Why not make the last of my two and a half days in Austin the longest day of all? That way I could cram in as much live music as possible before heading back to Dallas.
So, instead of heading downtown in the early afternoon like the previous days, my dad and I journeyed down there in the late morning, arriving at Whole Foods shortly after eleven.
Yes, that is the Whole Foods store that sells natural and organic foods, and on the rooftop of the store (which was a nice patio area that even had a small playground area for kids) Quantum Collective and Amazon MP3 were presenting a showcase dubbed the Southwest Invasion.
It was an odd setting for a concert, but hey, whatever works.
The bands had started even earlier than when my dad and I arrived, and stumbled across a gem of a band from Echo Park, California, named Rainbow Jackson. They were essentially done, only having a few songs left to do, but what I heard was sensational.
They are self-described as scuzzed-up power pop, and while that is accurate, they could just as easily be considered rock ‘n’ roll. There was also somewhat of a dreamy quality added to it by Sam Dagger and Chad Carlisle, the lead guitarist and singer and rhythm guitarist, respectively, giving a slight 60’s vibe to the music. And speaking of Chad, he has an amazing set of pipes. Just an all around incredible voice.
I wish I had been able to see more of the bands set, or even another show or two they undoubtedly played while here in Austin.
They have an EP and a single available on their BANDCAMP PAGE, and I should mention both are free to get, so go download them.
The Royalty was up next, and after hearing many good things about this El Paso, Texas based band, I was excited to finally get to see a show.
Their brief 19-minute long set focused entirely on their 2012 full-length, “Lovers”, and they began with “Other Boys”. That song (and their music in general) also had a dreamy quality to it, only in the indie rock vein, and came courtesy largely of keyboard player, Daniel Marin. Fitting perfectly with it was the sweet and even soulful voice of singer, Nicole Boudreau, as she sang about a love gone by. Things got pushed a little closer to the rock realm with “Say the Word”, and allowed guitarist, Jesus Apodaca, bassist, Mike Hernandez, and drummer, Joel Quintana, to get more into it and rock out, while Nicoles’ voice soared on the chorus, “Just say the word and I would never leave, I would never leave you…” “This next song is called I Want You.” Nicole said, which was about the extent of the talking she did, aside from announcing who they were, as they had to rush through their set. After that catchy, up-tempo number, they did “Please Lie”, which is a genius blend of multiple more nostalgic styles of music, with a bit of a modern twist. I would have loved if they could have played an additional twenty minutes, because I was really caught up in the music, but by now their time was almost up, and as Jesus and Mike swapped out instruments, Nicole set up their final song, which was their single, “Bartender”, which arguable was the best song of their set.
Even with a short set, the band still lived up to what praise I had heard, as well as my expectations just from listening to the music.
They are unlike anything else I’ve heard, and while it could be easy to say they’re simply a pop band upon first listen, they’re really much more complex. As it says on their bio on Facebook, some of their influences are the “…girl-groups of the Motown and Spector era…” which is evident, and predominantly is manifested in Nicoles’ unique voice. It’s not just the range she has that is remarkable, but the fact that she can have a soulful quality to her singing when needed, or can even fit into that Motown genre with ease.
They’re a very talented group, whose already got some good accomplishments under their belt, including having their music featured on numerous television shows, and with a show and sound like this, I imagine that momentum will only continue. So go see them now, while they’re still relatively unknown, and you can catch them in a more intimate setting.
They don’t have any tour dates on the books right now, but just keep an eye open, and check out both of their albums in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP.
After them was one of the bigger name acts playing this day party, and that was Casey Crescenzo and his group of touring musicians, collectively known as The Dear Hunter.
