Festival Brain

The Kid Are Alright Fest in retrospect

Festival Brain

I have a bad case of Festival Brain, that post-event state where music drones collectively in my head. It lingered after SXSW, then subsided until Denmark's SPOT Festival. What's good about Festival Brain is that in that chaotic mish-mash of recall loops the memory of bands and artists I want to hear again.

At SPOT, that included Vibeke Falden, Brandur Enni, Falullah, Eim Ick, and Darling Don't Dance. After the Kids Are Alright Festival this weekend, Festival Brain is once again processing the performances. Over a nine-hour period on Saturday in the parking lot across from the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, TKAA delivered more than two dozen young local bands amid activities like skate ramps and a tent with video game consoles. The night before delivered free panels on the topics of skating, gaming, digital media, and music.

The panels also delivered some of the biggest names in those areas, including Gary Gattis, Rose Reyes, Steven Mullins, Lisa Hickey, Russell Rains, Sergio Rosas, Leslie Uppinghouse, and Carl Settles. Most of the discussions were extended stories of success and battles against mediocrity, good lessons for the rebel teen years.

Jason Manley reminded kids that employers and schools look at social network profiles like Facebook, and that stupid photos on the Internet are forever. Elias Bingham of No-Comply Skateboard shop wished for support for the skate community like the music community. Gaming legend Warren Spector spoke of his rise through the industry by staying in Austin.

Music lay at the heart of TKAA festival, and to that end it was a roaring success. TKAA showcased a fine cross-section of genres and cultures in Austin U21 musicians. They exploded from the stage in 20-minute sets: Casino's youthful blues-rock; the Austin Classical Guitar Society's acoustic grace; Comintern's gypsy rock; the experimental sounds of Among Mansions; Neon Noodle's punchy indie-pop; the ever-popular Fireants, performing as a trio; and Carson Brock's polished classic blues-rock.

Standout performances came by the handful. Schmillion, the all-girl group who won Best Teen Band this year stole the TKAA festival's heart with their sweet harmonies and Breeders-like indie rock. If they are not already on the Mohawk and Emo's stages, they should be. Federal! State! Local! is one band to watch, with cool instruments, cool harmonies, and smart music. Next Up blogger Aaron Miller put me on to them a while back but live they are magic.

Ariel Abshire performed solo with guitar, holding the audience with a canny mix of covers and originals and a voice sent from heaven. I want to see her front a regular band so she can continue to write and sing. Electric Society played something I can only describe as indie blues-rock. Their music is as good as their looks, and that's a powerful package in rock. Team Next showcased muscular new tracks and offered CDs from members Young'in and T.A. Their beats remain solid and as they grow as a crew, their confidence and stage attack increases. Glad to see them with a little managerial help.

Things I would like to see: 1) More shade and more places to sit in the shade. 2) A schedule at each stage of who's playing. 3) Kids attending. Maybe it was the graduation weekend, but I have done enough events to see that it is tough to attract the U21 and U18 crowd to a common venue, even with a reason to come out. Perhaps it needed a non-profit organization to sponsor or as presence. Nonetheless, the support of the Bob Bullock Museum was crucial in supporting the solid program James Mays and his TKAA crew put on for Austin's under 21s. (Disclosure: I worked on the panels and at the front gate) 4) Another one next year.

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