As each t-shirt flashed, the comment section exploded with guesses on which artist it belonged to. Savvy viewers said they spotted shirts for JapaneseBreakfast and Arctic Monkeys along with these folks who we already knew were coming:
Austin psych-rock band the Black Angels will open this year’s KGSR Blues on the Green series in Zilker Park with a May 23 concert, the station announced today. Local dream-pop band Night Glitter, featuring Thievery Corporation touring member LouLou Ghelichkani, will open.
It’s the first of four free Wednesday shows in the park, with June 13, July 18 and Aug. 8 performers to be named later. Music starts at 8 p.m.
You can’t call it a disconnect. But it was certainly an odd juxtaposition to watch couples embraced and swaying back and forth in reverie Sunday night at Mohawk while Waxahatchee front woman Katie Crutchfield spent a good chunk of her hour on stage reliving the tales of romance crashed on the rocks that fueled her latest album, “Out In The Storm.”
It says a lot about the power of Crutchfield as both a singer and live performer that she’s able to connect with her audience and stir their own emotions so deeply. And it helps that she seems to have put some emotional distance – or maybe just time – between herself and the parties on the other end of her “What went wrong?” lyrics. Her songs aren’t open wounds so much as scars that provide character and memories of things best left in the past.
Sunday’s concert – the band’s last of a tour with Hurray for the Riff Raff – came on the final night of this year’s reconfigured Levitation Fest, which put a few dozen shows in clubs all over downtown over four days.
With the festival’s expanded scope in recent years after its start roughly a decade ago as Austin Psych Fest, hosting distinct shows in different venues made it possible for a night of female-fronted pop-rock bands to seem of a piece with other Levitation attractions like industrial legends Ministry or Austin’s Black Angels.
Starting the night alone on stage with her acoustic guitar, it didn’t take long for Crutchfield’s versatile and arresting vocals to take the spotlight. Whether in a solo and sparse setting or cutting through the swirl of melodies provided by her bandmates for the majority of the show, the singer has one of the most distinct and impressive vocal instruments in music right now and she puts it to maximum use.
New songs like “Recite Remorse” and “Sparks Fly” seemed to shine the best – Waxahatchee’s latest 2017 is its most sturdily produced, feeling at times like the best possible marriage of Neil Young songwriting heft with Sheryl Crow’s pop ear – but there wasn’t a duff note on the evening.
Over the course of 60 minutes the band showed a strong, fluid control of the material and framed Crutchfield as a performer who should be regarded as among the best of her peers. And it didn’t hurt that she closed the night as she began; solo and acoustic, with a kinda raw run through “Fade” giving the lovebirds in the crowd one more chance to hold tight, to their partners and the moment they were sharing.
Concert juggernaut Live Nation is celebrating National Concert Week (a holiday which was very possibly invented by Live Nation) by offering $20 “all-in” tickets to select shows around the country available for purchase between April 30-May 8.
On the chalkboard sign out front and in the Facebook page for the event, Sunday’s swan song for Rainey Street’s much-loved Blackheart Bar was dubbed “See You in Hell.” There was a let-it-all-out feel to the afternoon and evening, to be sure, but we thought local band Harvest Thieves might have nailed the title. Peeking at their set list as they took the backyard stage just after 9 p.m., we noticed it was titled: “Bye Bye Blackheart.”
More than a dozen acts, most of whom had played regularly at the venue over the years, signed on for half-hour finales that rotated between the bar’s dark indoor and bright outdoor stages from 5 p.m. till past midnight. They all wanted to say goodbye to a place that, as Harvest Thieves leader Cory Reinisch put it, “was the best thing that happened to this street.”
Many of the musicians worked at the Blackheart over the years as well. Reinisch even did some work behind the bar on Sunday before his band’s set. Corey Baum of Croy & the Boys mentioned that he used to work the door there. Mike Schoenfeld, who kicked things off just past 5 p.m. in the sunlight on the backyard stage, told amusing stories about watching baby raccoons cavorting on the roof, and that time he called the police on himself. (A missing motorcycle was involved.)
Mostly the vibe was celebratory, even as the bittersweetness of the moment was not lost on anyone — particularly co-owner Jeremy Murray, who described the day as an “emotional rollercoaster.” Erica Shamaly, manager of the city’s Music & Entertainment Division, noted that her office had offered help to the Blackheart owners if they wanted to start up again somewhere else, though it’s unclear at this point whether that might happen.
Out on the front porch was another example of the venue’s legacy. There for the taking were a handful of vinyl copies of Austin band Sweet Spirit’s album “Live at the Blackheart,” recorded here a few years ago. The band couldn’t be there on this final day, but with their offering, it was clear they were here in (sweet) spirit.