They got the same 19-minute long set, but as long as their songs are, they only got to play a handful of tracks, most coming from various EP’s in the Color Spectrum collection, like “Echo”, from the “Orange” EP. It worked well as an opening song, starting off slow, but quickly gaining speed, with the best moment being the instrumental break, where Casey and his five band mates, two other guitarists, a bassist and drummer, got to cut loose, and even with the tight conditions on stage, still managed to rock out. They wound it seamlessly into their next song with some mangled guitar notes that lasted for a bit, before their drummer started in, giving the song more body and revealing it to be the final track from the “Yellow” EP, “Misplaced Devotion”. It raised the already high mood exponentially, and that’s something a great band would do, start the listener off at one place, then bring them up more. Also, the harmonies on that song, as Casey and a few of the other musicians shouted, “Ooooohhhhh” repeatedly, were to die for. The oldest (and longest) song the rock/indie/progressive outfit did was “The Pimp and the Priest”, before concluding things with “Home”, which seemed like it was written to be a closing song, and provided a great ending to this brief little set where all the songs seemed to tell a small piece of a larger story.
I wouldn’t say I had actually seen a The Dear Hunter show before, but I had caught the last bit of his set last year when the band toured with Anthony Green, and since then I had been eager to see the band. I still am actually, at least a full set from them. Part of me know even regrets coming to Austin on Thursday, and wishes I had stayed in Dallas to see the headlining show that TDH did that night. But I digress…
Though short, they still put on a phenomenal performance. Caseys’ voice sounds every bit is amazing live as it does on the recordings, and that, along with his ability to pen songs that tell a story, are the two best things the band has going for them. And when you combine those with their lively performance, you get something that’s out of this world.
They recently released their latest album, “Migrant”, which they’ve been touring in support of. A few dates remain on the current tour, and can be found HERE. I hope more will be added sometime, too, and if they are, hopefully they’ll come back through Dallas. Speaking of the record, you can buy it HERE, along with their many other releases.
I had thoroughly enjoyed all those bands I’d seen here so far, but the one I was most excited to see was Erin Austin, who is probably better known by her stage moniker, OK Sweetheart.
The title track of her 2011 debut, “Home”, opened her and her bands set. It’s a infectious little tune, and during parts of it they had almost everyone clapping right along with the drumbeats, and that audience participation made things all the more fun. “Traitor” was another track from that album that made it into their abbreviated set, with Erin crooning out the lyrics, “…I keep on smiling at it all, ‘cause I’ve got something that they don’t, and wouldn’t you like to know what is…”, while banging away at the keys on her piano. They followed it with “You Let Me Down”, which is one of the best examples of the bands self-described “heartbreak pop” sound and is chock-full of emotion, then moved on to one of their many new songs, which I believe was titled “Looking”. It was really good, however I was more partial to the next and final song of their 17-minute long set, “Come Back to Me”. Erin left her piano for that one, and asked everyone to clap along to the beat for the duration of it, which she also did. It was a very solid song, and is just one more of her newer songs that has now become a favorite of mine.
There were many others I would have liked to have heard this day, too, if only they had, had the time for it. Still, it was a great set they did, and out of all the bands I saw here on top of Whole Foods, they were my personal favorite.
The touring musicians that playing alongside her were some of the best I’ve seen in OK Sweetheart, out of the few times I have seen them live. The guitarist, bassist and drummer all had good stage presence and were just great musicians. As for Erin, I’ve said this (or at least something similar to it) each time I’ve seen her and I still stick by it, she is one of the best vocalists out there, and not just in the female vocalist category, either. Her voice is heavenly, yet there’s a real force to it that will capture your attention from the first word, and keep you fascinated right up until the end of the last song.
You can find the “Home” album in ITUNES, plus a live recording of one of their newer songs “If You Let It”, which is a gorgeous, amazing song.
Afterwards, we headed towards Downtown Austin, where the majority of the action was.
The specific destination was a newer venue called Amped, which featured stages both upstairs and downstairs, and the Red Gorilla Music Festival had filled both stages with some great talent. It was here (and downstairs) that the Seattle, Washington based act, The Local Strangers, were playing.
When talking about another band I saw while down in Austin, I mentioned Noisetrade.com, and that website was also responsible for me coming across this band.
They were already playing by time we got there, but I did see the final 30-minutes of their show.
