Out west at the annual Stagecoach Festival in the California desert, Willie Nelson celebrated his 84th birthday Saturday night with a show that included an all-star jam at the end featuring the likes of Neil Young, Jamey Johnson, Margo Price and X’s John Doe. But his birthday didn’t go unacknowledged back here.
Playing to a packed house on the outdoor stage at Stubb’s, Trey Anastasio — frontman for jam-band-deluxe Phish and recent Grateful Dead recruit — worked a familiar tune into his set. Willie may have been on the road, but if you were at Stubb’s, you still got to hear “On the Road Again”:
Over at Antone’s, songwriter Bruce Robison had just the right tune for the occasion. He wrote “What Would Willie Do?” more than a decade ago as a salute to the Red Headed Stranger, and at the release party for his new record, he played it, leading directly into “Whiskey River.” (Thanks to Bryan Noteboom for the heads-up.)
Did you hear an Austin musician play a Willie song last night in his honor? If so, let us know in the comments. In the meantime, check out our extended review of Nelson’s latest record, “God’s Problem Child,” which came out Friday:
Tuesday: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Gary Clark Jr. at Erwin Center. Outside of Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, it’s hard to find a still-ticking act that’s more representative of classic American rock ’n’ roll than Petty and his longtime backing crew. They’re celebrating 40 years together with a three-month nationwide jaunt. Austin audiences get a unique-to-the-tour treat: Local guitar star Gary Clark Jr., fresh off a new live album, opens the show. Will Clark sit in with Petty for “Breakdown” like he did with the Foo Fighters at February’s MusiCares tribute to Petty? Stay tuned. $49.50-$149.50. 7:30 p.m. 1701 Red River St. uterwincenter.com. — P.B.
Wednesday: “Laboratorio” with Carrie Rodriguez, Michael Ramos, Roscoe Beck and David Pulkingham at Cactus Cafe. This new monthly series, spearheaded by violinist Rodriguez and keyboardist Ramos along with ace bassist Beck, is aimed at “pushing the boundaries of Latin music, creating culturally blended music for a culturally blended world,” according to a press statement. A different special guest will be featured each month; this time, it’s guitarist extraordinaire Pulkingham, known for his work with Patty Griffin and Alejandro Escovedo. In a city known for its regularly-occurring shows featuring world-class musicians, “Laboratorio” sounds like something that may stand out as quite special. $15. 8:30 p.m. 2247 Guadalupe St. cactuscafe.org. — P.B.
Thursday: Levitation Presents at Barracuda. Levitation, the popular event formerly known as Austin Psych Fest, is taking a year off after a severe weather forced them to cancel the music and camping fest before the gates opened last year. But festival organizers will present a scaled-down version of the fest’s trippy vibes and expansive vision in a three-night run of shows featuring top Austin talent at Barracuda and Hotel Vegas. Night one features art-jazz pranksters Golden Dawn Arkestra, Colombian funk outfit Superfonicos, psych rockers Annabelle Chairlegs and more. $15. 8:30 p.m. doors. 611 E. Seventh St. barracudaaustin.com. — D.S.S.
