Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Bat Fangs Sink Teeth into SXSW

The world works in interesting ways. For our April issue, we were planning to interview Bat Fangs – a duo made up of Laura King and Ex Hex‘s Betsy Wright – for a profile in advance of their April 26 show at the Luce Foundation Center for American Art. And since we all happened to be at SXSW this week, we were able to pull the pair aside for a few minutes to talk about their new project before their set at the Don Giovanni Records showcase on March 13. Because we’re teases over here, we’re going to make you wait a little for the majority of the interview. However, we did talk to them about their time so far in Austin.

On Tap: Have you played SXSW before? What has the experience been like this year? Has anything changed?
Betsy Wright: One thing is we’re staying at an Airbnb that’s like 25 minutes outside of town, and actually, it’s kind of awesome.
Laura King: Maybe 10 years ago that would have sucked, but now…[laughs]
BW: It’s so quiet, and I don’t really feel like going to a bunch of shows or anything, so we just slept really late [today], hung out and made breakfast. I had time to mess around with my guitar. It was awesome.

OT: What’s the goal with these shorter sets? 
BW: Well we don’t get to use our own gear. So it is a free-for-all. You get up there and hope for the best. [You] try to have fun, and try not to overthink stuff like, “Oh, my guitar doesn’t sound right.”
LK: You have to be in the moment, and just do your best.
BW: Just go for it.

OT: With that being said, is it still enjoyable to be a part of this larger mechanism as a whole? 
BW: It’s cool being at [the Don Giovanni Records] showcase because it’s fun to get to know everyone and see other bands.

OT: What’s the most stressful part of playing in this setting? Is it just the speed and urgency, or something else?
BW: Just the turnover. I’m going to have to carry my amp through this sea of people.
LK: You guys should stick around and buffer us [laughs].

OT: Yeah, like some sort of knockoff security. What are the groups you’re looking forward to seeing, if any?
LK: I haven’t really looked at the schedule.
BW: I’m excited to see Flasher, but they’re from DC, so I see them all the time.

OT: Do you guys think you have the coolest logo here? You have to be up there, right?
LK: I think we do.
BW: I drew it! It’s hand-drawn – I used a ruler.

Click here for more information on Bat Fangs, and don’t miss our full feature on them in the April issue.

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Queer Guitar Pros Partner Shred at SXSW

People say that I talk like Ellen Page // I guess that makes sense since we come from the same place // But it’s more than just a regional thing // Cause if it’s 50 percent maritime, it’s 50 percent lesbian

The opening lyrics to Ontario-based Partner’s “The ‘Ellen’ Page” pretty much sum up this quirky and insanely talented band’s vibe. Not yet on my radar before receiving a SXSW press email – even though they’ve been featured in NPR Austin 100, Stereogum’s Bands to Watch and Pitchfork – I was sold in the opening line of the pitch:

“Imagine if Beavis & Butthead were queer guitar pros who knew how to harmonize solos and spent too much time listening to Weezer and AC/DC.”

I mean, who wouldn’t be intrigued? And after Trent and I decided to end our packed first night at SXSW with their set at Valhalla on March 13, we knew within seconds of being front and center that we’d made the right choice. My spidey sense immediately began tingling when I caught NPR and Tiny Desk’s Bob Boilen out of the corner of my eye (if he’s in a room at SXSW, I know the band is going to be good) while Trent was just excited to be in a prime location for shooting photos (check out his excellent “Tuesday and Wednesday at SXSW” gallery here).

The five-piece band is led by self-described “lesbian stoner goofballs” Josée Caron and Lucy Niles, and backed by guitarist Daniel Legere, drummer Brendan Allison and bassist Kevin Brasier (who literally has the most infectious smile and unabashedly happy stage presence I’ve ever seen), and the description is spot on. Caron does have a striking resemblance to Page, both in her mannerisms and physical appearance, and offers up a half humorous, half this is probably for real “O” face during guitar solos that is…well, memorable, to say the least.

Niles is a bit more understated, offering up witty banter over the course of the set with Caron and handling a sore/worn out throat gracefully. The best friends, who say they’re “part musical act, part teenage diary and 100 percent queer,” both sing and can seriously shred the guitar. I say this as a pianist without any guitar experience, but who watched them play for nearly an hour about a foot away from me. The sheer talent pulsing from their fingers was palpable, and the music journalists (Boilen included, pardon me while I swoon) in the crowd were impressed.

The foundation of Partner’s sound is classic/garage rock, with some pop sensibilities and razor-sharp lyrics added to the mix. Songs like “Sex Object” about snooping in your roommate’s room and finding a sex toy (off of their 2017 album In Search of Lost Time) and new song “Big Gay Hands” (inspired by wanting their girlfriends’ respective, and big, hands all over their bodies) offer a glimpse into the subject matter they cover in their repertoire. After playing the latter, the duo joked about the fact that the song is both of their parents’ favorite, but that the parental units each have their own name for the song title that does not involve using the word “gay.”

