by Hannah Wriston
Cheer Up Charlie’s has become one of the most coveted stages for local bands, and for good reason. Between the intimate indoor and outdoor stages, there’s plenty of room to balance multiple artists and pack in a crowd of Austinites hungry for the next best thing.
That was the case for Blushing’s album release, accompanied by dream pop darlings Ringo Deathstarr as the main events. As I wove through the crowds, I tried to remember a time that Cheer Up’s was so packed outside of the overwhelming SXSW rush, but no comparison came to mind after having to wedge myself through a barricade of people just to get to the patio.
The evening began with great energy. I sat back with Cheer-Up’s signature cocktail “The Golden Ticket” and started people watching. As I moved my attention from one group of friends to another it seemed as though everyone’s eyes were darting from their personal conversations to watch the performers set up their gear, eager for the show to begin.
About fifteen minutes later the band is on stage again seeming more assured. They launch into the first song but the only sound that stands out is the drums. They abruptly stop. “Can we get more vocals? Yeah…like way more for the both of us. Guitar too.”
The audience is now shifting uncomfortably. As someone who has dealt with technical issues in front of a crowd, my stomach clenches. There are always issues when it comes to leveling out different instruments so they properly blend but considering the entire line-up of the evening requires extensive use of guitar and vocal effects, things aren’t looking so great. When they start back up ten minutes later the air is thick with anticipation. It’s only after they finish their first song that everyone is finally able to relax.
Unfortunately the issues for the evening didn’t stop there.
Ringo Deathstarr is well known in the scene even to Austinites who rarely leave the comfort of their home. They’ll be touring through the states and in Europe through the spring so be sure to check them out while they’re still in town. With over a decade under their belt, the trio have developed a perfect onstage chemistry. Alex Gehring’s soft lilt and Elliot Frazier’s Sonic Youth-esque groan might seem ill-matched on paper but much of the appeal of the band’s sound is the way their personal styles melt together. Even with frequent feedback interruptions and Frazier’s guitar needing to be re-tuned mid-set, they were able to smile. There was little to no dead air whenever the unexpected occured, as they quickly hit a loop or bassist/ lead vocalist Gehring stepped in for her band mate.
There’s always something bound to go wrong when it comes to live performances, but the unexpected is what makes it alive. In a studio you have total control over every element of composition. You can gloss over the imperfections, and create something that lives up to your own ideal but you can’t can’t create that tangible connection between the audience and the artist.
Even though we would like every event to go off without a hitch, what would be the point of going to a show when each song is no different than what you can hear between your headphones?
Whether we’re on the the stage or spectators, facing our imperfections is a challenge. As music lovers, we’re sensitive people who do our best to make and appreciate art. If we want to support local bands and the amazing city we live in, we have to acknowledge that there will be moments of unease. The only thing we can do is remember that no matter how many times we see an artist the best part is that we’ll never see another show exactly like it.