The duo of Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart, both of whom sang and he played an acoustic guitar, were finishing up one song, then announced their next one was “Mr. Blackberry”, from their 2012 full-length, “Left for Better”. It was a short song, but was utterly astounding. Matt really utilized his guitar, using it to add a slight percussion effect to it, while Aubrey killed it with her strong, undeniable voice. “…This next song’s called Partner in Crime” Matt said, as they brought things down a little. With this more folksy song you stated to see all the layers the band has, though, as they alternated between who sang, and even harmonized at times giving the song a lovely layer, making it one of the most beautiful songs of their set. In setting up their next song, Aubrey mentioned that the day before they had played it in a church and it was little awkward. “…You’ll understand when you here it…” she said, as Matt began “Devil and a Stiff Drink”. I’m they sure they did feel a bit odd playing that song in a house of God, especially with the lyrics, some of which are, “…I don’t need no savior, don’t wanna be saved, don’t need no holy roller telling me just how I gotta behave. Just give me my Devil and a good stiff drink…” That doesn’t mean it’s not a fantastic song, though, and another good one was “Give Up the Ghost”, which transitioned the show into a slight somber mood. “Uptown” brought things back up, though, and even on this stripped down version the song still had a certain peaceful quality to it, which was only enhanced by the upbeat tone Matt had while singing. They came across as being very personable, talking to the meager crowd in between every song, and now they added a bit of a storyteller’s vibe to the show. Matt mentioned the next one was written by Aubrey, after she started watching the TV show Breaking Bad, catching up on all five seasons of the series in just a short span of time. As they said, “…It’s a lot to take in…” It was a really great song that will hopefully make it onto their next record someday, and it was also the last original one they did. In setting up their final song, they mentioned they have a full-band back in Seattle and that they do a cover of a Patty Griffin song, which is what they closed with. That song was “Forgiveness”, and they did a beautiful rendition of it.
I was truly surprised by this band, mainly because with only one instrument, and that being an acoustic instrument no less, they managed to be almost every bit as loud as a full blown electric group.
The best part however, was definitely the Americana/Folk brand of music they played and the vast range it had in every aspect, and how they could be doing a stunning song with some harmonies one moment, and then switch gears to something that really packed a punch. Switching it up like that ensured that they never got monotonous and always kept the attention of the crowd… Well, that and the stellar voices each Matt and Aubrey possessed.
You can find both of their records in either ITUNES or BANDCAMP, so give them a listen. They also have some shows coming up, so check out their TOUR DATES for a complete list.
The Heart of Texas Rockfest was the next destination, mainly because if I didn’t have anything listed at a specific time, why not go there and see who was playing. And the band setting up on stage was one I had seen Thursday after first getting down here, Love and a .38.
Singer, Ryan Hudson, started the Los Angeles based bands set with a joke, saying they were about to do a show of nothing but “Freebird”. Danny Excess then launched the band into “Shots at Sunset”, while Ryan thrashed about to the music before having to start singing. His voice was a little (or a lot) worse for wear compared to the other day, especially on the chorus, “Lights at midnight, halfway home…”, where he almost fell completely flat. I can’t fault him, after all, a song or two in he mentioned they had done “a million shows” in four days. “…At least it feels like it.” He added. Unfortunately, that’s a side effect of playing multiple shows in a day, and after seeing them the other night, I know what they’re capable of when they’re at one hundred percent. “”This next song is called Lovely Lies.” He said, as his band mates edged into the killer rock song. “…This next song is our most Texas song…” he announced after they finished the last song, then looked at the rest of the band to see if they agreed. “It’s not really about Texas…” he clarified, “…But it’s our most Texas song…” The song was “Just a Woman”, and Domo Domaracki helped get it going, with the almost bluesy notes he cranked out on his guitar. They followed it with their all out rock song “Rock ‘n Lola”, which really allowed bassist, Justin Emord, and Danny to let loose and roam about the stage and shredding on their instruments. With that, their short 21-minute set was almost up, but not before their cover of a rock classic. “…I know it’s night, but we’re gonna do this song anyway, just because it’s fun…’ Ryan stated, segueing them into “Sunglasses at Night”, which they do a great cover of, even with Ryan having an off day.
Honestly, no, they weren’t as good this time around as the other show of theirs I had caught, and I think I made the reason for that clear. But despite being his voice being shot, Ryan still acted like a professional frontman, and gave it his all singing, not trying to half-ass it or anything. And regardless, music wise, they still sounded excellent.
You can find the EP they have in ITUNES, along with enough singles to make another EP. And one of those singles is “Sunglasses at Night”.
