Free Week 2018: Get ready for your annual Austin music binge

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Over a decade ago, Margin Walker’s Graham Williams, then a booker for the downtown Emo’s location, conceptualized Free Week as a way to bring warm bodies into the club during one of the slowest weeks of the year. The philosophy is simple: throw open the doors, drop the cover charge and invite folks to come experience Austin music. The event has grown into a vibrant mini-festival, a free local music binge with events all over town geared to all sorts of music enthusiasts. After several years of expansion that made the better part of January a musical free-for-all, most Austin clubs have contracted back to one week in 2018.

The Riverboat Gamblers play SXSW 2017. Dave Creaney/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

» FREE WEEK EVENTS IN OUR CALENDAR

Every year there are contentious conversations about whether the event devalues Austin music in the eyes of stingy local music fans who already tend to balk about reasonable cover charges. It’s debatable, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t love the way the event generates serious excitement about local music.

A few things to remember: Some Free Week bands are getting paid. Some play for free as a favor to venues that support them year round. All of them would like you to spend some of the money you save at the door at the merch table, or drop it into the tip jar. Also, part of the reason artists play Free Week is exposure, so expose the beejeebers out of any bands you see. Post photos and videos to your socials and tell all your friends. Go ahead and tag the clubs in those posts too.

Ambassador for the excitement of local music is a great look, and let’s all start 2018 by wearing it well.

SIX GRAND SLAM FREE WEEK BILLS

Peelander Z 2011 Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Monday, Jan 1: Peelander-Z, Dead Music Capital Band, Drakulas at Empire. From the Japanese action comic antics of the Peelander punks to DIY marching zombies, this unpretentious hair-of-the-dog throwdown indulges in the best of new school Austin weird.

Thursday, Jan. 4:

Whiskey Shivers, Sailor Poon, Booher at Empire. Rollicking rebel bluegrass? Check. Feminist art punk with songs about “Boobies”? Check. Emotionally literate rock ‘n’ roll? Yep. What else do you need, people?

Jackie Venson. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Jackie Venson, Mobley, Mélat at Stubb’sThree of Austin’s brightest rising stars on the same bill. Venson is Austin’s next great electric blues guitarist who recently did a high profile road stint with Gary Clark Jr. Mobley has a catalog loaded with catchy pop songs and an electrifying stage show and Mélat sings dreamy R&B for the lover in all of us.

Riverboat Gamblers, American Sharks, Eagle Claw at Barracuda. Oh, you like it rough? The Gamblers’ rowdy bash is a perennial Free Week fave.

Friday, Jan 5: Los Coast, Emily Wolfe, Otis the Destroyer at MohawkAfter a year spent building a reputation as one of the hottest live acts in Austin, rock ‘n’ soul outfit, Los Coast promises “a slew of album releases” in 2018. Emily Wolfe spent the year writing and plotting her debut full-length debut and in November, she teased us with “Holy Roller,” a blistering single with stormy melodies that swirl around muscular guitar riffs. Otis the Destroyer also performs. This is a solid opportunity to catch a few winners before they blow up. 

Saturday, Jan. 6: Applied Pressure Orchestra at Empire. A one-off performance from the live band version of the excellent DJ/Electronic music collective that includes Hobo D, Kid Slyce and Boombaptist. The evening will also include a performance from Vapor Caves, the new project from Keeper’s Yadira Brown and Boombaptist, and a rare return to the turntables by DJ Tats, best known these days as a local ramen kingpin.

FIVE RISING AUSTIN ACTS TO CATCH

Annabelle Chairlegs. There is no Annabelle (as far as we know) but singer and guitarist Lindsey Mackin is one of Austin’s most captivating leads.  The band spent a good portion of 2017 on the road, enchanting audiences around the country with their trippy garage rock and we suspect 2018 will be a big year for them. Playing: Jan. 2 at Mohawk; Jan. 6 at Hotel Vegas.

Blastfamous USA. The raucous rap-rock project fronted by Zeale, one of Austin’s fiercest rhymeslingers, unleashes a seething cauldron righteous rage. Playing: Jan 2 at Cheer Up Charlies; Jan. 5 at Empire.

Go Fever. Their self-titled album built around Aussie ex-pat Acey Monaro’s solid songwriting was one of 2017 strongest debuts. Playing: Jan 2 at Swan Dive; Jan. 6 at Valhalla.   

