The First Ever "Check Yo Ponytail" Tour
In 2006, Franki Chan began a weekly Tuesday party called Check Yo’ Ponytail. Teaming with then partners, Love Yourself and White Trash Charms, and with the help of resident DJ, Paparazzi, and visual artist, Demonbabies they went on to make a night that would define the Los Angeles (and in some cases national) music scene for years to come. Initially making its debut at Safari Sam’s, it was only a matter of time before the hyper-fun, genre-bending night needed a new home, The Echoplex.
The New Check Yo’ Ponytail, as it was then called, continued to book new and eccentric acts that would fill the larger venue to capacity with people looking to dance, drink, and rage. The open-genre, open-format approach to booking shows provided LA with a truly unique audience, breaking down scene walls and allowing for people from all walks to enjoy that which is most important to us, the music.
Naeem Juwan AKA Spank Rock draws immediate influence from the Baltimore Bass movement. He met with the Diplo-helmed Hollertronix crew and began crafting the type of live performances that have become underground legend in the early 2000s. With production partner Alex “XXXChange” Epton, he released the seminal LP YoYoYoYoYo on UK label Big Dada in 2006, the album that many credit as the progenitor of the electro/rap/booty phenomenon. Since then Spank Rock has toured with everyone from Beck to Bjork to the Beastie Boys, made records with Santigold, KylieMinogue, Mark Ronson and Mos Def, and remains one of the most enigmatic and electrifying performers in music today. His sophomore album,Everything is Boring and Everyone is a Fucking Liar, which is almost entirely produced by Boyz Noise and features a litany of guest talent includingBig Freedia, Santigold and Mark Ronson, will be released September 27th, 2011 on his own imprint, Bad Blood Records.
Big Freedia and the Divas
Big Freedia (pronounced “Free-da”) is the undisputed “Queen Diva” of Bounce Music, and performs six or more times a week in various venues throughout her home town of New Orleans.
Bounce Music is an original urban music rising up from the intimate and fun-loving nature of the New Orleans housing projects which dominate the city’s street culture, and Freedia performs a derivative of Bounce reserved for self-proclaimed “Sissies” (a locally used name for biological men with varied and ambiguous sexual identities) that has risen to prominence in recent years and features explicitly gay and cross-dressing musicians and themes. Big Freedia, like other “Sissy” artists, has achieved mainstream success with several New Orleans hit singles such as “Gin in My System” and “Azz Everywhere!” from her albums “An Ha, Oh Yeah” (1999) and “Queen Diva” (2003). Freedia began her musical career almost 15 years ago at the Walter L. Cohen High School in New Orleans, where she was enlisted as choir director from her Sophomore to Senior years. She sees her performance as a Bounce artist as an extension of this work, often interacting in a call and response/teacher and student, fashion with her audiences.
While also running a successful decorating business (for which she counts the Mayor’s office as a client), Freedia recently developed a musical about her life entitled “Catch That Beat” which featured cameo appearances by a who’s who of New Orleans Bounce artists alongside the story of her upbringing in New Orleans 3rd Ward. Since 2009 Freedia has begun traveling outside the city regularly with her dancers and live DJ, Rusty Lazer, playing to audiences on the East and West Coast alongside (or onstage with) artists such as Spank Rock, Ninjasonik, Japanther, Monique and many more. Big Freedia has always acted as a mentor for many younger artists and is currently at work on her third album. This year Freedia performed on the West coast with New Orleans band Galactic, recreating her collaboration on the critically-acclaimed 2010 album “Ya-Ka-May”, and at North By Northeast alongside Kid Sister, De La Soul and her New Orleans neighbors Quintron and Miss Pussycat. Freedia will be performing at FYFest in Los Angeles soon, and will share the stage with Major Lazer at MusicfestNW in Portland this September. Later appearances are planned for the Windish Agency Showcase at CMJ and Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin.
The Death Set
The Death Set, from Brooklyn, originally hails from The Gold Coast, Australia. It was here where Johnny Siera met co-founding member Beau Velasco in 2005. Drawn to one another’s reckless care of music, the duo united to write fleeting songs with lifelong hooks and overdriven melody. Hell-bent on recording and touring, The Death Set moved the U.S. originally to the gnarly streets of Baltimore then to Philadelphia then finally to Brooklyn.
Buoyed by the DIY network they found there, the band recorded and released the To (2006, Rabbit Foot) and Rad Warehouses Bad Neighborhoods (2007, Morphius) EPs, honing the noise of jury-rigged gear and overblown mics. The Death Set quickly became known for out-of-hand live shows, and carried that energy onto its first full-length recording, done at The Copy Cat in Baltimore, an artist warehouse studio where the band and many others lived at the time.
The Death Set’s debut album, Worldwide, on Ninja Tune’s Counter Records imprint came in 2008 and fully filled twenty-five minutes with eighteen breakneck songs. Produced, engineered and mixed by Siera at The Copy Cat, with further mixing by Rob Girardi at Lord Baltimore Studios, Worldwide boaseds the endearing sound of unrefined creation. From the timeless call-to-upraise-arms of “Negative Thinking”, through the rallying anthem of “Intermission”; the love-buzz of “Heard It All Before” along the serrated edge of “Cold Teeth”; through the wistful chime of “Had A Bird”, and the high-voiced androgyny of “Day In The Wife”; The Death Set exploits consonance to the fullest. “Around the World” enters enemy dancespace, while “Listen To This Collision” puts crowds on a crash course with each other.
