It’s hard to decide where to go after Shanghai. It’s hard to decide to go anywhere, ever, actually, but eventually you can no longer live out of a suitcase or on couches (or with your folks — thanks Mom & Dad!) so here I am in Austin, because the weather is warm, the air is clean, they’ve got a river you can swim in and live music every day of the week. Plus, I’ve always really liked the show Austin City Limits and there’s no better reason to move to a city than because of a TV show, right? RIGHT??!
It’s strange, after following music in such a small scene for so long, to come somewhere where there are SO MANY CHOICES. Oh god, so many venues and bands and locations and bookers and music fans and just SO MUCH EVERYTHING. It’s overwhelming. There’s so much I want to see and hear and do and listen to and I don’t even know where to start. So I start “free.” Every time. Because you’re never disappointed with free. Or at least cheap people like me aren’t.
The first thing I checked out was Blues on the Green, a long-running free concert series in Austin. “Free” is the important word in that sentence. It’s held outdoors in Zilker Park, which is huge, and draws an appropriately huge crowd (I’m not the only one who likes free). You bring your blankets and chairs and beer and dogs and hang out with people and listen to music (maybe) and just in general enjoy being cultured and living in a city that offers events like this. I’m down with that.
The opener last week was Wild Child, a band that seems equal parts kooky and talented. And I really wish I could tell you what they sounded like live, because I’ve been watching their stuff on YouTube and I really like it, but live… Okay, here was my first mistake at Blues on the Green. If you want to hear the music, either sit really close or really far away. We were sitting halfway in between, where you could neither see any bands nor hear anything, because of people socializing (which for once, I am totally NOT complaining about). It was a great place to sit and watch people and pet dogs and be a part of everything, just not a place to listen to the actual music. So Wild Child…yeah, I got nothing. Great on YouTube!
The headliner was Saints of Valory, an Austin-based band that may or may not be mostly Brazilian? But they play some straight up alt/indie-rock. This I know because by the time they went on we had moved waaaaaay back from the stage (mostly because I just got confused coming back from the toilets) but the sound was so much clearer! Pro-tip: way up close or way far back for Blues on the Green. Live, Saints of Valory were perfectly satisfying, but nothing to write home about.
As far as logistics, Zilker Park makes a great venue; the stage and sound were great; parking was decent and traffic afterwards was a nightmare, as should be expected.
I liked Blues on the Green so much I went back the following Wednesday (again people, “free”). And I sat really close this time because I saw some dude with a weimaraner and I have a soft spot for weimaraners even though they are insane. Dana Falconberry opened — a singer/songwriter based here in Austin. She has a very delicate voice, and is sort of half acoustic with various instrumentation and half electronic. This is actually a surprisingly common way to perform music nowadays and maybe a tad overdone. She was a bit like a less majestic Kate Bush.
Also playing was Heartless Bastards, an Ohio band that probably gets compared to The Black Keys in every single article written about them because they also play garage rock and are also from Ohio. Tough luck. They were like a slightly less majestic Black Keys. You know, good enough– playing music and everything. Good live show, good sound, but just nothing wow-worthy. I’d been hearing them all week on the radio and was looking forward to seeing them live and it was pretty much what I expected.
Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about any of the bands yet to write about them properly. They were all good and worth seeing. I’ll give them all some time and a good listen in the future, as they deserve.
Blues on the Green has four more concerts planned for this summer, every other Wednesday through August 6th. Definitely worth attending.
I suppose I’m sticking around Austin for the time being.