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.
830pm-9:10pm The Human Circuit
930pm-10:10pm Built By Snow
10:30pm-11:10pm Residual Kid
1130pm-12:20pm my education
1240am-1:40am The Ghost Wolves
8pm-840pm Chill Russell
10pm-1040pm Honey and Salt
11pm-12am The Well
Red River Cultural District and Heard Presents Ringo Deathstarr, The Halfways, Coattails, Teevee at Empire Control Room and Garage 7:30p
Tinnarose, Otis the Destroyer, Darkbird, Good Field, Hard Riffs at Hotel Vegas 9 p.m.
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.
8 p.m. Poly Action
9 p.m. Booher
10 p.m. Sailor Poon
11 p.m. Whiskey Shivers
9:15 p.m. Rival Waves
10:15 pm. Hard Riffs
11:15 p.m. Megafauna
12:15 p.m. Otis the Destroyer
1:15 a.m. Holy Knives
The Void Martial Arts presents Riverboat Gamblers, American Sharks, Eagle Claw, Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad at Barracuda 8 p.m.
RRCD and C3 Presents Jackie Venson, Mobley, Melat at Stubb’s Inside 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.
Dead Recipe 7:15p
Sun June 8:15p
Como Las Movies 10:45p
Major Grizz 11:45p-12:30p
Sometimes a Legend 12:45a
The Midnight Drive 1:35a
RRCD and Side One Track One presents Los Coast, Emily Wolfe, Otis the Destroyer, Palo Duro, Marmalakes, Growl, Lola Tried at Mohawk 8p
Holy Wave, Diamond Center, Hidden Ritual, Leather Girls, Teevee at Cheer Up Charlie’s 10p
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.
Quiet Company, Day Shifters, Super Thief, BLXPLTN at Barracuda 8p
RRCD and Penny Loafer PR presents Calliope Musicals, Darkbird, Whiite Walls, Megafauna, Meanswell, A Sinclair, etc at Mohawk 8p.
When Trump was elected President last November, media members suggested that the coming political storm would generate a mountain of art reflecting the emotional response of the nation to the train wreck that is the Trump Administration. While there has generally been an increase in art that is critical of the current Western political environment, most of the albums in this list of top records made in Austin are simply great recordings for any music fan and don’t necessarily provide social or political commentary. We believe this year’s list of best new music of 2017 has set the bar high for new releases in 2018 from Austin acts.
Our list may not be the most well-rounded in terms of genres represented but it reflects new, local records we’ve listened to and enjoyed most in 2017. Before we get into it, we would like to remind readers that purchasing local music from independent sellers is always a good idea. If you’re considering purchasing an album, buy directly from the artist if possible. We’ll link to artist pages where you can buy direct if the option is available. Where there is not that option, heading to your local, independently owned record store is a good bet or order from those stores online. Some of our favorite shops include: End of An Ear, Waterloo Records, Breakaway Records, Friends of Sound Records and Exploded Records at Juiceland.
Our list is in order of release date. Asking us to order these talented acts from best to last is near impossible. We love all these records and artists.
In January, top ATX Afrobeat tastemakers, Hard Proof dropped the full-length “Stinger” on Modern Outsider, a local independent label. What that means is if you purchase this record, a bunch of Austinites get paid. It also means you get one of the best Afrobeat-fusion records of the year. Not just in Austin but nationwide. Produced by The Bubble studio owner and producer Chris “Frenchie” Smith (Built to Spill, Meat Puppets, the Toadies, Otis the Destroyer and a ton more local bands), the record is a great listen from front to back.
It was difficult to choose, but title track, Stinger, Incendiary and A.R.A,S. stand out on a record that is consistently a great listen. By that we mean not only is the entire record good, but it’s a pleasure to listen to multiple times a week. From the crack horn section of Jason Frey, Derek Phelps and Joe Woullard to the precise beats by drummer Stephen Bidwell and percussionists Tony Congas and Tommy Spanpinato to Joe Sokolik’s driving bass lines and the guitar work of John Branch, Gerrado Larios (now a member of Spoon) and Aaron Sleator these guys are all among the best working musicians in town. With Smith guiding the production ship, the result is an album that could just as well be considered for a Grammy with the proper exposure.
