If you have yet to hear of Jensen McRae, then you are in for a treat. You have been missing out on one of the most brilliant new talents to grace the clubs and venues of her home of Southern California. The 25-year-old pop singer-songwriter had the opportunity of a lifetime to open for an international touring sensation. McRae was hand-picked by Dermot Kennedy and his team to be added to Kennedy’s regular lineup for their stop in Los Angeles. (A show that normally consists of the Irish crooner and musician Kevin Garrett.) The Youtube Theater was in for quite the treat.
As the first line of lyrics came through McRae’s lips, an actual gasp went out across the Theater. The audience was spellbound by her warm vocals and the depth of emotion in her voice. We were particularly big fans of the goth feel of her collared, striped, and moody ensemble. Check out our (unedited) selects below.
Niall Connolly has never shied away from his own artistry. In listening to his repertoire you’re unlikely to sense reluctance. Instead, the folk singer rushes headlong into his music, laying his soul bare for the world to witness. “In this house, if you wanna cry, you can cry,” he sings on his latest album, The Patience of Trees, out June 2. And with a shuddering breath, we believe him.
The Irish-born troubadour has been a steady presence in the New York City folk scene, telling his musical stories across the din of nondescript bars and Manhattan’s broad stages alike. At every Connolly gig audiences are ushered into his world of unflinching honesty and disarming resonance. Whether listening to him live or on recording, the listener is wrapped in a strange combination of isolation and warmth, a mix that leaves a profound effect: one of having been held and lonely at the same time. This is Connolly’s unique ability to transform his art into something capable of providing tangible comfort.
The album’s first single, “We Don’t Have to Talk About It”, approaches the topic of self-harm in this same manner. “I know you get tempted by the third rail late at night,” he sings, acknowledging and stripping the power away from one’s demons at the same time. The latest single, “It’s a Beautiful Life,” gives an unrelenting perspective of the struggles many of us endure and, ultimately, the love that attempts to pull us through. The song evokes the painful journey through mental health and offers a unique perspective of the collective’s ability to triumph by giving voice to our experiences.
“Out of the Light” feels like an offering at the altar of Leonard Cohen’s emotional legacy. Thoughtful and serene but also spare in its hints of loneliness as he observes “every kind of messy road that leads to love.” Similarly, “Orchids at the Supermarket” haunts like a Nick Drake ballad, making beauty out of brokenness. Yet despite the gentle presence of such ghosts, the presence of Connolly’s emotionality makes each song the kind of experience that only he can create.
The Patience of Trees is enriched by the presence of Connolly’s friends and collaborators, including Mick Flannery, Anna Tivel, E.W. Harris, Javier Mas, and Warren Malone. The arrangements of each track serve as an echo of their lyrical power, emphasizing the story at the center of each song. Expansively, the songs stretch out across the album to create a rich journey full of remarkable souls and powerful experiences. At once demanding and exquisitely comforting, The Patience of Trees takes us into our own depths and offers us solace.
“The clouds were forming question marks, like the sky was doubting me,” he sings in “A Cloud on the Summer Sun”. “I’ve got every right to be here, as much as everyone.” While his songs take us into the caverns of human struggle, likely to cause the sharp, stabbing breath of resonance as the days, weeks, years of tamping down our emotions burst to the surface, the underlying tenet of Connolly’s work is always hope. Aggressive fucking hope. No longer the lame figment to punk theology. His words and his music welcome us into a world where hope and kindness are the bravest of things. In his house, if we wanna cry, we can cry, but ultimately we will heal.
If you hadn’t heard, Thee Oh Sees are spending a massive amount of time on the road in 2023. They kick off the UK & Ireland leg of their tour this month, with Canada in June and apparently the rest of the world through September. Thank goodness, too, as we had been missing their energy, their sound perfectly executed by band members John Dwyer, Tim Hellman, Dan Rincon, Paul Quattrone, and Tomas Dolas.
Along with their live shows comes a re-examination of some of Thee Oh Sees’ former work. In 2012, the band performed at Emo’s East in Austin, marking their first appearance at Austin Psych Fest. This particular show is included in new vinyl releases titled Live at LEVITATION. Mixed by John Dwyer and mastered by JJ Golden, the music is being released on 12″ colored wax.
“Block of Ice” live from Emo’s East in 2012 is a remarkable example of the showmanship this incredible rock outfit has. Check out its premiere (to a mass audience) below.
On 4/20, Kansas City, Missouri hosted its inaugural cannabis and music festival experience on the grounds at the future home of the Smokey River Entertainment District. The venue, which is located just off 291 Highway in River Bend, Missouri, built a mecca for cannabis, its fans, and supporters to celebrate the yearly event. Berner is the infamous owner of the cannabis brand Cookies, so he was especially excited to help celebrate legalization in Missouri. In fact, he stopped to tell the crowd how incredible it was multiple times.
