From Canada all the way to Austin, Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen have stuck by each other. The duo’s history dates back to kindergarten in their hometown of Toronto, and they’ve been playing music together since high school. First came the Shenanigans, a power trio anchored by a love of classic rock and playing loud, but the band fell apart. McKeown and Owen decided to ditch Canada and headed south.
When they got to Austin, the duo plopped down and decided to take another crack at music. This time, though, they ditched the bass too, opting for a raw guitar-and-drums sound and a name to match: Black Pistol Fire. Constant local gigging led to notice from producer Jim Diamond, who’s worked with like-minded acts the White Stripes and the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. He recorded Black Pistol Fire’s self-titled debut in 2009, and in 2011 the band followed up with Big Beat 59. A tribute EP to Little Richard has tided over fans in the meantime.
Their reputation as one of the hardest working bands in Austin was sealed with an amazing performance live at the Four Seasons during SXSW. While Owen was brought to mind Animal from the Muppets, McKeown jumped onto a table in the front row to play a solo. And they put their own version of Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35″ into the intro to “Hipster Shakes”–all in all, one of those perfect, one-of-a-kind SXSW experiences.
Photo courtesy of Todd V. Wolfson
For the second year in a row, Rolling Stone senior writer David Fricke joined Jody Denberg for the post-SXSW edition of the KUTX Sunday Mix (Sundays, 10 am- 1 pm). This year (March 16, 2014) they were joined by a special guest, musician Sean Lennon of the band The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger. If you missed the broadcast while you recovered from the Festival, you can hear the whole three-hour program right here! There’s lots of insightful conversation, spontaneity and of course, incredible music.
SXSW can be absolutely overwhelming—since debuting in 1987, the annual music conference and festival has grown alongside Austin, and just trying to make sense of it all can be daunting. Over 2000 artists performed as official acts this year, from local singer-songwriters to Lady Gaga. There were a lot of big talking points this year: the sheer size of the event, the corporate sponsorship, the tragic hit-and-run. This week on the Austin Music Experience, though, we want to focus on the music, and there was a lot of it. Our mission is to sort through the best of what we heard and try to create a kind of musical scrapbook. We’ve got exclusive live recordings from new discoveries like Spanish Gold and Temples, along with old favorites, like Rodney Crowell, the Hold Steady, Damon Albarn, and more. Join us Friday at noon and again at 11pm on KUTX 98.9, Sunday at 7pm on KUT 90.5, or anytime in the player below.
“Lovely.” “A new favorite.” “Wow!” These were just a few of the comments after Phox’s performance with us at the Four Seasons last week during SXSW. The Wisconsin-based band was largely unknown heading into the festival, with just a few EPs to their name. But their dynamic live show–featuring Monica Martin’s sublime, airy vocals alongside the band’s dreamy folk/electronic mix–is not to be missed. The group already has performances at Lollapalooza and iTunes Fest in London under its collective belt, and they’re currently working hard on their debut album at April Base, the studio owned and operated by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Here’s hoping “Kingfisher” winds up on the finished record. The song weaves a potent spell, ebbing and flowing between group harmonies and Martin’s ready-for-the-spotlight voice.
When Wye Oak announced the release of their fourth album, Shriek, the Baltimore duo stated that no guitars appear on the record. The statement raised some eyebrows–Wye Oak has made its name on dynamic, guitar-heavy indie rock, and frontwoman Jenn Wasner has carved out her own idiosyncratic six-string style. But prior to recording Shriek, Wasner and drummer/keyboardist Andy Stack found themselves on opposite coasts, writing songs apart before molding them together. For Wasner, bass became her preferred instrument, and the songs soon took on more of an electronic, dance-influenced direction.
While Shriek doesn’t see a release until April 29, Wye Oak debuted the new sound live at the Four Seasons with us during SXSW 2014. Wasner doesn’t view the shift in direction as too crazy; after all, she’s merely switching tools, not voice. Songs like the beautiful “Shriek” are bigger and bolder, but they’re still given that characteristic Wye Oak edge. It sounds great in the live setting, making the full record that much more anticipated.