Greg Ackerman - 365 Things to Do in Austin, TX

Greg Ackerman

6 POSTS 0 COMMENTS

Oskar Blues Brewery Austin is turning one year-old Saturday. To celebrate they’ve put together a stellar psych-rock bill featuring The Bright Light Social Hour with support from Abram Shook and The Halfways. Fans can win tickets by tagging 365 Things Austin’s Instagram account and a friend you’d like to take to the show. A second chance to win a pair of tickets comes in the form of reposting this story and tagging us on Facebook and Twitter. Contest runs through noon on Saturday. If you would rather just purchase advance tickets, here’s the link. RSVP via Facebook here.  

Four new beers will be available in the tap room only  meaning you can’t run out to HEB and grab a sixer. These are Texas-only offerings. There will be a Brewhouse specialty lager, gin barrel-aged Mama’s Lil Yella Pils, the introduction of an imperial red ale and a beer called Spinner. Food from Gobble Gobble and Hecho en Queso (4-11pm) will be available for purchase.  Fans will also have the opportunity to pick up a custom, live screen-printed shirt from Fine Southern Gentlemen.  

All that good food and drink is great but the reason you want to party with Oskar Blues Brewery is the great slate of Austin bands performing. The Bright Light Social Hour (TBLSH) has two full-length records out and a third on the way according to tour manager Katie Marschner. Their blues-rock debut featured a few local hits including, “Detroit,” “Back and Forth” and the unforgettable “Shanty.” The band shifted gears with their next full-length, heading in a decidedly psychedelic direction with “Space is the Place.” 

TBLSH recently performed at Solstice Festival earlier this year with Built to Spill, JJ Grey and Mofro, CAPYAC and Radio Moscow among others. We overheard musicians backstage talking about TBLSH. They were impressed. They’d also forgotten how good the quartet led by Curtis Roush’s blazing guitar. Jack O’Brien (bass), Joe Mirasole (drums) and Edward Braillif (keys) is. 

Supporting acts, The Halfways and Abram Shook represent a different take on psych rock than TBLSH but no less enjoyable. The Halfways ethereal sound is both haunting and lush, like a dreamy sonic landscape punctuated by a standard setup that included an eerie organ on one of their new tracks co-founder Daniel Fernandez sent us. They call it psych-noir. We call it trip-out tunes that are perfect to chill out to after a long day at work.   The quintet also features Mohawk Austin Marketing Director, Taylor Catherine on bass. 

We first caught the unconventional Abram Shook at The Parish on Sixth street several years ago. Vocal effects and songwriting produce a sound akin to Walker Lukens’ vocal gymnastics but with a psych bent. Think songwriter with a predilection for weird sounds.  

 

Two Saturday’s ago Pennyfest Music Festival at Empire Control Room and Garage produced by by Austin firm, Penny Loafer PR featured a solid local line-up anchored by San Antonio’s Girl in a Coma who headlined the outdoor stage. The rest of the roster was filled with a slew of great Austin acts including Emily Wolfe, Lincoln Durham, My Jerusalem, Otis the Destroyer, Slomo Drags, Ghost Wolves and MCG. We also discovered the amazing Darkbird thanks to a tip from ACL Live’s Whitney LeMond. From MCG’s indie-pop to Otis the Destroyer’s heavy guitar-oriented rock, a wide range of music was presented at the mini-fest run by Australian founders Rob Pascolo and Sharna Haine who relocated to Austin a few years ago to launch Penny Loafer PR. 

Arriving after indie-popsters Slomo Drags took the garage stage, we watched the quartet work their way through mostly new material then noticed record producer Matt Parmenter (Ice Cream Factory) singing along with the band. He mentioned he’d produced the new record which despite finishing three months ago still doesn’t have a distribution deal or label to put out the album. Slomo Drags have been courting local and national indie labels to find the right fit but haven’t managed it yet. We wouldn’t be surprised if an Austin label picked up the record. Several outfits come to mind; Chicken Ranch Records, Austin Town Hall Records and Modern Outsider all seem like appropriate labels. We could also see them on Secretly Canadian, French Kiss Records or Paper Garden Records. Whatever happens, be sure to check the new record once it drops. 

Naturally we followed up an indie-pop set with more indie-pop from MCG on the Control Room stage inside. The low ceilings, light and projectors complimented Mariclaire Gamble’s remarkable vocals perfectly. With a crack quartet of musicians backing her, led by lead guitarist, David Tenczar. Gamble’s band manages just the right combination of pop, electronic and rock sounds to turn their set into a joyous party. Check out their latest, Outside EP produced by Austin’s Frenchie Smith. We think you’ll agree this band has a big future ahead. 