Inside, the band that followed Schoenfeld early on was an intriguing one. By Pass was a hip-hop collective blending members of Austin’s Mindz of a Different Kind and the group Nouvel R from Angers, France. Its very existence is an outgrowth of collaborative exchanges between the two cities in recent years, including an annual Austin-Angers Week that happens each year in the fall.
The music rolled on with exemplary sets by Croy & the Boys outside, followed by an indoor set from rootsy singer-songwriter Christy Hays, who just released a new album on Friday. I departed for a short time after that in order to catch a special performance by Steve Kilbey, leader of Australian band the Church, with keyboardist Amanda Kramer at east side private club the Pershing. This was an unusually busy Sunday, with the final night of Levitation shows also taking place in the Red River District.
By the time I returned at 9 p.m., the Blackheart was at capacity, with a line stretching down the Rainey Street sidewalk of folks hoping for a chance to pay their last respects. Harvest Thieves were taking the stage with a massive lineup that included current and former members, resulting in a merry wall of five guitarists across the front at one point. The chorus of song “Your Damn Vanity” seemed especially appropriate for the evening: “Austin ain’t quite what she used to be, but then, neither are you and I.”
There was much more to come as the night wound down to a 1 a.m. acoustic duo performance by Not in the Face, which played the first show at the Blackheart six years ago. The line outside might also have been in part for the 10 p.m. set by Chasca, a full-on-costumed glam outfit that was reuniting just for this occasion. Drummer Wiley Koepp loaded in gear and wandered the grounds early on, his face painted but not yet in full costume. There would be “lots more glitter,” he assured, remembering the time that the fire marshal shut down one of the band’s shows at the Blackheart a few years ago.
I didn’t stay till the end, as there was another adieu to bid across the river at the Continental Gallery — which thankfully isn’t going away, but it is going to close on Sundays beginning next month. That means no more Sunday nights there with Jon Dee Graham’s ever-evolving Lo Jinx Orchestra, who closed this final chapter with a wonderful rendition of his song “Airplane.” Aboard for that final flight were his son William Harries Graham and Amy Cook on guitar, Andrew Duplantis on bass and Mike Meadows on drums, with Abra Moore’s haunting vocal swirls soaring above it all at stage right.
The good news: As the song ended, Graham informed the crowd that Lo Jinx would now be playing every Sunday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at El Mercado Backstage. As always, Austin keeps changing. But it’s not all going away.
The weather is not yet unbearable, but these artists are bringing heat to Austin.
May 5: Jmblya at Circuit of the Americas. Once again, local hip-hop promotion powerhouse Scoremore has produced a stellar lineup for their annual turn up. Emotional rapper/singer J. Cole leads a bill that includes a powerhouse second tier featuring Young Thug (a last minute swap for Cardi B) and Migos. Kevin Gates, Playboi Carti, Bun B and Trae tha Truth will also be in the house. Festival organizers say they have taken steps to deal with heat and dehydration, the biggest problems from last year’s festival. They promise expanded water filling stations, more bars and food vendors, and shade structures in the field. $89. 2 p.m. gates. 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. jmblya.com. — D.S.S.
May 5: iHeartCountry Festival at Erwin Center. This is the fifth year that the radio conglomerate has invited some of the most-played acts on its country stations to Austin for short sets that add up to a four-hours-plus bash at the city’s largest indoor music venue. On the bill this time: Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Dustin Lynch, Cole Swindell, Maren Morris, Sugarland, Luke Combs, Billy Currington, Dan + Shay, Jon Pardi and Brett Young. $20-$400. 7 p.m. 1701 Red River St. uterwincenter.com. — P.B.
10: Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons at Bass Concert Hall. From 1960s hits with the Four Seasons to a major comeback thanks to the 1970s musical-turned-movie musical “Grease” to a late-career revival with the Broadway smash “Jersey Boys,” Valli has stretched what might have been a short window as a star of rock’s early years into a lifetime of pop stardom. At 83, he’s now an elder statesman dealing mostly in nostalgia, but the songs have a timeless appeal. $45.50-$139.50. 8 p.m. 2350 Robert Dedman Drive. texasperformingarts.org. — P.B.
17: Khalid at HEB Center at Cedar Park. Still young, but much less dumb and broke than he was a couple years ago, the 20-year-old honorary Texan, who found fame as a high school student in El Paso, was one of the biggest artists to play SXSW this year. Backed by a full band and a cheer squad, he delivered a radiant performance with effortless vocal prowess. $49-$59. 8 p.m. 2100 Avenue of the Stars, Cedar Park. hebcenter.com. — D.S.S.
