Gary Clark Jr. Spotlights Familial Austin Talent in Blues On the Green’s Return

“Everybody is listening to the guitar man”… and his friends

Gary Clark Jr. and keyboardist John Deas performing at ACL Radio's Blues on the Green on Tuesday. (Photo by Gary Miller)

Under the stubborn 8pm sun, Zilker Park’s filling up.

A scan of the surrounding multitudes remind us that Blues on the Green, more than most concerts, attracts all walks: couples on blankets sipping rosé, packs of teenagers in coordinated outfits, circles of friends with fashionable coolers, old hippies who dance with their hands, intact family units, and curly haired dogs – labradoodles, bernedoodles, and probably some other kinds of doodles too.

Generational as it is general, BOTG’s broad audience illustrates the 30-year institution’s cachet as a community event, undiminished by a pandemic gap year. Appropriately, Tuesday’s musical curator stands as a reliably loyal community figure. Gary Clark Jr.’s already well-established commitment to amplifying local now culminates with his Handpicked Homegrown All-Star Revue, where he and his band back a seven-act parade of local talent.

Music, you know, it’s a familial bond. There’s groove-blues generators Alex and Glenn Peterson Jr., akin to Clark’s preternaturally talented younger brothers, commencing the show with “Give Me Your Love.” Now, he and his musical sister Eve Monsees reverberate verses of 13th Floor Elevators’ “Roller Coaster,” which the pair recently covered for a Roky Erickson tribute album.

“I was born and raised in Austin, Texas – a unicorn in this bitch,” Kydd Jones announces, after he and guitarist Bomani Ray Barton float through the poetic “James Baldwin.” Clearly that’s a commentary on the city, not BOTG’s stage, which tonight’s almost entirely populated with bonafide townies. The exception, talented singer Suzanne Santo, formerly of Americana duo Honeyhoney, lands an exceptional appearance, unsurprising given that she and Clark share a backing band: keyboardist John Deas, guitarist King Zapata, drummer JJ Johnson, and bassist Elijah Ford – all of whom deserve halos for anchoring the night’s extensive musical sequences.

Zeale of Blackillac with Gary Clark Jr. at Blues on the Green. (Photo by Gary Miller)

ACL Radio DJ and BOTG host Andy Langer had earlier lauded Clark for taking fellow Austin artists on the road with him. Now frequent tour mates Blackillac are getting the audience unprecedentedly hype with the energetic, clever trap of new single “Super Smart.” Singer-guitarist Jackie Venson, ever emanating contagiously joyous vibes, hits the night’s ultimate highlight with the patient and reflective “Rollin On,” impregnated with a soulful solo from Clark.

“Give it up for Gary Clark Jr. for bringing Austin artists out on tour,” she prompts. “That was a big part of my career.” Vice versa for Jimmie Vaughan, who’d brought a young Clark in front of national artists years ago. Tonight, as they trade solos over boogie blues, the younger musician's most impressive guitar work emerges.

The complimentary musical role Clark’s inhabited all night flips to supreme command as he burns down a coruscating version of “Bright Lights” before closing with the funk earworm “Guitar Man” from 2019’s career album This Land.

“The last time we played a gig in front of people like this was right here at ACL Fest 2019,” he reflects. “It’s kinda crazy.”

Crazy for us too in that mass numbering tens of thousands. For most everyone, it’s the largest crowd they’ve experienced in a year and a half.

Blues on the Green continues tonight, 8pm, with Mobley and Kalu & the Electric Joint

Backstage: (left to right) Alex Peterson, Glenn Peterson, Jr., Suzanne Santo, Jackie Venson, JJ Johnson, Elijah Ford, Eve Monsees, Gary Clark Jr., Jimmie Vaughan, Zeale, John Deas, Kydd Jones, and King Zapata. (Photo by Gary Miller)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Blues on the Green
Blues on the Green Pivots Successfully to All-Black <i>Blues on the Screen</I>
Blues on the Green Pivots Successfully to All-Black Blues on the Screen
Curator Jackie Venson proves the legitimacy of the makeover

Derek Udensi, July 9, 2020

Miss Lavelle White Says “Keep Your Mask On”
Miss Lavelle White Says “Keep Your Mask On”
“Please, do it for me!” implores veteran R&B vocalist

Kevin Curtin, June 30, 2020

More by Kevin Curtin
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Mélat, Ramsay Midwood, Quinn XCII, Tomás Ramírez, Hotmom, and Dawa's 2 Year Anniversary

Sept. 24, 2021

Black Pumas Singer Eric Burton Stars in New Sci-Fi Noir <I>Devexity</I>
Black Pumas Singer Eric Burton Stars in New Sci-Fi Noir Devexity
Luke Lidell-directed short raises questions of real vs. simulation

Sept. 20, 2021


Blues on the Green, Andy Langer, Alex Peterson, Glenn Peterson, Jr., Suzanne Santo, Jackie Venson, JJ Johnson, Elijah Ford, Eve Monsees, Gary Clark Jr., Jimmie Vaughan, Zeale, John Deas, Kydd Jones, King Zapata

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle