Manchester Orchestra performed at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas, on September 9 after the release of their latest album A Black Mile to the Surface in July. St. Louis, Missouri, based Foxing supported Manchester Orchestra at in Austin.
Words by Jenna Million. Photos curtesy of Getty Images for Hilton.
Tucked away in a private room at Hilton Austin, an invite-only crowd yelled, whistled and whooped in awe at a guitar solo lasting what felt like half a dozen minutes, and very likely was. The blues-inspired solo was wrought with such passion and precision that it could only be performed by an artist with years of mastery and a profound understanding for music. The artist – Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark Jr. performed at Hilton Austin on October 28, closing out the 2016 Hilton Concert Series, a show any music lover would jump at the chance to attend. Open to Hilton HHonors members, the mostly-adult crowd witnessed a legend in the making.
Ask anyone and they will say the same thing about Clark – that he’s good. Really good. But expecting really good and seeing it for yourself are two different things. Clark isn’t just really good. He becomes the music he is playing, overwhelmed by the rhythm and communicating only with the blues. The guitarist is a thoughtful performer. The music embodies him, speaking through Clark as if he is merely a tool in producing such effortless, powerful melodies.
Living in Austin, you quickly learn the list of Austin’s icons. It’s a short list, but a list that any true Austinite will boastfully brag about, as if they personally know every person on the list. (Willie Nelson, Matthew McConaughey, and Bevo are the legends.) Clark is arguably on his way up that list.
In 2015, Clark played a homecoming evening slot at Austin City Limits Fest, to tens of thousands of people, while simultaneously fortifying his golden spot on the list. Just a year earlier, Clark became a name among the Grammy’s, with a nomination for Best Rock Song and a win for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Please Come Home.”
The Hilton Concert Series is a worldwide exclusive event for HHonors members to enjoy some of the best, current talent in music. Other performances include Tegan and Sara at Hilton Toronto, Halsey at Tokyo Hilton Odaiba, and Jason Derulo at Hilton San Diego Bayfront.
Ahead of their ACL weekend two performance, Two Door Cinema Club played a late night show at Stubb’s on October 7 with support from Jack Garratt. See all photos from the show here.
Two Door Cinema Club
It’s been a long time coming for Two Door, and a long time for many fans. In 2014, the band was set to headline a UK festival but was forced to stop due to physical and mental health issues, as the band told DIY Mag. Now back on the scene with a few tours and festivals completed, Two Door Cinema Club are releasing Gameshow on October 14, their first album since Beacon in 2012.
A Friday night gig on the weekend of ACL is the place to be – even members of Catfish and the Bottlemen and Cage the Elephant, fellow festival artists, were in attendance. Two Door teased the crowd, playing “Sandstorm” and testing strobes before taking the stage. Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday and Kevin Baird, accompanied by two more live members, sound as if they haven’t spent a day off of tour. Racing guitar melodies and syncopated synth and percussion are so precise, it’s captivating how effortless it sounds and looks.
Having seen this band on four occasions in previous years, I felt that all of the talent was there but a spark was missing. The crowd was undoubtedly elated to have them back, but there was a lack in sincerity from the band wanting to be back. Even the new material felt tired. Playing new and unreleased music is hard for a band of any size, but the audience wasn’t connected. New singles from the album were greeted with less enthusiasm than any song from Tourist History or Beacon. The dissonance between the band and fans is only a side effect of time spent away, and the release of the album will resolve it.
Gameshow is representative of the new era for the band. They will continue to build where they left off, hopefully with a fresh breath of air, to earn their well-deserved spot in the history of indie rock. Die-hard fans will ultimately follow Two Door anywhere.
The solo artist is quickly turning heads after the release of his debut album early this year. Many of Garratt’s songs build on gentle vocals and simplistic piano or electronic melodies, adding guitar and percussion, to create power soul-pop. | Listen | Follow |
Cage the Elephant performing at Edgefest. Photos by Jenna Million.
Each spring Dallas radio KDGE 102.1 brings the best in alternative rock to Edgefest. The single-day festival in Frisco, Texas, always promises an eye-catching lineup. Last year was stacked with Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, The Kooks, Banks, Hozier, Death Cab for Cutie – need I go on? This year the festival blew it out of the water with Foals, Chvrches, Silversun Pickups, Bastille, The 1975, Cage the Elephant and many others. The irresistible lineup landed me at the festival for a second year. Here are my highlights.
