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SXSW Live Shot: Allen Oldies Band

We had to settle for the short set... three hours only!
Scott Schinder, 10:35pm, Fri. Mar. 14

In the late Nineties, many SXSW attendees discovered the best band performing all week wasn’t playing an exclusive showcase for industry insiders, but performing free on the South Congress sidewalk. Houston’s Allen Oldies Band remains an irony-free covers combo that embodies all that is – or was – unhinged and transcendent about rock & roll.

Formally attired frontman Allen Hill possesses a live-wire preacher zeal, espousing the oldies gospel with ecstatic fervor. His dapper bandmates ably deliver a bottomless repertoire of Fifties and Sixties Top 40 classics.

photo by Todd V. Wolfson

The AOB’s marathon sidewalk sets won Hill and company a fervent national fanbase, which resulted in out-of-town bookings, including several in New York. That’s where the band recorded debut Live and Delirious! at WFMU, making its East Coast debut with an exhausting six-hour set at Maxwell’s.

In recent years, the group’s gigs have given way to shorter Saturday morning SXSW sets at the Continental Club. As inspired as those have been, they’ve lacked the breakneck marathon element that brings out the best in the AOB. The sextet was definitely back in its element for this three-hour party at Continental spin-off C-Boy’s, which offered a manic mega-dose of their singular genius.

Hill kneeled at the altar of oldies icons including Sam the Sham, the Ohio Express, and the Swingin’ Medallions, disappearing out the front door for a few minutes in the middle of “Green Tambourine.” While the indoor setting lacked unsuspecting pedestrians, the club’s convivial setting was perfect for the joyous uplift of the oldies experience.

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