Alesia Lani. Her warm and wonderful 2017 release “Resilient,” a rich platter of R&B, provided a much-needed salve to our city’s soul this year.  Playing: Jan. 4 at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Darkbird. Go on with your “Bad Self” and indulge in some furious rock ‘n’ roll.  Jan. 3 at Hotel Vegas; Jan 6 at Mohawk; Jan. 7 at Empire.

MORE FREE WEEK  HIGHLIGHTS

Jan. 1

Mayeux and Brossard, Jane Ellen Bryant at Stubb’s

Marmalakes, Get a Life at Barracuda

Migrant Kids, the Canvas People at Mohawk

Duncan Fellowes, Delmar Dennis at Hotel Vegas

Mode Dodeca at Cheer Up Charlie’s

The Cover Letter at the Swan Dive

Jan. 2

Whiite Walls, Slomo Drags at Barracuda

Good Field, Blastfamous U.S. at Cheer Up Charlie’s

White Dog, Think No Think at the Volstead

The Wild Now, Tinnarose at Stubb’s

Jeff Plankenhorn, Peterson Brothers at Empire

Vampire, The Millbrook Estates at Mohawk

Pretty (Expletive) at Beerland

Sailor Poon, Big Bill at Hotel Vegas

Go Fever at the Swan Dive

Jan. 3

Ringo Deathstarr, The Halfways at Empire

The Well, the Ghost Wolves at Barracuda

Tinnarose, Otis the Destroyer, Darkbird at Hotel Vegas

Smiile, Thor and Friends at Mohawk

The Zoltars at Spiderhouse

Jimmy Eat Wednesday at Barbarella

Stretch Panic at Beerland

Jan. 4

Riverboat Gamblers, American Sharks at Barracuda

Wood & Wire, the Deer at Mohawk

Otis the Destroyer, Megafauna at Empire

Stoner Jam with Amplified Heat, more at Swan Dive

Leopold & His Fiction at the Belmont

Trouble in the Streets, Alesia Lani at Cheer Up Charlies

Borzoi, USA/Mexico at Beerland

Continental Drift, Deny Our Salvation at Elysium

The Lagoons, Groovethink at the Blackheart

Jan. 5

Holy Wave, the Diamond Center at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Ringo Deathstarr, the Reputations at Hotel Vegas

Netherfriends, Corduroi at Empire

Cloudchord, Sphynx at Stubb’s

Trouble in the Streets, Blastfamous US at Empire

Marmalakes, Growl at Mohawk

Tinnarose, Abram Shook at Barracuda

Honey & Salt, Seafire 3 at the Sidewinder

Roxy Roca, the Crack Pipes at Hotel Vegas

Blxpltn, Major Grizz, Como Las Movies at Sahara Lounge

Timberos del Norte, Zoumountchi at Flamingo

99 Crimes EP release at Dirty Dog

The Watters, Memphis Strange at the Blackheart

Jan. 6

Moving Panoramas, Lowin, Go Fever at Valhalla

Roadkill Ghost Choir, Calliope Musicals, Darkbird at Mohawk

Quiet Company, Dayshifters at Barracuda

A. Sinclair, Megafauna at Mohawk

Knifight, Light Wheel at Stubb’s

Annabelle Chairlegs, Deep Time at Hotel Vegas

Leche, High at Beerland

Andy, Starfruit at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Knife in the Water, Croy and the Boys at Hotel Vegas

Melat, Shy Beast at Empire

Lincoln Durham, Altamesa at the Belmont

Primo, Reagan Jones at Elysium

Crypt Trip, Transit Method at Sidewinder

The Big News, Los Kurados at Flamingo

The Canvas People & the Matters at the Blackheart

Jan. 7

The Zoltars, the Borzoi at Hotel Vegas

Tomar & the FCs, Honey Made at Stubb’s

Zeale & the Nght Hcklrs at Empire

Smiile, Batty Jr. at Cheer Up Charlies

Wonderbitch, Darkbird at Empire

Best of Free Week 2017: Go find your new favorite Austin band

Free week is upon us! Once again Austin bars kick off the year by dropping cover charges, throwing open their doors and inviting all of Austin to come discover a new favorite bands. Sure, Free Week, by definition, is cheapskate paradise for the thrifty (and broke) among us, but don’t be jerk. Tip your bartenders generously, stop by merch tables and be sure to give your new favorite bands loads of social media love. Here are some of our top picks for Free Week shows.