Pixies, Public Acces TV at Stubb’s outdoor (sold out)
Samantha Fish, Blue Monday Band at Antone’s
Tje Austin Band at Geraldine’s
Finite Fidelity, Empty Trails, Spaces at Mohawk indoor
Open mic with Kacy Crowley at Cactus Cafe
Dale Watson, Peterson Brothers at Continental Club
Cory Reinisch, Ricky Espinoza at Blackheart
San Fermin, Low Roar at Antone’s
Family Crest, Family & Friends at Stubb’s indoor
Magna Carda at ABGB (early show)
Durawa at El Mercado Backstage
Giulia Millanta at Saxon Pub
Terry Klein CD release show at One-2-One Bar
Bad Plus at Stateside at the Paramount
Orgone, Monophonics at Empire
Missio, 888, Coast Modern at Parish
Birds of Chicago, Raina Rose at Stubb’s indoor
James McMurtry, Jon Dee Graham, William Harries Graham & the Painted Redstarts, Blue Moon Jazz Quartet with Rosie Flores, Hot Club of Cowtown at Continental Club
Weeks, Lonely Biscuits at Antone’s
Ne-Hi, Tamarron, Junkie at Sidewinder
Albert & Gage at El Mercado Backstage
Warren Hood at ABGB
Leo Kottke, Eliza Gilkyson Duo at Paramount
Justin Townes Earle, Sadies at ACL Live
Unplugged at the Grove with Ian Moore at Shady Grove
Eric Gales, Aaron Stephens Band at Antone’s
New Found Glory, Trash Boat at Mohawk outdoor
Adult, Studded Left at Sidewinder
Julia Lucille, Moses Nesh at Cactus Cafe
Casper Rawls at Continental Club
Monte Warden & the Dangerous Few, Bonnie Whitmore at Continental Gallery
John Inmon, Jaimee Harris, Ali Holder at One-2-One Bar
After easily doubling attendance from 5,000 to 10,000 last year, Jmblya, the spring turn up/single-day hip-hop and dance music fest hosted by local powerhouse Scoremore Shows, moved out to the Circuit of the Americas for the 2017 go round.
The party goes down in Austin on Saturday, May 6, with a stacked lineup featuring Chance the Rapper, ‘Trap God’ Gucci Mane, Migos, Steve Aoki and more. The Scoremore crew shunned the 14,000 capacity Austin360 Amphitheater to build their own venue in one of the parking lots on the race track grounds. Even with an increased capacity of over 20,000, festival organizers say only limited general admission tickets are still available. The tickets are $99 and available here.
If that date seems suspiciously close to Austin City Limits Fest, that’s because it is. ACL Fest 2017 takes place on Oct. 6-8 and Oct. 13-15. The full lineup for the fest will drop and the next round of passes will go on sale next week, It’s worth noting that Styles’ tour schedule includes free dates on Oct. 6-7 and Oct. 13. The North American leg of his tour wraps up in Phoenix on Oct. 14. So yes, it’s possible that the young Brit rocker could also make an appearance in Zilker Park this year, although it would be quite unorthodox to roll out this date now if he was playing the fest.
Willie Nelson, “God’s Problem Child” (Legacy). The song on Nelson’s new record that has received the most attention is “Still Not Dead,” a 21st-century update of Mark Twain’s famous quip about reports of his death being greatly exaggerated. Nelson, who turns 84 this weekend, has increasingly fielded inquiries about his health, especially after a string of canceled shows earlier this year. Add the false rumors that spread all too easily in the digital age — “the internet said I had passed away,” he sings in the song’s second line — and it’s easy to see why Nelson and his co-writer/producer Buddy Cannon wanted to have a little fun with it. What’s most remarkable about “God’s Problem Child,” though, is just how strong the entire album is from start to finish. The key is a near-perfect balance between Willie as songwriter and as interpreter. His own seven songs here, all co-written with Cannon, are essential to Nelson’s continuing vitality as a creative spirit. For the other six cuts, Nelson’s choice of other writers’ material is razor-sharp. The title track, a Jamey Johnson/Tony Joe White tune, features vocal cameos from both of them along with Leon Russell, in his final studio recording. Together, the four singers form a sort of Southern swamp-rat Highwaymen, steeping this Delta blues number in deep soulful groove. Equally magnificent, if entirely different in tone, is “Butterfly” by Sonny Throckmorton and Mark Sherrill. With instrumental support as light and lithe as the song’s title would imply, Nelson shows he can carry off an achingly beautiful ballad with as much grace as he did when he sang timeless classics on his best-selling “Stardust” in 1978. “He Won’t Ever Be Gone,” which closes the album, is even better. Songwriter Gary Nicholson almost surely wrote this tribute to Haggard with Nelson in mind: “I would sing some songs he wrote, and he would sing a few of mine/The music made us brothers till the end.” Ben Haggard, Merle’s son, joins in on guitar and backing vocals as Willie sings his old friend back home. It’s the finest moment on a Willie Nelson record that everyone needs to hear.