A particularly wonderful moment for me was when he included “Pass Me the Green” in his setlist. This feels like a no-brainer, based on the subject matter, but it still wasn’t an expectation. In the song, he rhymes:
Hopped out the game for a minute But I’m back now My bitch take trips out of state She from Sac Town
Directly following Berner was the indelible Joey Bada$$, who came out and immediately said he was happy to be in Missouri. The crowd lost their minds completely when he correctly identified the state, because that is a very rare thing. The name “Kansas City” leads many performers to believe that they are in Kansas. Bada$$ earned any respect he was lacking in that moment, and the crowd settled in to an absolutely phenomenal performance as he built the energy for the king himself, Wiz Khalifa.
And this crowd? Beautiful, calm, happy. All set with food trucks surrounding the stage space, and a cannabis village accessible to 21+ attendees. What a beautiful experience for the city, and a great way to kick off legalization in Missouri.
Last night was one for the books. As the sun set on Kansas City, Missouri’s first 4/20 with legalized marijuana, a crowd sprawled out over acres of land at the future site of the Smokey River Entertainment District got to bask in a new glow. Wiz Khalifa headlined the inaugural 420Fest, performing for thousands with the distant glow of car headlights from 291 Highway lighting the backdrop. Smoke filled the air, with the delicious scent from the food truck bay wafting over the attendees. It was a certain type of bliss, and Wiz was the ultimate soundtrack.
Joey Pintozzi, president of the event sponsor Besa Hospitality Group, is particularly excited about what the event means for Missouri at this time. “This is going to be an amazing event, on a special day, marking the beginning of a new era for Missouri during a historic time in our state.”
420Fest hosted a cannabis village area for attendees over the age of 21. Rows and rows of vendors – both local and those who drove in from an array of different states – brought us their own unique cannabis experiences. A stage brought us speeches on equity from lawmakers, nonprofit leads, entrepreneurs, and those who were formerly incarcerated for cannabis-related crimes. We also got to glimpse Mike Tyson and Ric Flair, as well as glass artists, edible extraordinaires, and so much more. The event aimed to normalize and celebrate the cannabis lifestyle, with a portion of the proceeds going toward equity in the space.
The ever-charming and talented alt-rock outfit Carver Commodore – comprised of guitarist and vocalist Payton Pruitt, guitarist Phillip Blevins, drummer Noah Freeman, and multi-instrumentalist Clayton Christopher – took time out of their schedule to take over our Instagram account during SXSW 2023. We caught up with them post-takeover – and post-fest – to see how it all went down for them. Lead singer and guitarist Payton Pruitt’s words below.
an interview with Payton of carver commodore
iF: What was the first song or album that you remember hearing, and does that work of art have any influence on how you approach your music today?
Carver Commodore (CC): One of the first songs I remember hearing is “That Smell” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I have a core memory of slamming my finger in the door of my dad’s El Camino and rushing to the doctor as my finger gushed blood and “That Smell” played over the speakers. I was probably 4 years old. I still love that song, and I’m 100% sure it has crept into my songwriting at some point. The Lynyrd Skynyrd “triple guitar assault” is definitely something we draw from as a band!
iF: Tell us a little bit about what got you started in music, and how this project came to be.
CC: I started playing music around 11 or 12 years old because a friend of mine played guitar and we both got into AC/DC at the same time, so I wanted to play those songs with him. I started singing and writing songs around 15 years old, and a few bands later, Phil (our guitarist) and I started Carver Commodore together after being in a folk rock band together.
iF: What did the road to SXSW look like for you, literally or figuratively?
CC: We’ve been trying to make it out to SXSW for years. We were booked for a few unofficial shows in 2020, but we all know what happened there. Couldn’t get on in ’21 or ’22, and finally made it in ’23. Played a few great shows with our boys in a band called Brother Moses on our way out this year and loved it.
iF: What has the experience been like? I’d love to see it through your eyes, as first-timers!
CC: Honestly, super chaotic when it comes time to play shows! Parking & Load-in kinda sucks, but that’s just part of it I guess. We had a few great shows and a few not-so-great, but I’m glad we finally got to experience it. It was a learning experience if nothing else! Would also be nice if SXSW would give artists water!
iF: Best showcase, besides your own?
CC: Hermanos Guiterrez at Stubb’s.
iF: What was the most magical thing you found in Austin?
CC: Free parking
iF: What’s your absolute favorite word right now, and why?
CC: “Mode.” No idea why – everything is just on “__ mode” (ex: “SXSW is on $30 parking mode”)
iF: If you had the ability to tell the future, would you like it?
CC: Probably not. Would just give us more to worry about or anticipate!
iF: What’s coming up for you next?
CC: We’re releasing a new EP called “If Nothing Happens” on August 15th! The first single is out April 11th and it’s called “Drown Me in Emotions”. Very excited for people to hear these songs.
iF: That’s amazing! We can’t wait.
CC: CAR-VER COM-MO-DORE! Thanks for letting us be a part of this!