When most music fans talk about the Austin scene, South by Southwest (SXSW) and Austin City Limits Music Festival are what comes up usually. But there’s another, smaller music festival that has been taking place for over ten years in Austin, Free Week. Launched by Graham Williams (Margin Walker Presents) at the old Emo’s on Sixth and Red River, the event has mushroomed to most of the Red River venues Williams’ booking company works with and then some. The event runs through Sunday, Jan 7.
Aside from Mohawk, Barracuda, Stubb’s, Cheer Up Charlie’s, Elysium, The Sidewinder, Beerland, Swan Dive and Empire Control Room and Garage (all located on Red River or Seventh Street) The Sahara Lounge, Hotel Vegas, Volstead, Spiderhouse Ballroom, The Belmont, The Blackheart and more venues are also participating. You really have no excuse to miss Free Week even if school nights are out, there’s a ton of shows to see Friday and Saturday. Free Week is here.
There are more quality shows booked than we have room to recommend to you. For a more complete list of Free Week shows we like check out our author’s Do512 page. Incidentally, Do512 put together a fantastic all-female fronted band roster on Saturday. Details are below. On to our top picks listed by day beginning with tonight’s performances.
Tonight’s lineup by The Loyalty Firm and Pull String Events at Barracuda is a doozy. Hard rockers, The Well, Residual Kid and The Ghost Wolves join our favorite post rock outfit my education, The Human Circuit, Built By Snow, Chill Russell, Cartright and Honey and Salt. Acts will appear on both the indoor and outdoor stages.
Doors are at 7 p.m. with music starting at 8 p.m. The good news is temperatures are getting warmer today but you might feel the chill tonight so dress warm and if that doesn’t help, try the hot toddies at the outside bar. They kept us warm Monday night when we caught Semihelix to kick off Free Week.
There are a raft of great lineups Thursday. It was difficult to choose a single show to feature but Red River Cultural District and Heard Presents lineup is pretty hard to beat. The Garage roster alone with Whiskey Shivers, Sailor Poon, Booher, Poly Action would be worth braving the cold for yet, Otis the Destroyer, Megafauna, Leevees, Holy Knives, Hard Riffs and Rival Waves will all be inside the Control Room with a lot of loud guitars and energy.
Both Otis and Megafauna are perfect for fans of old school, hard charging guitar rock. Whiskey Shivers put on one of the best live shows in town. You can’t beat their energy. Sailor Poon’s Saturnalia Festival set was enough fun that we want more as soon as possible. If you make it early enough you’ll be wowed by Ray Garza’s Poly Action who kick off the festivities at 8 p.m.
Sahara Lounge is entering the Free Week fray with a damn fine lineup Friday at 7 p.m. presented by High Brew Coffee and The Cosmic Clash. Headliner, BLXPTN might be one of Austin’s more underrated bands. The former duo of drummer and vocalist TaSzlin Muerte and guitarist, singer, and synth player Jonathan Horstmann added drummer Jeremy Kivett to the lineup recently, adding heft to an already formidable band that plays an amalgam of punk and electronic industrial with a politically-charged commentary.
We caught Como Las Movies for the first time at Mosaic Sound Collective. They have a Latin-based sound that incorporates various styles. Similar to Money Chicha (some songs feature Cumbia) but a different arrangement with a four-piece band that gels together cohesively. Some songs sound like a film soundtrack hence the moniker.
The rest of the lineup is just as solid with Major Grizz, Sometimes a Legend, Dead Recipe, Sun June and The Midnight Drive. There will be a limited supply of free High Brew Coffee available. Food truck Pakal will offer healthy Mexican specialties. Bonus: plenty of free parking.
Do512 put together a stellar all-female fronted band lineup at Valhalla (Red River bet. Seventh and Eighth St.) Saturday. Our shoegaze/psych rock favorites Moving Panoramas will be joined by Lowin, Go Fever and Vonne. Speaking from experience, you’ll really enjoy this show if you make it out.
Leslie Sisson of Moving Panoramas is a true talent as her appearance at the Texas State History Museum with Invincible Czars and an 80-person choir behind her demonstrated. The version of her song, Harmony that was presented left even Sisson in tears.
