Tag Archives: wrens

Your Complete One-Stop Comprehensive SXSW Coverage, Eleven Days Later and Mostly Not Me

I went looking for pictures from the one day of SXSW shows I attended. All were free. At the Radio Room, I saw a band of three girls play pretty good synth pop. All their voices sounded alike. Never caught their name. Then I saw Daniel Johnston and his band. Then the Wrens. Then I went to a Mexican dance club far from the heart of the city and saw the Lovely Sparrows.

Someone covered the Wrens show here. Unsatisfying.

Someone else took a picture of Kevin (Wrens):

Then I found some decent coverage of Johnston/Wrens. So I will let Jason Crock speak for me and interject where I see fit.

“So when “Daniel Johnston and the Hymns” started their set with two Johnston-less Hymns songs, I was ready to weep into my four-dollar beer. But Johnston did indeed come out, as promised. The band went into “Rock This Town,” and then walked off for Johnston to perform solo acoustic. He looked shaky by the second song, but he stayed composed nonetheless. He apologized or a lack of practice before a ringer stepped out to fill in on acoustic guitar.”

Yes, Johnston apologized a few times. I thought that was funny. Who expects Daniel Johnston to be in tune? His performance is so much about the force of his personality, the insanity behind his simple sing-song lyrics. To me, it was just exciting to see that he actually exists.

“For being some crusty Strokes-lookin’ also-rans from Brooklyn, the Hymns made for a fine backing band, playing rollicking Velvets-inspired rock at a languid, assured tempo, and rallying the crowd so Johnston didn’t have to. They tread very familiar ground without a hint of irony in their performance, which made them a pretty good match for Johnston. The naive and hopeful heart of Johnston’s songs translated perfectly even when they sounded professional instead of primitive.”

Or rather, a mix of professional and primitive, like a live band karaoke night.

“His records have been dear to a lot of people, evidenced from a packed house where even the youngest crowd members sang along to tracks like “Living Life.” As the Hymns rejoined him at the close of the set, I had to wonder if this was how these songs sounded in Johnston’s head before he got them down. This was an afternoon showcase in an outdoor tent behind Radio Room, where Johnston was followed by New Jersey’s own Wrens. Having seen them live a few times, the band’s performances have always been predictably unpredictable. Some of their sets’ surprises have grown familiar, including Kevin Whelan passing his bass into the crowd to play for a few bars, or the maximum-suspense version of “This Boy is Exhausted” that goes on for two verses between guitarists Charles Bissel and Greg Whelan before the band kicks in.”

Yeah, exactly. I’d love to see them vary the set more often too, but they’ve gotten so good at playing those Meadowlands songs. Even though the structure of “Exhausted” is no surprise, the dynamics still manages to surprise me. It’s not just that the drums and bass show up, it’s that everything gets amped up, including Charles.

“Some were more spontaneous, as when Whelan hung his bass from the tent’s suspension cables to sit down for a piano jam, or the version of solo piano yelper “This is What You Had Planned” that somehow needed three members of the band and as many microphones, all being passed back and forth at random. Another surprise? New songs. Two of ‘em, from indie rock’s greatest procrastinators: Both were piano ballads with a tense edge led by Whelan, with the guitarists playing incidental noise for atmosphere in both, promising an impending cacophony but holding back throughout.”

I liked them. I wanted to hear “Pulled Fences” or “new demo,” but they didn’t play those new ones.

“Whelan often strikes a welcomed buffoonish presence for crowds compared to his less-demonstrative bandmates, but he seemed a little more drill-instructorish then usual that afternoon: Put a mustache and sunglasses on his red, sweaty face, and he could have been Sgt. Slaughter. I was concerned he’d make some of us do push-ups if we didn’t sing or clap along at the appropriate moments.”

When a band is good, it feels nice to be taken care of like that. You want me to clap now? Of course I will. If a band sucks, it’s awful. I love seeing Kevin make up for everyone else’s (mostly Greg’s) lack of stage presence.

“All antics aside, Wrens still finds a way to reach into familiar songs and rip the hearts out of them to show to crowds. That “Hopeless” starts the same way every time live, with Kevin solo on piano, doesn’t stop it from being one of the decade’s best power-pop songs.”