18: The Championship Tour with Kendrick Lamar, Sza at Austin360 Amphitheater. Kendrick Lamar is arguably the most important rapper alive right now. He makes sonically complex, lyrically dense music that still moves the masses. Powerful works like “We Gon’ Be Alright” remind even the most cynical among us that sometimes a song can change the world. This tour presents not just Lamar, but the whole Top Dawg Entertainment crew including first lady Sza, whose stunning 2017 release “Ctrl” was one of the strongest R&B albums of the year. The bill also includes Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock and more. $35-$125. 7:30 p.m. 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. austin360amphitheater.com. — D.S.S.
18-19: Nada Surf at 3Ten. The beloved New York indie-pop band’s career has now reached the point where other artists are doing tribute records of their songs: Check out “Standing at the Gates,” released earlier this year and featuring contributions from Aimee Mann, Ed Harcourt, the Texas Gentlemen and others. Hear the real thing at this two-night stand; the first night sold out early, but tickets were still available for night two at press time. $20-$25. 8 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. 3tenaustin.com. — P.B.
19-20: Emmylou Harris at Paramount Theatre. It was no surprise when the Grammys gave a lifetime achievement award to Harris this year, given that she’d already won more than a dozen of them in a variety of categories across a stellar five-decade career. At 70, she’s still making great music that pushes outward on the boundaries of country, shining especially in recent years through collaborations with Rodney Crowell, Mark Knopfler and others. Too big for just one show at the Paramount, she’ll play two nights. $40-$90. 8 p.m. 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org. — P.B.
May 25: Sa-Roc at Empire Control Room. The self-described Goddess MC from the Rhymesayers crew, tackles heavy themes like spiritual evolution and social injustice with powerful lyricism laid over soulful grooves. Her new single “Forever” is the flip-side of Beyonce’s “Flawless,” a self-love anthem that refuses to deny the struggle. She opens up about eating disorders, and episodes of self-harm and encourages the listener to never let the scars stop you from shining bright. $10-$15. 9 p.m. doors. 606 E. Seventh St. empireatx.com –D.S.S.
May 26: Red Baraat at 3Ten. NOLA brass band meets Bollywood dance party in the best only-in-America sonic mashup you can ask for. $20. 8:30 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. 3tenaustin.com. — D.S.S.
May 27: Steely Dan, Doobie Brothers at Austin360 Amphitheater. The death of Walter Becker last year means that Steely Dan is now steered only by co-founder Donald Fagen. But the songs they wrote together are a lasting legacy, and Fagen’s distinctive vocals are central enough to the band’s big hits that longtime fans likely will want to be there. The Doobies are sort of the flip side of the equation, missing showcase singer Michael McDonald; but the group had racked up hits before he’d joined the band, and they’ve proven plenty capable of pulling off a quality opening set on previous Austin visits in recent years. $35-$149.50. 7:30 p.m. 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. austin360amphitheater.com. — P.B.
Lately Willie Nelson has been celebrating his birthday in the most ideal way possible for one of the world’s greatest musical artists: By giving us new music.
Born Aug. 29, 1933, Willie released last year’s terrific “God’s Problem Child” on his birthday weekend. He did the same this year with “Last Man Standing,” which came out on Friday and included an entirely new batch of songs he wrote with producer Buddy Cannon.
Nelson, who performed at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels last weekend, next performs in Austin on another birthday: America’s. The legendary Willie Nelson Fourth of July Picnic returns to Circuit of the Americas for the fourth straight year in a couple of months.
Birthday wishes for Willie come from far and wide on the web every year. Still, we remain sentimentally attached to this one posted a few years back. It’s from Darcie Jane Fromholz, whose late father, Steven Fromholz, was a good friend of Nelson (and wrote Willie’s chart-topping hit “I’d Have to Be Crazy”). Here’s what she said in 2014: “Happy birthday, Willie- thank you for letting me drive a golf cart into a pond when I was nine. Love you!”
Want more to read on this celebrated day? Here’s a Willie wormhole for you — dozens of articles we’ve written about the Red-Headed Stranger in recent years:
Wednesday: Jack White at Austin360 Amphitheater. His latest album, “Boarding House Reach,” is an insane mix of thrash funk, rap rock and the gutsy garage rock we know and love. There are hits and misses, but it’s an interesting collection from an artist who’s constantly evolving. He debuted the album live with a series of intimate gigs in London and the reports are promising, but if you go, prepare to stow your phone. White ejects fans who attempt to record him. $40-$89.50. 8 p.m. 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. austin360amphitheater.com. — D.S.S.