February brought Austin neo-pyschrock pioneers, The Black Angels‘ first new record in four years to the masses. Entitled “Death Song,” from their Velvet Underground track namesake, “The Black Angels’ Death Song,” this album might be the sole member of this list that addresses the gloom and anxiousness the American public is feeling about the current political and economic status. That feat is remarkable considering the group penned and recorded most of the tracks during the Presidential elections last year.
Shortly after the album dropped we caught their second Austin City Limits TV taping. The setlist included many of the tracks from the new record. It quickly became apparent The Black Angels made their darkest record to date. It’s also one of their best releases to date. From opening tune, “Currency” which tackles consumerism and despair to the driving ferocity of “Commanche Moon’s” indictment of native genocide the album presents a bleak commentary.
Tracks “Medicine” and “Life Song” come closest to appealing to a broader audience. The former nearly a pop song while the latter evokes a psychedelic space fantasy of Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” This is definitely a must-own record for any psych-rock music fan.
There is no working Austin rock band more successful than Spoon. Over 20 years of making relevant, exquisitely written indie-rock songs with the core of Jim Eno and Britt Daniel have produced a body of work that has gotten the highest average Metacritic score of any group in that time span. An impressive feat for a band that has seen it’s roster evolve over the years yet manage to hold onto their musical identity while exploring other genres to incorporate into the raspy vocals and insistent drum beat of Spoon’s founders.
The release of Hot Thoughts in February and the ensuing world-tour complete with multiple late-night television show and festival appearances has reaffirmed the group’s dominance into the late 2010s. Singles “Can I Sit Next to You” and “Do I Have to Talk You Into It” are instantly recognizable as classic Spoon compositions that somehow delve into what feels like newer musical territory. The former is a crowd-pleaser live while DITTYIT evokes 80s arena ballads while avoiding the cheesy factor that often accompanies such songs.
The new album and subsequent tour has been an affirmation of Spoon’s continued success. The return to their original indie label, Matador, the renewed energy and superior songwriting have served the band well. The Spoon engine is clicking on all cylinders. Everyone should own this record.
Austin glam-pop act Sweet Spirit has enjoyed rapidly rising notoriety not just locally but nationally after three years of constant touring. The April sophomore release of St. Mojo produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin on Nine Mile Records further elevated the group’s status as single, “The Power” enjoyed frequent radio play locally and on listener-supported and college radio nationally. The full force of vocalist Sabrina Ellis’ impact is felt on the record bolstered by catchy riffs penned by Andrew Cashen and backed by a large collection of fine players.
The bombastic “The Mighty” is another favorite on this record along with garage-rocker “Pamela” and doo-wop ode, “Pretty Baby” which features Cashen taking a turn on lead vocals.
If Sweet Spirit aren’t a national sensation within a few years, we’re doing something wrong here in the Live Music Capitol, that much is certain.
If there is a single band we admire most for their work-ethic and commitment to their craft it’s The Octopus Project. The four-piece, electro-pop, indie-rock hybrid consistently puts out great material and April’s Memory Mirror is no exception to that rule. The group’s DIY approach has led to collaborations with former University of Texas film school classmates that won a Sundance Film Festival award for best score, toured the world and even appeared on KLRU documentary show, Arts in Context in the past couple years. Despite forming over 10 years ago, members of the band continue to create all aspects materials including album art, visuals, graphics, lighting and even packing and shipping their vinyl and merchandise. The band really does it all.
The new record continues the band’s exploration into popular electronic sounds and textures with video-game inspired track, “Brounce” and the proggy, “Gone Wrong.”
The Octopus Project recently produced a multi-sensory experience featuring 9-channel surround sound, immersive multi-screen visuals, rumble seats, indoor weather effects to promote the new album and complete their supporting tour at the Texas State History Museum to much critical acclaim.
