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Sort of SXSW

Houston is getting the overflow from SXSW this week. That makes this a good week to go and see live music, because all those bands are spilling over into Houston and playing basically for free. At Fitzgerald’s, you can see a lineup of great bands, essentially a mini-music festival, every night this week for… free, if you’re over 21. No cover at all. Where else are you going to get that much value for $0?

Seems like the pattern is, you go for the night, the first bands are meh, things start to improve towards the middle, and then towards the end, some amazing band plays which justifies all your sleepiness, the wait, the smoke machine, all of it. This is the second time this has happened to me though, that I see a band play live and have a mind-blowing experience, then try to look them up on youtube and feel nothing. They sound okay but I’d probably never go to the trouble of buying a ticket to them, whereas when I see them live, I think, I can’t wait to hear them at home. Something’s lost between being there on stage and the recording later.

When I went to SXSW years ago I loved the live show of L7 – at the time, I thought it was the greatest band I’d ever heard – and I didn’t listen to them at all afterwards. A couple days ago Electric Touch was incredible, but their youtube videos are dull. Tonight it was Prince Rama; listening to them live was like being in the soundtrack of some epic tripped-out 70’s movie. I liked their story, too; two half-punk, half-India women out of Florida, who walk up on stage and then produce this unexpectedly lush, orchestral sound, practically a soundscape. It turns out that their music is partly devotional, and pays homage to the spiritual communities they started in. See, for instance, their Wikipedia entry (quoted below), to get a sense of their orientation.

Prince Rama is a two-piece now age psych-dance band based in Brooklyn, NY. Sisters Taraka and Nimai Larson have lived in ashrams, worked for utopian architects, written manifestos, delivered lectures from pools of fake blood, conducted group exorcisms disguised as VHS workouts and have recently finished inventing an apocalypse on which they based their most recent pseudo-compilation album, Top Ten Hits of the End of the World, comprised of ten singles “channeled” from fictional deceased pop bands.

Their often unpredictable live shows incorporate elements of psychedelic ceremony, performance art, and dancefloor initiation rite, and when Animal Collective’s Avey Tare discovered them in a Texas dive bar in 2010, they were equipping the audience with handmade shoes clad with broken chimes. They signed to Paw Tracks shortly thereafter, and have since released Shadow Temple and Trust Now, which peaked at #3 and #6 on the Billboard New Age Charts respectively. In four years, Prince Rama have released six albums and toured in four of the seven continents, recording with members of Animal Collective and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.

Taraka recently published a manifesto on the “NOW AGE” that puts forth Prince Rama’s aesthetic and metaphysical philosophies, which has been met with both hatred and praise from art and music worlds alike.

The audio below is nice, though it’s not the same experience.

P.S. Ha! I saw somebody I knew there tonight and she was joking that it seemed like Walter’s and Fitz switched lineups. That led me to find out something really interesting just now – Fitz is now owned by the Free Press Summerfest people, and Pegstar, which is run by Jagi Katial. I knew this guy when we were both sitting around being bored to death in a statistics class; now he books these shows. He has good taste.

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