- by Howard Scott Rating: Release Date: Label:
After some good nourishment and a night of solid sleep after SXSW Day 3, I decided to make Day 4 of the journey as full-immersion as possible. Sometimes plain old logistics can interfere with a master plan of which band you want to see playing where, and I decided to stretch the time-space continuum as much as possible to see just how much I could accomplish before sheer exhaustion once again set in.
Rainey Street was a good place to start, as several establishments had bands playing earlier in the day than had been the case at the start of the week. “Bangers”, a favorite among Austinites, was hosting a showcase of talent sponsored by StubHub, so that became venue one.
When I arrived, London’s own Minke was about halfway through a set of guitar-infused pop supported by her flawless alto vocals. She played tunes from her EP “Peak Time” as well as recent single “Too Late”. Her mellow but melodic stylings were the perfect way to start the day.
Next up on the same stage came solo artist SYML, who hails from Seattle. SYML is the alias of Brian Fennell, who was part of indie band Barcelona before striking out on his own. Playing both guitar and keyboards on selected cuts, he continued the laid back mood but showed off a capability of writing tightly constructed and beautifully conceived melodies that grabbed the audience’s attention.
The mood got much rockier when Glasgow’s favorite sons Saint PHNX, (pronounced “Saint Phoenix”) took over. Usual duo brothers Stevie and Al Jukes were joined by a bassist to perform as a three-piece. Their hit “King” had the crowd bopping, and “Deadmen” also played to a positive response. Drummer Al Jukes had vocal issues, thanks to “too much partying” according to brother Stevie, but the crowd joined in to help when he seemed to need it.
The final band I stayed around to see at “Bangers” was British stalwarts The Amazons. The four-piece amped up the volume and the energy level with renditions of “Doubt It”, Black Magic” and “Little Something” which morphed into a cover of “Helter Skelter” for a verse. Lead singer/guitarist Matt Thomson cuts an imposing figure out front with his statuesque appearance and glowing red hair, while guitarist Chris Alderton added lots of power licks from his Gibson. Eliot Briggs on bass and Joe Emmett on drums kept up a frenetic pace from beginning to end.
After leaving “Bangers”, I wandered out in the street to hear the most enchanting pop vocals coming from just down the block. At a venue called “The Australian House”, singer/guitarist Denise Le Menice was finishing up a set. The place was way too crowded to try and enter, but since the stage was set up right on the front of the enclosure, I had only to lean on the fence and take in the music. Ali Flintoff, her real name, used to be the screamer in BOAT SHOW, but it seems her solo career has taken her to a much calmer and pop-infused place. It appeared that she had the crowd completely under her spell.
From there, it was a hair-raising uber ride over to the east side of town, which I had yet to visit. The traffic during the festival has to be seen to be believed, and these drivers not only have to contend with road closures everywhere but also numerous electric scooters and bicycles which are available for easy rental on the streets. It takes a calmer demeanor than I have ever possessed to get the job done.
Most of the establishments in this area had endless lines to enter, and many were just filled to full capacity. I did manage to stumble on one, however, called simply “The Brixton” that had some room available. Crammed into the small tavern and stage were several people listening to a local band known as The Infinites. This band apparently sprung from remnants of the defunct Ghetto Ghouls, with Jared Leibowich and Dan LeVine becoming the founding members. Their Texas brand of indie folk rock obviously has a local following, as most of the patrons seemed familiar with their work.
Darkness was setting in at this point, and the next destination was, again, completely across town at the Lady Bird Lake outdoor stage. This amphitheater was hosting a free concert for everyone in Austin who didn’t have the required credentials to get in elsewhere. That made it easily the most well-attended show I have seen this week. Headlining the concert were X Ambassadors, who hail from the Ithaca, New York area. The group, fronted by singer-guitarist Sam Harris, played a few new songs off a soon-to-be-released album, as well as crowd favorites like “Renegade” and “Unsteady”. Casey Harris played the keys with a flourish, while drummer Adam Levin was his usual steady self keeping the beat. The show lasted over an hour, which is unusual during a week when venues are trying to jam as many bands into a finite amount of time and sent the crowd off into the night fully satisfied with a completely professional performance.
So, that was my day. Seven performers seen and admired in just about the same amount of hours, with variety being the main course of this small point in time. By the end, I was worn out, (and it doesn’t help that the last half mile trek to my staying place for the week is sharply uphill), but satisfied in the fact that I had accomplished what I had set out to do. There is no telling what awaits tomorrow!