Next we caught hard-rockers, Otis the Destroyer on the same stage. Led by Taylor Wilkins this guitar-driven act has come into it’s own on the release of latest record, “Keep Bashing,” also produced by the prolific Smith at his Bubble Studio. Wilkins has endured recent lineup changes like when his longtime bassist, Kyle Robarge relocated to Seattle this year. You can still hear Robarge on the new album. Andrew Dalton has stepped in to take over on bass when the band performs live. Aside from Wilkins exceptional stage presence and musicianship, drummer Clellan Hyatt is a dynamo. Hyatt’s atypical cymbal arrangement (he places them up higher than normal) makes him even more appealing to watch play. His arms are everywhere all at once. 

365 Things Austin favorite, My Jerusalem appeared next on the inside stage. While we really love this band, the PA inside the Control Room was turned up a bit too loud for the relatively small space (compared to the Garage stage outside). There were points during the performance when they sounded distorted, as if the mixing board engineer was not aware of the issue. All of that went away though when bandleader Jeff Klein cued up his lone crooner, “No One’s Gonna Give You Love.” This song that has a hook that grabs ahold of the listener and doesn’t let go until it’s over. It’s a radio hit waiting to happen. We’ll admit to putting the tune on repeat when it dropped last year on Washington Square Records. If you didn’t click the link provided, we recommend backing up a second to take a listen. 

The highlight of the evening was an outstanding set by Darkbird. Fronted by relentless vocalist Kelly Barnes, this Austin rock outfit puts on a incredibly entertaining show. Barnes dressed in a black jumpsuit and boots with ringlets of curly auburn hair framing her face,  cavorted about the stage belting out lyrics as her band chugged along behind her. There simply are not many bands with a lead singer as animated as Barnes on stage. Her enthusiasm is infectious. Even our photographer was seen grinning ear-to-ear while watching the performance. 

Darkbird’s band bio refuses to pigeonhole the band into a genre of music beyond rock. Some have described their sound as indie. They’re indie in the sense that they’re unsigned to a record label but we wouldn’t go as far to call them indie rockers. They’re just plain rock ‘n rollers who know how to craft a good song and put on a helluva show. Check their new singles, “Daredevil” and “Bad Self” which dropped last month. 

The band’s genesis started with Barnes and Brian Cole, who co-writes the music with Barnes. We asked how they define their music. Barnes responded, “I remember saying to Brian ” I wonder what we’ll sound like” when we began and he just said, “whatever it is, it will sound like us.”  

Barnes continued on, citing a few influences, “That said, I’ve always loved The Pixies, PJ Harvey, Annie Lennox etc…”

Frankly we’re looking forward to another Darkbird show. They play an acoustic set at Collide ATX September 27 and a full electric show at Oskar Blues Brewing on September 29. 

Head to the author’s Do512 calendar for more local music suggestions or search the site for upcoming shows by the acts featured in this story. 

Wu-Tang’s GZA returns to Austin Sunday, August 20 reuniting with local Latin funksters Brownout at Empire Control Room. We’re giving away a pair of tickets to folks who tag 365 Things Austin and share this preview on Facebook or Twitter. Fans will have another chance to win tickets on our Instagram page. The rapper also known as The Genius (Gary Grice) first collaborated with the Grupo Fantasma spin-off in 2012, performing his 1995 solo masterpiece Liquid Swords with the group during South by Southwest (SXSW). It was a seminal moment for the founding member of Wu-Tang who stated after the performance, “The chemistry is amazing. Expect more shows from us.”

Following the collaboration’s debut the show travelled to Brooklyn and other locales,  most notably Bonnaroo Music Festival. We caught subsequent performances at ACL Live and Utopiafest. Both were exceptional shows.  GZA’s smooth flow and intelligent rap pairs well with Brownout’s improvisational jazz/funk rhythms. The Grammy-winning artists instinctively leave musical space for The Genius to lay his urban wisdom on the audience. Even fans not familiar with Wu-Tang or GZA’s solo material will find the show compelling. 

The project was a precursor to GZA’s bandmate Ghostface Killah working with Toronto’s BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) to produce Sour Soul early in 2015. The jazz trio subsequently worked with Kaytranada on an album. The hip-hop/jazz collaborative trend is similar to the 1990’s when hip-hop/jazz partnerships began cropping up, starting with A Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory (1991) to Guru’s wildly popular Jazzmatazz series, finally winding down the decade with The Roots classic 1999 record, Things Fall Apart. Leave it to an Austin act and GZA to bring back the trend and up the musical ante. 

