Every year at SXSW there seems to be a day where I just take it easy for a while and find a place to sit and chill with a few friends and a few beers while still checking out great music. In a week full of bar hopping, this can be a very nice change of pace and last night was that night for me.
My original schedule overall for Day 4 of SXSW Music was fairly thin to start with. I had identified a few acts that I would have liked to have seen, but really there was only one thing I cared about and that was Frank Turner at the Blackheart at 1am. If I could see that show then nothing else mattered. Being previously aware of this fact, my SXSW partner in crime Chris headed straight for the Blackheart in the Rainey street area to chill for the evening while his fiance Ann (who had won a ticket to see Green Day) headed over to the Moody Theater for ACL Live. As loyal readers of the site you should have all been aware that yesterday was also when the OVRLD sponsored showcase at Lucy’s Retired Surfer Bar was taking place and so when I headed downtown, that was my first stop.
As luck would have it, I walked into the bar right in the middle of Sons of Santos’ set. I hadn’t heard of this two-piece before this week, but as a fan of pretty much anything involving a cello I was interested to hear these guys play. If chamber folk isn’t already a thing then I’m coining it right now as it’s a perfect sub-genre to describe what this talented twosome have to offer. While their whole set was great, the real kicker was the spur of the moment encore wherein they trotted out their brilliant cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic”. If you haven’t heard it, you really need to check out this video. I’m not entirely convinced that Toxic wasn’t written with a cello and guitar in mind from the beginning.
Next up after Sons of Santos was one of Austin’s hardest working bands: Bobby Jealousy. If you’ve never seen this group live before then you really owe it to yourself to go check them out sometime. This was my second time seeing them and front woman Sabrina Gibbs’ on stage antics left just as much of an impression this time as the last. I’m fairly certain that I’ve never had as much energy in my life as she does during 30 minutes on stage. Maybe it was just the setting of the sun and the filling up of the downtown area in general that brought a crowd into Lucy’s during that set, but it was definitely Bobby Jealousy that got people moving and shaking once they were there.
The next act on the slate at Lucy’s was none other than the recent recipient of the Austin Chronicle Music award for Best Performing Rock Band, Whitman. I had heard, but never actually seen Whitman before and as far as rock acts go I can understand why the voting public chose them. These guys play rock, plain and simple; the kind of everyman rock that made guys like Bruce Springsteen famous back in the day. If Bobby Jealousy had brought the crowd then Whitman picked up right where they left off and doubled the energy level.
While I would have loved to have stayed at Lucy’s for the rest of the stellar lineup that Carter had put together, I had to make sure that I wasn’t going to chance missing Frank Turner, so I headed way across town to the Rainey street area where I met my friends Chris and Joe at Blackheart. Unfamiliar as I was with the bands that were on before Frank and seeing as how Chris and Joe had grabbed a table on the front porch, I decided to take a break from music and shoot the shit with my friends. Befitting our status as both scholars and gentleman our topics of conversation included racism (or rather Joe’s recent run in with perhaps the most racist person alive and several choice quotes that had been gleaned from that experience), entrepreneurism (in relation to fracking and “big data” as relayed to us by a tech CEO who randomly ended up sitting with us), and Kenny Loggins (because … yeah, I’m not sure how that one came up). Eventually Ann met up with us after the Green Day show at ACL Live got out and I would have been jealous except for the fact that I was about to see Frank Turner.
If folk-punk isn’t already a thing then Frank Turner has invented it. If it is a thing then he’s at least perfected it. Like a cross between Woody Guthrie and Ian Mackaye, Frank Turner sings songs about life, love, and punk idealogy without even the barest hint of irony. This is punk rock grown up and dealing with real life while still trying to find a place for the ideals that we raged about when we were young. Obvious fans and potential converts alike at the Blackheart were 100% into what Frank was laying out and there was plenty of dancing, finger pointing (you don’t throw the horns up at a punk show even if it is Austin), and crowd singing to be had. Frank played a wide range of tunes from his 4 albums and a couple new ones as well, but it was his choice of closer that pleased me the most. If there’s a song that could be called an anthem for aging punks then Frank Turner’s “Photosynthesis” is it. This was the first song of Frank’s that I absolutely fell in love with and really the chorus says it all “I won’t sit down / I won’t shut up / Most of all I will not grow up”. Fuck yeah! You tell ‘em Frank!
Happier than I had any right to be and delightfully exhausted, I stumbled out of the Blackheart and onto Rainey street at 2am along with the throngs of SXSW revelers. Chris and Ann had luckily parked nearby and were kind enough to drive me back to my car, saving me a 2+ mile walk back to the capital area. When I got home I crashed hard and with one day of SXSW Music left to go, I’m looking forward to a couple of my local favorites tonight as well as some out-of-towners that I’ve been itching to see.