May 2013 scene report
By Derek Caterwaul
The last month and a half of music is a bit blurry for me. I missed a lot—even at events I attended—but I saw enough to spark plenty of musing.
Austin Psych Fest and the live music capital's annual Chaos in Tejas pulled a lot of heavy and psych acts through town, often on short notice. I also caught a wide range of electronic music. Good collaborations and cross-pollination manifested: Grenadrian and Lady Uranium concocted Grenadium, Ken Cornell (Alchemical Burn) jammed with various friends, and Uranium Worker’s improv set also tweaked noise well. Similarly Denver combo Suicide Notes presented a wild mix of heavy percussion, noise and experimental turntablism. Expanded versions of some local acts put a new spin on familiar sounds. It’s even been entertaining to witness musicians dragging their friends along while chasing tail, causing disparate crowds to mix it up a bit.
Many folks stepped up when help was needed: re-booking Cowabungalow events, the last-minute Resin Cum show, indie-rock additions to experimental lineups and vice versa. Sister started hosting heavy shows like the just-inaugurated Unholy Sabbath showcase on second Sundays, and they’ve also booked apocalyptic low-end monster duo The Body for a gig on Monday, June 24.
I sat in on part of a Goathead Record Collective meeting, wishing them the best while remembering how difficult those endeavors are. Having worked with many such groups over decades, I know how easily noble goals can be derailed by personality cults, power struggles, neurosis, poverty and inertia. I still try to put wind in their sails when I can.
Another local statistic in the grinding of economic gears, Synchro Studio is losing its lease. Luckily, ABQ’s underground scene has learned to not let one venue be the default for everything. The energy may be dispersed, but it’s also more flexible and resilient. Synchro is closing out June with several shows. Go have a blast at one while you still can.
Many local DIY participants are also working for established venues and making good things happen. Roman Barham and Ken Cornell at Launchpad and Low Spirits have gone well out of their way to hook up solid shows. The management at Sister—veterans of the Downtown service industry themselves—seems open-minded, and they listen to staff input. Blackbird Buvette is also run by longtime local musicians who know the score.
“Mainstream” and “underground” are often just linguistic conventions, and they've never been mutually exclusive. Still, I feel uneasy watching scenesters at a popular bar copping that “we’re grown-ups now, we’re finally big-city cool” attitude while bored cruisers troll past outside with their amplified bowel trouble.
Then there’s the bouncer at Burt’s who singled me out for my backpack. When I chose to leave it at the door instead of being searched, he just dug through it while I was inside. Find what you were looking for, buddy? I don’t know if this is a growing trend, but, if you’re heading out to see live music Downtown, consider leaving your backpack at home.
The best event I caught last month was completely off the radar: a 40th anniversary celebration at the South Valley farm of KUNM’s The Home of Happy Feet collective. HoHF has become the hub of a homegrown local scene with some deep roots. It’s mostly acoustic and unconnected to Downtown venues, alcohol sales, security concerns or fashion police—just good food, people, music and miles of history. That scene is an organic alternative that deserves its own article someday.
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