SXSW (Thursday): Flower Love Traveling Band, Wavves, Max Tundra
Various; Austin, TX

- {Flower Love Traveling Band}

With an hour to kill between my next scheduled show, I had the great fortune of stumbling upon Japan’s Flower Love Traveling Band at Smokin’ Music. I always forget that, along with irritably exuberant pop and soul-crushing noise, Japan is also the world’s last bastion for compelling prog-rock. Flower Love Traveling Band constitute all the qualities of great prog-rock: virtuoso technique, epic sonic explorations that ride just shy of overlong, and, perhaps most importantly, a critical self-awareness that you are a prog-rock band and that it is totally ridiculous and glorious all at the same time. FLTB’s wah-heavy, almost backwards-sounding licks were cranked out on a surfboard-sized eight- or nine-string guitar, while the dread-headed lead singer screeched an ear-piercing falsetto. Rollicking drums, touches of keyboard, and submerged bass rounded out the whole proggy mess, but of course the real stars were the singer and the guitarist, leaving FLTB’s sound somewhat of a combination of Damo Suzuki chanting, Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd guitar licks, and Henry Cow or Soft Machine playfulness. The funniest part about FLTB was whenever someone began a solo -- whether it be the guitarist, drummer or keyboard player -- the rest of the band would surround the soloist and just smile and groove along. Most people knock prog-rock for taking itself too seriously and not having enough fun, but any signs of such joyless pedantry are nowhere near the light-hearted complexity of Flower Love Traveling Band.

- {Wavves}

So apparently Wavves is getting run through the SXSW hype machine big-time. He's playing approximately 953 showcases, as he so bluntly pointed out when I saw him at The Music Gym, so I guess he’s the festival’s golden boy and “breakout” star. Even the drummer from Psychedelic Horseshit had a shirt on that said “Wavves Suck,” and of course when you’re catching the ire of your fellow artists, you’ve truly made it to the top. I just figured he was an above-average punk rocker in the same vein as Times New Viking or No Age, which I guess in itself leads to intense media attention. All the hoopla had obviously taken its toll when Wavves hit the stage last night. He opened the show by griping about how many showcases he had to do and that this set would be a short one. After his announcement that his show was going to be half-assed, he half-assed his way through the highlights of his new record and said goodnight 20 minutes later. I understand that he has lots of shows to play at this week and is probably getting sick of it, but isn’t that why you don’t overextend yourself in the first place, you know, in case you end up phoning it in and coming off like some entitled jerkoff to a crowd of 150 people who really just wanted to enjoy your music? Plus, he was wearing a St. Louis Cardinals t-shirt and a Red Sox cap! What the fuck is that shit about?!

- {Max Tundra}

Any ill will I had towards mankind’s instrument wielders disappeared once Max Tundra (pictured) took the stage next. After the house cranked Appetite for Destruction during the interim for about as long as Wavves played, Max Tundra, in the most adorable-looking cardigan you could ever imagine, jerked and giggled his way through a synthy celebration of life. I have a feeling that when Lord Xenu or the Free Masons or Lemmy intelligently designed the Earth 6000 years ago, along with all the bullshit, God created Max Tundra to serve the world as a beacon of absolute joy, a silly little British man assigned with the crucial task to inundate this desolate world with rainbows and high fives and raspberries and little puppy dogs through song. Tundra feels most at home when his voice is at its highest register with his three or four synths heading out on totally different but expressly joy-related journeys. When he sings at a baritone level, he seems like he’s almost mad at everybody just because he doesn’t sound like the happiest man on earth for a few measly bars. But aside from that small vocal criticism, it’s impossible to hate on the exhilarating synth-pop of this tiny, tiny man. He holds in his hand the key to mankind’s ills, all the life-affirming charm of Vince Clarke and disco-era Sparks dressed in a jester hat and tinkling on a synthesizer.

Whew! So much stuff! Where shall I go tonight! Find out tomorrow! Or don’t! It’s cool!

Most Read