Bruce Robison & the Back Porch Band, self-titled. Mixing original material with tunes from largely under-the-radar Austin writers including Christy Hays, Damon Bramblett and Joe Dickens, Robison’s latest feels like the kind of record that once grew on trees in the full bloom of Austin’s 1970s outlaw-country heyday. “It has this great cacophony of sound of just people having fun, because we really were,” Robison says of making the record with ace local musicians including Geoff Queen, Conrad Choucroun and Warren Hood, plus guests including his wife and Jack Ingram. “I continue to try and rough this music up, because of the way music sounded to me when I was a kid. It just needs to feel that way to me. When it gets too slick, too antiseptic, it just drives me nuts.” Check out our full interview with Robison on mystatesman.com. Release show April 29 at Antone’s. Here’s a video that documents the making of the album:
Renee Woodward, “Mayfly.” This 11-song disc is the first release in 10 years from the longtime Austin singer-songwriter known for her work on film soundtracks and her tenure in the trio the New Hot Damn with Kacy Crowley and Trish Murphy. Release shows April 28-29 at Townsend. Here’s a recent solo live version of the title track:
Desert Culture, “They’re Not Gone.” The latest from this eclectic psych-rock quartet led by singer and songwriter Daniel Vega is a very Texas-centric outing; three of its eight songs are named after far-flung towns in the state (“Terlingua,” “Texarkana,” “Matagorda”). Release show April 27 at Cheer Up Charlie’s. Here’s the single “Elva”:
Beth // James, “All in Life” EP. Neither member of this duo actually goes by Beth or James (though those are their middle names). But beyond that nominal dissonance, the sophisticated folk-pop of Jordan Burchill and Mikaela Kahn on this six-song debut is quite harmonious. Championed early on by Hotel Van Zandt music room Geraldine’s, they serve up an easygoing hometown anthem of sorts with “I Miss the Music in Austin,” a tale of regret sung from the perspective of someone who left it behind. Release show April 27 at Lamberts. Here’s the opening track, “Lion Eyes”:
Tara Williamson, “Evolution One” EP. Formerly a backup singer with Austin classic-soul band the Nightowls, Williamson steps into the spotlight on this five-song EP, titled “Evolution One” because it’s intended as the first of a four-part set. Here’s the track “Get On With It”:
MAY 1: Bobby Earl Smith, “Calling Me Calling You,” release show May 6 at Broken Spoke.
MAY 2: Terry Klein, “Great Northern,” release show May 2 at One-2-One Bar.
MAY 9: Robyn Ludwick, “This Tall to Ride,” release show May 13 at Townsend.
MAY 12: Suzanna Choffel, “Hello Goodbye,” release show May 12 at 3Ten.
MAY 12: Rocketboys, “Certain Circles,” playing June 3 at Mohawk.
MAY 12: Carry Illinois, “Garage Sale,” release show May 12 at Mohawk.
MAY 15: Altin Sencalar, “Introducing Altin Sencalar,” release show May 18 at Elephant Room.
MAY 19: Fastball, “Step Into Light.”
MAY 19: Jimmie Vaughan Trio featuring Mike Flanigin, “Live at C-Boy’s” (Proper), playing Ap0ril 29 at C-Boy’s.
MAY 19: Wendy Colonna, “No Moment But Now.”
MAY 19: Wild Now, “Afterglow” EP, release show May 19 at 3Ten.
MAY 19: Girling, “Side 1” EP, release show May 19 at Sidewinder.
MAY 27: Garner Sloan, “Liquid Sales and Bobcat Tales,” release show May 27 at Stay Gold.
