Greg Ackerman - 365 Things to Do in Austin, TX

Greg Ackerman

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Fans of Deer Tick may have not known what to do with the roots rockers’ latest release, companion albums,  Deer Tick Vol 1 & 2. The first is an all acoustic effort and the latter rocks out like 2009’s Born on Flag Day. The band never takes itself too seriously as the album art suggests. Their 2017 issue is no exception. The artwork on the cover of the new records are ketchup and mustard to signal the records go together. Tomorrow evening, the boys from Providence return to the Mohawk to present the new material in the wake of John McCauley’s (lead vocalist and guitarist) sobriety and new family. Always a compelling live act, Deer Tick have clearly transitioned from a party band into something more. 

Expect separate acoustic and electric sets as the albums are presented if you head to this show (and you should). McCauley has lived with inevitable comparisons to Kurt Cobain (he looks like him). He’s even embraced the similarities, playing Nirvana covers under the moniker, Deervana.  The stringy-haired singer tends to look and sound like (raspy voice) a musical train-wreck a la Cobain as well. Knowing he’s sobered up and righted his life leaves us both apprehensive and excited about tomorrow’s show.

McCauley is now married with a child. The new domestic arrangement seems to have tempered the volatile performer. We’re just thankful his relative peace still produces beautiful music as his band transitions from beer-soaked party band into something more substantial. McCauley has always been a good songwriter but his newfound clarity has produced poetic lyrics as in opening track, “Sea of Clouds.”

“Somewhere in a fog/Of a million pleasantries/I kept my secret safe inside,” whines McCauley. 

He reminds listeners although he’s righted his personal life, demons still haunt the singer as he navigates his new life. The tone of the two records is cautiously optimistic, a sea-change from Deer Tick’s previous release, Negativity (2013) that focused on the trials of addiction and hardship. The rest of the songs are a great listen too. If you didn’t click the link to grab some new Deer Tick flavor, we suggest backing up a minute and taking a listen. We’re certain you’ll be glad you did. After all, it is a rare contemporary musical act that knows exactly who they are and seem comfortable with that. Deer Tick’s authenticity is one that has served them well. We’re glad to see McCauley and the rest of the group has kept artistic integrity in place while expanding his musical boundaries. 

Tickets are still available, grab some from the Mohawk website and join in the fun this weekend. 

On Sunday, the All ATX benefit Austin real estate mogul Gary Keller launched returns. This time the venue is Auditorium Shores with a fantastic lineup featuring John Fogerty (Credence Clearwater Revival), Jack Ingram and Austin’s Shakey Graves. Condensed sets by an all-Austin lineup of Fastball, Kelly Willis, My Jerusalem, Peterson Brothers, Night Drive, Eric Tessmer, Jane Ellen Bryant, and Beto and the Fairlanes will take place earlier in the evening. 

The theme, “Back to the Armadillo,” will celebrate the music of the Armadillo World Headquarters with special performances from AWH All Stars Michael Martin Murphey, Gary P. Nunn and more.  Austin artists will perform their take on classic songs from acts who performed at the legendary venue.  A studio album of the featured renditions will be available for purchase at Auditorium Shores on the night of the concert and at Waterloo Records starting October 29.

It’s rather appropriate the Armadillo is being honored as it’s successor, Threadgill’s World Headquarters is on the verge of closing unless an angel investor swoops in and saves the day. Gary Keller, are you reading this? This weekend’s performance is a precursor to a brand-new All ATX Festival to take place next year at Auditorium Shores in conjunction with C3 Presents who owns reservation for the city-owned land next year according to the Austin Chronicle’s Kevin Curtin. The fest will take place the same weekend as the cancelled SOS Festival who previously held the park that weekend when the event was Fun Fun Fun Fest. 

Event proceeds will benefit four of Austin’s most beloved music nonprofit organizations, including Health Alliance for Austin MusiciansSIMS FoundationAustin Music Foundation and Black Fret.  In 2016, the event raised $500,000, which was directed to the charities to focus on artist healthcare and development.  Even better, just like last year’s performance with the Doobie Brothers at ACL Live, tickets to the show offer seated, reserved spots for ticket buyers. Grab tickets from the All ATX website

The first Friday of ACL Festival was bittersweet because it was when we learned Fun Fun Fun Festival offshoot, SOS Festival had been canceled due to a major investor pulling out. Word got around that SOS Festival organizers Graham Williams and Johnny Sarkis went right to work the day they had to throw in the towel rebooking as many previously scheduled bands as possible in downtown Austin clubs November 10-12.