Following time off from touring to record their second studio album, Bastille made a triumphant return to a cheering crowd. Starting with “Flaws,” frontman Dan Smith immediately looked for the quickest way off stage and made his way into the crowd, visiting the front, left, middle and right before returning to the stage just before the end of the song. It is obvious the band has missed playing shows as much as the fans have.
The front row was lined with teen girls anxiously awaiting The 1975’s first appearance in Texas since November 2014. The band is touring the U.S. in support of their second studio album “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it,” released in October 2015. Accompanying the new and old songs was a vibrant, mesmerizing light setup that created an entirely new way of experiencing their music. I will let the photos speak for themselves.
Immediately following The 1975 with a quick change over, Cage the Elephant closed the night with a rocking blow. Singer Matt Shultz transforms on stage – the music visually courses through him as he runs, jumps, dances across the stage. The rest of the band executes heavy rhythms, speedy percussion, and tight riffs with precision and ease that comes with years of musicianship and work. It culminates into a performance that is unparalleled by any rock band today.
The British rock group released the fourth studio album on Aug. 28, 2015. The album shows clear divide in the massive rock songs with heavy, building bass and guitar (“What When Down,” “Mountain at My Gates”) and the carefully crafted, poetic songs that let gentle guitar hooks breathe (“Give It All,” “London Thunder.”)
Friday night, Foals opened with “Snake Oil,” then “Olympic Airways” and “My Number.” With each song, the expanding instrumentals demanded the audiences’ attention. Interspersed throughout the set, “Give It All,” “Spanish Sahara,” “Late Night” and “A Knife in the Ocean” pulled back with a controlled energy that radiated through the room.
The calm buzz quickly turned to a roaring thunder during the finale of “Inhaler,” “What Went Down” and “Two Steps, Twice.” Yannis Philippakis, singer and guitarist, was overcome by the music, crowdsurfing, jumping from double-stacked speakers, and dropping to the floor – all without missing a note. Philippakis even left the stage a second time, not to crowd surf but deliberately headed to the bar for a beer before finishing the set.
Bully’s sold out show at The Parish on Feb. 4 was telling of a new rock scene. Bands like Bully and opener Diet Cig are leading the way for DIY punk bands. Bully’s guitars and bass lines easily follow a rock beat, while Alicia Bagnanno’s soft voice elevates to a rough yell, nearing the line of grunge and punk.
The band formed in 2013 after Bagnanno began recording her music at a studio she worked at as an engineer. In June 2015, Bully released its first album “Feels Like.”
Wolf Alice at Holy Mountain in Austin, Texas, on May 19. Ellie Roswell sings to fans during encore. Photo by Jenna Million.
I am starting a new series called Across the Pond, which will examine the music scene of England and the surrounding region. The first three posts in this series are part of a project for my public relations class. As this is a topic that interests me, I may continue the series beyond these three posts.
In the past six months I have become increasingly interested in English artists and what the music scene is like for new artists and new music. I will be posting songs, playlists, artists features and interviews, and other content. To get things started I want to introduce you to several of the undiscovered or upcoming English artists that have my attention right now.
1. Wolf Alice
If you’ve been following me, you know that Wolf Alice is one of my favorite bands right now. The four-piece London-based group is fronted by singer and guitarist Ellie Roswell. Wolf Alice’s sound comprises rock, folk and grunge elements to create songs with a roller coast of emotions from soft whispers and solo guitar to screaming and heavy bass. They released their debut album My Love is Cool on June 22, and have had huge success in England since. My Love is Cool is nominated for the Mercury Prize for Album of the Year along with 11 other U.K. and Irish acts.
2. Sundara Karma
“Vivienne” is the latest single from Reading quartet Sundara Karma. What drew me to Sundara Karma was their rhythmic drums and bass that drives most of their songs with accents of guitar hooks. Singer Oscar Pollock’s vocals bring a new perspective to dreamy lyrics about teenage daydreams and late nights. With every song Sundara Karma has released I’ve been impressed by the writing and production quality of the barely 20-year-old musicians. In the past few months the band has been gaining more traction, opening for The Wombats and Circa Waves on tour and starting their first headlining tour across the U.K. Signed to Chess Club Records, Sundara Karma are set to release their second EP soon, and have an album in the works.