Brownout drummer John Speice confirmed the set list for the upcoming show will be similar to previous performances stating they’ll play “Liquid Swords and a few Wu bangers.” Surely there will be a few choruses of “Wu-Tang clan ain’t nuthing ta f’ wit” right?

Don’t forget to share this post on Facebook or Twitter and tag 365 Things Austin for a chance to win tickets to the event

Watch GZA and Brownout play Liquid Swords at Bonnaroo. 

       

Girl Talk

Picture 1 of 62

All Photos: Andrea Dane

In it’s fourth year, blazing hot Float Fest near San Marcos at Cool River Ranch graduated from small festival of primarily Texas acts to an expanded slate of popular national acts. Bigger acts, Weezer, Cage the Elephant, Mac Miller, MGMT, Girl Talk and more attracted enough interest to sell-out the event.

Organizers doubled down on the layout of the grounds, increasing the size of the festival footprint while spurning the permanent stage at the east end of the property for a larger Sun stage positioned near the front gates, further from the main Water Stage located near the back of the property. The new stage set-up was big enough to hold Matt Schultz (Cage the Elephant) and his band in front of the weekend’s largest crowd. Carnival rides from last year’s event returned to entertain fans between performances. Overall, Float Fest 2017 was a hit.

While most of the attention over the weekend focused on headliners, Texas acts turned in stellar performances . Yes, Arianna Grande showed up for her boyfriend Mac Miller’s set but Sweet Spirit, Wild Child, Walker Lukens, Neon Indian and Heartbyrne all delivered great performances despite the 100-degree weather and high humidity.

Talking Heads cover band Heart Byrne kicked off music on the Sun Stage Saturday with a deep cut set list that ended with 1979 radio hit, “Take Me to the River.” Sporting matching day-glo green outfits, Heart Byrne turned David Byrne’s funky, eclectic legacy into a bonafide jam. Fans who want a Talking Heads experience by a group that plays music to the strength of their ensemble will love how tight this act is. Heart Byrne regularly plays Austin. Catch them next at The Mohawk August 12.

Denton’s Neon Indian took the Sun Stage just prior to Mac Miller. The band is led by Alan Palomo who also performs solo. The indie-synth-pop act took the opportunity to showcase songs from their latest effort, “Night School.” Stream the new album on Spotify to get a feel for the set list. The heat and humidity during the warmest part of the day may have put a damper on the audience but Neon Indian never faltered, offering an impassioned set that was a treat for hardcore and new fans alike. The band will begin a West Coast and South American tour mid-August.

While popular rapper, Mac Miller attracted hordes of young fans to his performance on the Water stage, an equal number of fans arrived early at the Sun Stage to get a good spot for a set by Girl Talk (Greg Gillis) which followed his show. Although Miller primarily sings original songs, the rapper and producer could learn a few stage tricks from Gillis who specializes in DJ mashups and sampling. As Girl Talk, Gillis displays non-stop energy, inviting fans to dance behind him on stage while inflatables, a confetti cannon and stage hands propelling toilet paper into the crowd via customized guns enhanced the party atmosphere. Typically we find similar DJ sets at festivals lacking something but Girl Talk somehow overcomes those obstacles to induce an hour of sheer bliss that is shared by the performer and his audience. With the sun going down along with the temperatures at Float Fest, there was not a better act to put in that time slot. Girl Talk has only two dates listed on his tour schedule currently.

The first day of Float Fest concluded with shows by Passion Pit and Zedd. Sometime after those performances Passion Pit frontman, Michael Angelakos announced via Twitter he would not be pursuing commercial music work while he focused on development of his The Wishart Group, an artist support organization Angelakos created to help musicians maintain mental health while pursuing a career in entertainment. He made a statement to Pitchfork to clarify he is not going on hiatus and new material would be forthcoming but would be concentrating on his project in the wake of suicide by peer, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. Angelakos has previously made public his own challenges in dealing with mental illness which led to his creation of The Wishart Group.

Sunday, following Walker Lukens‘ vocal gymnastics on the Sun Stage, red-hot Austin glam/indie-rockers Sweet Spirit played for a modest crowd while many fans were still in the water tubing. That didn’t stop bandleaders Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen from powering their group through a slate of of fantastic songs. They led off with new single, “The Power.” Ellis punctuated drum beats by thrusting her hips forward, setting an aggressive tone for the show. The group soldiered on with fan favorites, “Baby When I Close My Eyes” and “If You Wanna.” The former song’s sound evokes Spoon’s influence on the band. Austin’s KUTX had the tune in heavy rotation after it was released. Drummer, Danny Lion once mentioned he moved to Austin because Spoon made it here.The group has since toured with Spoon as frontman, Brit Daniel is a fan. Sweet Spirit might be the next great Austin rock act to make it nationally like their idols. The band just announced a surprise show at Barracuda in Austin on Thursday. Tickets will be available at the door.

