By John Ambrosio
On Friday, I got a chance to talk to Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles to discuss his bromance with the So So Glos, their new “Bring Back the Dudes” tour, his thoughts on DIY music, and more.When I called the number that the band’s press contact had provided me, I heard the garbled but unmistakable sounds of Titus Andronicus rehearsing:
Patrick Stickles: I’m sorry about that. We’re having practice right now. The guys are just jamming on the riff off “Devil’s Haircut” by Beck right now. That wasn’t on the agenda for today, I don’t know why they’re doing it, but unfortunately I’m talking to you instead of scolding them.
John Ambrosio: Haha, no problem. Are you on the road right now or are you just getting ready to leave?
PS: The first show of the tour that we’re about to do is on Sunday so this is going to be our last rehearsal before we get out there so we’re just trying to juice up our repertoire.
JA: Oh, ok. So what can people expect from this tour? Is it going to be any different from when you guys were touring for your new albums or are you guys going to be doing some new material?
PS: Well we’ve got a couple new songs that we just put out on this new 12’ EP for record store day so that’s got two unreleased songs on it that we’re going to be playing. Well, they’re not unreleased anymore, they were previously unreleased, now they’re released and they’re part of our repertoire. And we’ve got some new cover songs, and the most exciting part is that we actually now know how to play all of our original songs, like all the songs that are on our albums. And that doesn’t seem like such a special thing for a band to do — I recognize that a lot of bands know how to play all their songs all the time, but we’ve turned over line-ups a lot, so this lineup has been the first to have the talent and the commitment to learn all of our songs. So any request that we get we will be prepared to honor, which has almost never been the case with the band before.
JA: Do expect to see the line-up of the band change a little more, or do you think that it’s sort of stabilized now that you have the line-up from the album?
PS: You never know and I’ve learned not to count my chickens in that department but I will say that the line-up of the band that’s in place now has been together for longer than any previous line-up and we’re in the process of making plans for later this year too and everyone’s still in it so this line-up is going to exist for not less than like 18 months, which is crazy for us. The previous longest lasting one was like 11 months.
JA: Now when you say you have plans, is it plans for more show or is it plans for recording?
PS: The plans are for more show, but hopefully after the shows we can get started thinking about another record. But that’s a ways away still. I still need to write a lot of the songs
JA: Do you have anything right now that you’re thinking out that you might try on this tour?
PS: Nah, not for this tour, just the songs from that 12” I mentioned. But since we’re thinking about a tour later this year, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we’ll have a couple new songs at that point, but we will see.
JA: So this tour is the “Bring Back the Dudes Tour” and you’re doing it with the So So Glos. How did that relationship between your band and the So So Glos start?
PS: We share a practice space with them, in Brooklyn at Shea Stadium. We met right when Titus Andronicus started playing out on the Brooklyn DIY scene. Before that we did most of our shows in Manhattan at like shitty bars and stuff and lame clubs on the lower east side that really had nothing to do with music and were just like beer commercials basically. We found out that there was another scene going on in Brooklyn that was a little more our style and at the very first show on that scene at a place called Don Pedro’s I met three of the So So Glos that night and we played with them our first show together later that month and since then it’s just been love, it’s been a bromance, you know? And it’s great, one of their guitar players, a guy named Matt Elkin, lived with me for about a year and the other three guys lived at Shea Stadium during a period that I also lived there for about two months and so we got very close there too and it’s just a great friendly thing. Oh no, the guys are jamming on “Collective Soul” now. Heaven let your light shine down!
JA: So you mentioned the Brooklyn DIY scene and that’s obviously a big part of Titus Andronicus’ aesthetic being that it’s very DIY and anti-consumerist but at the same time you guy are one of the biggest indie acts in the country and you’re selling thousands of your albums through a pretty big label. So with those two ideas in mind, how have you stayed true to your punk or DIY roots?
