Miracles of Modern Science: MOMS by MOMSWest by South by SouthWest Day 7-12

Posted March 26

All for MOMS, MOMS for all

O Music Awards Unboxed has made its triumphant return from SXSW, having unleashed all manner of music/tech/weirdness on poor unsuspecting Austin and finishing up with a barn house raver featuring Miracles of Modern Science. Although we’ve made it back safe and sound, MOMS are still winding their way through the country on their multi-city musical odyssey, recording tales of their adventures in this here handy Tour Diary. Keep up with the latests and greatests in their travels here on the O Music Blog!

MOMS had finally made it to Austin. SXSW had already progressed through its film and interactive portions, and was just beginning its music phase by the time MXMW arrived. It was comforting to know that we had in fact organized our schedule appropriately.

Tuesday, our first day there, saw us play a small show in the morning in the parking lot behind “Bacon,” a small restaurant with a broader culinary range than we’d been led to believe.

May seem like a bit of a niche food decision for a restaurant at first, but don’t be fooled – they also had tacos… and fritters.
Tacos and corn fritters. Amazing.

Before us was Scottish band French Wives, who remarked that orange juice and gigs were things that had never previously gone together for them — but admitted it to be a surprisingly pleasant pairing as they played their sweet poppy set. Canadian band Yukon Blonde toned down their usually heavier set for the occasion in light of the event’s hazy grasp on a sound permit. We played a quieter set in deference to that, opting to leave the Marshall stacks and smoke machine/laser rig in the tour bus. Our roadies — though loyal — breathed a collective sigh of relief when we let them know.

By mere coincidence, we found ourselves happy to be playing with Californian band Saint Motel, who we’d played with at The Hideout in Chicago less than a week before!

It’s déjà vu all over again as Saint Motel do their thing just after our set.

After the show, we headed over to our old friend Ben’s place, who’d very kindly offered to put us up for the duration of the festival. He’d neglected to mention that he had a trampoline in his possession… we knew what we had to do.

Evan strikes from the trees!
The next day, Josh played the mandolin without touching any of the strings.
Tyler was done with cars… though our love of The Cars continues unabated.
There were people who needed me…

After getting that out of our systems (not really… but if you want more pics of us completely losing it, they’re in our MOMS tour pics here), we decided to head in to downtown Austin to see what all this SXSW business was about.

We had a bit of a wander, it was still early in the festival and day, so 6th street was not yet the madness we’d discover it was headed for. We checked out a bit of Oberhofer (although I’d met Brad before, none of us had seen them live) who put on an energetic show to a throng of en-hyped Hype Hotel goers.

Knowing our official showcase was the next night, we decided to check out the venue we’d be playing at: The Jr located at the establishment that used to be the legendary hardcore venue Emo’s. We walked in to see a many-guitar’d band in the process of setting up on stage. The room was fairly spacious and seemed well-equipped to put on a powerful show. The Jr was actually separated into two stages with an outdoor section between them.

Looking back on the evening, the fact we were feeling so good about the world and all the things in it should’ve sent up warning signals. After exploring the rest of The Jr, we headed back into the front part of the venue to check out the stage where we’d be playing tomorrow to find the band that was setting up when we walked in now plugged in to the system they were about to destroy.

Extended tuning at full volume and treating audience banter like an invitation to start a brawl were just a couple factors that led me to believe that these guys… were brilliant. Short of drawing blood, they were doing just about everything a band could do to get thrown out of a venue. No band could possibly get on stage and be that truly oblivious of their role. Try as I might, I couldn’t find the camera I knew had to be out there somewhere, recording the whole Spinal Tap-esque disaster.

We went for a breather after about 15 minutes of their set, getting snow cones across the street.

Snow cone decompression.

We headed off to catch some amazing comedy afterwards — favorites Kyle Kinane and Pete Holmes split sides wholesale.

Second day of SXSW was the day of our official showcase, sharing the bill with a number of familiar names — among which was ’80s legend Thomas Dolby, whose hit “She Blinded Me With Science,” made us feel our lineup was thematically destined for greatness. There was still a cloud of apprehension hovering over us after having born witness to a band whose sound derived from destroying sound systems the previous night, but we persevered!

Oh Mircle of Mircles! (of Modern Science)
Just about ready to start…

The turnout was great and we launched into a show stuffed with as much MOMS as we could fit into our 40-minute allotment. Though the sound quality wasn’t the greatest, the audience response was phenomenal and we made a lot of new friends that evening. We were sold on Austin that night.

We headed off for a bit of food, and decided to soak up SXSW in full swing by night…

This is madness!

Almost every establishment on 6th street had been converted into a venue. Music was pouring out into the street, doing battle with bands of all sorts who’d claimed parts of the road as their own outdoor venue. About 3 or 4 bands in the street every block. It was sensory overload… and it was amazing.