Their set included a few covers – not very many bands can pull off Melissa Etheridge and AC/DC with the same level of energy and chops – and I was also very impressed with how vocal they were about their influences. Etheridge is chief among them, along with k.d. lang, Indigo Girls, Ween, and Tegan and Sara (Caron was sporting a T&S T-shirt), among others. In my humble opinion, it’s the most talented musicians that are quick to point out who they look up to, and who have their own fan moments about other kick ass musicians (and actors like Page).

I’m catching up with them on Friday, so check back this weekend for a full interview where I pick their brains about their garage rock sound, sick guitar riffs and Ellen Page.

Learn more about Partner here.

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

DC’s Rico Nasty Finds Fans in Austin

I don’t know if the guy standing next to me at Rico Nasty‘s set during the SoundCloud showcase at SXSW on Tuesday night was from DC, but I would say that he probably was not. Despite this likelihood (which admittedly is just a hunch), the guy knew nearly every word to every song, sometimes offering as much fervor as the artist herself. He was jumping and shouting behind me, and all the hype surrounding Rico Nasty was personified for me way out in Austin, Texas.

A big name back in the District, Rico Nasty is beginning to generate serious national buzz, getting mentions in outlets like The Fader and others – and for good reason. She has a unique aesthetic, illuminated by her eclectic wardrobe choices for her set. The outfit included, to borrow an observation from someone we hung out with in the press tent, a Lisa Simpson-esque hairdo with biker pants that had so many buckles and straps it would make Tommy Wiseau jealous.

Her music was just as aggressive, allowing music fans a chance to chant and release some of the stress that can accompany the SXSW process of being overwhelmed by the sheer amounts of people and activities. Multiple concertgoers knew the hooks to her songs, and it wasn’t unusual for them to shout them out with clenched fists while bobbing up and down.

Nasty’s stage presence was also a revelation, as the rapper displayed an ability to simply get down to her own music as she dipped and jaunted across the stage, all while knowing when to get serious and when to grin at the crowd. Toward the end, it was clear that she was having as much fun as her adoring fans, who all hunched up toward the front in hopes of high fives. I hope the guy who knew all the words got one – he deserved it.

For more information on Rico Nasty, click here.

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Starcrawler Has Ants in Pants at SXSW

Like exorcising a demon from a helpless child, Starcrawler‘s Henri Cash, Austin Smith and Tim Franco began their SXSW set at The Main II on Tuesday, March 13 making raucous sounds. I can’t say music, because it wasn’t a song. Rather, it was a ritual, a calling to summon the missing frontwoman who would lead the gawking crowd through an intriguing set that even the weirdest SXSW acts would struggle to top – at least in terms of audacious strangeness.

Amidst the electric distortion, causing helpless folks without earplugs to consider an exit, she flew through the center of people congregated directly in front of the stage. Like a lightening bolt leaves people struck and confused, her entrance alarmed most as she pushed and shoved her way to the front of the stage before climbing on; here she was in all her glory, Arrow de Wilde. Dressed in a corset and, frankly, not much else, the music could finally begin – the demon loose.

Much like the opening song (in my best Steve Carell as Brick in Anchorman voice) LOUD NOISES, the songs were a cluster of screeching guitar licks and shrieks from de Wilde. When she chose to sing, which was rare, you were surprised, because a majority of her words sounded like the laughter from Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna in the famed “Madhouse.”

The set proved theatrical as she threw herself around the stage, hurled herself to the ground and even punched herself (though hopefully not too hard.) At one point, she knelt down to drink water before spitting it out toward the crowd, and in another instance she knelt, but when she arose her mouth gushed with faux (we think?) blood.

Harnessing the look of Carrie and the body language of Freddy Krueger when he playfully stalks victims, de Wilde overshadowed the rest of the band, and even her own music, with her magnetic stage presence. And while the drummer and the bassist were largely hidden away from the lights, keeping a rhythm for her to prance menacingly to, the guitarist joined her to a lesser degree, climbing the amps and speakers.

However, if I hadn’t have taken photos of the other members, I wouldn’t remember what they looked like, or even that they were there. Not to say they were bad, but simply overshadowed by the red-haired dynamo.

The only words I remember coming from her microphone was the phrase “ants in your pants,” a term parents use to describe kids who can’t sit still. There isn’t a more apt description for Starcrawler, and de Wilde. She wouldn’t stop moving, and even when she did, her eyes and mouth refused to play along. From start to finish, she rose and fell and rose again; her exit mirroring her arrival, a furious dash through a sea of people.