PS: I mean that is the eternal question. I should say that calling us one of the biggest indie acts is kind of a massive overstatement, it’s not like we’re Grizzly Bear or something. But it’s a constant struggle; it’s an ongoing question. It’s like this, right: you want to make a piece of art so much so that you don’t want to do anything else and that requires a lot of compromises because art of any kind, be it music or a book or a painting or anything, should be born out of noble artistic intentions. It should be an attempt to achieve a pure artistic expression of self rather than a means to the end of getting a paycheck. And yet at the same time we live on the planet Earth, and what’s more the United State of America and so the dream of living a life that is unbeholden to money is just that: it’s a dream. You’re never going to be able to do that, so your choice becomes do you want to make a certain series of compromises and be able to fully commit yourself to your art or do you want to do you art on the weekends and make your money doing, I don’t know, something else? People seem to have other jobs, but I don’t really understand what they are. For me, it was more important to make my art the focus of my life than it was to completely protect my art from the influence of capitalism, you know?
JA: How did you first get involved with DIY music or punk music or whatever you want to call it? Was it just like you were into punk in high school and it developed naturally form there or was it something different?
PS: That was it, really. Back in high school, we were listening to the Ramones and Sex Pistols, and Rancid and all this stuff and getting into it. And we would start our own punk bands and stuff and we had our own DIY scene in our suburb in New Jersey. By that I mean that we would set our gear up in, like, my mom’s basement and find out whoever it was that was our friend that had, like, a PA system and borrow it and set it up and just invite all our buddies over to dance and sweat the night away. And it was experiences like that that made up fall in love with rock n roll and all the feelings of community and fellowship that go along with it. It was a very pure and innocent time; money wasn’t on anyone’s mind and our parents were there so there wasn’t drinking going on. So that to me was what I liked about rock n’ roll. Doing that stuff and then when we got out of high school and had to kind of go out into the wider world to find places to play and we were playing on the Lower East Side of New York City and stuff, it wasn’t like that at all. It was like this stupid not fun thing with none of your friends. I mean friends would come to our shows, but we were totally un-autonomous and had no control over the situation and like I said everybody was a lot more concerned with the bottom line and that everybody that came in the door drank a certain number of beers. So finding the DIY scene in Brooklyn, which was more about the music, meant that people would come to enjoy music. Even if they didn’t know about the bands, they would just come because it was a happening and stuff was just popping off and it’s cool. It wasn’t about all that stuff I mentioned about those clubs I didn’t like, so to me it was a lot more like high school and reflected the qualities of that experience that were so appealing and important to me in those formative years. So it was like coming home in a way and it was comforting and heartening to see that there was a community in place that valued these kind of things that I had valued when my valuing of them had been leading me to become alienated against the rock n’ roll scene at the time. In finding this home at the Brooklyn DIY scene it was like it just strengthened my values about that stuff.
JA: Do you think that those same values can be found other places, or does Brooklyn have a unique thing going for it?
PS: I think that everybody wants to have the opportunity to achieve the purest level of creativity that they can and everyone wants to have the most control possible over what they put out and how it’s received and in what context. So I think whether or an indie band or a punk band or a rapper or ska or anything, I think that you value these things no matter where you are. It happens that the people in our punk community seem to make a bigger and more explicit deal about it but I think it’s fairly universal.
JA: One of your more famous songs, “A More Perfect Union” isn’t exactly a pro-Boston-area song. Where does that song come from for you? What was your experience up here like?
PS: Well you got to understand, I lived there. When I got out of college in 2008 I was involved with a woman who had been educated up there and wanted to stick around because she had gotten a job in a laboratory because she was a brilliant woman. And I was like well, Titus Andronicus is going to be on tour a lot, so it doesn’t really matter where I live so long as it’s vaguely close to New York, which has long been the home-base, so I was like forget it, I’ll move to Boston for love, and so I did. And then I wrote that song about the feeling of preparing to do that.
JA: So was your experience in Boston what you expected?