I’m almost ready to call “Per Second Solution” their best live song. Mmm! Thanks, Jason, for doing all the work for me.

After the Wrens played, I left the venue, drank a Vitamin water, met up with sister and bro-law and Jon, drank a coffee, watched Sparrows play. They were great. Attendance was low, but the venue was a Mexican dance club on the outskirts of town, so you’d have to plan ahead and access a car to make it there.

Then we watched Watchmen and ate burgers at the Alamo. It was a horrible mess of a movie. So bad it’s bad. And long. I am forming the opinion that people who have read the book are less qualified to judge a movie than people who haven’t. Everything I’ve read that defends the movie praises it for its attempt at faithfulness. A movie is not a marriage.

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A Ralph Lombreglia Reader + New Wrens


The Turnaround is At Hand: I’m excited about this one.

Somebody Up There Likes Me

Every Good Boy Deserves Favor


Two versions of the same song are available: “Pulled Fences” costs a buck and “In Turkish Waters” is free from Radio Exile. Both are good. Kind of loose, but playful and skilled, like their live show.

Also, here’s a great demo of a new song.

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Uncollected Remixes, For Your Convenience

I like the life that web content can take on. Occasionally people get a hold of one of my remixes through various searches or words-of-mouth or links and love/hate them in equal measure. Most recently in remix news, Tom’s friend included one of my songs in a fashion show. I like thinking of sexy people on runways being sexy to my songs.

I haven’t done any remixes since my old laptop broke in early 2008. My new laptop is a Mac and isn’t compatible with the software. (I am unwilling to try and make the best of it with GarageBand.) My old laptop could be fixed or we could get a new computer, but until then, no new songs.

However, before it broke, I did five new songs and posted them on this site. I like them all about as much as I like anything on my last album, and decided to re-post them, all together, along with their component tracks. Three are easy downloads, two require a quick stop at MySpace, all are free, all are personally endorsed by Barack Obama, Abe Lincoln, and Winston Churchill.

Gabe Durham – Playground

Bjork – The Triumph of a Heart
Madonna – This Used to Be My Playground
Spoon – I Turn My Camera On
Parvati Khan – Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja
M.I.A. – Jimmy
Of Montreal – Jimmy
One Measure Featuring Some Obscure Daft Punk Song

Gabe Durham – Spirit of Shackleton

Glen Phillips – The Spirit of Shackleton
David Garza – Say Baby
Margot and the Nuclear So & Sos – A Sea Shanty of Sorts
Cake – I Bombed Korea
The Mountain Goats – Song For Lonely Giants
Rilo Kiley – Silver Lining
TV on the Radio – I Was A Lover
They Might Be Giants – She’s An Angel
Wednesday Night Worship – Holy is the Lord

Gabe DurhamMind’s Made Up / Morning Bell / 15 Step

Radiohead – 15 Step, Morning Bell (Kid A), Morning Bell (Amnesiac), MK 1
Once Soundtrack – When Your Mind’s Made Up
The Frames – When Your Mind’s Made Up
Dave Brubeck Quartet – Time Out (live)
Sufjan Stevens – All Good Naysayers, Year of Our Lord, Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
Simon and Garfunkel – Cloudy
Biodome 5 – Voice Like a Shotgun

Gabe DurhamYoko in Idaho (this one redirects to MySpace)

Josh Ritter – Idaho
Beatles – Sun King
John Lennon – Oh Yoko
Ella Fitzgerald – I Get A Kick Out of You
Ben Folds – Golden Slumbers
Traveling Wilburys – Margarita
Arcade Fire – Neighborhood #2
Sufjan Stevens – You Are the Rake

Gabe Durham – Fan in the Stands (also redirects to MySpace)

Outkast – Morris Brown
David Gray – Lead Me Upstairs
The Proclaimers – I Met You
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife 2, The Crane Wife 3
Goldspot – It’s Getting Old
Klaxons – Gravity’s Rainbow
Bruce Springsteen – Perfect Disguise
The Wrens – Happy
Beck – Think I’m In Love
The Waifs – The Waitress
+ a Wilco drum roll

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