We hate to admit that Enjoyable Listens led in the ranks of the most “enjoyable” set at SXSW 2022, but they – ahem, HE – totally did. While the Oxford-based act normally performs as a duo, brainchild Luke Duffett appeared solo this time around, as his bass guitarist partner-in-crime was stuck overseas for WORK. (Something he mentioned multiple times during his set.)
In all honesty, we almost didn’t stay for the set. We had the privilege of covering an array of international artists over the course of the week, and when a slightly sunburnt man in a suit with a bolo tie and slicked-back hair was sound-checking, I prematurely judged him and suggested we leave the Registrant’s Lounge. Luckily, our dear friend Whiteclaw (sorry – they sponsored the fest and I was already a few deep) kept us glued to the spot when Duffett took the stage.
While their Facebook page boasts that they are “a bloodstained fur coat floating on the undulating beat of street talk,” we were absolutely delighted by the theatrics employed by Duffett on that fated Saturday afternoon. He introduced the act, pushed a button on the soundboard, and walked off the stage to make a grand entrance. And this was only after he verbally commanded the attention of everyone in the area three separate times.
A type of Baroque-pop, the music took on an experimental vibe at times. This man was absolutely the manifestation of if one of our best friends from high school had a child with Rick Astley. In all honesty, the vocals and blazer were the only traces of Astley. (After sending a video to Erin’s husband, we received word that we weren’t the only two who had this exact thought.) His vocal range was unexpected and alluring, while the lyrics were poignant, funny, and utilized an expanse of vocabulary. (One of the best ways to pinpoint a favorable lyricist, if we do say so ourselves.) At times, he would do more of a spoken word situation over the music, which we found later to be a common thread in the recorded versions of the tracks. He would also interrupt his own songs to talk to the audience. He even warned us about “spontaneous clapping” and “crowd surfing” he predicted for later in the show — all of this to a still rather small crowd.
But as his set went on, the crowd grew. And the smiles multiplied. And his dance moves got even more outlandish. He jumped off the stage, lunged at attendees, and performed for the (non-operating) camera, all the while maintaining this artistic persona that we all grew to love over the course of his set.
If you get the chance to see this act live, run… do not walk. I promise it will change your life.
SXSW 2022 – as we have established – was such a welcoming and wonderful experience. With 2020 being canceled and 2021 being an all-digital event, coming back into a hybrid in-person/digital setting was everything we could have hoped for. This year, the film/television panels and events were spread out further into the week than years past, and we were thrilled at the thought of trying to get a glimpse of Donald Glover and the Atlanta team on the red carpet on Saturday, March 19th, at the Paramount. Not expecting to get a chance to actually step foot into the theater, we were shocked when we got into the premiere with no issue as secondary music badge holders. Viewers were promised the first episode followed by an extended Q&A. We got that PLUS the second episode!
“We like to under promise and over deliver.” – Show creator, Donald Glover.
If you love Atlanta already? You will be pleased right out the gate. If you didn’t love Atlanta already? It’s absolutely time to give it a try!
Without any big spoilers: The first episode is a reimagining of real events. Because there are plenty of things that happen in this real world – in our individual lives – where you just think: that could have happened differently. One of the things the cast revealed in the Q&A was that, in putting together these final two seasons of Atlanta – If you didn’t know, now you know. Seasons 3 and 4 have been filmed, and they will be the show’s last – they spent a lot of time watching other amazing shows like Succession while asking themselves: What is something these shows CAN’T do that we can?
And with the preview of just the first two episodes? This team can do a LOT that others can’t!
During the first season, the writers and cast genuinely felt like they were trying too hard – and, upon reflection, they can still feel it in the work itself. During season 2, they were trying hard to prove that season one wasn’t a fluke. They earned that success, and they did a brilliant job. In these final two seasons? They’ve grown up, survived 2 years of a pandemic, some even have growing families that they didn’t have before. Admits Donald of how he writes post-children: “Kids make you soft as butt.”
The consensus this time around? “We’re just trying to have fun.”
