Monday, March 28, 2011

Flavors of Australia: Miami Whore

My arrival in California last Friday marked the end of an utterly exhausting travel jaunt that took me halfway around the world and back- from Santa Cruz to Fiji to New Zealand to Australia, finally ending up in fucking Texas where the Belgian waffles are in the shape of fucking Texas.

For those that know me, I'm sure you can only imagine the wake of chaos that I left behind me while traveling solo around the world without any plan whatsoever. For those that don't, keep reading this blog and it will all become clear soon enough. Suffice to say, I think I probably aged about eleven years over the course of four weeks and have accumulated so many ridiculous stories that they have been quite literally leaking out of my pockets and leaving questionable stains on my clothing (I might explain that in another post).

What I'm trying to say here is that I'm not really sure where to begin with it all. I don't think there's any point in constructing some long pedantic narrative, so for the sake of simplicity I think I'll just drop little travel nuggets into this blog whenever I feel like, without any pretense of order or linear thought. I have a stupid amount of pictures from the trip that can serve as preservatives for the memories in my head, so I'm not that concerned that I'll just forget stuff. So anyway, in the spirit non-linear storytelling, my first little travel post will start right in the middle of the trip, thirty-five thousand feet in the air on the way to Sydney.

I can't ever sleep on planes; my body won't allow it. In place of sleep, I usually distribute my time among the following activities: debating whether it is worth getting my book out of my carry-on, deciding whether it is worth killing my phone's battery listening to music, complaining about the available in-flight entertainment options, browsing through the psychedelically-absurd catalog of aristocratic goods contained within the pages of SkyMall, or in this case where my little story starts- putzing through the radio options that come built-in to my armrest.

Conveniently enough, all of the radio stations were laid out on a little card in my seatpocket, so I scanned through to see what the options were. Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh. Hmm, meh. Meh.

The only thing that looked somewhat intriguing was something called Flavors of Australia (which could also double as a perfectly fine show on the Food Network). I didn't recognize a single band on the list, so plugged in my pair of double-plugged, proprietary airline headphones (WTF, btw) and flipped to Flavors of Australia. I was pleasantly surprised.

Now I have a very wide spectrum of musical taste. I listen to as much modern electronic much as I do 90s-era hip-hop, disco and funk from the seventies, psychedelic rock from the sixties, and gypsy jazz from the thirties and fourties. The general rule of thumb though is that if it makes me want to dance, I'll probably like it. If there are big-banging beats, or juicy melodies, or infectious grooves then you've usually got me. And when I flipped on  Flavors of Australia, the song I stumbled onto had all of the above. The band was called Miami Horror, and the song was called Holidays:

That video is very weird, yes.

And the weird schlong-nosed guy was most definitely influenced by Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama. But dangling nose-dongs aside, I love that song and was instantly hooked on Miami Horror. Flavors of Australia actually came through in a big way. So I spent the next few hours listening to that station cycle through various tunes, some of which were decent and some of which were not so much. But it does turn out that Australia does this disco/electro/indie genre pretty well, with bands like Cut Copy and another Flavor of Australia that I discovered, Bag Raiders:

Once I finally landed in Sydney and found myself an internet connection, I poked around on Miami Horror's site, trying to get my hands on as much of their tunes as I possibly could. Along the way I stumbled upon their Tour page, and discovered a little note that could only be described as serendipitous:

Miami Horror | SXSW | Beauty Bar, Austin TX | March 16, 2011

That date was the last night that I would be in Austin for SXSW, and I couldn't think of a better way to end what was sure to be an already action-packed week. Over the next few weeks I pummeled myself with their music. I also spread the word to a lot of my friends, as it turned out that no one had really heard of Miami Horror here in the states. Although one small little thing. Almost every time I mentioned the band to someone else, the conversation went something like this:

Brett: Dude! You gotta check out this great band from Australia, they're so rad. I found about them on the plane to Sydney...

Person X: Oh yeah? What are they called?
Brett: Miami Horror! They're so rad.
Person X: What? 'Miami Whore?' Umm...
Brett: No no! Miami HorrOR
Person X: What?
Brett: sigh... 

Now I'm not sure whether I just have trouble clearly saying the word 'horror' or not, but I'd rather just blame this on Australia. Because in the down under, they pronounce 'horror' as HARor, and in the States not so much. I also get a chuckle thinking that somehow Miami Whore, a real band that actually goes by that name, is benefiting from all of this silliness. As a side note, I'd rather watch my own house burn down that listen songs by Miami Whore.

Anyway, March 16th finally rolls around and I managed to sneak myself into Beauty Bar for Miami HorrOR's 12:30AM set in Austin. The band takes the stage, starts a righteously-disco drum and bass groove, and the crowd goes apeshit.

And then the sound guy cuts them off. They hadn't even planyed for one minute. The crowd is rawkus, the band is visibly pissed, and no one really has any idea what the hell is going on.