As soon as they finished, it was on to Peckerheads, where Civil Twilight was getting ready to play a set.
Despite the band being a fairly big name act, I hadn’t even heard of them until seeing they were playing another free show down here, then decided to catch this one at Peckerheads instead.
The four-piece band, who originated from Cape Town, South Africa, was still setting up when we got there, and had amassed quite the crowd, all of whom seemed eager for the band to start.
They began their 25-minute long set with the explosive “Soldier”, and I liked how it eased you in. Kevin Dailey’s keyboard playing and the notes guitarist, Andrew McKellar, churned out, while soft, were more than enough to reel you in. It was the chorus where the song suddenly sprang to live, though, as singer and bassist, Steven McKellar, shouted, “…I don’t stop ‘til the end of the show I don’t stop ‘til my country says so I don’t know why I raise this hell I’m just a soldier, fighting for someone else…” The craftsmanship that went into the song was very noticeable live, and I loved the nice ebb and flow it had, which kept you fascinated throughout it. To say I was hooked would be an understatement. They slowed things down a little with another track from their self-titled album, Trouble”. It was on that one where the band, and in particular Steven’s voice, reminded me a lot of U2 and their frontman, Bono. It didn’t come across like they were trying to emulate that band, but regardless, that’s not a bad group to sound like. Steven set up their next song, saying that a fan had requested it, and went into a little speech about how when someone does request a song, a band should play it, because that’s such a huge compliment that someone does know the song and likes it so much. That was the gist of it, anyway, and earned Civil Twilight a lot of respect in my book. I’ve seen and heard stories of other bands who cuss at fans for requesting a song, so it’s nice to see a band that appreciates their fans enough that they’ll honor a request. The song was “Quiet In My Town”, which was the longest and most beautiful song of their set. “Today I heard that someone left this earth, that someone disappeared, left no mark here. Today I heard that someone just got up and left himself lying on the ground…” crooned Steven, who had switched out to a guitar for this song, or at least part of it. The somber mood it set conveyed the sadness perfectly, and was even beautiful in a sense, before transitioning into a full-scale rock song, when Steven got his bass back and Richard Wouters began pounding out the beats on the drums. The band wrote something else when they did that song, and it truly is a masterpiece. That brought them to the final song of their set, and saw Steven take over the keyboard duties, while Kevin got his bass in order to do “Letters From the Sky”. What really set this song off was Andrew playing his guitar with a bow, like how a violinist does, adding a pretty texture to the song, which also started out rather tranquil, but eventually became a force to be reckoned with.
That was it, and they started working to get their gear off stage, while some fans screamed, “But you have to play River!” The guys shrugged it off at first, but then looked at the sound guy, like they might do it if they had time. “I’m sorry, we’re out of time.” Steven informed the audience, and he seemed very genuine with that, seeming sorry that they couldn’t do this other song so many people wanted to hear.
I’m perfectly happy with what they did, though, and while more would have been nice, it was an amazing set they did nonetheless.
What I enjoyed most about them was how each song tells an actual story. There’s true depth and meaning to their music, which sadly doesn’t always seem to be a key factor in music these days.
They have a few festival shows happening this summer, one of which will be in Chattanooga, Tennessee in June, and the other will take place in July in Cincinnati, Ohio. Check out their TOUR DATES page for full info, and also head over to ITUNES and check out their two records.
As soon as they finished it was down the stairs and out the doors, making our way to The Dizzy Rooster where a Chicago based band, Hessler, was scheduled to be just starting.
They were indeed in full swing, and there were plenty of other people who wanted to see the band as well, making it hard to even push through the crowd to get back to where the stage was.