Sunday, January 1

Dames and the Giant Peach at Swan Dive. Psych-folk outfit Calliope Musicals, riding high off a big year that included the very good release “Time Owes You Nothing,” headlines, but the bill is loaded with excellent female-fronted acts, including one of Austin’s soon-to-be next big things, Annabelle Chairlegs. Zettajoule and Magia Negra also perform. 9 p.m. doors. 615 Red River St. 

Also:

  • Mscls, Hot Britches, Dank Sinatra at Barracuda
  • Huggy & the Feel Goodz, Allysa Grace, Sometimes a Legend at Empire
  • Mode Dodeca, Tusk Her, Alice Evans & the 11s, Sophies at Sidewinder
  • Grivo, Augra Nowhere, Oozer, A Glass Darkly at Beerland
  • Big Britches at Blackheart

Monday, January 2

Megafauna at Swan Dive. Gnarly guitar queen-pin Dani Neff and her prog-rock compadres headline a bill that also includes Young Tongue and Modern Medicine. 9 p.m. 615 Red River St.  

  • Two Lips, Poly Action, Sidechick at Barracuda
  • Obscured By Echoes, Strange Mother, Blood Pumps at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Daphne, Small Houses, Marijuana Sweet Tooth at Sidewinder
  • ATX All About the Vibe with Ayuma, Ufulu Child, Freequency, Cure for Paranoia at Empire
  • Law By the Gun, Cory Reinisch at Blackheart

Tuesday, January 3

A Giant Dog at Barracuda. After years honing their rowdy glam punk sound in Austin’s seedy hideaways, the band went national in 2016 with an explosive major label debut on Merge Records. Still believe in those who believe in rock ‘n’ roll? Show up, show out and wish music photographer extraordinaire, Pooneh Ghana, a happy birthday while you’re there. Annabelle Chairlegs, Batty Jr., Sounds Del Mar and Party Wizard also perform. 

  • Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Ramesh, Talkies, Rose Selavy, Solid State Dream Suit at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Go Fever, Planet Manhood, Magic Rockers of Texas, Tyler Jordan & Negative Space at Empire
  • Popper Burns, Critical Dad, Eleanors, Anna Roenigk, Those Damn Eyes at Swan Dive
  • Burning Years, Thieves, Glyde, Moronic Behavior at Sidewinder
  • Jonathan Terrell at Blackheart

Wednesday, January 4

Sweet Spirit at Cheer Up Charlie's. 2.12.15. Erika RIch/For American-Statesman
Sweet Spirit at Cheer Up Charlie’s. 2.12.15. Erika RIch/For American-Statesman

Sweet Spirit at Barracuda. Prediction: 2017 will be the year the rest of the world catches on that Sabrina Ellis and Andrew Cashen’s are piloting the finest pop-rock powerhouse on the planet. Their catchy songs and explosive live show will make them very, very big. Another prediction: This show will hit capacity. Show up early. Moving Panoramas and Crocodile Tears also perform. 8 p.m. doors. 611 E. 7th St.

AMX 2017 kick off with Melat, Bird Peterson.  Austin Mic Exchange kicks off the year with a party featuring Ethiopian-American R&B singer Melat, who’s spent the past few years rising through the alt-R&B underground in Texas and beyond. Her latest release is a gorgeous collection of silky love songs, laced with lush atmospherics, discordant electronics and a persistent melancholy ache. Party rocker Bird Peterson is also on the bill. 9 p.m. 2908 Fruth St. 

Pushermania Real Texas Rap Edition at the North Door. Texas hip-hop’s top curator presents a showcase of underground talent. Standout acts include San Antonio spitters Worldwide and Austin’s Sertified Y Stat 1 and Chakeeta B. Lench Martinez, whose song “What Happened to Austin (My Beautiful City)” is the best gentrification anthem of the decade, also performs. 8 p.m. 501 Brushy St.