A few minutes later, a nerdy-looking bald guy comes on stage and explains the situation. Apparently the fire department is here, and the venue has way more than the allowed capacity, and they say the band can't start again until at least forty people leave the room. It's a small venue, maybe holding 250 people, so asking a fifth of the room to leave is a bit of a tall order. Of course, no one left. People paid money for this shit and not a single person left willingly. At this point the desperation of the nerdy bald guy was palpable, and it reminded me of a flight agent trying to coerce travelers into giving up their ticket for a flight 8 hours later.

Eventually though, similar tactics that seduce travelers to give up their tickets were applied at Beauty Bar. The bald guy finally got on the mic and said 'OK, the first forty people who leave will get a free drink in the bar next door.' Apparently, the room was filled with raging alcoholics, and shortly after the announcement the band took the stage again and resumed electrifying set. The band played their hearts out, the room turned into a proper dance party, and I was one happy white dude.

It was a hell of a way to end the week. Please see these guys if they ever come to your town.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Google goes Gaga, Gregarious Googlers get Grumpy

Tuesday afternoon an email pops up in my inbox from Marissa Mayer. If you're not sure who that is, suffice to say that she's a fairly big deal here around the Googleplex, and emails from her are usually about pretty important stuff.

The subject line was fairly intriguing though- Google goes Gaga. For some reason my mind started going a hundred different directions at once trying to guess what this was about, and not once did it actually think Lady Gaga. At first I thought it might have been some strange new Googley thing we are doing with toddlers (hey, we just apparently launched so anything's possible at this point!). But nope. This was of course about none other than Lady Gaga, and she was coming into work the next day for an interview.

Now I'm not really the biggest Lady Gaga fan, and I can't recall ever actually making her music play on my own will; it's usually dumped on me by things beyond my control- radio waves, a DJ, or when my Outkast Pandora station decides to add some variety (aka be stupid). I will say though that when I stumble onto a dance floor and I've had a few beers, I can definitely smile and enjoyably soak Gaga all up. Not that I know any actual song names or anything, but if I did, then let's just say that Just Dance, Bad Romance, Poker Face, Telephone, oh and her new single Born This Way are all tolerably tolerable :-)

So needless to say I was pretty excited about that email from Marissa. I had a grand plan too. Inspired by Mother Monster's meat dress a while back, I decided that it would be a great idea to make a beef jerky fedora, somehow squirm my way into a photo op with her, and perhaps propose at the same time. See, Google has all these little snack kitchens all over campus, many of which have actual packets of beef jerky to grab. I was so steadfast in my plan that when I left for work on the morning Gaga was supposed to arrive, I made sure to pack a needle and thread so I'd be able to stitch together my beef jerky fedora with haste. I'd even show up an hour before she was supposed to go on and bring my laptop, fix some Blogger stuff while I wait. No problem, right?

Wrong! So fucking wrong! I show up to the building where Gaga will be speaking, and the scene is unbelievable- I think clusterfuck is the right word in this case. All entrances to the stage area are closed off except for one pair of doors, and there is a seething mass of hundreds and hundreds of ravenous Google-Gaga-ophiles waiting to bum rush the scene. All I could think of was The Who's 1979 tragedy. And all of a sudden I was pretty pessimistic about my photo-op-with-gaga-wearing-beef-jerky-fedora plan.

I decided as a backup plan to instead just try and lock down a decent viewing spot, and forget the photo op. On the plus side though, at least I'd spare myself the embarrassment of sewing pieces of dried beef to a hat in a large group of people. Not that I haven't one weirder things with meat, but, you know, that was back in college when I lived with a bunch of insane performance artists. Long story...

So I grab a spot in for lack of a better word, the 'balcony' on the second level. At least no one is in front of me this time. Sure enough though, within a few minutes the mass of people made its way up to my area, and they were packed in at least four rows deep up there. It was uncomfortable (well at least for the people behind me who were packed together, I was having a blast on my rail.) And you'd be surprised at how pissy Googlers can get when they can't get a great view of modern pop divas. I had to restrain myself from choking this one guy behind me who was constantly complaining about the people on the rail blocking his view (aka me.) Here is a photo I took from my nosebleed seat:

Finally, Gaga is announced and she walks onto the stage to an exploding audience, wearing these impossiblly tall boots and a short skirt that definitely gets my seal of approval. The interview gets started, and for the next hour all of us sardines had the pleasure (it was actually a pleasure) of listening to her speak openly and candidly about all kinds of stuff. The whole things was recorded, so rather than babble about it forever, I'll just let her speak for herself:

I thought it was a great interview, and left with much more respect for her than I entered. It's very clear from listening to her talk that she really is a musician at heart, which of course gets mad respect from me (remember, back in the day I used to be a very cool musician, not anymore.) At the end of the day she is just a 25 year-old chick (yes, the fact that she is younger than me does make me depressed) who is trying to figure shit out, have a good time, and just so happens to rule the pop world. And maybe the rest of the world too, tbd. BTW, her new video for Born This Way, is fucking insane, and I kind of like it:

She's cool in my book. And Gaga if you ever read this, my band would totally open for you guys. Just sayin'.