Monday, August 19, 2013
Live: Speedy Ortiz/Ringo Deathstarr/Hola Beach @ The Mohawk 8/2/13
Seeing Speedy Ortiz live (along with Ringo Deathstarr and Hola Beach), eliminated a worry that I had unfortunately had been buying into a bit subconsciously; that indie rock is dying. This mostly comes from detractors saying guitar music itself is dying, and that everything is just recycled nostalgia at this point. Ignoring a potential 5,000 word essay about nostalgia/previous ideas on music at any point, that really doesn't matter. Whether playing on just borrowed nostalgia (and believe me it wasn't just that), these three bands were great, each shows how great music made with a few guitars, bass, and drums can be.
For some reason the word scrappy keeps popping into my head to describe Hola Beach even though it doesn't exactly fit. Composed of four kids I have seen at various shows throughout town, they played something close to proto-shoegaze; shoegaze that obviously was tinted by a secondary love of garage rock or something more energetic. They were noisy in that "let's crank all our instruments and amps to 10" way, and their music just amplified that further. There were really songs under all the noise though, with really catchy melodies and killer bass hooks if you could make them out. They closed on a mini freakout, every band member trying to create as much noise as possible, frontman Will Kurzner in particular smashing his guitar into the floor and then his amp, and yet still keeping the song going. They were great and everything a local opener should be.
There is some deep embarrassment about the fact that I’ve been going to shows in Austin for six years and this was the first time I had ever seen Ringo Deathstarr. One of the best shoegaze bands out there right now, from my town, and I had managed to miss them at every turn. Not only that, but seeing them that Friday confirmed I had missed some spectacular performances. Ringo Deathstarr was just captivating, giving off this inviting energy that few shoegaze bands can manage in any sense. They actually got part of the crowd dancing (or at least pogoing in place), and someone even attempted to start a mosh pit at one point. The new material debuted was just excellent, fitting perfectly into their set and seemed just wonderful as their older material. It was 40 minutes of just excellent shoegaze bliss from a band that has perfected it steadily over years while no one was watching.
Seeing Speedy Ortiz live allowed for something I had always wanted when listening to it; for it to click. In theory, I knew I should love them; well crafted, Pavement loving indie-rock that seemed like it was ripped out straight from ’92 by a time machine. Yet, up until seeing them, I had only “enjoyed” Speedy Ortiz rather than loving them. And what changed when I saw them was understanding that they don’t care. They understood that the importance people have placed on indie-rock from the ‘90s over the last 12 years was not its point. It was four goof balls making loud, guitar rock and just having FUN doing it. It was sloppy; it was silly; matt Robidoux was more concerned in hitting his guitar then actually playing it. At one point Sadie Dupuis (whose banter was great during the whole show) explained their song “Gary Oak” was based on hating the main rival from the early Pokemón games, and that was one of the best songs of the night. And know that Speedy Ortiz were great, all disjointed energy and indirect proficiency with their instruments. The set ended in intentional madness, noisy squeals with the band just bashing on their instruments as a drum cymbal was shoved into a guitar. Speedy Ortiz aren’t playing on borrowed nostalgia; they are their own thing, loving old indie music and making something in honor of that. And they can play a hell of a show.