SXSW 2017 Wrap-Up

… from the Manhart logs, March 21st, 2017

Ahhhh SXSW, always sure to be a crazy and exhausting trip.  This was our 3rd year headed down to Austin, TX for this nutty festival in March, and I like to think we’re getting better at it every time!

This year has been a busy one so far.  We’ve been working hard releasing new music and videos and merch.  We’re in the middle of a pre-sale for our new EP “Hearts on Fire”, and we just barely got the new tshirts printed in time to hustle and ship them out at the last minute before leaving.  


We left Chicago on Monday afternoon and arrived in Austin late Tuesday night.  Upon arriving, we went straight to the closest Mexican restaurant we could find.  We probably said the words “taco” and “margarita” about 10x apiece during the drive, so you better believe we each got the biggest shaker full of margaritas that they would sell us! 



On to Wednesday.  We played 2 shows that day, 3pm at Dirty Dog Bar in downtown Austin, and 7pm at Tiniest Bar in Texas.  


Always love playing Tiniest Bar, really cool spot with great sound. 




Lisa flew in on Wednesday, and since Thursday was a day off for Molehill, she and I got to explore a bit and check out some cool shows.  We saw Minus the Bear play a free show at Noon on a great stage in the parking lot of Waterloo Records.  It was a great show!  We also had a good time looking at records afterwards.  









After the Noon show I got a text that our old buddies The Dig were playing on the roof of Whole Foods.  Another great free show, and it was just 1 block away from us!  

We jammed out to the Dig for a bit and then roamed the massive rooftop area picking up free samples of coconut water and cold brew coffee.  We checked out a couple amazing acoustic acts while I drank about 5 bottles of coconut water and 3 cold brews.  It was a good time. 



Trevor had been planning on going to see the sunset at the Oasis on Thursday for a while, so we all went with him.  It was maybe not my favorite establishment, but the view was definitely beautiful.  I imagine this would be a great place to stop after cruising around the lake in a boat all day. 



Friday started out like many other days that week – with breakfast tacos. Mmmmm….


We had only one show on Friday – 7pm at Unbarlievable on Rainey St. – a little tucked-away area sort of nestled between 6th street, the highway, and the river.  We got there extremely early because we were very worried about how bad parking might be and how hard it would be to load our gear in. 


The venue, like many venues on Rainey St., is a house that has been converted to a bar/music venue.  From the outside it just looks like a little blue house.  and then inside it’s been completely gutted, with a big bar in the middle and another one by the stage in the back yard.  The “grass” was all actually astroturf.  It was a very unique SXSW experience for us.  


We ran into Ms. P before the show- she told us to swing by after and she’d hook us up with some free chicken.  We did, and it was amazing.  


Turns out loading in wasn’t bad at all!  At venues on 6th street, we have to carry our gear minimum 2 blocks for any show, and usually end up parking about 6 blocks away.  On Rainey St., they let us pull right up in the alley behind the venue and load in!  And then Greg and I found a sweet parking spot right by the river about 2 blocks away.  Not too shabby!  

I took this panorama on my iPhone while we were walking along the river.  Not sure how the quality is gonna translate to this blog, but hey let’s give it a shot and find out!







The show at Unbarlievable on Rainey St. was great!  A full hour before we even started, the venue was at capacity.  There was a big line out the door and they were doing one-in/one-out.   Good start to a show!  Most people there were wearing green (since it was St. Patty’s Day), so I tried to drop little bits of St. Patrick-related trivia between songs.  Such as – St. Patrick was captured by Irish pirates at age 16 and forced into slavery.  Who knew??



So yeah, played our show, had a good time, then Trevor and Devin took the van and left since they both had early flights in the morning.  Greg and I were driving the van back the next day, so we decided to hit the town.  First top – Ms. P’s for that sweet fried chicken!


Next stop – the Chuggin’ Monkey for The Noise FM‘s show! 


After that, exhaustion from all the walking and carrying gear from the last few days started to set in, so we headed to Minibar just down the street to sit on the couches for a minute and chill.  We noticed the large-format Jenga game they had there, and before long we had a pretty intense match going.  