Having sated our hunger, we regained our senses from the initial 6th street shock, and started to head back to our showcase venue. The street on the whole were a few drinks past a few drinks too many — we were weaving our way through a sea of people dodging submarines.

Out of nowhere, on the side of the street appeared a crème brûlée stand. Not even a half a dozen steps after sidestepping a puddle of fresh I-wish-I-hadn’t-needed-to-see-that, we were supposed to believe we could enjoy a decadent dessert? It was too strange not to follow up on.

… WHAT?!

They were amazing. Jeff, the bloke doing the brûlée-ing, was actually the proprietor of a local wine bar/restaurant, Vino Vino, who’d decided to do something different and get out on the street with this unusual SXSW fare. We chatted with him a while — he gave us a round-up of his experience living in Austin over the last thirty years and how the music scene has grown and developed over that time. We got on very well!

We headed off back to The Jr where Thomas Dolby lived up to expectation (although everyone, Dolby included, was sad there wasn’t time to play “She Blinded Me With Science”). Jeff closed his crème brûlée stand for the evening and came along as well after we’d told him Dolby would be playing — he bought us drinks and we chatted with him and a few of his local friends who regaled us with stories of the area. It was a good night.

We awoke for Day 3 of SXSW, looking forward to playing two shows — the first at a venue called Cheer Up Charlie’s as part of a party put together by Solid Gold, and the second at a secret location hosted by the House of Creatives and sponsored by BangOnNYC and the lovely sponsors of this very blog: MTV’s O Music Awards.

We weren’t sure why Charlie was so sad (youseewhatididthere?), but we were determined to pull him out of his melancholy. It was a beautiful day, and we were playing on a large outdoor stage. There were two stages at the event, running in alternating half hour sets (while one stage broke down and set up, the second stage played their set). Conditions were perfect.

We had a ball, and afterward enjoyed chatting with the crowd (some of whom had just come to watch after wandering past the venue) who made notes of the locations and times of our remaining SXSW shows — as well as some rabidly enthusiastic high school kids who’d been trying to find an all-ages friendly show where they’d be able to catch us. Unfortunately this venue was not one of those venues… but being outdoors, they could still catch us (and scream requests) through the chain link fence. We did manage to get them in and up for a photo with us in the end!

Happy MOMS on stage after the show with happy fans.
Charlie reportedly still in need of cheering up… there’s just no pleasing some people.

In what was turning out to be a suspicious set of coincidences at this point, Saint Motel was playing with us again at this gig — their carefree Californian rock complemented the sunny outdoor setting well. We caught each other’s sets and the bromance continued to blossom. Fate was trying to tell us something.

We packed our stuff away and made ready to head up to the mysterious House of Creatives. The venue was in a converted barn on an incredible property just outside of town.

Josh tries in vain to avoid being transfixed by the wall of stuffed animals as he chats with the venue’s sound engineer about our set-up. Spot the hippo head. (no, really — it’s a hippo head)
Never wanted to leave.
Who’s a dog? YOU! YOU’RE A DOOOOOOOG!!!
Getting set for a very cozy couch interview with the House of Creatives after the show.

We hung out with our O Music friends and the creatives of the house late into the night, sitting around a bonfire — guitar songs aplenty. It was a lovely and relaxing evening.
(some fantastic video was taken of our performance that evening which we’ll hopefully be uploading for your viewing pleasure soon!)

Day 4 was the day of our most secret of shows. Put together by the blog “We Listen For You,” we were part of a lineup of undisclosed artists at a show designed to challenge people to be musically curious — a pretty cool concept.

Photo courtesy of Hipstamatic — our new friends!
(not to be too critical, but all of these photos seem to have an issue with overexposure down the left side… JK HIPSTAMATIC! <3)

It was a great line-up in the end, with a few familiar and unfamiliar faces — but all faces were attached to cool acts. The lineup was: Bro. Stephen, Radical Dads, Conveyor, Todd Goldstein (from ARMS), The Henry Clay People, Dent May, then MOMS, and finally Kevin Barnes from Of Montreal. Beats Per Minute wrote up a pretty good review with cool pics of all the acts (and some very kind words thrown our way) here if you’re curious!

We had the rest of the day off, deciding to use it to head back up to the House of Creatives ranch to catch another set of shows and bask in nature.

Day 5 was another MOMS double feature, playing at the Okie Heights Hootenanny in the afternoon (an annual community party hosted by locals on a front lawn during SXSW), followed by a show at the Cherrywood Coffeehouse.