For more information about Starcrawler, click here.

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Bad Moves, Good Vibes at SXSW

Bad Moves makes the 90s kid in me perk right up, transporting me back to the days of (early, and therefore good) blink-182 and other pop punk guilty pleasures. The DC-based foursome took the stage at Sidewinder on Tuesday night, kicking off the Don Giovanni Records showcase at SXSW.

The first thing I noticed as we approached the stage was the vintage orange leather briefcase (or maybe music case?) to the left of where the band was setting up. Straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, the bag caught my eye when boarding our JetBlue flight on Monday night just 24 hours before. I found the coincidence exciting, and then Trent quickly reminded me that duh, they’re a DC-based band and we work for a DC-based magazine, so of course the chances we’d be on the same flight were high.

Nevertheless, I was still geeking out about the orange Wes Anderson bag and continued to have all the happy music geek moments when Bad Moves took the stage and played an energetic, impossibly catchy set that had everyone moving (impressive given that this was one of the first shows of the night and most everyone was still sober and recovering from a long night of music – or travel, in our case).

Emma Cleveland (bass), David Combs and Katie Park (guitar), and Daoud Tyler-Ameen (drums) offer something unique to a lot of bands in that they all sing – and harmonize quite well – in most of their songs. They even include layered hooks in some of their songs, often pairing female and male vocals together as they carry the tune. The effect works, and you’re drawn in and start to sing along with them in your head (there’s something to be said for the beauty of simple lyrics, no?)

The band tackles a range of subjects, from climate change to having “gay feelings at church camp,” and approaches them all with the same combination of playfulness and serious musicianship. Their look – orange bag aside – is cool too, with a mermaid tint to Park’s short locks and a shaggy mop on Combs. My favorite set moments were Cleveland’s little punk bounce in multiple songs, and the line “Being no one isn’t so bad” repeated in “Get Slow,” which gave me all the angsty feels of my formative years. Ah, teen feelings.

The band’s single, “Cool Generator,” is definitely fun too, though not my fave of the set. It does have a cute music video, and a super catchy hook. The set was memorable, and I’d love to catch them back on our home turf again for a longer show – and to find out who owns the orange bag. (Are you tired of hearing about it yet? Because Trent definitely is.)

Learn more about Bad Moves here.

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Tacos and Tech So Far at SXSW

Folks, we have arrived! And although we didn’t actually get to Texas (aka my homeland) until the wee-hours of Monday night/Tuesday morning, On Tap staff (i.e., myself and Monica) decided to kick start the trip with a stop into a legitimate taco joint: Tyson’s Tacos.

First off, let me just say that DC has a gaping hole in the 24-hour breakfast taco market, and it’s probably for the best because I would surely go broke if it were as delicious as the outdoor diner-esque Tyson’s. Upon nearing the restaurant, you may think it closed, but it’s a ploy to keep the pretend taco aficionados away.

The lights were dim, and there was only a window reminiscent of where an E-ZPass teller would be planted where you could put in your order. As I said, the breakfast was to die for, featuring tacos with bacon, fried avocado, pico, potatoes and numerous other toppings, each complementing each other like a couple gaining steam in the form of third and fourth dates. Tack on the queso, and you’ll have a full-on food coma.

After hitting the hay and trying to sleep off the massive quantities of sodium absorbed from the binge, we found ourselves at the SXSW 2018 Trade Show at the Austin Convention Center this morning. Here, there were booths dedicated to virtual reality, sound and other various industries vying for your attention and hopeful that you’ll buy all of their products on Amazon. Once you shuffled through all the people battling for you attention in order to show you the latest in mobile gaming or the future of aviation, the back of the room was littered with different states, territories and countries showcasing reasons for visiting foreign lands, either across the pond or the street.

Standing out was the neighbor to the south, as the most memorable marker was the hanging, chandelier-style Mexico display, which proved luminous when compared to the vibrant signs signifying other countries, such as the U.K., Ireland, Brazil, Argentina and Japan, to name a few.

Upon circling around and avoiding all the people trying to give away free tote bags, we decided to venture into the place pleading to be kept weird. Look out for more of our coverage, including what will mostly be music-oriented writeups, here.

Photo: Trent Johnson
Photo: Trent Johnson

Check out On Tap’s SXSW 2018 Coverage

Yep, your eyes are not deceiving you! On Tap Magazine is down south in Austin, Texas to cover one of the most celebrated music festivals in North America. From March 12 to 17, our website will feature reviews, photos and more under the new SXSW tab on our website. Plus, we will be keeping our readership updated via social media, so be sure to check out our Instagram throughout the week.