PS: I mean I didn’t have a ton of friends, I had like a few friends, but not very many. Like I was friends with the band Hallelujah the Hills and no one else when I lived in Somerville and I went out like once and the rest of the time I was at home watching Ken Burns Civil War movie and thinking about the Civil War album I was writing. Most of the time I just stayed at home watching that amazingly long film, all 11 hours of it, and when I wasn’t doing that I was out on tour with the guys. Then it didn’t really take that long for the woman I was with to figure out that the situation we were in sucked for her and then to give me my walking papers in no uncertain terms and I moved out of Boston. All that happened over the course of like 5 or 6 months and we were doing a lot of touring during that period so I never really got the Boston experience that I felt was coming for me. I do love the city very much and it’s been one of the best markets for the band and people support us there really hard and it’s tight. And our bass player is from western Massachusetts and it’s just popping and it’s cool and so historic, so I’m a fan.
JA: So you’ve mentioned in other interviews that before starting Titus Andronicus that you were on the cusp of joining academia and going to grad school. So what do you think you would be doing if you weren’t in this band right now?
PS: My plan was to be an English teacher and I’m still hoping to go back to that somewhere down the line. I find it quite noble, man. It’s all about the kids, man.
JA: Do you have any other secret interests or hobbies that people might not know about?
PS: I like making movies. Bands come and play at Shea Stadium and I make little movies of them and put them on the Internet. I just put up a bunch of videos on Monday for my weekly feature “Monday content blast”, which you can check out at titusandronicus.net and I got a bunch of videos of Diarrhea Planet which is like my favorite band in the world. That’s my number one hobby, other than music, making movies.
JA: Yeah, I saw the video of you playing Born to Run with Diarrhea Planet. How did that happen, was that sort of a spur of the moment thing?
PS: No, I had an evil scheme that I executed masterfully which is that I saw a video of Diarrhea Planet on the internet doing “Born to Run” with some of the guys from this band from Austin, TX called the Midget Men who are friends of ours as well and I was like, “wooozaa, this is amazing. A pop punk version of ‘Born to Run’? Finally”. And so I texted all of them because I got all their numbers and I said “great ‘Born to Run’ video” and every one of them texted me back in 5 minutes saying “you got to sing it with us when we come to Brooklyn next week” and I knew that they would and I wanted to do it so BOOM. I got it done.
JA: So I think we’re going to have to start wrapping this up since you have to practice but just before you go can you tell people who they can find out when the tour is coming by them?
PS: Yeah, you know just do the same thing you do to get any of our cool content information: you just go to titusandronicus.net or look at @titusandronicus on Twitter and it’s all up there. It’s 2013, baby!
By Brooke Jackson-Glidden, MUSE Editor
There’s a tiny foodie mecca hidden across the bay, a five- to ten-minute walk from South Station. Perhaps you’ve seen it on a visit to the ICA or the Atlantic Wharf. It’s a bizarre contrast between modern Los Angeles glass and classic Boston brick architecture: the waterside docks perfect for a quick dip of the toes, the restaurants for miles, indie gourmet groceries and Asian-fusion small plates.
Also known as the Innovative District, Fort Point has been exploding with new restaurants. In March alone, three different food vendors opened in the area, alongside half of Barbara Lynch’s tiny empire (Sportello, Menton and Drink). Here’s your quick guide to eating your way through Fort Point:
Blue Dragon: Ming Tsai’s Asian Small Plates are a hit since opening earlier this year. His second restaurant, Tsai, keeps his atmosphere casual and fun, with tasty Asian twists on classic gastropub fare.
CHECK OUT: The escargot, dan dan noodles, shepard’s pie, and the Dragon burger
Tavern Road: This modern edition to “Restaurant Row” (Congress St., over the river) serves cool small(ish) plates late at night, with a very young atmosphere and innovative menu.
CHECK OUT: The moulard duck, grilled octopus, and the gnocchi
Sportello: Barbara Lynch’s take on a diner. This “Italian lunch counter” serves sandwiches and homemade pastas that will make your head spin.
CHECK OUT: The gnocchi, the spicy tomato soup, and the sweetbreads
Bee’s Knees: This gourmet grocery opened last month, and we’re so glad. Bee’s Knees offers a wide variety of locally and internationally sourced cheese, produce, wine, and other food items that are sure to make any foodie smile.