Celebrated Central Texas act, Wild Child appeared on the Sun Stage with an expanded lineup featuring seven players including an electric violin backin Kelsey Wilson (lead vocals/violin)  and Alexander Beggins (vocals/ukulele). The pair share songwriting duties. After shifting from a raw, folksy sound to a more polished approach with their last album, “Fools” (2015) Wild Child is poised to gain more prominent national radio play with their amalgam of folk, rock and Americana. Fans who made the trek to Float Fest were rewarded with a one-off show by the band who just announced their only upcoming show is at Utopia Fest in late September. Beggins told us the group has been spending most of the year working on their highly anticipated new record and expect to begin touring again this fall. View the set list here.

An expectedly trippy set by MGMT took place on the same stage an hour later. The dance/psych-rock outfit led by Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser powered through the hot weather accompanied by psychedelic visuals on the screen behind them. We were struck by similarities between MGMT and Australia’s Tame Impala both of whom have implemented a fair amount of electronic beats and effects into their approach, pushing neo-psych in a more accessible direction for young fans. See the full set list here. The group has a handful of festival dates upcoming including Panorama Festival (New York) and Life is Beautiful Festival (Las Vegas).

The most energizing set of Float Fest belonged to Cage the Elephant and their tireless vocalist, Matt Schultz. Older fans might draw comparisons to the Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger while watching Schultz cavort non-stop across the stage while his band laid down familiar riffs you’ve heard on the radio. Schultz’s brother, Brad, (rhythm guitar) ventured into the audience a few times, amping up an already elated crowd. Ubiquitous song, “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” garnered a big reaction as did hits, “Too Late to Say Goodbye” and ballad, “Cigarette Daydreams.” Pyrotechnics were employed as four columns of flames blasted fans late in the set.

An obviously warm Matt Schultz even joked he took drugs before the set and might have a heart attack. Nothing terrible like that took place as the frenetic singer closed out the set list with “Come A Little Closer” and “Teeth.”  A Texas music manager called Cage the Elephant the best working rock band touring in a social media thread. It’s hard to argue that any band lends more energy to their work. See the complete set list here.

The festival closed with 90s rockers Weezer. Rivers Cuomo appeared on stage wearing a rainbow colored shirt and stark white pants. He later donned a matching sombrero as he led the group through hit song, “Beverly Hills.” See fan-generated video of the song on Instagram. Weezer threw in a cover of Outcast’s “Hey Ya!” midway through the set then invited a tireless Matt Schultz on stage to sing “Island in the Sun” with the group. Whatever Schultz uses to fuel himself on performance days must be strong.

Weezer finished the show with “King of the World” and “Say It Ain’t So” then returned for an encore to cheers for hit “Buddy Holly” and fireworks over the Float Fest site. The complete set list can be found here. Weezer will continue their national and European tour in support of their tenth studio record, “Weezer” also known as the White Album.

Saturday marks the start of the fourth annual Float Fest music festival at Cool River Ranch in Martindale, Texas (about 40 minutes south of Austin). What is remarkable about this festival apart from the fact it is the first to offer tubing is how fast it has grown. Last year, nearly 10,000 fans floated the Comal River then watched the likes of Chromeo, Santigold, Future Islands and Bone, Thugs & Harmony deliver fest-worthy performances while enjoying a ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl and other carnival attractions between sets. A limited number of tickets remain for the nearly sold-out show according to event organizers.

The 2017 version of Float Fest offers a different approach to booking and scheduling than past dates with Saturday’s acts leaning heavily on the electronic/hip-hop/DJ side while Sunday presents top tier indie-pop and rock acts. Sunday headliner Weezer hasn’t had a hit album in years but there’s no mistaking their catalog presents a raft (see what we did there?) of widely recognized tunes besides the ubiquitous “Buddy Holly” single most folks have heard on the radio or their favorite restaurant’s Pandora station. After playing a ton of SXSW dates in Austin last March the band returns to the area in support of their latest effort, Feels Like Summer. Fans can download or stream the new album directly from the Weezer website.

While there is no mistaking the acts booked for the festival skew towards a younger audience, Cage the Elephant deliver a fantastic live show for a band that has a single so popular it’s become a bit annoying. Add electro-psych rockers MGMT, Nashville’s red-hot Moon Taxi and a slate of Austin’s best independent artists and Sunday results in a formidable lineup for a relatively young music festival. Ume, Wild Child, Walker Lukens and Los Coast are some of the best bands from the Live Music Capital.