Lowin and Go Fever represent more great rock created by women. Sara Hauser of Lowin has long been a part of the local scene. She’s making great new music. We caught Go Fever’s Acey Monaro solo at the Project ATX 6 Gala. The Australian rocker is really fun to watch with her entire band too. We’re looking forward to this one.
Last week singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins made her first US tour stop in Austin at Antone’s Nightclub. The reinvented legendary blues club was the ideal spot for the chanteuse to umm… reinvent herself as a neo-soul singer in support of her Mowtown-esque new record, Goodnight Rhonda Lee. The first time you hear Atkins sing you know her voice is special. We thought so the first time we caught the singer sporting a moody indie-rock vibe and working out of Brooklyn (she’s from New Jersey). But seeing the woman sing in a format that features her voice was truly special. Folks walking by on Fifth Street heard her singing and impulsively purchased tickets. Yeah, her pipes are truly golden.
After an impressive two-man performance by The Midnight Stroll, a sober and genial Atkins and her Nashville-based band took the stage and presented songs from all four of her albums. She rolled out new single co-written with Chris Isaac, A Little Crazy early in the set showing off her Patsy Cline chops. The song features her velvety voice like it should. Another stand-out tune was a cover of Bowie’s Heroes. We’ve seen the song played by a number of artists since the legendary rocker’s death but none surpass the emotion lent to it by Atkins.
The old-school, early 60s vibe of title track to the new record felt like a crowd-pleaser too. A glance around the room revealed a fairly age-diverse crowd of music fans all with big smiles as she worked through the tune with a great band.
We spoke to her guitarist Stephen who mentioned the band had just gotten back to the States after a whirlwind European tour. He said he was happy to be in Austin as he’s from Texas but now works out of Nashville as producer and touring musician. He was excited about the upcoming American leg of the tour despite jet lag and fatigue. It’s that much fun to tour with Atkins according to the affable musician.
The road ahead looks rosy for Nicole Atkins. The one-time drinker has tamed her demons, gotten married, moved to Nashville and put out a fantastic new record that allows the listener to better hear the amazing talent that lay in her voice. The indie rock recordings she’s made are better than good, she wouldn’t have such a devoted fan base without putting out quality material, but the new direction has given her a fresh stage presence and vitality while Atkins shed’s her bad girl Rhonda Lee persona for a more stabile, happier future.
Atkins continues her tour in San Francisco, followed by dates in Portland and Seattle. The nearly non-stop schedule ends in South Carolina next April.
Tonight is the kickoff party for Saturnalia Festival in Austin. Naturally we were just as curious as you as to what Saturnalia means but the lineup comprised of mostly national and local psych-rock, alternative and world music standouts is worth checking out. We think it’s a cannot miss scenario for local music fans. Austin acts Golden Dawn Arkestra, The Octopus Project, Hard Proof, Christian Bland (The Black Angels), Money Chicha, Annabelle Chairlegs, Bushwick Bill (The Geto Boys) and Ringo Deathstarr will join out-of-town performers Allah-Las, Crocodiles, Cosmonauts, American Sharks and Sam France (Foxygen) at four locations in Austin. View the entire lineup on the festival site or poster.
The Electric Church and Hotel Vegas will host pre-parties tonight and December 1 (tomorrow). The actual festival will take place Saturday and Sunday at Webberville Road Baptist Church and the adjacent Sahara Lounge. By the way, Saturnalia is a traditional Roman holiday that celebrates the coming Winter while honoring Saturn. We don’t really need an excuse to enjoy a lineup this good but we’re happy organizers have put in the effort to book the event during a time of year when there’s typically not much going on in the local live music scene.
The Sahara Lounge and The Electric Church folks have partnered on this event to bring fans this out-of-box, small-format festival lineup oozing with talent. It doesn’t fix the fact that SOS Festival was cancelled last minute but it certainly helps ease the pain. What’s more, the festival has hired light show masters Bob Mustachio (The Black Angels), Esther Wave, Fever Dream, Astral Violet and Weird Destiny to accompany the talent at four locations in Austin over the entire four days of festival performances.