And, when the Q&A host asked if some of the subject matters in the first two episodes were based in truth (including instances of black face and euthanasia), show writer (and show creator Donald Glover’s brother) Stephen Glover said: “That shit is just funny”.
“We’re just fucked up people,” Donald added. “It came from us.” He went on to explain the correlation between fear and comedy, which are both massively present in Atlanta. “Fear and comedy are closely related, they’re always touching each other. They’re very connected. That’s why we’re trying to do that.”
From a viewing perspective? This show has always hit the tough, societal, human notes right alongside the wacky, weird, hilarious, bizarre WTF moments.
The panelists revealed that their writer’s room has been a physical location – but also a group text thread filled with memes and videos. Which, in hindsight, is made crystal clear in season 2, episode 6 with the character of Teddy Perkins (IYKYK). Donald Glover revealed that the character and episode were inspired by a photo of Michael Jackson ducking and covering, and the follow-up question: “What if you were being chased by that version of Michael?”
After this theatre viewing, we can admit it’s OUTSTANDING to watch alongside other fans, but just as hilarious, poignant, and effective when watching alone. Starting this season, you can watch it on Hulu the day after the episode airs on FX. And if the rest of the series continues with the cadence of the first two episodes of the 3rd season? You will not want to miss a single second.
The insight during the panel revealed self-awareness and an all-encompassing relatability to the content. With everything I learned about the creative process behind Atlanta, with its text thread writer’s room, I am feeling inspired to start my own writer’s room text thread. Because, my friends and I are SURELY clever enough to create our own epic, highly anticipated show, right?
On second thought, I think I’ll leave it to the pros. I already miss you, Atlanta crew!
Episode 1 of the 3rd season drops tomorrow, March 24th on FX. (Available on Hulu starting March 25th!) Keep up with our continuing coverage of SXSW here.
“Ah, another virtual event that I will RSVP to and not at ALL want to attend most of,” I thought, as the first electronic communications regarding SXSW 2021 came through to my device.
And, as we got closer to the start date, I thought more and more about the piles of work and other obligations that I could not take a vacation from in order to attend – like I would in a non-pandemic year where I would be physically changing locations and turning on my out-of-office messages.
But, of all the virtual events I’ve attended – and chosen not to attend – during the COVID-19 pandemic, this one was by far the most beneficial for me to attend.
And, it’s not because there were speakers/talent who looked/were like me (a white, cishet, straight female), but because there were speakers/talent who looked
NOTHING. LIKE. ME.
Sure, there were some missteps. Namely:
1. Mark Cuban – not only is he the whitest dude, but he offers no additional perspective he hasn’t already spewed across all digital/media channels 2. MOST of the speakers were pre-recorded – so, couldn’t you pre-screen some of the talks to ensure that those catchy titles that were submitted in the panel picker process actually lived up to their name? (i.e. – anything that started with “How To” should have been some sort of how to…not just “I am so successful, here is how I am so successful”. See: Every white man – including Mark Cuban). 3. Allowing ANY talks with a white man – or a group of white men – by himself. Panels, groups discussions, or fireside chats with all types of people that include a white man? SURE! But our lives have been so saturated with mediocre white dudes on a podium talking down to us for LITERALLY OUR ENTIRE LIVES that we just don’t need one more talk by a solo white guy.
And, I’m not saying that was all that was there – but, constructive criticism is important. We’ve all got to keep organizers on their toes. Because, yes, there were plenty of talks that were out-of-the-box and from traditionally marginalized speakers. There were tracks on cannabis and living outside of the gender binary and women in [insert career here]. This was, in fact, the event with the widest array of representation I have attended yet.
AND it can’t stop here.
This can’t be the “diversity year” – one and done. I hope this year’s SXSW sets the tone for pushing boundaries and innovating and leading the charge in representation across ALL events, multimedia, etc. I hope it continues into the next in-person conference – and I am not left sitting in a cold conference room staring 10 feet up at a million Seth Rogens all week. (As delightful as one Seth Rogen can be).
