Bamboo Shoots Interview Tricky

Avir and Ahmed of Bamboo Shoots interview Tricky on MTV Iggy. In this interview, they chat about their multi-ethnic background, pop music, and music scenes. Tricky calls Madonna a "Culture Vulture." Tricky comments on the racialization of Asian musicians in the UK.

Here is to follow Bamboo Shoot on their "Homecoming" India Tour.

Yoko Ono + Sean Lennon In Action In Japan

I found this amazing picture of a recent performance of Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon in Japan. The show was presented by Chimera Music. Click on the image to enlarge it. More images from this concert.


SXSW, Part 2: Collegiate Indie Pop Fun @ Emo's with The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The word on the street was to go see The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. After devouring my hi-carb lunch with Carol Bui, I rolled myself across 6th Street to join the Pitchfork/Windish Party at Emos, one of Austin’s own large-sized venues to see the Brooklyn-based indie pop group. Two bars, one indoor and one outdoor, both serving the cliques of the mid-day almost-trashed Pitchfork/Windish partiers hovering around the Emo’s mains stage and Emo’s Jr. I sent Peggy Wang, the keyboardist of The Pains, a text message asking for her whereabouts. Waiting for her response, I ran into Danny Shea who attended the SXSW as a Star Hill/Red Light Management representative from Charlottesville. I lost track of time as we chatted away. By the time I got Peggy’s text, her band was already set up and about to begin their set.

the court yard between Emo's main stage and Emo's Jr - Pitchfork/Windish crowd

Waiting, a big part of field research

The Pains is fronted by Kip Berman, one of the most pleasant fellows around on and off stage, and even over the Myspace. With an amicable presence, Kip showered the Emo’s main performance space with a stream of collegiate cordiality. He wore a gray polyester hooded jacket, zipped all the way up, while pouring out sweat on his face. One worried if he would get overheated. Kip’s almost-abashed, anti-rock-star demeanor resonates with baby Bob Dylan’s earnestness, however self-consciously constructed, circa 1961. Smiling (and hiding) behind a curtain of bangs, Peggy played chords while singing backup vocals. The band bopped their heads while singing in unison during chorus sections, playing one after another infectious, no-more-than-3-minute-long tunes. Their peppy energy inspired the crowd to swing their hips mildly and move in autonomously formed mini-waves.

Kip Berman + Peggy Wang

After their set, I ran over to catch Peggy before she loaded away her equipment. I congratulated her on the good turnout at SXSW. I gave her my home-brewed business card. She suggested the idea of an email/chat interview. Then she vanished.

I later on found out that members of the Taiwanese band Sloth Scamper were also present at this show. They are big fans of The Pains, in fact. Sadly I missed Sloth Scamper’s only set at SXSW on the first day. Incidentally, I met J-A Lin of Sloth Scampr last summer at a show where my duo Grapefruit Experiment double-billed with Lin’s noise group in Taipei. Small world!

Where are you, Sloth Scamper?

SXSW, Part 1.5: Missing Carol Bui

I'm still beating myself up for missing Carol Bui's sets (all 3 of them) at SXSW this year. Carol and I had lunch at Habana Calle on 6th Street on Friday, two days after her performances. It was an extremely starchy meal consisting of yucca, rice, plaintain, and a not-very-vegetarian pastry. Carol said that her sets went over well. We exchanged information about who we met and who we wanted to or must meet at SXSW. I told her the stories of fieldwork fiasco and successes in Austin.

I've read all the favorable responses in the blogosphere to her new song "Mira You're Free With Me" (available as audio streaming on her myspace page) Incidentally, I just wrote a paper about this song, focusing on its rhythm, for the Society of American Music meeting in Denver, which just so happened to take place at the same exact time as SXSW this year.

Here's a spectacular shot of Carol's set at the SXSW pre-party at Beauty Bar on Tuesday night, 3/17/09. This picture is taken by Valerie Paschall, a DC-based music blogger/writer.

Carol Bui will be touring the U.S. in April and May. Look out for her tour dates on her myspace site. I know I'm going!


Bamboo Shoots Going on India Tour

These guys are great! I met them a couple of weeks ago in Richmond when they played a show at Alley Katz. They've got an amazing success story about getting signed with a major label via MTVu. Epic will release their first studio album in the coming months, after their India Tour. I'm super psyched.