After finishing up the song they were on, they announced the next one was “Kamikazi”, which comes from their debut EP, “Bad Blood”. The slick guitar notes and rapid, loud drumbeats at the start made it an easy song to headbang to, but they really kicked it up several notches once Lariyah Daniels started singing. She, guitarists, Igz Kincaid and Frankie Sripada, and bassist, Erik Michael, ran all over the stage, not letting the tight, close conditions on stage restrict them in the least. That made it quickly apparent that the live show was where these guys excelled and that this was going to be an assault on all the senses. After powering through another song, they moved on to the darker, “Confessions”. There seemed to be a little more grit, piss and vinegar in Lariyah’s singing on this song than the others, especially on the last verse, “…Come to me, come to me, deadly sins. Raise your glass and let’s see who wins. I am my own God and I know it well, I forgive you father and I’ll see you in hell…” “This one’s called Taste the Lips.” Lariyah said, shortly after finishing the last song, as they kept things moving right along with another adrenaline pumping hard rock/metal song. Igz and Frankie had been adding some backing vocals periodically throughout those previous songs, but now Igz assumed more of the lead role on “Wicked World”. His voice was better than I was expecting, but the best part I thought was the way his voice intertwined with Lariyahs’ on this more co-sung track. “Rising Sign” was one of their most exhilarating songs of their set, and also featured one of the coolest and most memorable things I’ve ever seen a band do. Frankie and Igz took the center stage for some guitar solos, but they didn’t do it in the ordinary way. Each moved their guitar to their back, then each bent over, interlocking in a way. The way they did it, Frankie was facing the drum kit and Igz the crowd, and he played Frankie’s guitar like that, before they did a 180 so Frankie was facing the audience, doing a solo on Igzs’ guitar. Once they brought that song to an end, they did another from their EP, “Windy City Wild Child”, before concluding, I think, with “Last Alive” Or at least the crowd thought they were concluding the show. “Do y’all want to hear one more?!” Igz screamed, which was greeted with a good deal of fanfare, but the sound guy didn’t seem to approve. “Y’all need to make it quick.” He said. They did, and Igz screamed out the title of this last song, which was “Shark Attack”, and truly was the best way to end this memorable 36-minute long set.
I mentioned in my review of the previous night that one band put on the best overall show I saw down here in Austin, but Hessler by far put on the most vigorous performance. Like I said, they still managed to tear it up, despite the small stage, and there were even a few moments where Igz stood on a barrel that sit in front of the stage, rocking out a solo, and Lariyah did the same thing during another song.
Their stage presence and energy was out of this world and they were unrelenting with it. Definitely one of the best live acts I’ve ever seen.
The only thing with their set was I had a lot of trouble hearing the vocals, which were overpowered by all the instruments. I could understand bit and pieces, but I would have loved the show even more if they had really been audible.
Go, check out the band. You can find both of their albums and a single in ITUNES. Also, they will apparently be playing one day of Rocklahoma in Pryor, OK in late May. So if you plan on attending, check out Hessler. And for all their dates, go HERE.
Waterloo Records was the next stop, and getting there required walking several blocks west, arriving there about ten minutes after five.
Dawes was scheduled to start at five, and sure enough were already into their set. The parking lot outside of Waterloo was packed, though, and a spot with a good view of the stage was next to impossible to find, which resulted in not having a view of this Americana/Folk band.
“My Way Back Home” was the first song I heard them do, and was a good introduction to the band. I’d heard of them, but had never listened to their stuff before this, so I didn’t really know what they sounded like, but after hearing it, I loved it. They have the perfect Alt/Country/Americana/Folk sound, and Taylor Goldsmiths’ voice was built to sing it, as was demonstrated on their next song, “Someone Will”, from their newest album. They followed it with the final song from the “Nothing Is Wrong” album, “A Little Bit of Everything”, whose lyrics make you take pause and think about life, at least it did for me, and is one of the best story songs I’ve heard in a long time. “Fire Away” came next, and was unexpectedly the last song of their set, and upon finishing it Taylor apologized, simply saying they had evidently ran out of time. Thing was, he seemed as shocked as the fans were.
Especially after hearing them I was hoping for a little longer set than that, but what a taste this was. I’m definitely now a Dawes fan, and hopefully will be able to check out their show at Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas on June 1st, as part of the KXT Summer Cut concert, which will feature a ton of other awesome bands, both national and local Dallas bands. Dawes will also be on tour in support of their new album, so check out their TOUR DATES for list of where they’ll be. You can also of course find all of their records in ITUNES.
Now it was time to make the hike back to downtown to start winding down this day…
(Check out the remaining post about my SXSW experience, which will be posted on April 19th.)