Lapsley has had a slow but steady buzz around her for awhile. The 19-year-old from Liverpool has a sonorous voice that evokes emotions deep within the listener. I reviewed her single “Hurt Me” here. With the direction she’s headed, Lapsley could be a big name in pop in a few years.
4. Rat Boy
Rat Boy is a little bit of rock, a little bit of rap, a little bit of grunge and a lot of crazy. Hailing from Essex, Rat Boy has a distinct accent, and at times sounds like a teenager rapping over early Arctic Monkey garage rock songs. Rat Boy feels very much representative of teen angst, singing about everyday life in a matter-of-fact manner, and calling himself “scum” in his Twitter bio. This list might as well be a list of England’s young talent because Rat Boy also slides in at barely 19-years-old. He was featured in NME’s list of 50 New Bands of 2015, and will be opening the The 1975 on their U.K. later this year.
5. The Japanese House
The Japanese House is the project of 19-year-old Amber Bain, who remained anonymous for six months after releasing the first single “Still” which premier on BBC’s Radio 1 with Zane Lowe proclaiming it his “Hottest Record.” The music is an extreme experimental take on pop with ethereal vocals that surround the listener and layers of synth overtones that drown out the outside world. The Japanese House is produced by The 1975’s singer Matty Healy and drummer George Daniel. The 1975, whose music also brings an experimental edge to traditional pop music, has a clear influence on the production of the music, at times leaving fans to wonder if it was a side project of Healy’s. The Japanese House is undoubtedly unlike any other projects right now, so much so the music is almost alien sounding.
It’s one thing to hear someone say, “Oh my god. That band was amazing live!” and another thing entirely to experience it for yourself. This is what I had been hearing about Royal Blood for some time now. I was looking forward to seeing them play at ACL, but as the schedule gods would have it, I couldn’t make it to their set on Friday of either weekend at ACL. I was fortunate, however, to be able to photograph them at their Official ACL Late Night show on Oct. 3, and let me say, “Oh my god. That band is amazing live!”
Royal Blood are one of the few bands I’ve ever seen perform at such a high level. In the first half of the set it was very obvious both singer and bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher are talented musicians. They were executing heavy bass riffs and drums fills with perfection. In fact, it sounded more perfect than the album with the added surround-sound effect of the bass drum thumping in your chest and the electric riffs making the hairs on your arm stand straight. The sound produced by the two musicians was overwhelming, overtaking every corner in Emo’s, threatening to knock the walls down. It’s a wonder at festivals that their sound doesn’t magnetize every passing patron, drawing them into the electric energy.
I told myself I was going to leave the show early since their set started at 12:20am, but every song on the set list was better than the previous, convincing me to hear the last second. I felt like I was watching a set of Royal Blood’s greatest hits.Their 2014 debut, self-titled album is incredibly well written, so much so that any song on the album could very easily be a radio single or even a hit song. “Out of the Black,” “Little Monster,” “Come on Over” and “Figure It Out” all made it to radio release.
The second half of the set was elevated by Kerr and Thatcher’s performance and audience interaction. Thatcher, who remained mute throughout the set, methodically chewing gum and smashing drums, stopped drumming for a song to crowd surf, a ritual at every show, while Kerr continued to shred heavy bass lines. Kerr took his time sizing up the audience and yelling at different sections, awaiting praise as if the audience had to prove they wanted Kerr to give the performance of his life. Although Kerr remained impassive to the crowd’s cheers, he said “I’m going to try something I haven’t done before,” and continued to race his fingers across silver-plated bronze strings.
What exactly he was referring to is uncertain, but I am sure he poured his soul into his playing from that point on. I was left speechless, soaking up every second of every note flying off Kerr’s guitar, the sound reaching dangerously loud levels. It was very clear Kerr was not just playing the music anymore, he was pushing limits on his abilities and on the music, driving it to new heights. It takes a lot to be a good performer, but it takes more to challenge yourself to take those leaps on stage. Royal Blood is training to headline festivals, and every show is practice for the next stage.