MAY: Kay Odyssey, “What’s a Woman to Do” (Little Bit).
JUNE 16: Abram Shook, “Love at Low Speed” (Western Vinyl).
JUNE 16: Quin Galavis, “The Battery Line” (Super Secret).
JUNE 23: Slaid Cleaves, “Ghost on the Car Radio.”
JUNE 30: Shakey Graves, “Nobody’s Fool/Donor Blues EP” reissue (Dualtone).
Friday: Oddissee and Good Company at Empire. We need to talk about 32-year-old Sudanese-American rapper Oddissee in the same breath as Kendrick Lamar. Like his West Coast counterpart, the D.C.-based Oddissee is a standard-bearer for modern political hip-hop. In a prolific three-year stretch he’s dropped three excellent albums, plus an EP. On the latest, “The Iceberg,” which came out earlier this year, he pushes the space where hip-hop fuses with jazz, icy soul and danceable grooves, and for this tour he’s traveling with a live band. $15-$17 (advance). 9 p.m. 606 E. Seventh St. empireatx.com. — D.S.S.
Friday: Mavericks at Waterloo Records. It’s a rare opportunity when a band that usually plays ACL Live makes its only Austin stop at the city’s flagship record store. Singer Raul Malo’s eclectic rockin’ country outfit is stopping by en route to a Whitewater Amphitheater gig in New Braunfels on Saturday. Malo will return for two nights of sold-out solo shows May 11-12 at the Saxon Pub, and he’ll also be back this fall to help induct Roy Orbison and others into the “Austin City Limits” Hall of Fame on Oct. 25. Free. 5 p.m. 600 N. Lamar Blvd. waterloorecords.com. — P.B.
Saturday: Alejandro Escovedo, Minus 5 at Paramount. The latest chapter in native Texan Escovedo’s odyssey of a music career has taken him away from Austin to a new home in Dallas, along with a new record that features perhaps the most high-profile backing band he’s ever had. Guitarists Peter Buck of R.E.M. and Kurt Bloch of the Fastbacks wowed the crowd at Escovedo’s “Austin City Limits” taping last fall; they’re back for this show, along with Decemberists drummer John Moen and multi instrumentalist Scott McCaughey, whose ever-entertaining Minus 5 outfit opens. $22-$42. 8 p.m. 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org. — P.B.
Saturday: Capyac presents Club Zaza #1 at Sidewinder. Local electro funk kingpins Capyac describe their new quarterly series as a “curated dance experience brought to you by your local fish summoners and amateur sound surgeons.” They promise pop-up parties in Austin’s “venues, warehouses and underground spaces” showcasing artists working in the funk, house or world music realms. The kickoff features afrobeat/latin/funk project Continental Drift and Lambda. Costumes are encouraged. $10. 8 p.m. 715 Red River St. thesidewinderaustin.com — D.S.S.
Saturday: Longhorn Network free tapings at Cactus Cafe. Live music tapings for TV generally have been absent from the University of Texas campus since “Austin City Limits” moved downtown, but now there’s a new outlet. Cactus Cafe, the long-running venue in the Texas Union Building, has been doing occasional tapings for shows that air on the Longhorn Network. The three on this day spotlight different facets of Austin music. Longtime indie-scene fixture John Wesley Coleman plays at 2 p.m., followed by folk-Americana artist Daisy O’Connor at 4 p.m., and then under-18 singer-songwriter Christina Cavazos at 8:30 p.m. 2247 Guadalupe St. cactuscafe.org. — P.B.