If you aren’t already swayed, give that album listen and join the cult of The Octopus Project like the rest of us.
If there’s a dark horse in this list it’s Kay Odyssey‘s What’s A Woman To Do produced by Nada Surf’s Louie Lino. That said, this dreamy, shoegazey, psych-rocker album by an all-girl lineup led by songwriter and front woman Kristina Boswell is a force. We’re huge fans of this quartet of supremely talented women. From Liz Burrito’s stellar guitar work which she modestly describes as “just following what Kristina’s doing.” to Vajaja Vallejo’s furious drums to Boswell’s awkward hipster there’s a whole lot to like about this band and their Spring release.
Recently the band released a new video to compliment the fantastic, surreal “Mountains In My Step” song, garnering a lot of attention to the clip which features some nudity and oddly compelling visuals that aren’t as sexually suggestive as one might imagine. The echoey guitars and vocal delays draws in the listener.
The title track is equally appealing, beginning with Boswell’s lone lyrics, launching into shimmery guitars and a steady beat stretching out into a languid pace. We love this record and this band.
If you want to rock out, there’s none better to help you along than Otis the Destroyer in our opinion. In September the quartet dropped Frenchie Smith-produced, Keep Bashing after teasing the record with successive single releases, “Van Rosita,” “Cheetah” and “Monster Eater.”
What we love about founder Taylor Wilkins’ band is the same element that attracted us to his previous incarnation, The Couch. The band just flat out rocks with an intensity and foundation in quality songwriting. Other standout tracks include the furious “Animal” and title track, “Keep Bashing.”
If you haven’t caught Otis yet, take a listen to this record then plan on getting out to howl at the moon with these guys. They’re that fun to watch.
The vocal gymnastics of Walker Lukens just slightly supersedes the performer’s predilection for humor and theatrics. Perhaps the most surprising Austin release in terms of national reaction, Lukens’ has made a record, Tell It To the Judge that has attracted the attention of NPR, ABC News and Rolling Stone among other esteemed publications.
Billboard Magazine called the new album genre-busting and perhaps that is the most apt description. Lukens flatly refuses to be categorized into a single bucket, eschewing traditional songwriting forms in favor of vocal effects, distortions and an experimental approach to his music.
Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, the record delves into ambient electronica just as easily as folk, rock and even elements of rap. The singer’s refusal to be pigeon-holed into a definitive style is a big part of his appeal.
Track “Where is Thunder Road” demonstrates Eno’s influence on the recording while emphasizing synthesizers and a pop influence on “Don’t Wanna Be Lonely (Don’t Wanna Leave You Alone).”
Black Pistol Fire‘s Deadbeat Graffiti nearly slipped by unnoticed with a late September release date but the hard-charging duo’s fifth record is a dozy. Setting a reckless tone right out of the gate with fuzzy guitar rocker, “Lost Cause” then leading into the incendiary “Last Ride” singer/guitarist Kevin McKeown and drummer Eric Owen demonstrate why The Black Keys and Dan Auerbach have nothing on these Candadian-turned Texans.
We caught the band headlining the Derby in the City Event back in May and the guys were ready to rock the new tunes long before the new material made it’s way into the public view. The only question now is how long can this talented pair continue to fly just below the radar of popular culture? Their work has made its way into countless video games and television shows. It’s only a matter of time.
It is official, the holiday 2012 holiday season is behind us and we are on to new things and the New Year. For those that are having post holiday blues Free Week Austin is a great way the Austin music scene starts the year!
This is a chance to experience the Austin Music Scene first hand and get a closer look at the talent in our own backyard. Free Week Austin focuses on bands and musicians that are from Austin. The shows are at music venues all over town so it also is an opportunity for you to check out various venues.
There are countless great shows all week. My pick for today would be Shakey Graves at The Parish because The Parish is a great venue plus I just saw Shakey Graves at Hole in the Wall last week which was a fantastic show.
See the calendar for the full line-up.
When: today, January 2nd- January 7th
Various Austin Music Venues