While there’s not actual jousting or axe throwing this year at SOS Fest, booking company, Margin Walker Presents did an admirable job salvaging the mess into an exciting weekend of performances from the likes of The Shins, Grizzly Bear, Japandroids, Washed Out, Cannibal Corpse, Boris and Ariel Pink. For those who don’t mind a drive down I-35, Ministry is slated for The Majestic Theater on Sunday. Not bad for a last-minute bill. 

Our biggest disappointment in the rebooking process was the absence of Austin acts who were on the original festival bill. Margin Walker has begun addressing that issue by announcing Twin Peaks with ATX’s A Giant Dog on November 15 at the Mohawk this week. CAPYAC, an Austin electronic duo and electro-punks Octopus Project were the only acts included in the original rebooking announcement. CAPYAC play Friday at Emo’s with Washed Out. Octopus Project will share the stage with french dance act, Yelle late at the Mohawk on Saturday. We’re hoping more local acts will be confirmed for performances yet to be announced. 

When asked about the potential for additional artists to be added to the schedule Williams had this to say: 

“Maybe a couple small things, but as for the stuff Nov 10-12, those are all the artists that were routed through and we made homes for. everyone else were flying in, so we’re working on other dates to bring them back. Can’t say for sure that all will play, but I do think most will confirm for make up shows.”

That means there’s still hope Margin Walker will bring in the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Iggy Pop and Blood Orange at some point later in the year or early next year. It’s not a full-blown festival but for those who head out to the shows it will be a good time much like last year’s hastily salvaged LEVITATION festival which also rebooked into clubs following the event’s cancellation due to extreme weather. 

Complete schedule: 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10

ACL Live: Grizzly Bear ($45 / $55 mezzanine seats)

Mohawk: Doors 8:00 p.m.: Cannibal Corpse,  Power Trip, Blanck Mass ($25)

Empire Control Room and Garage: Doors 5:30 pm.): Citizen, Hotelier, Sorority Noise, Alex Napping, Great Grandpa, Oso Oso ($23.50)

Emo’s: Doors 7:30 p.m.): Washed Out, CAPYAC ($35)

Cheer Up Charlies: Doors 9:00 p.m.): Lindstrom, Juan Maclean, Cap’n Tits ($25)

The New Movement: Naughty Bits, Sure Thing

 

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11

Mohawk (Matinee Show Doors at 3:30 p.m.): The Story So Far, Turnstile, Drug Church ($25)

Mohawk (Late Show | Doors at 9:30 p.m.): Yelle, Octopus Project ($20)

Emo’s (Doors 7:30 p.m.): Japandroids, Cloud Nothings ($32.50)

Cheer Up Charlies (Doors 7:00 p.m.): The Frights, Hockey Dad, Vundabar ($13)

Scoot Inn: Doors 7:00 p.m.): Noname, Arima Ederra ($25)

The New Movement: Sandbox, The Neighborhood: 7 Year Anniversary, Part 2

 

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12:

Mohawk (Doors 6:00 p.m.): Boris, Endon, USA/MEXICO ($20)

Empire (Doors 8:00 p.m.): Snow Tha Product, Castro Escobar, AJ Hernz, Kydd Jones & Tank Washington ($20)

Emo’s (Doors 7:00 p.m.): The Shins, Baio, Girlpool ($59.50)

Cheer Up Charlies (Doors 7:00 p.m.): Ariel Pink, Growl, Mild High Club ($25)

Vulcan Gas Company: Doors 8:00 p.m.): Hot Chip (DJ set), Tim Sweeney, Lovefingers, Flying Turns ($25)

Individual tickets can be purchased at the SOS Festival site. Follow SOS Festival and Margin Walker on Twitter to get the latest updates. 