CHECK OUT: The cheese selection, the café
Flour: Almost everyone knows and loves Joanne Chang’s popular indie bakery, but most of them didn’t know it was located in this tiny foodie paradise.
CHECK OUT: “Pop Tarts”, sandwiches, and sticky buns
COMING SOON: Row 34, Pastoral
By Sydney Moyer, Staff Writer
Last Wednesday, when my friend told a friend of hers that we were going to see Cloud Cult at Brighton Music Hall, he responded, “One of the best REAL POSITIVE live shows u can see!” After seeing the Minneapolis-based experimental indie act, I can think of no description more fitting.
Cloud Cult has been compared to the likes of Radiohead and Modest Mouse, but neither is really sufficient to encapsulate the band’s sound or attitude. The Brighton Music Hall show featured an eight-person band, complete with strings, horns, and, most notably, two painters who begin the show with blank canvases and end up with gorgeous, musically driven works of art that are auctioned off at the end of the show.
While Cloud Cult is perhaps most renowned for their paintings, the band truly is one of the most real, positive acts out there. The band filled the venue with a pack of devoted fans who shouted along every word to singer Craig Minowa’s poignant lyrics, many of which were inspired by the unexpected death of he and his wife Connie Minowa’s two year old son in 2002. Many Cloud Cult songs revolve around existential notions of life and death, but lack the banality that usually accompanies such grandiose subject matter (e.g. “And even though I don’t know God / I’m happy with the mystery / And I’m certain that I feel it / Every time that you sing to me”).
This band is all about staying positive through the shit, and translating that element into a live show was certainly an incredible phenomenon to witness. Minowa’s energy proved infectious and palpable as he jumped around the stage barefoot, winding his way through old crowd favorites as well as equally strong new tracks off of the band’s latest album, Love.
At the end of the night, two paintings stood before me: on the left, Connie Minowa, one of the bands two painters, had painted an impressionistic rendition of two small figures standing alone in a brightly colored forest. On the right, Scott West had painted a woman with eyes closed, colorful bubbles of what I supposed were dreams rising out of her skull. While I can’t exactly articulate why, those visuals will come closer to capturing Cloud Cult’s live sound more than these words ever will. I can only end by saying that I go to so many shows that very few of them leave me affected— but this one will stay with me, and should you ever see them yourself, you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Brooke Jackson-Glidden, Food Editor
The James Beard Award countdown has begun. Last month, the James Beard Foundation released the nominees for ‘the Oscars of the culinary world,’ and three of the five nominees for ‘Best Chef: Northeast’ reside and cook within the Boston area: Jamie Bissonnette of Coppa and Toro, Joanne Chang of Flour and Myers + Chang, and Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother.
The James Beard Awards recognize the leaders in the field of culinary artistry and appreciation: chefs, food journalists, television personalities, etc. The 2013 James Beard Awards will be held at Lincoln Center in New York on May 3 and 6. To celebrate their nominations and raise money for Future Chefs (a culinary career youth outreach program), Bissonnette, Chang and Maiden will also host a six-course dinner at Hungry Mother on April 15th.
MUSE spoke to the three nominees from Boston last week. Each week preceding the James Beard Awards, we will post three individual profiles of each of the chefs so you can choose your favorite. We will count the votes and post the results of BU’s Best Chef online on the day of the first ceremony, May 3.
Before we publish each of the longer profiles, here’s a quick rundown of each of the three:
Chef: Jamie Bissonnette
Restaurant(s): Coppa, Toro
Style of Cuisine: Italian, Spanish, Head-to-Tail
When you were college-aged, where did you think you’d be now: Jail
When you’re not cooking, you’re: listening to music (Danzig, Fitz and the Tantrums,
Oscar Peterson, Badbrains)
Mythical Creature you would cook if you could: Jackalope or Minotaur
Chef: Joanne Chang
Restaurant(s): Flour, Myers + Chang
Style of Cuisine: Chinese, Thai, Taiwanese, Vietnamese, Pastry
Your favorite thing to cook: I still love cooking Chinese food, so stir-fry, fish, a lot of
tofu, a lot of vegetables.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Boston: Sam’s on the waterfront, Picco, Oishii
Any music in the kitchen? We don’t allow music in the kitchen, it’s too distracting, and
at home I kind of got used to cooking in silence – it allows you to focus and concentrate
Chef: Barry Maiden
Restaurant(s): Hungry Mother
Style of Cuisine: Southern, Appalachian, French influences, New England ingredients
Before you were cooking, you were: Lost, raising hell, getting in trouble.