Wednesday: Lloyd Cole at 3Ten. There have been lots of entry points into Cole’s work, from his 1980s rise in Britain fronting the Commotions, to 1991’s orchestral-rock masterwork “Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe” after his move to New York, to his later collaborations with Jill Sobule in the Negatives. For me, it was 1995’s “Love Story,” one of the great acoustic folk-pop albums of its time. He’s released just a couple of records this decade, but he has plenty to draw from in his live shows. $21-$25. 8 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. 3tenaustin.com. — P.B.
Thursday: Curtis Roush at Barracuda. Written largely in the West Texas desert, Roush’s “Cosmic Campfire Music” reflects those wide-open environs with spacious production that leaves plenty of room for the music to breathe. Touches of the psychedelic rock Roush plays with Bright Light Social Hour are evident here, but the acoustic foundation of mesmerizing tracks such as “Polestar” and “You Already Got Me” suit his tuneful arrangements and plaintive tenor vocals well. $12. 9 p.m. doors. 611 E. Seventh St. barracudaaustin.com. — P.B.
Austin City Limits Festival organizers revealed a portion of the lineup for this year’s festival with a clever ad that aired on Austin NBC affiliate KXAN on Friday night. The spot peddled a drug called Acielle (zilkerus festum) aimed at patients “struggling with a lack of musical exposure.” Mixed in with a list of outcomes like “permagrin” and “liquid courage” were artists from this year’s roster.
Art-pop icon David Byrne, synth duo Sylvan Esso, teen sensation Khalid and Puerto Rican rapper Residente will all play the fest this year. Also on the bill are mope-core lifers the National, Scottish pop pixies Chvrches, U.K. dance scene standouts Jungle, local singer-songwriter Shakey Graves, Prince’s backing band the Revolution, Trampled by Turtles and Houndmouth.
Over the past 12 months while outdoor clubs along Red River Street have enjoyed a trial period of later weekend noise curfews as a tactic to increase bar business, Austin city staff closely monitored noise levels in surrounding neighborhoods and kept a close eye on any increase in complaints of loud music.
In a fun bit of circumstance Thursday also happened to be the day that indie guitar hero Ty Segall wound up on the calendar at Stubb’s and delivered a majestically ear-shredding set so intense and just plain loud it’d be hard to imagine the folks up in Hyde Park didn’t get at least a little rumble and opportunity to head bang, if they were so moved. No word on whether the city’s 311 call center saw a spike on Thursday, but let’s all be grateful the later noise curfews are here to stay.
Wonkiness and wisecracks aside, the Segall/Parquet Courts double bill that was one of the opening volleys of Levitation Fest 2018 was as dynamic and energizing a touring show as you’re likely to have seen in Austin this year.
After a raucous opening set from local punks A Giant Dog – themselves afforded a spot in front of a sold-out crowd because of the later noise curfew providing an hour more of show time – New York quartet Parquet Courts spent an hour displaying the many hues of post-punk they’ve become adept in since their formation in 2010.
A key to their success is an absolutely enormous bass and bottom end sound in nearly all of their material, making it danceable and somehow more personal than most of the spiky and jagged sounds favored by bands who trace their influences back to Pavement, Modern Lovers and Gang Of Four.
The more aggressive, almost hardcore leanings of the band’s newer material has clearly bled into some of their back catalog as well, with an early, extended run through “Ducking & Dodging” turned up in volume and vocal intensity as a pit of roughly 50 crowd members churned and jostled in front of singer Andrew Savage as he barked out a small epic poem’s worth of lyrics.
With stylistic turns aplenty – a two-song suite featuring an Omnichord synthesizer turned things slow and trancelike near the end – the set was an example of the variety crowds can enjoy with Levitation Fest expanding its scope from its beginnings as Austin Psych Fest.
At various points throughout his 90-minute set, Segall hued a bit closer to straight psychedelic rock, but any languid and trippy moments were soon to be swallowed up by a tornado of violent and noisy guitar. Acclaimed as one of the most talented and adventurous songwriters of recent indie rock vintage, it was at times hard to fathom how Segall makes a coherent, unified sound in songs where layered melodies and Brian Wilson-esque pop hooks lead into a vortex of guitar distortion and feedback.
That contrast was on constant display Thursday but hearing the pristine beauty of “My Lady’s On Fire” braced against the noise-rock alto sax squawks and guitar shredding of “Can’t Talk To You” a few minutes later was a lesson in how performers can enrapture an audience by being willing to try anything creatively.
By the time Segall and his bandmates edged up to their close at 11 p.m. there wasn’t much sonic territory from the rock music canon that hadn’t been explored. As an indicator of what might be in store for the rest of the festival weekend, the show set an extremely high bar for the rest of the Levitation roster to try to reach.