Every year, Dallas' most highly anticipated SXSW offshoot is Parade Of Flesh's Spillover Music Festival. This past Sunday, head talent buyer John Iskander and his crew really stepped their game up. Spillover 2014 moved from Sandbar Cantina to Elm Street, filling stages at Dada and Three Links with heavy-hitting headliners like Ty Segall, Dum Dum Girls, Astronautalis and more. Cold weather didn't hurt the turnout one bit, and Spillover's seventh year just might have been its best lineup yet, coming a long way from its original incarnation, Brofest. Steve Steward and Vanessa Quilantan were on hand to highlight their six favorite sets of the day.
Nothing For a band called Nothing, this Relapse Records four-piece from Philadelphia certainly brings something to their live show. It's hard not to make the obvious Seinfeld joke as the band prepares to take the stage, but moments later it's clear to see this is no joking matter.
Though they inhabit their space with as much nihilism as you'd expect, the closer you look, the more you notice the band's unfaltering focus on the gloomy, droney and stoney post-punk they play. Though the word "shoegaze" is thrown around a lot with Relapse's marketing of Nothing's recent effort, Guilty of Everything, it feels like misrepresentation after watching their live show.
Nothing are heavier than any shoegaze band should be, and more tinged with misery than melancholy as cold and cruel anti-love poems loop over the PA in between songs. At the end of the set, when frontman Dominic Palermo tosses his guitar into the crowd and wanders off stage, the audience is left wanting more. Vanessa Quilantan
The Orwells Once you start to realize you're past the age that pop culture is made to cater to, it's hard not to face the younger generation's creative endeavors with a bit of skepticism. Every once in awhile, however, you see a young band that gives you hope for the next generation of music fans. This weekend at Spillover, that band was The Orwells.
It felt a bit like one extreme to another walking back into Dada after a dark and foreboding set from Nothing to the sound of The Orwells' fun and whimsical cover of "Build Me Up Buttercup." The tone change was a welcome one, however. By far, the most impressive thing about The Orwells is their ability to take classic pop songwriting sensibilities and apply them to their high-energy garage-punk style. These recent high school grads have a long career ahead of them. VQ
Har Mar Superstar Few artists in this world are making R&B music the way that Sean Tillman does. Under the moniker Har Mar Superstar, he's been spreading his soulful, sweaty and often naked love across the national touring circuit since the early 2000s.
Though it was too cold on Dada's outside stage for him to strip down into his preferred performance apparel of man-panty briefs, his set was just as raucous and over-the-top as any longtime fans would expect. With every ounce of passion, he belted and howled in between slick choreographed moves that resulted in the crowd breaking into a 40 degree dance party.
After watching Tillman sing an entire verse from a break dancing headstand, with his pink checkered Vans high in the air, it's hard to resolve watching rappers perform over their own vocal tracks, or punk band frontmen run out of breath screaming. Most performing musicians could learn a lot from one Har Mar set. When Tillman closed out his set with a heartfelt cover of Sam Cooke's "Bring It On Home To Me," it was clear that he was one of the more masterful live performers who would grace a Spillover stage for the day. VQ
Ty Segall Ty Segall thrashes around stage left, furiously wringing a solo out of a squall of reverberating amp feedback before popping up, almost athletically, behind the mic to coo whatever it is he's been cooing. His band chugs along, dutifully cranking out riff after echoing riff, and it occurs to me that calling this music garage rock is almost demeaning, at least if you're the type to worry about maintaining objectivity when you're trying to be reductive.
It's not that there's more to the Ty Segall oeuvre besides clanging, overdriven Fenders; it's just that a band like this sort of reminds me of Nirvana. It's a Nirvana for kids not old enough to have experienced the band via a ridiculous, candlelit MTV stage, nor the ridiculous candlelit vigils following the band's demise.
Unlike Nirvana, Ty Segall's music is fun. Oh sure, Nirvana songs rock and all, but they are sarcastic in the way that coffee is black and elephants are large, and for me, some of them made me feel like I was in on a joke, while the rest made me feel like I was the butt of one. This shit blasting from Dada's outdoor stage doesn't seem to be making fun of me, but it does make me have fun.
I say that like it's a bad thing, but when I'm comparing the two bands in my head, I don't recall ever having fun while or immediately after listening to Nirvana. And that difference, that Segall and all the other garage rock acts he's lumped in with are actually a blast to listen to seems to be a generational hallmark -- if Ty Segall's next record somehow breaks his band the way "Smells Like Teen Spirit" broke Nirvana, he'll share an orbit with so-called indie rock bands like Young the Giant and Imagine Dragons who make music that seems to be only for having a good time. How could a person who learned to drive under the acerbic gloom of In Utero even conceive there could be a band called fun.?
To me, Ty Segall is a millennial thing, and in the way that millennials adopt and adapt the stuff that came before into something that's colorful, canny and self-aware (the current shape of the Internet is the best example I can think of), he kind of sounds like the best parts of Nirvana (riffs) minus the bummer parts (Kurt Cobain, the early '90s). When he announces that they're going to play a couple new songs, I see a fist pump above the crowd; it has an X markered on it, meaning that whoever said fist is attached to might not have even been born before Kurt Cobain died. For various reasons, I think that kid is lucky. Steve Steward
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Diarrhea Planet As enjoyable as Ty Segall is, he might as well be a root canal compared to Diarrhea Planet, a six-piece, four-guitar onslaught of Nashville bro-down funtimes, a band whose opening song contains the lyric "Everything is the best." Diarrhea Planet are Southern rock without rednecks, punk without any stupid mohawk flopping around, Adrian Smith's chops without Bruce Dickenson's costume changes. They're funny and seemed to be having a good time, even when a cable or some other technical difficulty made for an unpleasant pause in the action.
Sometimes they come across like the Hold Steady unburdened with things like literary gravitas or tragic characters who can't get their shit together. And even when they lapse into a reflective, sorta-ballad before their last song (which had to do with boners, incidentally), they are predominately set to party-speed -- you can practically smell overcooked burgers and lukewarm Banquet Beers when you watch this band. SS
The Coathangers Cowboy-cold Yellowbellies aside, the best thing that happened at Spillover Fest occurred during the Coathangers' set, when bassist Meredith Franco crowd surfed at the end of some song about her boobs. I hate crowd surfing, but that chick is tiny so it was kind of cool to watch. Franco made it back to the stage, and drummer Stephanie Luke, who is approximately 9 feet tall and had taken over on bass goes, "Don't worry, I'm too big to do that."
Her idea that huge people shouldn't jump off a stage onto a bunch of other people enjoying a band was completely lost on this one doofus, who, despite being about the same height and frame as Stephanie Luke, decided to climb on stage and leap onto everyone crowded in front. For about two seconds, the crowd held him aloft, which was long enough for someone in the back of the room to chuck a drink at his head. Seeing that guy hit with a bunch of ice totally made my day. SS