SXSW, Part 1: Meeting Yuki Chikudate of Asobi Seksu

The Scoot Inn is located on the run-down East Side, across Interstate 35 from the downtown financial/party district in which the Austin Convention Center and 6th street neighbor. Alison dropped us off next to the train tracks, in front of one of the ad-hoc side entrances made at the venue to accommodate SXSW festivities. We got our ID’s checked and ran in just in time for Asobi Seksu’s set, the last set of the “Gigantic Music Party.” The “bungalow” portion of the venue was loosely held together by a semi-outdoor stage, and outdoor bar, some camera-wielding 20-and-30-something-year-olds behind big stylish shades. Looking sunburned, inebriated, these SXSW attendants appeared complacent as they waited for the performance and shot the breeze with fellow festival goers.

with a special pass, SLR-camera-wielding SXSW attendants can get in front of other audience members to take pictures. [more SXSW pics]

Once situated on stage, Asobi Seksu blasted and blessed their audience with their signature heavy reverb and creamy analog delay. Other than Yuki Chikudate and James Hanna, the face of the band changed with new bassist and drummer, since I saw them at Satellite Ballroom in Charlottesville in the fall of 2007. Their sound appeared to be much tighter than their Charlottesville performance. Audience members, including those with the SXSW-approved professional-grade SLR cameras, flocked to the area directly against the backside of the center monitor speaker in front of which Yuki Chikudate performed. Still shot and video cameras flashed incessantly while the speakers blared 100-and-above-decibel sounds. Everyone enjoyed the bliss of getting drowned by Asobi Seksu’s loud shoegazey, dream poppy sound waves. Seemed to last only 30 minutes, the set ended before I got acclimated to the SXSW sonic intensity and laid-back “hanging out” sociality.

After the set, I quickly skated over to the area where the band exited the stage and waited in line to talk to the performers. I introduced myself to Yuki and told her about my dissertation topic and she immediately showed interest in it. Yuki agreed to share her experiences. As we walked to the indoor bar area seeking for a quieter place to chat, the bar staff promptly warded us off as they anxiously closed down the space.

We hovered around the venue’s load-in zone as Yuki revealed her observations of how race (and gender) often dominates the press on Asobi Seksu. She questioned the “whiteness” and “Asianness” of her band’s ethnic makeup. Telling stories about touring and living in different parts of the world, Yuki suggested how these ethnic and racialized notions are contextual to geography. Having had contrasting experiences, first as a non-minority having grown up in LA and then becoming a racial minority in New York City, she made observations of how she felt differently about her identity in these social spaces configured by the local interethnic and interracial dynamics. She began to tell me about the positive reception of her bicultural and bilingual music in Japan. Our conversation, unfortunately, came to an end, as her band mate interrupted us. Handing over my DIY business card (laser ink on Staples-bought columnar paper), I promised that I would contact her for a formal interview in the near future. The band van pulled out of the lot in a flash. I retrieved into a street corner in front of the Scoot Inn to take field notes.

take field notes on a street corner

my diy business card

SXSW, Prologue: Pilgrimage to the American Indies

SXSW, indeed the mecca of indie music, attracted traveling musicians, fans, journalists, and industry professionals worldwide, collecting energy, minds, and talent in the close proximity of 10 blocks in downtown Austin in Texas. With my partner-in-crime Carey, I made the pilgrimage despite missing our flight out of Richmond Airport at 6am Wednesday morning. Surely everyone else was flocking to Austin, Texas that day. Impossible it seemed; my brother Kevin said to me, “just make it Texas. I will take care of the rest.” Determined to go to Austin [particularly considering that I missed a conference paper presentation at the Society of American Music meeting in Denver for SXSW], we decided to buy another plane ticket out of an airport 1.5 hours east of Richmond to fly to any city in Texas.

Taking a 36-hour detour transiently passing through airports in Norfolk, Newark (Yes, New Jersey), crossing the US east coast terrain, we flew to Dallas, where Kevin lives. Responding to my text, Kevin said, “welcome to Texas. You’re now only 3.5 hours away from your final destination.” We spent the night with Kevin in the Dallas suburbs, Plano. On his way to work the next morning, Kevin dropped us off in a strip mall in Plano, in front of a coffeeshop called Boba Latte with a not-so-promising sign “opening soon.” We went inside the Asia World Market building and camped out in front of the grocery store while waiting for our ride with Carri, my brother’s former roommate.

strip mall TX stop #1: Outside Asia World Market and the pending-to-open Boba Latte

Carri found herself a couple of SXSW hitchhikers from Virginia after posting a Facebook status message about going to Austin. Carri is an e-commerce marketing freelancer whose job gives her the flexibility to manage her own work and leisure time. On her way to visit friends in Austin, Carri picked us up and stowed our in-cabin carry-on bags in the trunk of her economy-sized Hyundai. Riding through Texan pastures and Waco, a dry town where Baylor University lives, we chatted about every Gen-Xer’ social issue and concern: ranging from the sustainable living movement, the global wealth gap, stifling suburban America, democratizing potentials of Internet communication (or lack thereof), privatization of the Federal Reserve [including Carri’s theory of its connection to the past American presidential assassinations]. By the time we got to North Austin, we concluded that we knew so little about our world, and yet we steadfastly held onto our ideals in our respective seemingly under-achieving occupations.

