Fun Fun Fun Fest Live Shot: Bill Callahan

White Light/White Heat from local spellbinder

By Doug Freeman, 11:04AM, Sat. Nov. 9, 2013

Fun Fun Fun Fest Live Shot: Bill Callahan
photo by John Leach

Standing stoic in the center of his seated quartet, Austin dweller Bill Callahan opened by riffing through the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat,” delivering a nearly eight-minute version of the song, in tribute to Lou Reed, that pounded into wandering breaks of distortion and static.

It would seem an unlikely selection for the solemn singer-songwriter, one that hearkened back more to Callahan’s Smog influences than this year’s Dream River, yet it greatly shaded the psychedelic overtones of the subsequent set.

As the band moved into “The Sing,” the laconic haze of his repetition and baritone cast against Matt Kinsey’s electric guitar and the rhythm of Adam Jones’ percussion and Jaime Zuverza’s bass turned the air heavy before the quartet erupted into the aggressive throb of “America!” from 2011’s Apocalypse.

“Spring” unfolded deliberately, but even its melancholic drawl got upended as the band wove through funk-inflected turns and psychedelic flairs that were accentuated by a backdrop of blurring, swirled patterns. The enclosed Yellow stage tent seemed enveloped in Callahan’s lulling spell as he continued through new songs “Javelin Unlanding” and the harrowing, searching “Seagull,” with Jones’ bongo percussion pushing the sedated state.

Sadly, the concentrated atmosphere and extended, plodding progression of the songs also cleared much of the packed tent by mid-set, leaving only a mesmerized core crowd for “Drover” and “Ride My Arrow.” Ending on Dream River closer “Winter Road,” Callahan’s refrain of “I’m heading home” hung in an apt balance of yearning and peace, a world spun almost in antithesis to the chaotic festival outside.

For more Fun Fun Fun Fest coverage, see www.austinchronicle.com/fun-fun-fun-fest. For photo galleries from the fest, see austinchronicle.com/photos.
write a letter