It was a family affair at the Hootenanny, which was right in the MOMS wheelhouse. We’ve tested well with young children… they seem to like what it is that we do. We weren’t too surprised when we discovered this — it’s common knowledge that kids have a readily exploitable innocence. We’re usually able to get through a whole set before most children in attendance realize that our MOMS, are not their moms.
That knowledge constituted a hefty portion of what drew us to “MOMS” as an acronym for the band in the first place… it also reveals our complete lack of understanding of the buying power and circumstances of different demographics. Even the slowest of children will realize if they’re asking their moms for their MOMS… something isn’t right. Oh, well.

It was a great afternoon though. A lot of residents — who quite reasonably weren’t interested in doing battle with the SXSW masses to check out some bands from out of town — came along for what ended up being a beautiful afternoon outside. All through SXSW we’d been very lucky with our outdoor shows (particularly given the typical MOMS weather associations… see universe vs MOMS discussion in Day 4 of MXMW). We may seem less vulnerable than say, a synth band with instruments virtually begging to be fried by an unexpected downpour (at least that’s how I see them… I KID, I KID), but water comes right after fire under “effects most likely to end your string instrument”… fire only beats water because… well… what are you going to do to put that fire out?
So, we’ve been lucky. That day was no different and the crowd was effervescent (bubbly, even).

Cherrywood Coffeehouse was a cool and laid-back spot. We were invited to play the show by Backwords, who had organized the show. We drew a crowd of people, some of whom had caught us at previous SXSW shows who brought friends along this time.

Ben’s girlfriend, Cass, had found possibly the best thing we’ve seen, and gave it to us.

The card read: “MOMS! — They’re like dads, only smarter”

Day 6: our last day in otherworldly awesome Austin. It was another day featuring a MOMS double dose. First up was a lower volume show at the Lomography Gallery Store for an event in the afternoon put together by Proxart; and then finally at Stubb’s, a well-known and respected venue (and BBQ house… we were looking forward to FINALLY having a bit of BBQ in Texas) — the last show that would rouse MOMS from our SXSW dream.

Lomography. My understanding, from my brief introduction to it, was that it’s a kind of punk aesthetic applied to photography, originally inspired by a camera produced in Russia in 1988 (the LOMO LC-A Compakt Automat) that produced dramatically grainy and lo-fi photos. The store offered a wide variety of analogue cameras with various functions built into them and colorful casings. Our Proxart hosts were more than gracious, and hopefully we’ll be able to head out their way (California) to organize more shows soon!

Taken by the very cameras on offer at the store — preserving moments in vintage Soviet-era ether!
You raaaannnng?

All in all, a very fun show.

In typical MOMS fashion, we played our hearts out at the Lomography Gallery Store, and were greeted by a very appreciative crowd. After spending a bit of time talking to the people who’d come out for us as well as sorting them out with CDs and t-shirts, we packed ourselves away and focused our attention on the final show of the festival at Stubb’s later that evening.

Heading over to Stubb’s, we were moderately horrified by the realization that somehow we’d managed to not yet have any BBQ in Texas. We could not allow this to stand any longer. Stubb’s, as well as being one of the best venues in Austin, also offered Texan BBQ fare. We would not pass up this opportunity.

Geoff, our long-lost cello MOMber joins us ahead of schedule for our first BBQ experience in Texas
It’s all fun and games until MOMS find a pool table.
Tyler took “lulling them into a false sense of security” too far, sinking the 8 ball first shot.
Evan was merciless. His triumph: complete. His joy: boundless

The event was put together by Conscious Immaturity — an organization dedicated to bettering the quality of musical education in schools. We very much appreciated the effort — we wouldn’t be the band we are without the great music education programs we were fortunate enough to benefit from when we were younger, and I personally identified with Conscious Immaturity’s purpose being along similar lines as the organization I work for, the Harmony Program. We were pumped.

Pre-show beers kept cozy courtesy of Conscious Immaturity.

Stubb’s was one of those venues in which, as a band, you feel immediately at ease. Load-in was expedited and secured by a professional staff, the logistical schedule was clear and well-communicated, a great greenroom was made available to us (generously stocked), a large space to make our merchandise available, and when soundcheck came it was clear that the sound engineer knew his business. On top of that, the quality of the sound at the venue well and truly lived up to its reputation.

We were running close to empty by the time we hit the stage, but hit it we did — with a reserve supply of everything left in our MOMS tanks. In a flurry of fury and a jumble of joy, MOMS tore through what would be our bittersweet Austin farewell show. We tumbled off stage at the end of our set, happy to meet new fans and sad to let them know we’d be leaving town tomorrow… BUT THAT WE WOULD RETURN! And soon, we hope.

Exhausted but elated, we put our SXSW experience to bed, as we got set for a drive to New Orleans in the morning for a well-deserved day off.

See you in the next installment of MXMW: MOMSventures in Gainesville, FLORIDA!
Kieran of MOMS