Renee Woodward CD release, Kacy Crowley at Townsend
State Champs, Against the Current, With Confidence, Don Broco at Emo’s
Bob Schneider & Mitch Watkins at One World Theatre
Chris Knight, Kody West (late); Sonny Landreth (early) at Antone’s
Wayne Hancock, Two Tons of Steel, Jason James at Barracuda
Jad Fair, Blue Dolphin, Nosferatu, Mental Abortion, Cracked Skulls at Hotel Vegas
Peter Bradley Adams at Cactus Cafe
Bluebonnets at Continental Club
Ruby & the Reckless, Trouble in the Streets, Coattails at Mohawk indoor
Sour Notes, Go Fever at Stubb’s indoor
Ter’rell Shahid, Blind Black Rooster at Flamingo Cantina
La Frenetika, Tio Chico at Sahara Lounge
Full Service at South Austin Brewery
Trey Anastasio Band at Stubb’s outdoor
Arijit Singh at Cedar Park Center
Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness at Emo’s
Miles Davis tribute with Jeff Lofton at Stateside at the Paramount
Peelander-Z, Residual Kid at Barracuda
Junior Brown & Tanya Rae, Heybale, Tailgators at Continental Club
Mike Flanigin Trio with Jimmie Vaughan & George Rains at C-Boy’s
Ray Bonneville, Gurf Morlix, Eve & the Exiles at Sam’s Town Point
Moving Panoramas, Mean Jolene at ABGB
Midnight Stroll, BLXPLTN, Darkbird at Hotel Vegas
Shelley King, W.C. Clark, Bobby Whitlock & CoCo Carmel at Saxon Pub
Gary Allan at Nutty Brown Amphitheater
Gary P. Nunn at Broken Spoke
Jai Malano at Geraldine’s
Emily Bell & the Talkbacks EP release, Zeale, Warplanes at 3Ten
Brandy Clark, Charlie Worsham at Antone’s
Jesse Cook at One World Theatre
Sinkane, Eric Slick at Empire
Elijah Ford, Harvest Thieves, Jonathan Terrell, John Evans, Kevin Galloway at Barracuda
Growl at Waterloo Records
Soul of a Musician series with Seela at Iron Cactus North
Antara School of Indian Classical Music presents Evening of Ragas at Equina Tango
Henry Roland (of Henry & the Invisibles) at Kebabalicious
Samantha Fish, Blue Monday Band at Antone’s
Tje Austin Band at Geraldine’s
Finite Fidelity, Empty Trails, Spaces at Mohawk indoor
Open mic with Kacy Crowley at Cactus Cafe
Dale Watson, Peterson Brothers at Continental Club
“This is my favorite part of the night,” Dangerous Toys frontman Jason McMaster said with a smirk as he sauntered onstage at 10:59 p.m., one minute before the band’s designated start time. “We don’t even know if the gear works yet and I’m already talking shit!”
The healthy crowd inside Come and Take It Live (Grizzly Hall) roared with approval as McMaster’s bandmates took the stage and kicked off a raucous, 90-minute set that highlighted the Toys’ massive guitar riffs and devilish sense of humor. To call the quintet’s Saturday show a nostalgia trip is hardly an insult, but a requirement, given they haven’t released an album since 1995’s unfortunately titled “The R-Tist 4-Merly Known as Dangerous Toys.” The fans hugging the barricade who drove all the way from North Carolina didn’t come here for new material, a fact McMaster readily acknowledged when he told them, “You … already know the set list anyway.”
Though rarely mentioned alongside other Austin rockers who broke out of the city, Dangerous Toys rode the last wave of hair metal hysteria to modest national success. After drafting McMaster from local prog-metal quartet Watchtower in 1987, the band signed to Columbia Records and released their 1989 eponymous debut, which eventually went gold. Arena tours opening for the Cult, Judas Priest and Alice Cooper followed, but by the time they released 1991’s “Hellacious Acres,” the Toys found themselves caught in the eye of the grunge storm. Suddenly, the winking misogyny of “Sport’n a Woody” and “Teas’n, Pleas’n” seemed a lot less amusing.
