2016 is destined to go down in history as a year of upheaval and distress, as sure a sign of the end of a certain era as 1969 was, only somehow more apocalyptic and unruly. It is impossible to look back on a year of such intense loss and chaos without sadness and anxiety, but as we head into the even more uncertain future of 2017, it’s important to think of the powerful moments we came together, of the high water marks in art and culture that gave us hope no matter how bleak things looked.
In 2016, Austin music in particular stood out as potent and vibrant, full of important artistic statements from acts new and established, from every genre and corner of the scene. Over this week, as we near the end of this Year of Failure, Ovrld will be celebrating the victors amongst us, the creators who prevailed and stood up and shouted themselves hoarse confronting the rapidly approaching void. We begin with a look back at our favorite photography we ran this year, with our photographers singling out the moments that meant the most to them in 2016, whether it was at grimy house shows or poorly lit downtown venues, at nearly flooded out new festivals or as part of a city-funded portrait series. 2016 gave us many milestone memories, most of them horrific, but today we’re going to showcase the visual events that will bring a glimmer to our eye in the next year.
Usually my favorite musicians to shoot are the lively ones; they do all the work on stage, and I just click the shutter. Well local hero Roky Erickson mostly stayed put in his chair through his set, and there was a whole mess of technical problems on stage, but there was this energy in the way he had the audience spellbound. The freaky projector screen in the back also made for some trippy backgrounds shooting this pre-Halloween show.
I briefly met The Red Heroes hanging out at Cheer Up Charlie’s when I first moved to Austin a few months ago. And a couple of weeks ago I found myself shooting them at Ovrld’s Punx-giving concert; the Live Music Capital of the World is a small world like that. Anyway, as a photographer, as much I like having control over things, I like the possibilities when you leave some things to chance, like the way simple composition and the randomness of a slow shutter speed came together for this photo.
The first time I saw Kitty from New China, she was wandering around this house show wearing a pink cardigan, unassuming backpack and holding a gem-studded mic. Okay, I wasn’t really expecting this face or her chaotic performance; that’s what you get for judging a book by its cover.
Ovrld was extremely fortunate to have Czech photographer Pavel Mezihorák contribute to the site while he was visiting Austin for a couple weeks. Pavel’s work is some of the most incredible we’ve seen, and we’re eager to see his work appear at more places in the new year. These are the photos he marked as his favorite from his brief time in our city.
Man oh man did A Giant Dog have one hell of a year. Not only did they deservedly get all big and shit, but they put out some fantastic music and put on some amazing shows. This photo in particular was from Sabrina Ellis’s 30th Birthday party that she had at Beerland and it was nuts crazy packed. It was some very sweaty fun.
I say a lot of bands are my favorite bands, but I really really mean it when I talk about Birdcloud. I’m pretty sure they knew I was stalking them during SXSW because I was at almost every public show they had in Austin and even one private, and made sure to sing loud as fuck to their songs. This picture really encapsulates their performances — and if you can’t tell, let me just inform you that yes, Jasmin is playing a harmonica that is closely located near Mackinzie’s vagina. This particular photo was taken at their show at Radio during SX.
I made this the cover photo on my Facebook and one of my friends commented, “Okay, I think everyone can stop taking pictures now. This pretty much covers everything.” While I don’t want to be the reason photography comes to an end, I do remember thinking after shooting this that I could just put the camera down, because I couldn’t ever top that. I will tell ya, Machete Western puts on ONE HELL of a show and I’m glad I got to celebrate this year’s Halloween watching them. They play next on NYE at a house party and I’mma try to get another good one like this – because their performance is packed full of Kodak moments.
HOLY SHIT I CAN’T BELIEVE I SAW RECOVER THIS YEAR! Short story – the first time I ever came to Austin, it was behind my mother’s back at the age of 16, and it was to see Recover at the old Emo’s. I was a hugeeee fan of their’s, but the jerks decided to break up somewhere around 2007 (but would continue to play sporadic shows once a year). They stopped playing all together four years ago, but the gods who book Sound on Sound got them back together. Even though rain almost canceled their set, SOS organizers put on a make-up show and Recover got to play the outside stage at Mohawk and it was amazing. Everyone in the audience was screaming the lyrics with them, and all our hearts were almost pumping out of our chests.
Youth Code also played the make-up show I mentioned above because they too were rained out at SOS, and I’m grateful that they were because I might not have seen them otherwise. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I really loved the singer’s energy and I think this photo displays it perfectly. She paced back and forth on stage a lot, but then at high points would come to the edge of the stage and lift her arms in powerful stances. She fucking killed it, even though this was their last show of a four-month tour. If you haven’t yet, check out Youth Code.
Carlos J. Matos
2016 was a rough time all around, but if there was a silver lining for me it was definitely Heart of the City. I had the chance to work on this amazing project in partnership with the SIMS Foundation, the City of Austin Cultural Arts Division, and Ovrld’s own Morgan Davis where we photographed, interviewed, and filmed 12 music industry professionals from around Austin and listened to their stories of the challenges they currently face as artists and creative industry workers in this city.