  • Whiskey Shivers, Sour Bridges, Harvest Thieves, Mayeux & Broussard at Mohawk outdoor
  • Flesh Lights, Xetas, Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes, Lola Tried at Beerland
  • Gold Steps, Lions & Tigers, Dozer at Swan Dive
  • True Empty, Pale Dian, Shmu, Botany at Sidewinder
  • Summer Salt, Tamarron, Juan De Fuca, Ama, Palo Duro at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Elsa Cross, Beth Lee & the Breakups at Blackheart

Thursday, January 5

My Jerusalem at Swan Dive. The brooding rockers will surely play a suite of songs from their “dark and haunting” 2016 release “A Little Death” at this show. Fort Never, Think No Think and Letting Up Despite Great Faults also perform.  7 p.m. 615 Red River St.  

  • Calliope Musicals, Slomo Drags, Eastern Sea, Otis the Destroyer at Mohawk outdoor
  • Swimming With Bears, Canvas People, Major Grizz at Mohawk indoor
  • Satalites, Sharkweek, Wonderbitch, Dvrth Vena, Cecilia & the Broken Hearts at Empire
  • Skyacre, Flyin’ Lion, Trying Science, Opposite Day at Beerland
  • Major Major Major, Runners High, Coattails, Boss Battle at Sidewinder
  • Bourgeois Mystics, Kiddoo & the Dude, Trouble in the Streets, Booty Control at Stubb’s indoor
  • Pollen Rx, Skin Drips, Oozer, Vampyre at Barracuda
  • Suckling, James Arthur’s Manhunt, John Wesley Coleman, Rhett & Dean at Cheer Up Charlie’s
  • Mrs. Glass at Blackheart

Friday, January 6

Magna Carda, Keeper, Mobley at the Mohawk. Holy triple bill, Free Week! With the jazzy wanderings of live band hip-hop outfit, Magna Carda, the dreamy trip hop of Keeper and the electrifying live show of soul pop artist Mobley, this is a can’t-miss chance to see three of the hottest rising Austin acts in one fell swoop.  7 p.m. doors. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com

Free Week Friday: Money Chicha at Stubb’s. Using fuzzed out cumbia grooves as a springboard for abstract accordion and guitar acrobatics, this acid trip of a Grupo Fantasma offshoot mixed Latin American sounds with psychedelia on “Echo en Mexico,” one of our favorite releases of the year. La Vida Buena and Son de Rey also perform, making this a local Latin power bill curated by Austin Vida. 9:30 p.m. doors, 810 Red River St. stubbsaustin.com

Also:

  • Digital Wild, Calliope Musicals, Darkbird, A. Sinclair at Empire
  • Pale Dian, Roses, more at Cheer Up Charlies
  • Sweat Lodge, Tia Carrera, more at Swan Dive
  • The Halfways, Amplified Heat at Spiderhouse
  • El Campo, Wiretree at Lambert’s
  • The Well, Glassing at Sidewinder
  • Nick Allison and the Unknown Relatives at Beerland
  • Steady Legend, Music4Life at Flamingo Cantina
  • Claiming Neptune at Elysium
  • The Bloom at the Blackheart

Saturday, January 7

Leopold and His Fiction at Spider House. Austin appearances from road warrior rockers, Leopold and His Fiction are few and far between these days, so let’s add securing this free performance to the lengthy list of reasons we have to thank show curator, Ovrld. The excellent local music blog is one of the ATX scene’s greatest champions. Calliope Musicals, Major Major Major and many more also play the two-stage bash. 8 p.m. doors. 2908 Fruth St. spiderhouse.com.

Free Week Saturday at the Mohawk: On the outside stage the club features popular rock outfit Quiet Company and funk powerhouse Mama K and that Shades. Inside, rising indie rocker Walker Lukens is joined by psych-soul outfit Los Coast and the swirly pop fantasies of Moving Panoramas. Either one is a solid bet. 7 p.m. doors. 912 Red River St. mohawkaustin.com

Also:

  • Zettajoule at Swan Dive
  • Knifight, Migrant Kids at Stubb’s
  • Chippr Jones, Scenery at the Sidewinder
  • Leche, New China at Beerland
  • Six Pack Stranglers, Matamoska at Flamingo
  • Shark Rider, Go Fever at Lambert’s
  • Town Hall Devils; Deer Fellow at Sidewinder
  • Daniel Phipps and the Kinfolk, Name Sayers at Blackheart
  • ATX Hip-hop Appreciation Party with SSB & SSHM, Smackola at Elysium

Sunday, January 8

My Education at Cheer Up Charlie’s. The expansive instrumental explorations of post-rock outfit My Education, anchors this excellent Loyalty Firm-curated bill which also includes teen punk outfit Residual Kid, gnarly guitar rockers Megafauna and protest punks Blxpltn. 7:30 p.m. doors. 900 Red River St. cheerupcharlies.com

Boyfrndz; the Ghost Wolves; Digital Wild at Swan Dive. The bill promises a secret headliner, but we were already on board with garage rock from Boyfrndz and the Ghost Wolves and groovy trip hop from Digital Wild.  