Food vendors include Eastside Kings, Southside Flying Pizza, Juiceland, Wunder Pilz, Archie Dove BBQ, Pakal, Neon Rainbow and Laced With Romance. There are plenty of trailer and sit-down retaurant options near all four venue sites as well. Check Eater Austin’s East Austin page for dining recommendations.
Tickets to Saturnalia Festival are still available. The VIP option includes access to a climate-controlled Saturnalia Lounge. Fans have the option to purchase an a four-day or daily wristband. Tickets to individual shows can be purchased “a la carte” directly from venues in advance or at the door. Grab tickets here.
Thursday, Nov 30th – The Electric Church
12-Christian Bland and The Revelators 11-The Nymphs 10-Trance Farmers
New Jersey songstress, Nicole Atkins returns to Austin Thursday at Antone’s Nightclub in support of her new record, Good Night Rhonda Lee that takes a sharp turn away from her indie-pop sound to a traditional soul recording complete with Fort Worth’s Niles City Sound Team who turned Leon Bridges into an overnight sensation. The Midnight Stroll (Aaron Behrens of Ghostland Observatory) and Thayer Serrano open the show.
Atkins’ new approach to her music spotlights the singer’s golden pipes which lay somewhat obscured by the indie-rock slant of her last album, 2014’s Slow Phaser. After being married, moving to Nashville (from NYC) and getting sober, Atkins found the material she was writing was deeply personal and introspective. She found the ideal vehicle for those compositions in Soul and R&B. The genres magnify her considerable vocal talent. It doesn’t hurt to have friends like Chris Isaak to lend a hand collaborating on the lead track, A Little Crazy after encouraging her to change her musical style,
“Atkins, you have a very special thing in your voice that a lot of people can’t or don’t do. You need to stop shying away from that thing and let people hear it.” -Chris Isaak
Listeners will identify the song as an instant classic, highlighted by vulnerable lyrics and Atkins’ apologetic tone for revealing the raw emotions swirling around her transition to a sober lifestyle, marriage and a new home. Frankly we’re eagerly anticipating how well the song translates to the Antone’s stage. The legendary Blues emporium is a the ideal spot to introduce a Soul record that takes the listener back to the Motown pop of the 1960s.
Atkins is doing it right. She hired the hottest soul producers (and musicians) in the country to back her in Joshua Block, Austin Jenkins and Chris Vivion. We suspect her newfound personal clarity will take an already seasoned and entertaining performer with an established, devoted fanbase and transform the singer into the kind of performer that gains new fans who marvel at the intimacy and emotional impact of her shows. Listening to Goodnight Rhonda Lee reveals her potential for greatness. Those may seem like heady words but if you watched Atkins’ Roadies clip above you’ll find it difficult to refute that bold claim. The album title is both a farewell to the singer’s older, self-destructive incarnation and an introduction to her new approach to making music.
Tickets are still available from the Antone’s website. Grab them before they’re sold-out. This show is one you’re going to be glad you attended.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 HotSummerNights 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 HotSummerNight 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.
There are a ton of great restaurants in this city, but nothing beats the ambiance of the glorious outdoors in Austin. That’s why we’ve compiled the ultimate list of places to picnic this summer. And to save yourself the hassle of actually packing a picnic, we’ve picked our favorite UberEATS treats to pair with each location. All you gotta do is bring the blanket and the booze!
Mount Bonnell 3800 Mount Bonnell Rd.
Views don’t get anymore breathtaking than this. For maximum enjoyment, go either at sunset or sunrise.
Ah, the holy grail of Austin zen. The ultimate summer staple. As John Muir once said, “Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.” Well Barton Springs isn’t exactly the woods but it will surely restore your soul.
Summer in Austin means infinite things to do. If you’re bored, than you’re not reading our website enough. ‘Tis the season for the free Summer Musical at Zilker. This year’s production is The Wizard of OZ.
On select Wednesdays during the summer, you can find Sound & Cinema happening at The Long Center. They show classic flicks with live music before the screening. Every Sunday they host a free concert series with the Austin Symphony Orchestra that is always the perfect way to wind down the weekend. Both are great excuses for a picnic and to watch the sunset over Downtown.
Calling all Pinterest fans! Wanna show off? Plan a picnic at this giant art installation/picnic table in the new Seaholm district. Your picnic will be all over Instagram. We’re basic and we don’t care.