SXSW to host ‘What Would Gaga Do?’ session

I’ve been scouring the roster of the bands appearing at SXSW this year and while it’s always an impressive list, the gayish vibe wasn’t hitting as hard as I had hoped — but with tons of bands, it’s easy to miss some of the smaller ones, so I keep looking.

Still, one single event might trump anything else gay about SXSW — a discussion panel titled What Would Gaga Do? Facebook’s Meredith Chin moderates the event which includes the Queen of Mean himself Perez Hilton and Semi Precious Weapons singer Justin Tranter along with VEVO’s Fred Santarpia.

The session is described as “Lady Gaga has said that she has ’embraced the Internet in a pop-cultural kind of way’ by thinking about what pop artists of the 70s and 80s would have done if they had the social technologies we have today. With the disruption of the music industry, artists, managers and record labels discuss the importance of evolving with technology and embracing the power of the Web.”

So perhaps it isn’t really just about Lady Gaga as much as it is about the collision of music, media and the web, but it would appear she’s the spark that led to this session.

WWGD is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. March 18 at the Austin Convention Center, Room 18ABC, 500 E. Cesar Chavez.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: Semi Precious Weapons at The Loft, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings at the Palladium

Justin Tranter

Suffice it to say, I did not see Semi Precious Weapons go on stage. I was downstairs in the Palladium Showroom catching Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings do their thing. But more on that later. Walking upstairs into The Loft, I could immediately hear the band jamming out its punk glam rock to a raucous crowd.

Sure enough, a tight crowd pressed against each other and the stage with hands in the air like they just didn’t care. Although SPW is a band, the show is really about its frontman Justin Tranter. Perhaps he’s waiting for his Beyonce moment to break away from the band and become the star he should be. Tranter owned both the band and the crowd. His presence is huge with his mop top of blond hair and heavy eye make-up, but also with his inherent diva qualities. With fey hand gestures and funny “fuck yous” to the crowd, he actually bonds with his audience. It’s all so punk rock.

SPW’s fans are a breed unto themselves. They knew every word to the songs and responded with haste when Tranter commanded them to. When he told people to take off their clothes, garments immediately started flying to the stage. His antics made for a worthy show. He made sure everyone was “Sticky With Champagne” as he pretty much jacked off a bottle and sprayed the bubbly load all over the audience. He then bore his ass, and one guy suggested there might have been balls involved. I missed that photo opp. Maybe it was a good thing. He promised sexual favors if the crowd bought his merch and a spray of water was a cool bath amid the sweaty hot crowd.

Sharon Jones

Just don’t think he’s all shock value and schtick. The band (especially the guitars) was sharp and each instrument came off lush but sharp and beautifully loud. The music was matched by Tranter’s strong voice — especially in “Fucking Gorgeous” — which at times was reminiscent of The Clash’s Joe Strummer — powerful with the slightest tint of delicacy that gave him extra pizzazz. Tranter also didn’t sacrifice his voice for an outlandish rock persona. He belted out a few vocal runs complete with vibrato but kept it under the cheesy radar.

The energy SPW had here to a crowd of maybe 150 was exponentially better than their opening gig at Lady Gaga this summer. I almost would hate for them to get bigger because SPW was on top of their game and clearly at home in a tinier venue like The Loft.

Downstairs in the Palladium Showroom, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings was performing her soulful gig. And just like Tranter, Jones captivated with frantic dancing and those beautifully rich and gritty vocal chords — that is when you could hear her.

I’m not sure how this worked, but being up close, I could barely hear a word she said, much less sang. The Dap-Kings however were crisp and clear — especially the horn section. I had to leave for SPW and then came back and from the rear of the standing audience, Jones was a whole lot clearer.

Jones has unique appeal. The gays weren’t out in force but a few were in the audience grooving along with the mostly 20-something hipsters who seemed to have genuine appreciation for her music rather than just jumping on some nostalgic trend recycling its way through. And regardless of who was in the audience, young or old, Jones and the Kings had the crowd dancing, which was kind of a shocker in Dallas. Audiences here tend to just watch. It’s weird. But last night, this Dallas crowd grooved, shimmied and shook through each song.

I do wish they had peppered more ballads in. Jones’ voice is something to behold but it seemed like 95 percent of the show was overly upbeat. That’s never a bad thing but heck, we needed a break, too! Regardless, Jones and her very able Dap Kings gave one of the most satisfying shows of the year so far.

Grace Potter and the NocturnalsFans of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals should have been equally satisfied if not ass-kicked. Despite opener status for Jones, Potter and the gang went for broke with her raucous performance. Her dirty roots rock pretty much tsunami-ed the room. To top it off, she went from guitars to piano to tambourine and struck a pose each time. Drag queens should look her up as influence, if she hasn’t already done that vice versa for her onstage presence. In an almost peek-a-boo short, shimmery dress, she was feminine but rocked out like many a male rocker from the hair-teased 80s. Her set began to go just a little too long, mostly because it felt the energy in the room was buzzing for Jones. But Potter played like she would for a sold-out crowd at the Cotton Bowl and it ruled.

So, all in all, it was a pretty good night for a concert — even two.

