Monday, April 03, 2006

STEVE ROCK: Undertow SXSW Showcase/Habana Calle 3/16/06

The Undertow Records Showcase at SXSW was a major success, beginning with the SXSW gods smiling down on us in two very big ways:

1. It took place on the wonderful patio of Caribbean restaurant, Habana Calle. Featuring a good sized canopied stage decorated in Xmas lights and a backdrop of man-made boulders, we felt like we were playing some sort of incredibly comfortable Cuban theme park. The vibe was laid back in the best possible way. Bereft of the usual SXSW nervous tension, you felt like you were some place special beyond the festival, even though the venue was smack in the heart of the action on 6th St.

2. Our soundman for the evening, the great Brad Roberts! Man oh man what a great fucking soundman! Though clearly in his early 20's, the kid came with an old school approach/philosophy that is tragically rare in the world of younger soundmen these days. And as Brad put it so succinctly, “I’m here to make great artists sound great.” Sadly, many a house soundman today thinks it’s all about them instead of the specific needs of the people actually producing the music onstage. A lazy one-sound-fits-all approach is often taken by a house soundman, especially on multi-act bills. And once things are hastily set and the show begins, the soundman can often be found reading behind the board and not paying any attention to the artist or the job they’ve been hired to do for them. Needless to say the audience who pay to get in are ultimately the ones cheated most by this practice.

But Brad was a total breath of fresh air. He was all about meeting our concerns and how he could make each of the many acts on the bill sound as good as possible. The kid just kicked total ass. We Love Experts run into trouble all the time with house soundmen who through laziness and technical ineptitude just can’t seem to figure out how to get Steve’s vocals loud enough through the front PA or the onstage monitors. Piece of cake for Brad—cause the guy knew what the fuck he was doing and then actually bothered to do it! Mark Ray’s and Chris Grabau's lead vocals during their respective sets have never sounded better either! Over the course of a very long evening that commenced at 8pm and proceeded with new sets from new artists on the hour thru 1am, Brad stayed sharp and on the beam, diligently supplying each act with their own great mix. The kid went way above and beyond the call of duty, and we can’t thank him enough. If you ever play Austin and need a soundman, look Brad up at Runway Audio. You'll be glad you hired him for your gig.

I’m proud to say the St. Louis branch of the Undertow empire represented with flying colors. Love Experts, Waterloo, and Magnolia Summer all turned in highly charged sets, and I couldn’t have been more proud of us all. Respective lead vocalists Carosello, Ray, and Grabau have never sounded better in a live setting—thanks again, Brad!

And a big shout out to our dear old friend and former St.Louisan, John Ellis, who drove up from Dallas and brought along his George Harrison Rickenbacker 12-string for Dominic to play during our set. Of course it sounded great---too bad we had to give it back! Thanks again, Mr. Ellis!

After our set Tom Lunt introduced me to his buddy, legendary rock writer Ed Ward, which totally freaked me the fuck out. Geez, when I think of all the records I bought in high school at that guy's recommendations! Ward totally cracked my meat, just as you'd expect a writer from the Golden Age Of Rock Writing would, when I told him I was heading over later to catch Chris Stamey. :) Ward was cool though, and supposedly told Lunt during our set that he liked us.

The Love Experts


Magnolia Summer

The wonderful soul-pop of Chicago’s Steve Dawson followed the bands from St. Louis, though I ducked out halfway through Steve’s set to walk the 15 blocks to the Whisky Bar to catch Chris Stamey backed by Peter Holsapple. Hung a few minutes with Peter after their set, and as I said my goodbyes and took off down the sidewalk, rock legend Ian MacLagen passed by me on his way into the club. Really wished I could have stayed for Mac’s set, but I had to high-tail it back to Habana Calle for the mighty Milton Mapes.

Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey

And just why isn’t Milton Mapes like, really big stars? Lord knows they deserve to be! Forget pretenders like My Morning Jacket or the Drive By Truckers, these guys are the real deal. If Thin White Rope meets Crazy Horse is your idea of a great template for a rock band, then Miton Mapes is definitely for you! Blazing American guitar rock...

Closing the show was my old Champaign homie Jay Bennett. Backed only by a drummer, it was really good to hear Jay playing loud guitar again, cause it’s been a while. Oh and thanks for cracking my meat several times from the stage, bro... :)

Jay Bennett

A truly wonderful night indeed, it couldn't have gone any better. Thanks to all at Undertow for making it happen, and thanks for inviting the Love Experts along for the ride!

Chris Grabau, Mark Ray, and Uncle Jun from The Sopranos!

The Love Experts at the end of the long evening: Dave Collett, Steve Carosello, Dominic Finocchio, Bob Trammel (lookin' all punk rock!) and yours truly...


brad roberts said...

hey there steve!! man, thanks for such high comliments. you guys were great to work with as well. it felt as if we were a team up there. you guys created some great music for the gracious fans who darkened the door of a wonderful venue to partake in a night of fun rockin' music. i would be privileged to mix for you anyday of the week. would it kill you if i told you i was 35 and not in my early twenties? it's true, it's true. people ask me if i'm in college ALL the time!! it's crazy.
anyways, steve, thanks again and continue to kick ass my friend! tell the guys i said hi and we'll see you next year.

steve scariano said...

Well you look 25 to me Brad---enjoy it while you can! :) And thanks again for the great job you did for all the artists on the Undertow Showcase. Sure hope we can work together again sometime down the road...

Anonymous said...

Folks, this guy is good enough that I'd drive right back down there* even knowing what the drive back would be (rains without end), if assured that he'd be doing sound.

*The phrase "I'd drive..." is purely hypothetical in this instance...;)

Steve Carosello, of The Brad Boosters