By the time Spoon got on the Stubb’s BBQ Stage last Friday several articles had been published about their show stopping set at Austin City Limits Music Festival the previous weekend. The beloved Austin act reaffirmed their status as Austin’s favorite indie rock band once again. This time is was in a headlining slot at the festival which Spoon hadn’t played yet.  Britt Daniel and company stole the spotlight from headliners Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Chance the Rapper.

Friday evening’s show was more of a celebration of that joyous homecoming with three thousand of their friends on a familiar stage. The tone of the performance was lighter and more relaxed as opposed to the fierceness the band attacked the ACL Fest set with. The music was just as compelling. An expanded 20-song setlist (the same used on this tour) allowed the band to delve into deeper cuts over the 90 minute performance. Beast and Dragon Adored, My Mathematical Mind and Rainy Taxi appeared in the setlist amid fan favorites, I Turn My Camera OnDon’t You Evah, Don’t Make Me a Target and The Underdog

The four-song encore included the title track from this year’s “Hot Thoughts” followed by a a blistering Rent I Pay. Spoon is performing at the top of their game which is no small statement considering Daniel and drummer Jim Eno have been at it 24 years. There’s a sense of renewal in the energy that comes from the group these days. It is as if newish keyboard/guitarists Alex Fischel and Gerardo Larios have changed the group dynamic to the benefit of the band amid a particularly fruitful writing period for Daniel and Eno in the past four years. 

Spoon continue touring through the end of the year with four more U.S. dates left before heading to Europe then swinging back stateside. If you live in one of these cities, do yourself a favor and go experience Spoon at peak performance level. 

 

 

Canadian improvisational jazz quartet BADBADNOTGOOD (BBNG) played perhaps the punkest jazz show this side of Miles Davis telling everyone to shove it. The group from Toronto who close-out the Tito’s Vodka Stage tonight at Austin City Limits Music Festival, sold-out Mohawk Austin for last night’s Late Night Show, drawing a diverse crowd that ranged from college kids to 40-something sound nerds. Most of those kids were packed in front of their new jazz heroes barely able to contain their enthusiasm, swirling into a mosh pit of bodies and crowd surfers during the second half of the performance. 

The set began with saxophonist Leland Whitty softly blowing on his horn while touring keyboardist James Hill tickled the ivories and Chester Hansen laid down a steady bass line following his drummer, Alex Sowinski’s lead. The remarkable aspect of BADBADNOTGOOD isn’t their musical chops, it’s the mature approach these former university-mates take to music. What twenty year-old has the type of reverence for jazz, electronica and hip-hop to turn a composition from a fun tune into a piece of concert art that leaves even the most jaded music fan with their mouth agape, awed at the precociousness of BBNG’s songs? After watching two days of live music performances at Austin City Limits Music Festival we can confirm it’s few and far between. 

The hour and fifteen minute show included material from the band’s most recent record, IV. In fact, BBNG capped the show with a stunning take on the title track, setting off the young fans in front when the booming bass and electronic drums kicked in like a sonic explosion of euphoric release. This followed “CS60” perhaps the most ambitious track on 2014’s III. Separately each song is sublimely good. Strung together last night,  felt like a one-two jazz fusion knockout punch driving the Mohawk audience into the type of frenzy normally reserved for the typical dirty punk shows booked at the venue. 

If you’re attending ACL Festival tonight, make sure you head to the Tito’s Vodka Stage (tent) for BBNG at 6:15 p.m. this evening. We guarantee you’ll be glad you took in the performance before heading off to the Honda Stage for Gorillaz. You’re going to Gorillaz right?!

Next week the 16th edition of Austin City Limits Music Festival (October 6-8 and 13-15) kicks off with a new slate of headliners. Jay-Z, Solange, The Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Killers will all make appearances at Austin’s Zilker Park amid a cacophony of  exciting acts listed in the middle of the bill. While it’s a no-brainer to catch top hip-hop artist Jay-Z on the opening night of the festival, there are plenty of homegrown acts and buzz bands you should add to your schedule. It’s the bands scheduled earlier in the day and on peripheral stages that offer a chance at real music discovery. With nearly 200 acts slated to perform, finding new bands to fall in love with should be a priority for true music fans. 

