The absolute coolest thing about listening to teenagers play rock & roll is their unadulterated love for it. They embrace songs the way they hug you – tightly and sometimes awkwardly but with all the passion their little hearts can muster.
I’m sorry I won’t be flying in or out of Austin this week, but those who are can hear five of Austin’s best young local bands at Austin-Bergstrom.
When I say young, I mean young – most coming in under 18. They're not the oh-aren’t-they-cute-practicing-in-the-TV-room variety of kid bands; most of them have been in and out of the local music camps or received extensive training. A few of them have good DNA and/or family connections to thank but that doesn’t replace innate talent or that adolescent fire that burns under their butts.
Westlake High School student Kelli Tucci started the week off. Tucci is a graduate of the Austin School of Music and falls into the pop singer-songwriter category. Max Tolleson of Max & Henry (and grandson of entertainment attorney Mike Tolleson), on the other hand, attended the local Natural Ear Music Camp before teaming with Henry Gillespie (son of literary diva Spike Gillespie). The two make serious noise on their debut CD called, naturally, Max & Henry, a savvy choice of covers from “Killin’ Floor” to “Bang a Gong,” and the two guitarists wisely drafted Ernie Gammage and Christine Albert’s son Troupe for bass and drums for their Tuesday show.
Today at 3pm sees Loose Cannons take the stage. They’ve shifted around their personnel over the years but the current lineup still features guitar whiz Sammy Ivester in the lead and Daniel Klasson on vocals. Jake Mente and Ross Blake hunker down with guitars and bass while Ace Furman keeps the drum beat. They’ve just added a cool mini-set of instrumentals to their impressive repertoire.
Thursday’s showcase features Jenny Wolfe & the Pack, another set of graduates from Natural Ear. The Pack formed with Alvin Crow at camp and are now directed by Freddie Krc, who produced their self-titled CD. Like Max & Henry's debut, it delves into numerous Sixties rock hits (“Heat Wave,” “Different Drum”), Texas classics (“Starry Eyes”), and four Krc originals. It’s hard not to focus on the ebullient Jenny Wolfe in her role as lead vocalist, but the rest of the band is well-matched to her exuberance.
Friday’s slot also wades into Austin’s gene pool as Sasha Ortiz, daughter of veteran vocalist Natalie Zoe, wields her mighty pipes for the Blues Mafia. Some of the band members have been winners in a variety of contests such as the Gibson Guitar Battle of the Bands and the Texas Under 10 awards while others have been coached by longtime players Glenn Rexach, Cid Sanchez, and Ed Jarusinsky. All play with a maturity and proficiency that’s mind-blowing.
For decades now, most of Austin’s musicians came from elsewhere to seek their fortune in the Capital City. But here’s a bet that says in the next 10 to 15 years, the proportion of homegrown talent will supersede that.
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