It’s a shame, too, because those first two records explode with ear-splitting screams and sleazy, southern-fried riffs more akin to ZZ Top than Ratt. The band wisely mined those records for the majority of their annual hometown gig, showcasing the irreverent blues boogie of “Take Me Drunk” and sinister shredding on “Bones in the Gutter.”
Credit the Toys for aging far better than most of their poufy-haired peers, both physically and musically. Guitarists Scott Dalhover and Paul Lidel traded chunky riffs and nimble solos, the former in particular flexing his lead chops with lightning-fast sweeps and whammy bar acrobatics. Meanwhile, at 52, McMaster still sports a trim waistline and the same banshee wail that earned him Axl Rose comparisons several decades ago (even though any self-respecting fan could distinguish the two by their tattoos).
The frontman fed off the crowd’s energy, though he was quick to fact-check one diehard who claimed to have seen their album release party in Deep Ellum in 1987: “Nope. Album did not come out in ’87. But I like your candor!”
This cheeky sense of humor and self-awareness turned what could have easily been a warm and fuzzy walk down memory lane into a genuinely exciting rock show. Rather than act bitter about their fleeting success, Dangerous Toys seemed grateful for the opportunity to play to an appreciative audience. McMaster thanked fans profusely as he led them in a rousing sing-along on closing number “Scared,” which stretched to nearly 10 minutes.
“1989, some shit happened,” he said dismissively of the Toys’ Columbia deal, now more than half his lifetime ago. “We didn’t take it seriously. Thirty years later, we get to milk the shit out of it!”
Wednesday: Dengue Fever, Red Baraat, Hard Proof at Mohawk outdoor. This oddball bill of obscure musical mashups spotlights the wonderful richness of American multiculturalism. L.A.’s Dengue Fever blends Cambodian pop music with psych rock. Brooklyn’s Red Baraat slams Indian Bhangra, hip-hop and NOLA brass into an epic Bollywood party mix, and local crew Hard Proof mixes Afrobeat with jazz and funk. $16. 6:30 p.m. doors. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com. — D.S.S.
Wednesday: Nao at Antone’s. The British singer-songwriter calls her style “wonky funk.” She mixes a throwback R&B sound with futuristic electropop and when she played ACL Fest last year, she hosted a sizzling dance party that converted a curious crowd into serious fans. $16-$18. 8 p.m. 305 E. Fifth St. antonesnightclub.com. — D.S.S.
Wednesday-Thursday: Bill Frisell at Continental Club. Speaking about the spontaneity of live performance vs. the discipline of practice, world-class guitarist Frisell shared some insight when we spoke with him during a South by Southwest appearance to promote a new documentary film about his music. “When you’re really doing the gig, there’s so much more intensity happening,” he said. “It doesn’t always work out that you get it, but you have to deal with it. When you’re practicing, it’s a few steps removed from what the actual music is.” The Continental offers a chance to catch the master up-close in a trio format with drummer Gerald Cleaver (in place of originally-announced Kenny Wollesen) and bassist Tony Scherr. $33. 8 p.m. 1315 S. Congress Ave. continentalclub.com. — P.B.
Thursday: Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Brownout at Scoot Inn. Everyone already knew that jazz-funk master Denson was one of the great saxophonists of his era, so it was no surprise that the Rolling Stones brought him aboard as a member of their touring ensemble after the death of their longtime Texas sax man Bobby Keys in 2014. When not out with the Stones, he still tours occasionally with his renowned Tiny Universe ensemble. A great opener at the Scoot is Austin’s own Latin-jazz-funk big band Brownout. $25. 8 p.m. 1308 E. Fourth St. scootinnaustin.com. — P.B.
The jam rock outfit who gave American radio rock an era-defining “Run-Around” in 1994, actually began rocking in a garage in Princeton, New Jersey in 1987. Their debut album didn’t drop til 1990, but the band is hitting the road this year to celebrate 30 years as a band with a two-month tour that brings them to Emo’s in Austin on October 26.