My team was victorious, although Alex from the Noise FM caught a video clip of GVZ making the game-losing move, and it looked very much like some girl came up behind Greg and pushed him in the back, after which he immediately knocked the tower over.  Let’s just say Greg wasn’t completely aware of his surroundings at that time, so couldn’t say whether or not he had been pushed… the evidence was pretty strong though.  


After Minibar, Greg (master of Yelp) found our next destination – a 24-hour IHOP!  We had to wait about 40 minutes to get a table because the place was a shitshow, but it was well worth it.  I had the most delicious smoked sausage breakfast platter with a side of pancakes.  Greg ordered the cheeseburger omelette.  I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I didn’t get a picture of it, but it was about as large and unhealthy-looking as you would imagine.  It was pretty hilarious. 



We took a cab back to the apartment we were renting and got to bed around 4am.  About 30 minutes before Trevor and Devin were getting up to leave for their early flights.  Greg and I got about 5 hours of sleep and then got up and slowwwwly got ourselves together and into the van for the long drive home.  Bonus from not drinking much alcohol and drinking water and eating pancakes instead – neither of us were hungover!  In fact, other than feeling SO tired, we were physically in good shape!  It was a far cry from SXSW 2016 when Greg somehow got mono on Thursday and I dropped him off directly at the hospital when we arrived in Chicago.  


Our friend Noah told us to stop at Buc-ee’s on our way out of Texas.  It was a pretty crazy place.  Just a MASSIVE convenience store/gas station/truck stop type place.  They had all kinds of food and supplies and clothing.  Also this sweet statue in front:

Not sure how well I captured it on camera, but there were more gas pumps at this place than I’d ever seen in my life…














I tried to get a picture with my arm around the Buc-ee statue in front (holding my sweet new Buc-ee’s frisbee), but instead of looking like I have my arm around him, it looks pretty clearly like he’s (she’s?) grabbing my ass.  Hey I’m fine with that, I was in a pretty good mood!






Greg and I made horrendous time Saturday, mostly because I was constantly drinking water and needed a bathroom break every 60-90 minutes.  We did eventually get to our stop in Missouri without any major issues.  






Here’s Greg in the lobby while we were checking in.  He says he was doing some stretches, but I think he was going a little loopy from sleep deprivation






We had HBO in our hotel room, Mad Max was on.  I seriously considered watching all 2 hours of it but decided to go to sleep about halfway through.  I needed to catch up after all. 




And then, around 7pm on Sunday night, we completed our 1,100 mile drive and arrived at sweet home Chicago!  It’s so cool to see all the great skylines as you pass city after city driving through the country, but it’s an extra special feeling when you finally see that great Chicago skyline greeting you in the distance.  We were both exhausted, but we had made it home safely, and the trip was finally over.  


And there you have it, another SXSW in the books!  We have a couple days to catch up on sleep but need to start preparing right away for all the other shows we have coming up from the Chicago suburbs to Toronto.  Not to mention continuing with the “Hearts on Fire” presale, printing CDs, writing thank-you letters to all of our fans who contributed to the presale… the list goes on and on!  So, on that note, I think I should get back to work! 


Thank you all for your continued support!  From the venues that keep bringing us back to the fans who keep attending shows – your support means the world to us, and we will keep working hard to write the best music and play the best shows for you that we possibly can! 



Live Review – Chicago

Thanks to Elif from Third Coast Review for reviewing our show on 3.05.16 in Chicago.

Molehill: Camaraderie fills Martyrs’

Molehill Frontman Peter Manhart at Martyrs' Saturday night (Photo Courtesy: Kari Terzino)

Molehill Frontman Peter Manhart at Martyrs’ Saturday night (Photo Courtesy: Kari Terzino)

A determined man with voluminous, curly hair made his way through the crowd Saturday night in the middle of a Molehill performance at Martyrs’. Even in darkness, it only took me a second to realize that this man was Molehill’s vocalist, Peter Manhart. It’s true that production elements are more than sound.

