During a brisk Thursday night, typically one reserved for pseudo-alcoholic college students, I made plans to sprint across downtown Austin to three venues in an effort to see five different local Austin bands turn downtown ATX into a musical playground. Finals week clearly did not deter me from experiencing such an eventful night. I was on a mission to explore as much local Austin music as I could.
With me was my friend Faith (who recently wrote a piece on Hunter Sharpe). Together, we braved the moderately cold weather in awkwardly matching scarves and started the night young. Arriving at the Parish Underground on Dirty Sixth, we were escorted downstairs to the historic 1800s-build Driskill bar within the restaurant portion of the Parish as we awaited the doors upstairs to open for the first act of our five-hour tour, Henry + The Invisibles.
Henry + The Invisibles
A couple of minutes pass–a Redbull and one flight of stairs later, we were greeted by the empty open Parish dance floor upstairs where Henry and his invisible band were set to play. I had seen him once before at Float Fest and told Faith previously about my awe for the one-man band.
The early birds started to trickle in for CAPYAC’s EP Release Party. Soon enough, shortly after beginning his set, he and his invisible band handed out glow sticks to a crowd of disco-dancing locals. Henry continued to play under a blinding purple light. He eagerly pounded on his bongo-sounding digital drum set, looped that motherfucking beat, and then rolled into the most insane bass guitar solo anyone has ever seen. It brought Faith to happy, gleeful tears.
“My job is to celebrate life and to throw a party!” he shouted into the crowd.
Nothing about Henry’s set was not absolutely fabulous: the speckling lights, the disco ball shining enthusiastically above him, the outfits he sported adorned with shiny reflectors and bedazzled features. He even had a few friends who snuck onstage at some point to perform: a lonely puppet simply referred to as The Alien and a woman adorned in a shiny silver cape who was performing interpretive dances as Henry slipped on a similar outfit, covered his face with a sparking cape and sunglasses, and performed Austin’s best magic show.
Creating heavy amounts of substance with only yourself controlling an army of instrument pedals, an M-Audio keyboard and a huge playground of percussion instruments takes great care, I’d imagine. But Henry was casual about his talent. He performed so effortlessly that it reminded me of what a privilege it is to be embedded in Austin’s local music scene.
While writing recaps, I always jot down my thoughts and look at them later. My notes say this about Henry’s performance:
“Underrated. Five stars. Fucking brilliant.”
At the end of his set, Henry and his mysteriously invisible band big farewell and sent a congratulatory gesture to CAPYAC for their new EP.
Although Henry could have easily been his own show, he was the one-man opener for a huge multiplayer band. CAPYAC was celebrating their Movement Swallows Us EP release with bottles of champagne and a night full of eager fans. That night, CAPYAC borrowed Interrobang’s trumpet player, Ari Burns, to add a brass element to their sound. On stage, I couldn’t correctly count the number of musicians. It was a full house, both onstage and off.
The band was dressed for the holiday season and taking swigs of champagnes straight from the bottle. All the while, they continued the aural groove sounds of the night. I felt privileged once again to be able to dance along to CAPYAC. Many of the people around me drunkenly agreed as they hairflipped through the crowd to make it to the front.
Of course, I was disappointed to have to leave in the middle of the band’s set, but I had to make it to Toast Party’s show. Beerland was calling us.
As Faith and I left, we passed a table promising a free condom with every EP purchase.
As we arrive, Toast Party was finishing their sound check and began playing to an intimate crowd that slowly formed into a bigger audience.
Full disclosure: On Vinyl Music loves Toast Party. They have and probably always will be my favorite college party band in all of Austin. But this didn’t start with OV co-founder Alex Duck’s freshman arrival in the band–I’ve probably been to more Toast Party shows and listened to their rendition of “Jolene” more times than I have even heard Dolly Parton’s original version.
The band wasn’t always the three amigos that they have now. Frontman Jake Laporte, also a friend of mine, founded the group and has been the main visionary since the very beginning. Bassist Stuart Sayes and Alex, who plays the drums, came into the picture much later, but ever since, their music has gone from beer pong pop to a more refined college sound.
On the Beerland stage: The ultimate college party band I know and love matured into the Beerland boys that night with a heightened sense of musical agility. They introduced their upcoming album Spooky Forest; of their new material, I found “Cynthia” to be my favorite. Jake brought his usual energy, Alex wore an incredible Lisa Frank-esque Orca shirt while slapping his drums silly (literally, at some point, with his hands), and Stu played his bass as well as he drank his PBR and was surprisingly fully dressed unlike Toast Party’s last Halloween co-op show.
When the show ended, we bid a “see you lata” to the boys and ran across to Cheer Up Charlie’s.
I had asked Alex earlier in the day who his favorite local band was. He said it was Ghostbunny and that they happened to be playing the very same night as Toast Party. That’s how Faith and I found ourselves at Cheer Up’s.
The venue’s friendly, colorful stage greeted the band cheerfully. The group, which I’ve seen perform before at Sidewinder, produced a constant ethereal noise that created a unique aural soundscape. Their pedals were neatly organized on the wooden stage floor.
Joey Listrom, a genius on the keys, played his board like it was a jungle gym for his fingers. More people trickled into the bar with lost hope that they could stay warm outside and felt the heat emanating from the stage inside. They weren’t disappointed.
Per usual, the band not only delivered a kickass set, they also added a flair of humor. Michael Walker, the band’s class clown and a guitarist, threw out jokes in between songs. Before “Please Don’t Call Me Lover,” he recited one I had somewhat heard before: “I wrote this song about my mom.” (In the crowd, you hear: “No you didn’t!”)
“This joke used to be about Nick’s mom, but now it’s about mine.”
Before “Static Love,” Walker hosted a mini Q-A session. Questions from the audience included:
“Who trims your beard?” (Answer: Luna, his dog)
“What’s the most conductive metal?” (Answer: “Copper” – but as someone in the crowd pointed out, he’s wrong, it’s silver)
A few more drum beats later, Faith and I ran back to Beer Land to hear Bad Rituals close the night off.
Back on a dimly lit Beerland stage, newly emerging local Austin band Bad Rituals introduced songs within the realm of a tiny, unexplored sub-genre: psychedelic hip-hop.
The band’s strange charm was captivating. When the boys sang together in harmony, it is when they presented themselves the strongest. Knowing the band personally, I’m more used to lead guitarist Zach Black’s impromptu acoustic bedroom sets, but this performance was the best I’ve seen of these guys. In appearance, they had no uniformity, but it goes well with their utter genuine spirit and the integrity of their music.
Another note from my scribbles:
They do it pretty dirty but so passionately that it demands respect.
In the crowd, ACL Fest alumni Hunter Sharpe watched enthusiastically in support of his friends. The band played past their set time and rolled on through the night–live, loud and serious.
PHOTOS: Nathalie Phan