Yes, like everyone else we want to know if Beyonce will make an appearance. After all, her husband, Jay-Z and sister, Solange are both playing the festival. It is probable the current queen of pop will be there. Will she appear on stage? That is the big question festival ticket holders are asking. There’s so much more to the event which will feature Austin-bred acts Spoon, The Black Angels, Lukas Nelson, Mobley and The Wild Now at the festival this year. 

Find a break-down the first weekend of the festival listed by day and learn which acts still have Late Night Show tickets available below. Our focus is on Austin bands because these local artists make some of the best independent music in the country along with a few bands that should be on your radar we think you’ll like. 

Included in the list of recommendations are links to official Austin City Limits Music Festival Late Night Shows. Grab tickets to those performances for a less crowded, headliner version of each artist’s festival set. 

Friday, October 6

The Wild Now – Miller Lite Stage – 11:45 a.m.

The Wild Now, an Austin duo comprised of vocalist, Taylor Baker and guitarist, Drew Walker make their first ACL Fest appearance first thing on Friday. While listening to Baker sing beautiful pop melodies along with Walker’s impressively intricate guitar work you’ll notice the couple is also easy on the eyes. Not a bad way to kick of the festival in our humble opinion.

If you’re one of those folks who set up camp chairs when the gates open, posting up at Miller Lite for the day might be a good way to go. Besides catching these up and comers, the Barton Springs Beer Hall is adjacent to the Miller Lite stage. Willie Nelson’s son Lukas and his band play later in the day before petulant indie songwriter, Ryan Adams. 

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real – Miller Lite Stage – 5:15 p.m.

How good is Lukas Nelson and POTR? They were Neil Young’s backing band on his 2014 tour and album. Nelson is the Willie Nelson offspring most like his father in terms of musical ability. That doesn’t mean he’s the next outlaw country star. The guitarist likes to play Americana-tinged rock with abandon, often leaping into to the air with his axe. After ten years of POTR he knows how to entertain an audience. He’s also got decent pipes like his iconic father. 

You’re going to thank us for this recommendation later, especially after you learn his ACL Festival Late Night Show at Antone’s  Nightclub on October 11 already sold-out. 

Bonobo – Tito’s Vodka Stage – 6:15 p.m.

After watching Lukas hype up the crowd, you’ll be ready to get your dance on with DJ Bonobo doing a full live set at the Tito’s Vodka Stage. While we’ve seen Bonobo perform solo, we’re excited about the cutting edge DJ’s full band performance. Bonobo’s given name is Simon Green. Green got noticed with his second album “Dial M for Monkey” (2002) becoming one of the “new downtempo pioneers” in the process. We’re curious how the live arrangement will play in a sundowner festival setting. Betting it’s going to be a crowd pleaser. 

Fans have a second chance to catch this London-born, LA-based DJ at Emo’s on October 7 with Jeremy Sole during his ACL Fest Late Night Show.

Saturday, October 7

Mobley – Miller Lite Stage – 11:30 a.m.

Since we love Austin acts so much, pop singer Mobley should be the first artist you should see on the second day of ACL Festival. This singer might the be hardest-working solo act in town. The man wrote, produced and played every instrument on his debut album, “Fresh Lies.” The singer defies categorization, drawing a number of styles to create his music. After committing to music full-time his career has begun to take off as evidenced by his first ACL Festival slot and non-stop touring with Phantogram, JUNGLE, Mute Math (also on the festival bill) and Robert Delong. He’s an entertaining performer who should jolt you awake Saturday morning if you’re struggling after partying on opening day. 

Mobley performs with BADBADNOTGOOD on October 7. Get tickets here

Car Seat Headrest – Honda Stage – 2 p.m.

We first caught Pitchfork Magazine darlings Car Seat Headrest at SXSW a couple years ago. While we were impressed with the young Will Toledo (he was 23 at the time) at the helm of his solo act-turned full band, it wasn’t until CSH’s appearance later that year at Primavera Sound Festival that we were drawn into the cult of Car Seat Headrest like their huge online following and corresponding writers at Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and Paste Magazine. At only 25 years-old, Toledo and his band have years of great music ahead of them. 