With the addition of Jahphet “Roofeeo” Landis on drums (who has toured with Santigold, Spankrock, Amanda Blank, and Ninjasonik) and fellow Aussie expat Dan Walker on guitar, vocals and production, the trio set about touring and destroying all types of stages all over the world. From massive festivals like Fuji Rock in Japan and Dour in Belgium to DIY spaces to Parisian basements.
The Death Set have found touring partners and friends in Girl Talk, Bonde Do Role, Spank Rock, Ninjasonik ,Japanther, Best Fwends, Dan Deacon, Ponytail and many more. While The Death Set’s sound is most like that of its punk influencers—Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Buzzcocks – it also bears the distinct mark of hip-hop and electronic styles in production, and as interludes in their raucous offstage outbursts.
The band were touted as the #1 biggest hope of the future by NME, “Best Live Band” by the Baltimore City Paper, The Death Set jams blindsiding minute-songs into compact spaces.
Which brings us to The Death Set’s new sophomore album, “Michel Poiccard,” which sadly comes prefigured by tragedy. Just as the pair were about to embark on writing a new album together, Velasco, who had struggled with drug addiction on and off throughout his life, died of an overdose.
The band were shattered, so much so that Johnny still finds it almost impossible to talk about. It wouldn’t have been surprising if the group had decided to call it a day. Relocating to Brooklyn and enlisting long time friend and Baltimore associate XXXchange (Spank Rock, Kele, The Kills) to man the desk, they created “Michel Poiccard,” an album which loses none of the charm of their previous “punk spazz” work but adds considerable depth, both in terms of the punch and bottom end that XXXchange brings to the table, and in terms of a sense of desperate loss or longing, which permeates everything on the record and reaches a considerable pinnacle on “I Miss You Beau Velasco” and the closer “Is It The End Again?”
There are songs here about mammoth Ecstasy binges (“Chew It Like A Gun Gum”), Beasties-like celebrations of arcane handshakes (first single, “Slap Slap Slap Pound Up Down Snap”) affirmations of relying on positivity thoughout the roughest of times “We Are Going Anywhere Man”, a celebration of one of the stars of A Bout De Souuffle (“Michel Poiccard (She Yearns For The Devil)”), tales of smashed equipment and angry promoters (“Can You Seen Straight?”), with a dose of familiar, snotty, punk anthems about French girls with a penchant for taking it up the shitter (“I Like The Wrong Way”). Diplo drops in for a fight and ends up giving them a keyboard line for “Yo David Chase!”. Spank Rock guests on “7PM Woke Up An Hour Ago”. Yes, all of them are instilled with the same manic Ritalin-and –Sunny-D-induced energy of their earlier records, but it feels like something deeper has happened here, too.
Above it all floats the spirit of Beau Velasco, amused and laconic. Words of his were rescued from samplers and old ProTools sessions so that it is his voice that opens the record with words which could serve as the group’s mission statement, perhaps never so fully realised: “I wanna take this tape and blow up ya fuckin’ stereo!”
Originally hailing from Denver, Colorado, Pictureplane (real name Travis Egedy) was a driving force in making the city one of the most influential DIY towns in the world; thanks in large part to Pictureplane’s legendary shows at his former Denver home Rhinoceropolis, his raging club night, “Real is a Feeling”, and his constant stream of mixtapes and remixes. In 2012 he moved to Brooklyn, NY and quickly established himself as one of the figureheads of a revitalized electronic/punk scene. Egedy’s growing influence can be felt in ways that are both trivial - Egedy coined the ridiculous genre term “Witch House” in 2009 - and significant: Pictureplane’s punk rock-like approach to the production and dissemination of his work is democratizing electronic music the same way the Ramones, Minor Threat, and Black Flag liberated rock music in the 70s and 80s.
Produced and recorded by Egedy and mixed/co-produced by Jupiter Keyes of HEALTH, his 2011 record Thee Physical is a celebration of human touch in a digital world. The album is also unquestionably Pictureplane’s best and most assured record to date: his vocals are confident and unnervingly sexy, the instrumentation is at once both purely electronic and surprisingly human. Pictureplane has managed to make electronic music deeply emotive—a synthesis of the human and the machine both in lyrics and sound.
“Brilliant? Yes. The guy has true production and compositional skills and has found a uniquely compelling way to merge a deep blend house, noise, synth pop, darkwave, psychedelia, world music, and trippy new age space-time theories into emotionally compelling soundscapes.”
“Pictureplane, a one-man knob-twiddler…might succeed where many others have failed: making shiny, thumping, ecstasy-appropriate dance music palatable to indie fans whose comfort with electronic jams extends about as far as Hot Chip or Girl Talk.”
- ONION A/V CLUB
“Colorado art-guy Pictureplane packs a ridiculous amount of contagious energy into this club ready debut. This is music for a new-age junkyard rave: stinky, sweaty, and way too much fun.”