Friday, March 12, 2010

Choose Your Own Adventure

Today marks the beginning of this year's South By Southwest festival in Austin, an event that will, in coming weeks, host performances from our own MC Frontalot, Random, Schaffer the Darklord, Jesse Dangerously and YTCracker. But just as importantly, SXSW also kicks off what I like to think of as the expanded convention season.

Think about it; back in the proverbial day the con season was synonymous with summer, but now, ably book-ended by events like PAX East and Dragon*Con, it's sort of grown to encompass everything from early spring to damn-near autumn!

Sadly, as my opportunities for travel are always fairly limited, I have to reserve my excitement for the event(s) that I actually stand a snowball's chance in Hell of actually attending. Currently, this means my old stomping ground Nerdapalooza. (Although, in the interest of full disclosure, I was recently invited to head out west for Maker Faire this May as well. #fingerscrossed)

But rather than reflect on 'Paloozas past, I'd instead like take a look to the future, to this very year's festival. I know Hex and company are planning to continue in the proud tradition of mixing shit up this time around, adding more gaming and merch and visual aspects to the proceedings, but I want to focus on the festival's most prominent feature: the music.

More specifically, I'd like to pick your brains as to who you'd like to see perform this summer in the sweltering Orlando heat.

Now I am in no way a duly deputized representative of Nerdapalooza, and I'm not data mining on behalf of Hex Warrior or EMPulse or A Comic Shop or any of our other Floridian allies. This is just me wondering aloud who your best-case-scenario picks would be for musical entertainment at Nerdapalooza 2010.

Personally, I'd love to see all the locals and our out-of-town regulars – Frontalot, Uncle Monsterface, Dual Core, STD, etc. – as well as some of last year's debuts like Beefy, Shael, Scrub Club and The Protomen.

As for new blood, I'd hope for more geek rock, specifically cats like Kirby Krackle and Wrockers such as The Whomping Willows and Nagini/The Vashta Nerada. On the hip-hop end, as I'm always down for hip-hop, Dale Chase pretty much needs to be there. I'm also really interested in the prospect of a few more danceable chip musicians like Starscream or 8 Bit Weapon coming on as a late night headliner, and I'm wholly in favor of bringing in more international talent like Jesse D or Pixelh8.

Oh, and three words: Optimus. Rhyme. Reunion.

But enough of my yammering. Who's on your Nerdapalooza wish list?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Dinosaurus Meets the Reggae Hasid

I do not, as a rule, associate Former Fat Boys with particularly illuminated lyrical content. Don't get me wrong; I like the guys. A lot, in fact. And songs about groupies and saurian super scientists and the Nintendo Wii do have a distinctly uplifting quality, but even at his most emotional – such as his superlative verse about a relationship gone wrong in the FFB remix of One Republic's "Secrets" – $uckSex always manages to come off sardonically matter-of-fact, cleverly detached.

So, of course, when listener Dan the Automaton turned me on to this submission to Matisyahu's "One Day" remix contest, I was rather taken aback.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy the hell out of it. I mean, hearing Former Fat Boys add a pair of verses to a joint about striving for peace in a world plagued by violence is a counterintuitive coupling, but that only serves to make it all the more resonant.

Regarding his take on a track that the socially conscious Matisyahu once called "the song I've been wanting to make since I started my career," $uckSex himself weighed in:
I really wanted to find a choir, but I am only one voice right now. My thing is rapping, so I didn't mix up the instrumental too much, but I added two verses. The first is slow and brooding and the second is meant to explode and bring a fast flow to the end. This was an incredible song to be able to add a couple of verses too. It's a simple song and a simple idea, but it really gets you thinking. Kind of made me feel like some of my other tracks are a little shallow. My favorite line is the "one day we're a billion paper planes" line.
If you haven't already, head over to Indaba Music and check out FFB's submission. The winner gets a chance to record with Matisyahu, so maybe cast a vote for it as well if you're so inclined. Either way, definitely make it a point to take in this unlikely (but certainly satisfying) pairing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Snap. Krackle. Power Pop.

Though I understand it's still a bit early for such talk, I will come right out and say that what will surely prove to be one of my favorite albums of the year dropped yesterday.

Kirby Krackle's E For Everyone has everything I want in a nerdy LP; tight guitar pop, lyrics focused heavily on comic book and con culture, a dash of hip-hop (compliments of GMK) and just the slightest hint of slash fic. Oh yeah, and a cover by Jim-goddamn-Mahfood, which is kind of the best thing ever.

I've got a full review of the album coming in a few days over at GeekDad, but I'll give y'all a little taste of my preliminary findings. Y'know, because we're tight.

Kirby Krackle is a Seattle two-piece whose name evokes the style of Jack Kirby, the oft-cited "King of Comics." (Not, as one fan inaccurately surmised, Nintendo's pink puffball.) musically, they occupy a space equidistant between Jonathan Colton and Weezer. Though they have a definite sound, like the latter, writer/musicians Kyle Stevens and Jim Demonakos also monkey with that musical formula to great effect, like the former.

I was first introduced to the band last year when they released their debut self-titled LP, which boasted the instant classic "Marvelous Girls," a song that is simultaneously one of their best and a fine introduction to the Kirby Krackle style. From there the crew released an amazing follow-up single, "Ring Capacity," and played a show or two with my longtime homey Beefy, which further endeared them to me.

Without getting into the dreaded spoiler territory, I'll just say that E For Everyone does everything that Kirby Krackle did only better. Though it starts with a pair of too-similar entries, it blossoms into a musically diverse and lyrically sound masterpiece of modern geek. Cuts like "Henchmen" and "Great Lakes Avengers" bring the humor, while closers "Dusty Cartridges & Long Boxes" and "Going Home" manage emotional resonance that never devolves into sappiness.

There's also "Roll Over,'" the hip-hop hybrid I alluded to earlier. It's a bit hard to describe, so I want even try. But suffice it to say you'll be hearing it and lots of other Kirby Krackle in upcoming podcasts.

Head over to CD Baby to give the album a spin, and, if you haven't yet had the privilege, peep the debut as well. I believe you'll find them both as indispensable as I have.