I am delighted that I “left” SXSW having heard about subjects that move me from the people who are on the ground, doing the work. Feeling full. Feeling rejuvenated. Feeling hopeful about things to come.
I didn’t leave thinking: so what? I left thinking: what now?
What to do when you find out your favorite musician is Racist and/or Sexist and/or Homophobic and/or Transphobic and/or COVID-denying and/or A general piece of garbage…
You know that band/musician you loved growing up? The one that speaks to you at any age. The one you’ve seen in concert 10+ times? You’ve gone to festivals for them, you’ve had their posters since you were 8, their music got you through the good AND bad times – including moving to a new city as a kid. You requested a song of theirs and dedicated it to your twin sister at your wedding reception…
If you can’t tell, I have a band that fits this bill. And last week, it came to my attention that at least two of their members have revealed themselves as garbage.
And, I’m not kidding when I say that I have supported them, purchased their music and trivia books and even had lunch with them in high school. #BigFan
But, as of last week, that is no more. And, on top of that, I felt a strong urge to take a few more steps. So, if you are devastated and angry at a revelation that a musician that has had a strong impact in your life up to this point is actually COVID-denier – and more – and you aren’t sure what to do with that rage? How do you reconcile with the fact that you supported that trash for so long? Here’s what I’m doing:
Sit with the fact that you wish they wouldn’t have said anything at all. It’s there. It’s real. AND it’s a red flag of privilege – that ignorance-is-bliss mentality COULD be easier at times, but isn’t something that many humans can afford, nor is it something to seek out. Easier does NOT equal better – at least in this case. Their saying something out loud may feel like a curse. It’s really a blessing. Because, once you know better, you do better, right?
In your mind/journal, thank them for everything they brought/were to you/did for you in the before times. Maybe vent into a voice message. Scream into a pillow. All good things must come to an end. Now, get to work.
Cut ‘em off. All social media follows and purchases.
Call ‘em out. It’s not enough just to unfollow. Let people know the type of folks they are supporting/following. And, if all you can think with this step is, “WOW, another person promoting cancel culture and trying to silence someone”…read up on what cancel culture really is/means (and, this Times article is from 2019…still very much stands)
Stop streaming. Even though it’s just pennies per stream – they are benefitting monetarily from you still tuning into their music.
Count up how much money you’ve paid them over the years – posters, albums, concert tickets, merch, etc. – and demand they pay that in donations/reparations. Not sure what reparations are? Nicole Cardoza of Anti-Racism Daily (subscribe to the daily newsletter AND support their work monetarily), shared the following in the February 1, 2021 version of the newsletter:
“Reparations are necessary for achieving racial equity (Brookings). On an individual level, pay it forward to creators you learn from on social media or organizers in your community. On a local level, find the local or state initiative advocating for reparations and support for their work. In addition, I recommend completing the Reparations Now Tool Kit created by the Movement for Black Lives to create a comprehensive plan.”
That last ask feel like a bit of a stretch? That’s OK. If you have the means, pay those reparations/donations yourself. Installments are fine. Refer to my last point in where to contribute, if you can’t think of anything. (For example: I am contributing to KC Tenants – a multiracial group in my hometown that organizes to ensure everyone has a safe, accessible, and affordable home. I also contribute to Gift KC on a monthly recurring basis).
Feel like there is a hole in your heart where that music lived? Find some new music – you are in the right place to find independent artists here at imperfect Fifth), and accept that this – like many things and all of 2020 – is a grieving process. You won’t “just get over it”.
Just know that not taking action shows lack of care, and even – dare I say it – complicity?
The world won’t change unless we each take steps – individually and collectively – towards the world we want.
wondering what former favorite band of mine I might be referring to? Hanson. It’s Hanson (find out what led me to this action and rant, here and here). ALSO? Brian Littrell. Fuck em.
Ryan Cassata has dived head first into all things art and creation, especially, it seems, since this whole “social distancing” thing started. But the energy around music for Ryan is all the more palpable when you realize that his new album The Witches Made Me Do It just dropped. AND IT’S PHENOMENAL.