Pro-tip: Don’t miss 365 Things Austin favorite, Sweet Spirit who hit the Sun stage at 4:45 p.m.

The lineup Saturday pivots the opposite direction as the closing day. Wildly popular electronic artist and ACL Festival veteran Zedd headlines with Passion Pit, Mac Miller and Denton’s Neon Indian rounding out the top of the bill. If you arrive early on opening day, head to the Sun Stage at 3:15 p.m. for Heartbyrne, Austin’s lovable Talking Heads cover band.

While soaring temperatures are a concern (100 degree weather is expected), organizers have arranged for air-conditioned tents situated in both VIP and GA areas with additional tented seating and free water stations. Bring sunscreen, hats and water bottles along to ensure you’ll make it safely to the end of an extremely warm day.

View a detailed schedule and buy tickets at the official Float Fest website. Single day, camping and float packages are still available as of today.

 

Much like January’s Free Week, Hot Summer Nights are a series of free concerts hosted by music venues located in Austin’s Red River Cultural District. Running July 13-16 at various clubs in the area, the performances will feature popular local acts White Denim, The Octopus Project, Magna Carda, Matthew Logan Vasquez (Delta Spirit),  Golden Dawn Arkestra and Moving Panoramas among others. Similar to the Free Week programming, there is a national act included, Andrew Savage of Brooklyn’s Parquet Courts. The event is a chance for Austin music fans to discover local bands in a small geographical area. Club hopping is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.

Hosted by the Red River Merchant Association which formed in November 2016, the purpose of the event is to promote local venues in an area threatened by downtown development and at the same time give back to the community which supports it.

“The Red River District itself is a true cultural icon here in Austin and we want to do everything we can to see the area not only survive, but thrive in the years ahead,” said Stephen Sternschein, RRMA board member and owner of Empire Control Room & Garage. “These Hot Summer Nights events are meant to serve as a way for our team to give back to residents here in Austin, as well as provide amazing musicians and artists an opportunity to directly interact the local community. We can’t wait to kick off these first Hot Summer Night events, which will be the first step of many to come for RRMA, and reveal additional plans for the district in the near future.”

While we love all the bands participating (because they’re Austin acts) several lineups stand out among the huge list of performers:

Friday – White Denim – Cheer Up Charlie’s

This show is opportunity for White Denim fans that doesn’t come along everyday. Since their lineup shake up in 2015 when White Denim lost two members to Leon Bridges’ band the James Petralli-led outfit has not performed often. The indie-rockers shifted from a prog-rock bent to more of a blues-rock oriented act with the new formation, inserting Petralli side-project Bob English members into the roster. The results are as entertaining as ever. The support bill includes Deep Time, The Stacks, Go Fever and Tyler Jordan and the Negative Space. RSVP via Facebook here.

Friday – The Octopus Project – Empire Control Room

If you haven’t witnessed the astounding visual spectacle of a show by The Octopus Project this is a perfect opportunity to see the UT Film School grads play their hybrid of electronica and power pop. Besides being one of Austin’s hardest-working bands, the group features the unusual addition of a theremin to the mix. Their recent show at Barracuda last month was a reminder The Octopus Project never disappoints. RSVP via Facebook here.

Saturday –  Magna Carda  – Cheer-Up Charlie’s

Hip-hop / jazz fusion act Magna Carda’s 2016 release “Cirqulation” was one of the best local albums to drop in Austin last year. The longtime duo of Megz Kelly and Dougie Do added what basically amounts to a jazz/funk trio to back them and the results were magical. Megz has the kind of flow that makes even casual hip-hop fans sit up and take notice. Doug provides the sounds and effects while their crack band ties it all together.

The supporting acts are no slouches.  Get to Cheer-Up’s early to catch My Empty Phantom, Obscured by Echoes and Lord Buffalo. RSVP via Facebook here.

Saturday – A. Savage (Parquet Courts) – Barracuda

While we were in Spain last year for Primavera Sound Festival we caught Andrew Savage’s Parquet Courts on the Pitchfork Stage.  The Brooklyn rockers style is hard to define. They played a high-energy show that featured elements of punk, alt-country and indie rock.  Naturally we’re curious about Savage’s solo act. US Weekly and Alex Dupree round out the lineup. RSVP via Facebook here.

To see the entire roster of bands and stay up-to-date on the latest lineups visit the official Hot Summer Nights Facebook Event page. Despite the event kicking off tomorrow, there’s still some surprises ahead such as the special guest to be announced at Sidewinder on Saturday.