Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blender Bar at the Ritz (18-3-06)

After four days of day parties and night shows and little sleep and a lot of beer, the Blender Bar at the Ritz was ready to host my little party of four (and at least for the first couple of acts, not many more). This was the showcase I came to SXSW for (not exclusively), and anyone who loves the jaaaangly guitar tones that can only be produced by a Rickenbacker and vocal harmonies akin to those on the Beatles’ “If I Needed Someone” understands why I had to be there.


  1. The lineup: The High Dials, The Morning After Girls, The Jessica Fletchers, The Winnerys, The Contrast
  2. The second bar RIGHT NEXT TO THE STAGE: don’t worry about losing that primo spot because $2 margaritas are literally 8 feet away
  3. $2 margaritas!
  4. The girl at the side bar mixed the aforementioned $2 margaritas much differently than the dude at the main bar, who threw some tequila and margarita mix into a child-sized plastic cup. This gal gave us the big plastic cups, exhausted nearly a third of the bottle of 1800 Gold between them, added triple sec and then squeezed the limes into the cups. And all for $2!
  5. One of my partners in crime (unintentionally) tripped over a lighting structure and skewed the projected advertisements on the far wall of the venue. It’s still funny.
  6. Tammy Ealom from Dressy Bessy was there to see the Jessica Fletchers and took a picture with us
  7. The two people behind the merch counter looked exactly like representatives of Rainbow Quartz should. They were wearing the most psychedelic garments I have ever seen (think Anton Newcombe, not dirty hippie)


  1. The Blender Bar at the Ritz is a giant open room with terrible acoustics. The lights were too bright and on for too long.
  2. The Contrast were kind of boring
  3. The cavernous room was mostly empty through the first two bands, though the Jessica Fletchers did draw a decent crowd. I’m the top “The Jessica Fletchers” fan on bitches!
  4. This could be filed under Con #1, but it deserves its own mention: The Blender Bar is named after Blender magazine, and giant light projected logos on the walls for Blender, Le Tigre, and Guess were not cool (see Pro #5 for how we stuck it to The Man)
  5. Half the crowd left during the High Dials’ set
  6. I missed the Magic Marker Showcase with Tullycraft, the Bats, and the Owls (though fuck it was worth it)

Alright, so how did the show go? The Morning After Girls sound like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who they’ve been opening for on the current US tour. The Winnerys were cool, as nearly any band with a Rickenbacker is, and their sound evoked fellow countrymen the Zinedines, which is never a bad thing.

As for the Jessica Fletchers, they tore the roof off the fuckin’ joint, though I was disappointed that they didn’t have the girl who does vocals on “Summer Holiday and Me” and “Less Sophistication.” Either way, their peppy Rickenbacker riffs and sweet sweet Hammond/Farfisa/etc organ tones flew through the air in a swirly multicolored psychedelic haze that someone who had more than the few $2 margs I did would have actually seen. Whatever. Fuck it.

The High Dials may have put on THE show of SXSW. When I say “THE show” I should be clear that the Morrisseys and the Flaming Lips and the Belle and Sebastians and the Echo and the Bunnymens of the festival are not considered, for more reasons than the simple fact that I didn’t see any of those bands. Anyway you can see the league we’re talking about is totally different, and while High Dials’ are not mentioned in the same company as the titans who played the big venues, they fucking should be. Why were they so good? First of all during soundcheck they pulled out a fucking sitar. That already makes them cooler than most bands because I’ve never seen a sitar played live. As the icing on the cake, as the song ended one of the guys from the Morning After Girls came out to the mic and bellowed “do you guys want to hear one more!?” to which he got the greatest cheer the half-full room could muster and slowly the rest of the High Dials (and the Morning After Girls!) came back on stage to thrill our likely damaged ears with a 20 minute psychedelic jam that was more cohesive, intense, and most importantly, more non-masturbatory than any live jam I’ve ever witnessed. And that fucking sitar!


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