Judah & the Lion…what can I say? They are a band that I have seen multiple times, and that I will probably continue to see. My first encounter, admittedly, was a personal tour with the guys around the Kansas City Zoo as they were just gaining traction with “Take It All Back”, and they were such a joy to speak with and to capture (with the lions, no less!). They put on such an undeniably powerful, upbeat, and fun show, and consistently! Everywhere from a packed old theater to an intimate set in a bar, they know how to make you FEEL with their lyrics AND music.
Th latest venue when they passed through Kansas City on August 10th? The gorgeous outdoor stage at Starlight Theater. (Yup. Home to bats and big ass fans.) Aside from the wicked humidity that evening, I think it was my favorite show from them yet, which is a tall order! It truly felt like I was invited to a party as one of the band’s closest friends as I witnessed their talent beneath the summertime sky.
Prior to releasing their album Pep Talks in May, I don’t think I would have felt like they were speaking directly to me. But the lyrics are made up of stories that are trauma-informed and emotional, like the band has cracked themselves open to being completely honest and transparent to anyone that will listen. Their Nashville-infused folk-pop mixed with some clearly Blink 182-style beats – well informed influence, as they’ve been covering a Blink favorite on this tour – this whole concert felt like a nod to early 2000s teen flick house parties (you know, with the live punk band playing in the backyard by the pool a la “Scotty Doesn’t Know”?).
Judah and The Lion’s energy is undeniable. The dropping of a curtain makes me want to listen more. And share more and connect more with other humans. And it had a greater impact on me as I listened Saturday night.
They opened with “Pep Talk” (the first song on their new album of the same name) as the last glow of the evening sun disappeared over the horizon and brought the heat as the weather cooled (to a chill 76 degrees). They played their entire new album and mixed in some fan favorites along the way – including a Blink 182 cover! And, even though I love the new stuff, my ears perked up and my tail started wagging when “Suit and Jacket” started up a few songs in.
They sing. They dance. They play the banjo. They tell enveloping stories while running around the stage and tiring you out just watching them. But, most of all, they inspire you to live in the moment, dance like no one is watching, and remind you that you are never alone.
I attended the Judah & the Lion concert by myself on Saturday night. But, as I walked to my car during the encore of “Take It All Back”, I realized I was really in my own backyard, connecting through song and movement with 5,000 of mine and the band’s closest friends.
Kansas City setlist:
1. Pep Talk
2. Quarter-Life Crisis
3. Over My Head
4. i’m ok.
6. Suit and Jacket
8. All the Small Things (blink‐182 cover)
9. Queen Songs / human.
10. Don’t Mess With My Mama
13. Going to Mars
15. Rich Kids
16. Dance With Ya
18. Family / Best Is Yet to Come
20. Alright (frick it!)
21. Why Did You Run?
22. Take It All Back
For those of you who are not yet privy to the rising music scene in Kansas City, now is the time to do your research. Boulevardia – the midwest beer and music fest that started to call Kemper Arena and the West Bottoms home five years ago – has exploded into a much bigger event, drawing crowds from all over the United States to tap brand new and limited run beers, check out bands in both rustic venues and in front of a very spacey-looking building (Kemper Arena, about to become HyVee Arena), and to ride a ferris wheel in an undoubtedly urban and growing area. This year featured forty bands – including, but certainly not limited to Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Radkey, Manchester Orchestra, Sir Sly, Guster, Bleachers, and Kansas City’s own Tech N9ne -, craftspeople and artists from around the metropolitan area, and a silent disco experience. (The best part about that? It was outside, instead of in a tent, so looky-lous could stop and watch for a bit if life called for it.)
2018 featured an array of additional rides – you know, besides that vibrant, beautiful ferris wheel – and a Royals outfield experience. And even though this event seems to happen on the hottest and muggiest weekend of the year every single year, we were too busy watching numerous parades of contortionists and acrobats and clowns and people full of PRIDE and enjoying the midwest’s best in beers that we almost didn’t even notice it.