Also:

  • Sour Bridges, El Campo at Stubb’s
  • Groove Think, Transit Method at Sidewinder
  • Crypt Trip, Smoky Mirror at Spiderhouse
  • Lustron, Aziza at Beerland

Monday, January 9

  • Leather Girls, Sherman’s March at Empire
  • the Sahara Swingtet at the Sahara Lounge
  • Chris Cubas at Barracuda

Tuesday, January 10

  • Ben Millburn, Chakra Khan at Stubb’s
  • Holodeck Records show with Pleasure Escape, Dylan Cameron at Barracuda

Wednesday, January 11

Midgetmen at Barracuda. Get over the hump with a barrage of guitars, drums and good times from these slop punk lifers. Plastique Chancellor, Growl and dream

  • Amplified Heat, Machete Western at Sahara Lounge
  • Midgetmen, Plastique Chancellor at Barracuda
  • Nxt LVL at the Chop Shop

Thursday, January 12

Flesh Lights, Otis the Destroyer at Barracuda. Start the weekend early with a boozy blitz of bar room rock. The night includes turns from Pollen Rx, Midriff and Stilleto Feels. 8 p.m. doors. 611 E 7th St.  

  • Red River Family Showcase with Haunter, Nosferian at Barracuda
  • Little Father, Honeyrude at Beerland
  • Hours Quiet, Residual Kid, Megafauna at Empire
  • Fashionweek, Robert Valera at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Friday, January 13

Riverboat Gamblers, Eastside Suicides, Peelander Z at Barracuda. Keeping with Free Week tradition, it’s not over til Mike Wiebe stage dives. The bawdy rock ‘n’ roll blowout rages on.

Saturday, January 14

Ruby Jane and the Reckless at Empire. Ever-evolving indie rocker Ruby Jane leads a bill that also includes the silky R&B singer Alessia Lani, whose catalog of steamy bedroom R&B is finally getting the hard look it deserves.

  • Windows 95, Jezzebeam, more at Beerland
  • Megafauna, OMGWTFBBQ at Barracuda

Free Week is coming! Start planning your local music binge

Are you ready for the most wonderful time of the year? No, not Christmas, but Free Week, that glorious 10-day period at the top of each year when clubs throw open their doors and thousands of local music lovers head downtown for a free binge on the best of Austin music. Listings for a mess of Free Week shows came out this week.

We’re still perusing the rundown to figure out our full schedule, but here are a couple can’t-miss parties:

Sweet Spirit. Erika Rich/For American-Statesman
Sweet Spirit. Erika Rich/For American-Statesman

Wednesday, Jan 4: Sweet Spirit, Moving Panoramas and Crocodile Tears at Barracuda. Sweet Spirit is one of the best pop-rock bands in America right now. Period. They have a new album out this spring and expect them to catapult onto the national stage shortly thereafter. The swirly dream pop of Moving Panoramas makes the spirit of this bill even sweeter.

Friday, Jan. 6: Digital Wild, Darkbird, Calliope Musicals, A. Sinclair at Empire. Digital Wild’s groovy trip-hop is a highlight but this bill is also loaded with quirky indie pop and good old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

Friday, Jan. 6: Money Chicha, La Vida Buena, Son de Rey, Kalua at Stubb’s inside. Money Chicha’s “Echo en Mexico”  spins out psychedelic cumbia that’s simultaneously otherworldly and so appropriately Austin, we should go ahead and name it as one of our city’s signature sounds.

Friday, Jan. 13: American Sharks, Riverboat Gamblers, Dream Machine at Barracuda. The annual rowdy rock throw down from these dudes is always an eardrum shattering, body rattling blowout.