Off the Record
The Lady Killer
Wednesday morning, Nakia was still reeling from his powerhouse rendition of Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" on The Voice, NBC's answer to American Idol. "Seeing it last night was the first time I remembered most of it because it was literally an out-of-body experience," says Nakia of the blind audition footage, which has since been viewed more than 13,000 times on YouTube. The local soul belter caused a bidding war between two judges, Blake Shelton and The Lady Killer himself – Nakia chose the latter – and his cover's quickly gaining traction on iTunes. While Curtis Grimes and Tje Austin of Team Cee Lo also reside in Texas, only Nakia has paid his dues as a veteran solo act as well as a member of Alejandro Escovedo's Sensitive Boys and, going back, Fastball guitarist Miles Zuniga's the Small Stars. Moreover, he has the charming positivity to go the distance. Given the nearly 12 million viewers tuned in to the premiere last week, and 6 million more catching the encore, the KGSR favorite's poised for a national breakout not seen locally since Patrice Pike's 2006 run on CBS' Rock Star: Supernova. There's talk of a viewing party at the Alamo Drafthouse for next week's Battle Round. In the meantime, lend your support on Nakia's artist page at www.nbc.com/the-voice. He hits Saxon Pub on Friday, May 20.
According to Will Sheff, Okkervil River's first performance was at an open mic night at the Cactus Cafe. Last Wednesday, as part of NPR Music's First Listen series, the recent Texas Music Hall of Fame inductees made a triumphant return to the UT landmark, premiering I Am Very Far in its entirety for the venue's first live global webcast. Despite minor tech difficulties – "The ghost of me is coming through your guitar pickup," Sheff remarked to Lauren Gurgiolo at one point – Okkervil tore through the new album with complicated urgency before settling into the double LP's third side with highlight "Show Yourself," masterfully accented by MVP Gurgiolo. "I was watching online just outside the Cactus, and everything sounded great and looked amazing," venue manager Matt Muñoz beamed. More importantly, at the end of its second semester with KUT at the helm, the new Cactus is finally emerging. The venue wrapped its first monthlong artist residency with local songwriter David Ramirez and completes its three-part concert series with the Austin Classical Guitar Society next Thursday, May 12. Jazz in the Cold War, the next installment in the Cactus' guest lecture series, Views and Brews, featuring Jay Trachtenberg and Rabbi Neil Blumofe, starts May 16. Given the spike in the live streaming of events like Coachella and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the potential for future exclusive concerts at the cafe looks promising. "[I]t's the ideal venue for that kind of event," concurred associate general manager Hawk Mendenhall. Okkervil River hits Waterloo Records on Monday, May 9, at 7pm. Watch the band's Cactus recording of "We Need a Myth" in this week's edition of Wednesday Rewind at austinchronicle.com/thenextepisode.
Bad Moon Rising
Drummer Eric Owen offers a simple summation of Black Pistol Fire: "It's a punked-up Creedence Clearwater Revival." Formerly known as the Shenanigans in Toronto, the band stripped down to a power duo with Owen and guitarist/singer Kevin McKeown and relocated here last year to soak up the Southern rock and blues influence. "A huge part of the appeal was that there's always something going on, whether it's Monday at TC's Lounge or Friday night at a grocery store," Owen says. Written in a South Austin garage and recorded to 2-inch tape in an abandoned building in Detroit with producer Jim Diamond (White Stripes), the band's self-titled debut choogles with lo-fi mojo and greased-out garage blues in a way the Black Keys haven't since Rubber Factory. It's no surprise, then, that licensing deals are starting to roll in, notably a recent spot on 90210 and an upcoming Pepsi campaign. Black Pistol Fire headlines the main stage of the Pecan Street Festival on Saturday, May 7, before closing down Stubb's indoors after Lucinda Williams. "Come once; just check it out," Owen pleads. "Kevin's the next John Fogerty."
How Soon Is Now?
OTR expected business suits and cheesy covers from the fourth annual Corporate Battle of the Bands at Antone's last Thursday, April 28. While that proved partially true for C3 Presents' tribute to the Smiths (the Smites), the competition yielded some pleasant surprises, including U-18 band-to-watch Earthbound, Wall of Sound revue Phil Spectrum & the Pantones, and the absurdly epic 17-piece Cirrus Logic Guitar Orchestra. The event raised $36,700 for the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. As much as OTR looked forward to playing Simon Cowell as a guest judge with Adrian Quesada, that role was ultimately filled by Telecaster master Redd Volkaert, a man of few words and faint praise. His best one-liner: "You get bonus points for ending early."
"We do take delight in tickling or shocking people, but at the same time, we've always been deeply committed to presenting a real show," Jon Spencer told OTR about the Blues Explosion's show at Mohawk on Friday, May 6. "Our greatest touchstone is probably James Brown. When we started, a lot of the other indie bands didn't even seem like they even wanted to be on the stage. We were definitely up there to do something." Read the full interview at austinchronicle.com/earache.
Austin's U2 tribute act Mysterious Ways ships out to Afghanistan this summer as part of Operation H.O.T., Houston chef Charles Carroll's endeavor to cook an authentic Cajun-Creole meal for armed forces. After entertaining 4,000 troops, "Bono" and Co. bullet the blue sky next at Fadó Irish Pub on May 28.
Austin artist Marc Burckhardt illustrated When Bob Met Woody: The Story of the Young Bob Dylan, the latest picture book by Gary Golio. As part of Children's Book Week, Burckhardt signs copies at BookPeople on Saturday, May 7, at 11:30am.
Not content to merely join Gov. Rick Perry in a call to prayer, Marfa/Austin entrepreneur Liz Lambert has helped put together an epic benefit for West Texas wildfire relief in the Hotel San José parking lot Friday, May 6, 6-10pm. The event features Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Heartless Bastards' Erika Wennerstrom, Moonlight Towers, and Amy Cook with David Garza; a $20 donation is suggested.
Local podiatric funk sensation Foot Patrol breaks in Paper Cuts, a new monthly live music series presented by the Chronicle, at the Palm Door (401-A Sabine) on Thursday, May 26, 7-9pm. The show, which will be captured by the A/V experts at Austin Music Weekly, features free food and drinks courtesy of Pink Avocado catering, Victoria Beer, and Tito's Handmade Vodka. RSVP to this exclusive event at austinchronicle.com/papercuts.