When you’re not cooking, you’re: Outside
When you were college-aged, your favorite thing to eat was: Anything I could get my
By Sydney Moyer, Staff Writer
Hem has always remained up there on my list of top bands to fall asleep to, and with the newly released Departure and Farewell, their sixth studio album, they reaffirm their position.
Full of softly whispered lyrical content about loss and heartbreak, the album quietly winds its way through its rotation steady and predictable as a sleep cycle. While perhaps the descriptor “predictable” is generally connoted as negative when it comes to new music, in this case, it’s comforting. It’s the soothing sense of having one’s average expectations met exactly and nothing more.
Hem’s biggest claim to fame is perhaps Liberty Mutual’s use of their song “Half Acre” (off of 2002’s Rabbit Songs) in a successful spot that ran frequently on network television last year. The commercial featured several vignettes of strangers saving each other from small daily disasters in a pay-it-forward type capacity, and Hem’s timeless soft folk served as the perfect soundtrack for such a scene.
When listening to Hem, one can’t help but conjure images of grassy fields softly blowing in the breeze or something equally stock-image folky. It’s definitely not what one would think a band from Brooklyn would sound like, but maybe Hem’s sound was a solace, a refuge from the noise of the city. At least, that’s what it’s become for me.
Hem is bringing their whispery folk magic to The Sinclair in Cambridge on June 1. Listen to a playlist of their music below.
By Sydney Moyer, Staff Writer
I walked into Agganis Arena on Tuesday to watch Icelandic post-rock group Sigur Rós, my favorite band to fall asleep to, not knowing what to expect. I had heard many positive reviews of their live act, but wondered how their effervescent, largely foreign sound would work in an arena show.
What I got was an intricate, multi-layered wall of sound that included string and horn sections and the ethereal howl of a bowed guitar that meshed perfectly with frontman Jónsi Birgisson’s haunting falsetto. Sigur Rós is undoubtedly making some of the most original music out there today, and as such I can’t even really accurately compare it to anything I’ve ever heard or seen live, and as many descriptors as I can try to use, I probably won’t be able to do it justice.
The band began their set playing behind a three-sided mesh curtain onto which an eerie light show was projected, a curtain which dramatically fell to reveal the 10+ piece band during “Vaka.” As the band wound their way through a set which largely blended together for me (because I’m basic and I need lyrics in English to distinguish songs from one another), a huge LED display behind them projected ambient lights and swirling projections of smoke, fields, cliffs, water… basically every arty scene in nature that one’s mind would probably conjure while listening to Sigur Rós anyway.
In that sense, the performance was perfect— but it almost felt more like performance art than a concert. Sigur Rós crafts undeniably beautiful music, arguably the best of the ambient/post-rock vein, but for their intricate sound to work, each member of the band had to be so intensely focused on the music that they didn’t leave much room for improvisation or stage presence. In short, it felt completely unlike any concert I had ever been to— I felt more like I was watching someone work to put on an act than witnessing the emotive release that usually accompanies a band’s live performance.
Regardless, it’s incredible that bands like Sigur Rós, who are doing something so original and, let’s just say it, weird, can fill up a venue like Agganis Arena and captivate audiences in a way that only acts like the Stones or The Who could have done thirty years ago. It’s also amazing that lighting and production technology has come so far as to immerse the arena in an otherworldly experience that puts the music itself on a whole other level of performance. I wouldn’t recommend going to see Sigur Rós if you’re looking for a heartfelt, emotive show, but if you’re looking to see incredible talent and a visually stunning light show, I don’t think there’s a better act around.