—  Rich Lopez

Semi Precious Weapons at The Loft on Sept. 23

—  Rich Lopez

FREE STUFF: 4 pairs of tickets to Semi Precious Weapons’ show this Thursday at the Loft

If you didn’t get enough of garage glam rockers Semi Precious Weapons when they opened for Lady Gaga this summer, here’s your chance to see them up close and personal. Taking a reprieve from the Monster Ball, they’ve hit the road on their own before getting back to their Gaga gig (we think – we keep hearing they are on, they are off, back on again – oy).

But we know this for sure: Semi Precious Weapons will return to town with openers Breedlove to play The Loft this Thursday. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. And we got tickets. Thanks to The Loft, we have four pairs to give away. All you have to do is e-mail us to snag a pair. E-mail with their song title “Rock ‘n’ Roll Never Looked So Beautiful” in the subject line. Please include your first and last name and phone number. Winners will be picked at random.

Good luck! And I should see you there.

—  Rich Lopez

UPDATE: Scissor Sisters AND Semi-Precious Weapons to open for Lady Gaga in March

When I mentioned Semi-Precious Weapons’ solo show coming to Dallas later this month, they were still on the tour calendar of Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour and set to play her follow-up show in March. Clearly, that has changed. Scissors Sisters is in and SPW is out. SS posted the heads-up about joining her on the tour on their site here.

As I’ve said, SPW is better in a smaller venue, but SS could really knock this one out. I think they are much better match and could fill the arena pretty damn well with their own dance pop sound.

Lady Gaga plays American Airlines Center March 14.

UPDATE: Well, OK, then. Clearly a breakdown in communication. And props to commenter Jimmy for staying on top of it. We had initially received word that Scissor Sisters would be the 2011 support for Gaga and that SPW was her 2010 opener (read my comment below). SPW’s rep Lisa Taylor at 42 West reached out to clarify and confirm that SPW is sticking with the Monster Ball tour and thus is on the bill. They are confirming with LiveNation that everyone is on the same page. So it looks like we’re all good now and the best part, audiences get a triple bill out of it.

—  Rich Lopez

Lady Gaga and Semi Precious Weapons at the AAC

—  Rich Lopez

Cirque du so GayGay — thoughts on Lady Gaga’s show last night at the American Airlines Center

Lady Gaga calls an audience member before performing 'Telephone'

Concerts are usually about the music, and also about the spectacle, but for Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball show at American Airlines Center on Thursday night — a second show is tonight — it was about the message. And that’s a good thing.

Gaga is only 24, but she has an ability to manipulate an audience like a Southern demagogue. She’s a huge star of the kind you rarely see authentically anymore — she’s not a train wreck or a camp icon or flavor of the month, but a charismatic personality on whom people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds project their better angels. When, before her show began, she appeared in a pre-recorded video message about supporting gay rights, the audience was instantly hushed. Would that opening-act Semi Precious Weapons had that effortless power. More than once in the show, she would stand statue-still for long stretches — 30 seconds, a minute — building anticipation without doing anything. It’s remarkable to watch.

More so, as well, because Gaga isn’t shy about her message. She’s of that generation that doesn’t think about alternative sexual identity as something shocking, so her shout-outs to gay teens — and, repeatedly, her references to touring gay clubs before she hit it big, especially the Round-Up Saloon — meant that a mixed crowd that included some ‘tweens were cheering tolerance in a way that seemed more authentic than, say, when Bono lectures audiences about the International Monetary Fund. He may plant a seed, but Gaga has furrowed acres of lush soil.

That she does so entertainingly is a plus. This concert more resembles a star turn in a Cirque du Soleil show than a pop concert. There’s the continually changing set, a landscape where freaks and outcasts live in glorious freedom. Like Dorothy and her Ozian allies, they head out for the Monster Ball, where even freaks can be whoever they want. It’s an empowering message for gays, but also fat kids, pimply faced dorks, even middle-aged men who’ve put on a few pounds.

The showmanship is impressive. Like a good magician, Gaga does an excellent job of secreting herself off stage for a costume change (I counted 13 throughout the evening) only to arrive more outrageously garbed than before. (Sparks shooting from her boobs and crotch recall Madonna at her peak.) The dancers — mostly muscular, fluidly androgynous and barely-dressed men with padded codpieces — keep the eye candy factor high.

And there is the ear candy. Gaga’s songs are infectiously likable pop, and she trots them all out with a live vocal performance amid all the flurry of activity that remarkably maintains the lyrical fidelity. Her mega-hit, “Poker Face,” got the audience on its feet, but that’s just because she told them to — they also bared their paws during “Teeth” (her most aggressively outre song) and other numbers, and the audience went along with new songs, ballads … whatever she wanted. The show ended with a curtain call after a single-number encore that started immediately. This is theater more than music.

—  Rich Lopez

Lady Gaga sold out! But don't worry, second show added

LiveNation pretty much spells it out all here in their post (after the jump) from an hour ago. What I didn’t know is that Semi-Precious Weapons is opening. You might recognize them from their cameo in the “Telephone” video, but their glam garage rock stands well enough on its own.

—  Rich Lopez