Saturday night marked Molehill’s send-off to Austin’s SxSW music festival. A lot of the audience members already knew music of this band, who’s been touring nationally for some time now. There were long-haired head bangers to my left, and spectators enjoying drinks at their tables to my right, while staying focused on the monumental sounds that were blooming on stage.

Paired with the space in Martyrs’ and Manhart’s vocals, which soared from atop the bar for “Two Souls,”Bassist Trevor Jones, Keyboardist Greg Van Zuiden and Drummer Devin Staples shared a deep bond with their audience.

“We didn’t even know he was going to do that,” said Jones of Manhart’s climb to the top of the bar, adding, “but that’s what people remember the most about a performance.” It was clear that the singer surprised the rest of the band, as its remaining members exchanged grins at the beginning of the song.

“Two Souls” was my favorite song of the evening; its placement towards the end of the set list gave the set a conclusive, firework feeling.

Manhart’s power, standing above the audience and his band mates lent itself to the song, whose lyrics describe a difficult time of letting go of someone. Even though he cries of separation, he stands above the sadness and the struggle to express what the protagonist of “Two Souls” feels.

Molehill Bassist Trevor Jones at Martyrs’ Saturday night (Photo Courtesy: Kari Terzino)

Adding to the power of instrumentation was the keyboard, which played the important role of lighting to someone who suffers from synesthesia. The colors of the keys bring together all Molehill’s voices, and an uplifting juxtaposition to songs like this one. This band uses the keyboard to complement Manhart’s vocals, and is a highlight of the Molehill experience.

In fact, this band’s sound is comparable to that of Muse, especially with its use of the keys as a major part of its showcase. Muse Frontman Matt Bellamy’s piano lights up in different colors with each note he plays. Manhart’s voice can be compared to Bellamy’s, as well, in that Manhart’s projects over the accompanying instruments, and fills the room. But there’s really no one voice to pick over another, as each one of Molehill’s members complements the next.

Another production element not to go unnoticed was the venue the band filled. As was mentioned, everywhere I looked, someone was tapping a foot to the rhythm, or throwing a hand in the air while reciting lyrics. Although this band isn’t yet “world famous,” it was fascinating to observe the connection so many people already have with Molehill two studio albums and an EP in.

That’s easy, though, when a tribute is also paid to the late David Bowie. Molehill sprinkled in “Space Oddity” towards the middle of its set. It was refreshing to hear a local band play such a famous song with its own, crisp sound.

Chemistry was not only apparent between the band members, but also between themselves and us. A venue’s layout makes an impact when performers know how to take advantage of it, and, as a result, leave everyone wanting to get involved in the music. Everywhere I looked, it seemed like conversations circulated around the band. While singing back-up, Jones shared a long smile with fans in the front row, who were head banging, singing with and worshipping Molehill.

Movement, space and instrumentation brought chemistry to Martyrs’ Saturday night.

Check it out on Third Coast’s Website here

New Video – “Apeman” (The Kinks)

As part of our Pledgemusic campaign in late 2015, one of the rewards we offered was to record a video of ourselves covering any song that the pledger requested.  “Apeman” by The Kinks was requested by Lance Nicholls.  Lance is a close friend of Molehill, and he has been requesting that we cover this song for years.  He has always talked about how he loves the lyrics and how it’s a great social commentary.  We decided that the best way to do this song was not to try to re-create what the Kinks did, but to create our own instrumental arrangement to give it a “Molehill feel”.  The original version has a lighter, more classic feel, driven by an upright piano riff and clean guitars during the verses.  We decided to build our version around a distorted bass riff, but also attempted to keep some of the light “bounce” of the original using a high syncopated guitar track.  We also added some strings during the chorus, and changed the 50s-throwback feel of the bridge to a heavier call-and-response lead guitar section.  We recorded the audio and video at Kingsize Sound Labs and Tribeca Flashpoint Academy in Chicago.  As with our other Pledgemusic cover (“I Wont Let You Go” by Snow Patrol), we had a great time putting this together.  We are huge fans of The Kinks, and it was a very fun challenge to take a classic song like this and totally revamp it to make it our own.  Lance, thanks so much for the pledge, and we hope you enjoy!