Music video for the song “Vaka,” by Sigur Rós
By Matt Clarkin, Staff Writer
I can’t say I like live-concerts much. The drinks are a fortune, the mosh-pits a pain, and other fans a drag. So by the time I’ve waited five hours in standing-room-only for my new favorite band to reach the stage, my legs and my patience are a little worse for the wear and leave me wondering if it was worth all that. In fact, I had sworn off live-concerts altogether until, that is, Imagine Dragons came to Boston back in February.
To my surprise, opening band Nico Vega is responsible for the trailer song to Bioshock Infinite called “Beast of America” which is such a good song it could pass for a classic rock anthem (and I was convinced it was a classic for some time even after this concert). The rest of their songs too were both catchy and angry and that always strikes a chord with me. Also, female rock vocalists are usually overrated in my book – except for maybe Hayley Williams and Ellie Goulding – but again Nico Vega’s lead vocalist Aya Volkman won me over.
The second was Australian band Atlas Genius. Following Nico Vega’s powerful guitar riffs they didn’t come up too strong owing to the general softness of their melodies. Atlas Genius didn’t blow me away, but I did download their hit song “Trojans.”
At last Imagine Dragons came onstage with fog-machines working on full-blast and a sweet forest lantern-light stage scene behind them. The music was good, but lacked the luster that comes with their studio editing. Don’t get me wrong, the vocals were good, and the prerecorded tech-synth sounds were fine, but none of the live-songs reflected the same “umph” as their studio-edited mp3 counterparts.
I couldn’t shake the impression that lead vocalist Dan Reynolds put more effort into head-banging, finding things to jump on, and exciting the crowd than actually trying to keep beat or hit all his notes. I can’t say I was listening to a band that played their hearts out; rather, I was watching awesome stage effects while some band went through their set self-consciously, awaiting the praise of their audience. I was obliged to cheer because it was Imagine Dragons, not because the renditions of their own songs were very good.
Despite the concert’s disappointment, there were some rewarding moments. Huge thumbs up to Nico Vega, and a smaller thumbs up to Atlas Genius — even though I wasn’t immensely impressed, they delivered a higher quality music product than the main attraction. Thumbs down to Imagine Dragons for making me lose faith in the real quality of the bands whose mp3’s I love. I’m not much of a moralist, but I found a moral for this one — stay home, and stick with your studio-polished mp3’s because bands are not half as dependable as the download.
By Justin Soto, Lifestyle Editor
Boston University’s Programming Council is planning a weekend full of fun with their annual inter-school pageant, Mr. and Mrs. BU on Thursday March 21 and Seth Meyer’s comedy show on Friday March 22. Since I am a huge fan of Saturday Night Live, I was thrilled to hear that Seth Meyers would be coming to perform on campus. As current head writer of the NBC show SNL and the host of its parody segment Weekend Update, he is an icon for comedy fans around the country.
Meyers got his improv comedy start as a member of the Northwestern University sketch group called Mee-Ow. He continued his career at ImprovOlympic with the group Preponderate as well as overseas as a cast member of Boom Chicago. Meyers joined the SNL team in 2001 and in 2005 he was promoted to writing supervisor. Once Tina Fey left the SNL show, Meyers became head writer for the 2006-2007 season. When Amy Poehler left the show in the 2008-2009 season he started anchoring Weekend Update alone. These experiences landed him a film role alongside in the 2004 film called See This Movie as well as the 2008 film Journey to the Center of the Earth alongside Brendan Fraser and Anita Briem. He has continued acting in films along with his job at SNL.
He is performing in multiple places in March including a stop at BU on March 22, Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Welch, Minn. on the March 23 and the University of Central Florida Arena in Orlando, Fla. on March 25. He seems to attract young audiences who enjoy his sarcasm and improv talents. I hope that fellow BU students will enjoy his comedy performance as much as I will.
