Marmalakes, Dark Water Hymnal, Little Lo, and Danny Malone
Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Jan. 14, 2011
Indie IncubationMohawk, Jan. 5
Judging from the number of underage hand stamps at Mohawk on Wednesday night, the venue may have the Free Week distinction of having made as much money at the door as at the bar. The Red River double-decker has become an incubator for Austin's newest young indie entries, and the headlining Marmalakes justified a packed inside house. Dark Water Hymnal opened behind Jeremy Ballard's plaintive poetry, driven by a percussive broil and Andrea Couch's spectral violin, especially on new tunes "Wind and Waves" and "Center of the Spark" from upcoming sophomore LP Collapse the Structure. Little Lo commenced with a cacophony that aimed for the Arcade Fire in the septet's catharsis, but soon settled into a softer folk-pop swoon that hearkened Anathallo in frontman Ryan James McGill's quaking, stuttering vocals and nasal-pinched croon. The group proved adept at both extremes, from a hushed and surprisingly effective adaptation of William Blake's "A Poison Tree" to the closing surge of "Broken Skin." Sandwiched between Little Lo and Marmalakes, Danny Malone seemed a tried veteran, and his impressive solo set suggested as much, highlighting how far the local songwriter has come in a couple of years. Before a backdrop of Christmas lights and shaded lamps, Malone arrested the audience with acoustic opener "Close Enough" from his most recent Cuddlebug and the upbeat guitar slap of "My Affection." Despite the odd iPod-backed balloon-drop interlude, Malone's showcase beckoned for breakout attention. Keeping the room near capacity till close, Marmalakes bounded with a ruckus as the trio cut through last year's debut EP, Wonder Winds. Their smooth harmonies and pop polish, especially on scene-making jam "Vittoria," establish Marmalakes as Austin's most compelling answer to Local Natives. If Free Week sets the local musical tone for the year, 2011 looks promising.