But that’s the magic of Boulevardia. Enjoy these Day 1 photos, and check back in to see some highlights from Day 2 as well!
Damn near close to the crack of dawn on Monday, March 13th, we found ourselves on our way into downtown Austin. One member of our party was extremely jazzed about going to see John Cena speak at an official panel for SXSW. Unbeknownst to us, that hour of time would convert us into real fans of the Cena empire – something we cared little for previously. After all, big muscles and rough ‘n tumble WWE nights are not our main calling. But that panel opened our eyes to the type of conscientious, kind, and practical businessman he really, truly is. And we think we could all take a lesson or two out of his book. So here is the panel in its entirety, courtesy of SXSW.
The notorious rock collective Kings of Leon dropped their new album Walls last fall. Being a massive fan of the band myself, I needed help getting more objective opinions on the piece. So, in the dimly lit dining room of my parents’ house after a dinner of fried chicken, my immediate family (and grandmother) sat down to add our two cents about the work. (This is one of my favorite posts from my Impose days.)
The first track of the album, “Waste a Moment”, allows swirling guitar to bring in a good little melody. It’s the uptempo single you may have heard on the radio, lending itself to the typical sound Kings of Leon is known for. But after that first track, the band seems to have attempted to deviate from their norm, nabbing bits and pieces from different genres to make the album into a diverse, warm body of tracks to feast your ears on. For example, when second track “Reverend” begins, you immediately notice the vintage 70’s feel to the keys, a mid-tempo track that starts slower as lead singer Caleb Followill reaches for octaves we didn’t realize were in his range, providing a hazy, more ethereal sound to his vocals during entire stretches of the song.
While “Around the World” may begin with a lightweight guitar riff, there is a solo that is borderline earth shattering awaiting your ears. It definitely makes us want to pack our bags and escape to a place unknown. “Find Me” comes in deeper, and gets straight to the point. 44 seconds in, Caleb starts to sing and the song loses some of its momentum by reducing the instrumentals for his vocals. The song gives off the impression that he is singing while he’s driving a car, and the momentum picks back up during the chorus. “Over” has a darker feel to it with the deep, consistent guitar riff. Sounds like The Killersblended with some David Bowie, something my entire family picked up on. (I will note that my grandma claimed it had a Phantom of the Opera feel to it.) We all agreed that Caleb’s vocals sound blatantly different on this track, although no less beautiful.
The song “Muchacho” proves the notion that when you add castanets to a song, it automatically becomes more vibey. Slightly reminiscent of some of our favorite R.E.M. tracks, Caleb’s voice is delivered at an even deeper range, if that’s possible. It’s slower, with a very tropical disposition and a tempo that reminds us of Bruce Springsteen‘s “Brilliant Disguise”. (Which was a brilliant move on their part.) Percussion leads in to “Conversation Piece” slowly, with lyrics like “take me back to california, to those crystal neon signs” allowing the listener to reminisce on days past. The song is low key, like the majority of the album, and could easily be played in the background of a back road drive with your significant other during the autumn months.
“Eyes On You” brings the tempo back up, the instrumentals noticeably reminiscent of some of our favorite Weezer tracks. The song deviates to a punk spectrum, although the way the melody is composed is actually very beautiful and works perfectly with Caleb’s scratchy bravado. “Wild” brings the album back to a warmer instrumental composition, and we’re led to a place of relaxation. The album rounds out with its title track, which sets in at a glacial – but incredible gorgeous – pace. Simple instrumentals allow the vocals to be highlighted moreso than its predecessors. Lyrics like “I can’t get there on my own / You can’t leave me here alone / I’m just trying to do what’s right / A man ain’t a man unless he’s fought the fight” make this a very introspective and personal piece. It’s a delicate way to end the album, and slows your heart rate down immensely. “Walls” can be summed up as an existential piece that leaves you questioning life, love, and your own pursuit of happiness.
As you may have noted, our evening included quite the roundtable discussion. As fleeting as it was, we all maintained the opinion that the album is experimentation at its finest.