His experiences include satire, political satire, news satire, improv and sketch comedy. These varying expressions of comedy awaken the senses of an audience member, especially with his witty tone and quirky smirk when presenting the news on SNL. BU students should be delighted to watch him perform this Friday, hopefully setting the pace for a great weekend.
By Meg DeMouth, MUSE Editor
SXSW starts tomorrow. For those who don’t know, it’s an annual music and film festival in Austin, Texas. I don’t remember when, exactly, I realized that SXSW and ‘South by Southwest’ were one and the same, but I do remember wondering, at the time, whether the abbreviated moniker was brilliant or ridiculous. ‘X’ as a symbol often comes loaded with (sometimes weirdly displaced) religious connotations – think of the ‘X’ in ‘Railroad X-ing,’ i.e., ‘Railroad Crossing,’ and then think of the ‘X’ in the rather obnoxious abbreviation of ‘Christmas’ to ‘Xmas.’ To be fair, I’m lining those two ‘X’s’ up rather misleadingly; the ‘X’ in ‘Xmas’ doesn’t actually come from the idea that ‘Christ’ becomes ‘X’ because he died on a cross, it comes from the Greek Chi-Rho symbol, which stood for Christ way back in the day. Thank you Art History 101.
The point though, isn’t that letters mean more than just the sounds they represent – it’s that humans have been messing with symbols and abbreviations for ages, long before Carnegie Mellon professor Scott Fahlman typed the first emoticon into a computer in the 80’s.
And it sort of gets me down. As I said, I still don’t know how I feel about that SXSW abbreviation. Ever-reliable Wikipedia tells me that SXSW got its name from a play on the title of Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Does shortening the name to four block letters erase the juicy connotations that ‘south by southwest’ has when written out?
Yesterday I edited an article by MUSE music editor Lucien Flores that offers his insight on Brit-band alt-J, and I swear to Chi-Rho that I spent 20 frantic minutes – as the article’s deadline swiftly approached – attempting to figure out whether the ‘a’ in ‘alt’ was supposed to be capitalized or not. (Ok, it was perhaps closer to five minutes … but still.) The verdict? We don’t know. The band’s name is actually ∆, the sign Mac keyboards make when you press ‘alt’ and then ‘j.’ Is this very clever of them, or just kind of pretentiously artsy and annoying?
In that same article, Lucien references the band Why? as well. As in ‘Whywithaquestionmark.’ At which point the editor in me practically threw the towel in, quietly lamenting the appearances of little green grammar-error flags underneath all of the sentences with the band’s name in them. Whymewithaquestionmark?
How does one pronounce Why?, exactly? Or ∆? I’m tempted to call them ‘delta’ instead.
There’s a huge part of me that resents these clever little abbreviations. They seem gimmicky to me, vaguely avant-garde but with no substantive backing – and they often erase the meaning that written-out words have. They hearken to the society that produced them, a society where my roommate and I occasionally say ‘lawls’ instead of ‘lol’ instead of simply laughing – layers upon layers of condensing action – and then immediately hate ourselves for it.
I’m a self-pronounced fan of words. I like their complex connotations; I like that I can look them up in the Oxford English Dictionary and see that the collective scholarly world knows more about the origins of some words than it does about the bottom of the ocean floor. Words, like the ocean, and unlike this sentence, have a depth to them.
Yet, by erasing them, as in the case of SXSW of alt-J, do we find a meaning that transcends the limitations that words pose? By opting for letters and symbols, do we open up to more interpretation, to definitions unbound by the weight of words? Or do we simply fall for the gimmick?
By Sydney Moyer, Staff Writer
I’ve loved Milo Greene ever since 2011, when they were newly formed and touring with The Civil Wars. To this day, they remain the greatest opening act I’ve ever seen, and now that they’ve put out their debut LP and embarked upon their first headlining tour, it’s a real treat to see them sell out larger venues like The Sinclair on Friday night all by themselves. Milo is undoubtedly one of the better bands to emerge from the folk revival that has evolved over the past several years, and every time they come to Boston, they kill it. Click on the photo below to check out a slideshow of the night.