hard.
Vile kept up his end of that bargain last night at Walter’s – well, sort of; he swigged (just a couple of) shots from a bottle of Patron, swiftly chased them down with a can of Red Bull, and puffed on a solitary cigarette, all before taking the stage. Once he strapped on his guitar, however, the edge was off, and Vile was in the zone.
Photo: Shawn Brackbill
At first glance, Kurt Vile seems like your typical scraggly-haired, Southern-bred, stoner songster. In reality, however, he’s a responsible family man and a focused businessman. He doesn’t really smoke pot, and he’s not even from the South.
While his sound may be inspired by the folk tunes of the Deep South, Vile is actually a bona fide city kid, raised in Philadelphia. (Turns out, that trademark drawl heard in his songs isn’t nearly as pronounced in regular conversation.) But the 33-year-old strongly relates to Southern-bred songwriters.
“I was influenced by Townes Van Zandt and John Prine,” Vile explains, during a recent phone call. “My dad was huge into Bluegrass music, so I grew up on that, hearing him play the same songs over and over again.”
Earlier this year, Vile released his fifth album, Wakin On a Pretty Daze. Its hazy, psychedelic lo-fi sound is consummate Kurt Vile; his vision for the record was loftier than his past efforts, though.
“Teething On Roses”
2013 has been a good year for The National.
If we can measure a band’s success in terms of bigwig festival slots and NPR features – and let’s face it, we can – The National just may be the “It” Alt band of the year.
To some, it may seem like they came out of nowhere – in reality, however, the band’s success has been a longtime in the making.
It’s been 12 years since The National released their self-titled debut album, though they didn’t necessarily achieve smashing instant success. With six albums now under their belts, including this year’s Trouble Will Find Me, the Ohio-bred New Yorkers have expedited their slow but steady progress on their climb toward the top – and with this new view comes a new perspective.
“Nobody had heard of us until recently,” front man Matt Berninger jokes, during a recent phone interview. “At least that’s what it seemed like.”
Ironically, people began caring more about The National as the band began caring less about what people thought of them.
It seems fitting that minutes before The National took the Stubb’s stage Saturday night, Austin’s balmy 90-degree day quickly plummeted into an unexpectedly chilly 50-degree night. The brooding colder-climate Ohio-born / New York-bred band was in town for Austin City Limits Festival, and treated an adoring and sold-out Stubb’s crowd to a nonstop string of songs from their latest release, Trouble Will Find Me.
Clad in their usual dapper dark suits, the band opened with “I Should Live In Salt” – a song which front-man Matt Berninger told me during a recent interview – is actually about his brother, Tom. (“Although he just thinks it’s about salt.”)
The crowd relished in the evening’s cooler temperatures, as Berninger paced the stage, per his usual, back and forth maniacally and repeatedly, as if burning off pent-up steam held on exclusive reserve for his live performances.
Photo by Paul Elledge
Neph Basedow: How does it feel when you hear some fans and critics are still wanting you to write songs that sound just like Siamese Dream, so many years later?
Billy Corgan: At the risk of sounding arrogant for the 1,000th time in my life, I can write a Siamese Dream song if I want to - it’s not like I’ve forgotten how to do it - I’m just not interested. It’s like when someone says, “I really liked when you told that joke - can you tell it again, the same way?”
I saw (comic) Andrew Dice Clay do stand-up, and he was fantastic. At the end, though, he did his old nursery rhymes bit. To me, it was the least funny part of the night - and people were howling with laughter - but it’s like, c’mon, it’s not as funny as it was 25 years ago!
NB: So do you ever go out of your way to write songs with the specific purpose of them notsounding like your old albums?
BC: Yeah. I’ve done that, and it’s a total mistake.
NB: What’s an example of something you’ve written like that - something that served as more of a “fuck you” to people?
BC: Well, Machina. [Laughs] Because Machina was reactionary in two ways - it was reactionary against the band breaking up, because I was angry at them, and it was reactionary against the fan base that I thought was failing me, who had left in droves during Adore.
Photo: Paul Elledge
"To destroy is always the first step in any creation," wrote e.e. cummings. For Smashing Pumpkinsfrontman Billy Corgan, destruction and creation are a way of life.
"A good artist is willing to die many times over," Corgan says during our recent phone interview. "What’s funny is, I’ve died so many times.”
Each “death,” however, has ignited a rebirth. From 1988 to 2000, Corgan manned one of alternative rock’s reigning bands — one that endured years-long obstacles like emotional dysfunction, personal conflict, drug addiction and even actual death.
Still, a laundry list of obstacles couldn’t keep Corgan from pursuing the band he still adores, as we’ve witnessed in the six years since he’s regrouped the Smashing Pumpkins with a new lineup. Only Corgan himself can describe his personal ups and downs through it all — the destruction and resulting creation.