Strip mall TX stop #2: Whole Foods

Carri dropped us off at a giant up-scale shopping center where Whole Foods and REI converge to attract the health-conscious 30-or-40-something-year-old working (and non-working) dwellers in North Austin. In the café area serving Jamba Juice and various organic fastfood items, we waited for our friend Alison who snuck away from her network-engineering job at University of Texas to claim our run-down bodies and baggage, and hurriedly bused us to the east side of downtown Austin to catch a 5:25 show by Asobi Seksu.

This concludes our 36-hour, Do-It-Yourself air-and-ground-travel to SXSW. Many thanks to Kevin, Carri, and Alison for making our trip to Austin possible!!

Stay tuned for "part 1" of the YellowBuzz SXSW report. View the SXSW flickr set.


Chatting with Peggy Wang of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Last night on G-chat, I had a great time talking to Peggy Wang of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, a Pitchfork-raving indie pop band from Brooklyn. We talked about her first inspiration by Riot Grrrrl and hanging out with a punk girl (and her boyfriend) who worked at her parents' video store. We also chatted a bunch about the New York Brooklyn-based indie scene and her current job as a senior editor at BuzzFeed.com.

I met Peggy at SXSW last Friday. She and I exchange several text messages and eventually we met in person after the Pains' set at the Pitchfork/Windish Party at Emo's on 6th Street and Red River Street in downtown Austin. [I will be posting pictures from this performance very soon.]

Exchanging Myspace messages with Peggy and Kip of the band, I found out that a dear friend of Peggy's, Art Boonparn shot a music video for their song "Everything With You" on super 8. The lo-fi quality casts the band's vintage pop music and image into the early 1980s. This, of course, is highlighted by their C86 influence, harking back to Glasgow circa 1986. Certainly their sound and general aesthetics is much more than just that. With the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, I'd say, "bring on the pop and the noise, 80s and 2000s, Glasgow and Brooklyn. Let's all party until the end of time."

Art Boonparn is a New-Orleans-spawned artist and musician who relocated to New York City after Katrina. I will meet him in NY this weekend to hear about his adventures in the independent music scene in the 80s and 90s in New Orleans.

Here's the "Everything With You" video shot by Art Boonparn, starring Peggy Wang and Charlen Altman:


Asianizing Indie Rock Names - Who's Doing It? At Whose Expense?

Field report from the sleepless at SXSW:

Insomnia once again hit me on this trip. Not because I am out partying with hipsters indie rockers, but because I overshot my sleepiness and is now consumed by travel anxiety compounded by an earlier careless intake of caffeine. I found myself lying in bed seeing changing colors and forms, hearing Thao’s singing the line “Isn't it like a lick of ice cream”. And dissertation idea hovered around and around. I decided to get up to write it down instead of letting my sleepless mind obsess over it.

I recently stumbled upon many indie band or stage names that sound “Asian.” For example, Xiu Xiu, The Mae Shi, Franki Chan, Wan-Li, Fujiya & Miyagi, and Chin Chin are all ethnically Chinese or Japanese names deployed by musicians of non-Asian descent. Strikingly, they are all white. What is this all about? Is this yet another form of indie rock cultural appropriation that plays into the scheme of internationalism and multiculturalism? How much of this is motivated by a desire for difference, exotic or not? How much of this is happening at the expense of the (self-)representations of musicians of Asian descent?

My mind is running on backup battery right now. The illusion of this idea being a grand dissertation chapter idea is looming larger and over. I better quit it when I can. I will finish drinking the rest of the glass of milk I poured 20 minutes ago and try to sleep again.


SXSW - Here I Come

I finally made all the arrangements to go to SXSW this year. This will actually be my first time going despite my plans/wish-thinking of going in the last few years. Here is a list of the bands that I'm planning on seeing:

Asobi Seksu
Carol Bui
+/- [Plus/Minus]
Sloth Scamper
Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers
Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down
The Airborn Toxic Event
The Pains of Being Pure At Heart

This list is growing by the day. I welcome suggestions :)

I will be posting the details of the shows that I will be attending. I will hopefully be able to bring a small setup to play some noise electric accordion with my percussionist friend on the streets. Look out for us!

I will be there from Wednesday morning until Saturday afternoon. If you or anyone else you know is going, hit me up. I would love to hang.

Also, I will be posting about my experiences in Austin, hopefully with lots of spectacular media. Exciting stuff!