Car Seat Headrest sold-out their ACL Festival Late Night Show on October 12 at The Mohawk if that tells you anything about the band’s popularity.

The Black Angels – Barton Springs Stage – 5 p.m. 

If you’re a fan of psych-rock then you cannot miss neo-psych pioneers, The Black Angels on Saturday. The Austin band that reinvented psychedelic rock for the new millennium is one our favorite local acts. The DIY group has their own music festival, LEVITATION (formerly Austin Psych Fest) and their own unique style of psych-rock that features guitarist Christian Bland’s sublime work along with Alex Maas’ heavily distorted vocals. Drummer Stephanie Bailey might be the area’s most underrated percussionist. 

Take a listen to their latest, “Death Song”  released earlier this year. It may be The Black Angels’ best effort yet. We recommend grabbing tickets to their Emo’s Late Night Show on Thursday, October 5 for full visual effects by TBA visual expert, Bob Mustacio. Psych rock pioneer Roky Erickson opens. 

Ice Cube – American Express Stage – 6 p.m.

No one could have predicted whenIce Cube broke into music with the debut of N.W.A in 1986 with Dr. Dre and Easy E, the rapper would become a staple in major films like “Boyz in tha Hood” and “Friday” to this year’s movie “Fist Fight” but there he is appearing on screens everywhere.

Less often O’Shea Jackson performs as Ice Cube, after leaving West Coast gangsta rap pioneers, N.W.A. in 1989, which is what makes this set intriguing, particularly amid less established performers like Chance the Rapper and red-hot duo Run the Jewels. In three short years, Ice Cube was on his way to becoming an icon of American culture which makes him relevant despite his waning musical output. His first three solo records were huge hits beginning with 1991’s controversial “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted,” cementing Cube into the annals of great hip-hop artists. 

Spoon – Miller Lite Stage – 7 p.m.

We love that C3 Presents booked two of our favorite Austin bands, the aforementioned Black Angels and hometown heroes, Spoon nearly back-to-back on Saturday. Spoon has played the festival before but gets a coveted evening slot on the Miller Stage this year on the heals of Matador Records release, “Hot Thoughts” and an ongoing world tour to promote the record. 

What is not to like about the kings of Austin indie rock led by Britt Daniel (vocals, guitar) and Jim Eno (drums)? The band has been putting out incredible albums for over 20 years culminating in a return to the label they started out on. Not only does the album signal a homecoming of sorts, it’s a great listen

Grab tickets to Spoon’s Late Night show on October 13 at Stubb’s while you still can. 

Sunday, October 8

Middle Kids – Miller Lite Stage – 1:15 p.m. 

Australian three-piece pop-garage rockers, Middle Kids impressed last March at SXSW where we saw the band play before Spoon’s Waterloo Records show. When we spotted this Sydney act on the bill we knew we had to see them again. Led by Guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Hannah Joy, Middle Kids represent a world-wide trend of female-led acts similar to Austin’s Moving Panoramas and A Giant Dog. 

Following SXSW, Rolling Stone named the group one of ten bands to watch, confirming their buzz act status. Catch Middle Kid’s Late Night Show at Antone’s on October 12 with Austin’s Summer Salt. Tickets are still available

BADBADNOTGOOD – Tito’s Vodka Stage – 6:15 p.m.

Besides having an unforgettable moniker, BADBADNOTGOOD presents unconventional, free-form jazz in a way that appeals to young and older fans alike. The trio that is now a foursome hails from the wintery confines of Toronto. BBNG’s collaborations with Wu-Tang’s Ghostface Killah and Kaytranada have thrust the group into the forefront of the modern jazz/hip-hop trend best reflected locally by Brownout’s occasional performances with Ghostface’s bandmate and ringleader, GZA. 

Their latest album IV is on regular rotation at our office for good reason, the album is refreshing, employs multiple styles (elements of kraut rock, & futuristic hip-hop are present).  It’s a really great listen. If you’d rather see the group headline their own performance versus seeing them during the day at ACL Fest, grab a ticket to their Mohawk show on October 7.  Austin act, Mobley opens the show. 

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

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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.