Playback: Waterloo Music Festival vs. Eastside Kings Festival
Austin music’s fall festival opens with a double-barrel bang
Waterloo Music Festival, Friday 7-Sunday 9
Despite Waterloo Records announcing last Saturday that it filed suit against promoters Jam Fest LLC over the use of the name "Waterloo," this inaugural congregation of jam bands at Carson Creek Ranch happens daily this weekend, 11:30am-1am. Day passes start at $69; weekend wristbands are $179: www.waterloofest.com.
Joe Russo's Almost Dead
Saturday 8, Waterloo stage, 6:30pm
Joe Russo didn't grow up a Grateful Dead fan. So when Phil Lesh and Bob Weir recruited him for Furthur in 2009, insecurity abounded. Between sets at the band's debut, Russo apologized to Weir for feeling tense and stuck in his head.
The Grateful Dead's founding rhythm guitarist and co-vocalist casually replied, "Maybe just take some mushrooms."
"That flipped a light switch on for me," says the New York-based beatsman. "I needed to have fun with it. The Dead is such a loving experience and the enormity of it – even when you're playing Madison Square Garden – doesn't factor into what's happening between the band and crowd."
In 2013, on a whim, Russo and a group of friends including Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz, singer/guitarists Tom Hamilton and Scott Metzger, and keyboard guru Marco Benevento, played a set of Grateful Dead covers at a NYC party. In the ensuing five years, Joe Russo's Almost Dead has become a Deadiverse favorite. With Furthur no more, JRAD continues Russo's Dead studies.
"It's been such an education into an incredible American folklore," says Russo. "For me, it's been a slow study over a decade, but the songbook's there and it's up to people how they interpret it."
While the legendary Bay Area juggernaut ran on rhythmic duality – Mickey Hart's shamanistic percussion and Bill Kreutzmann's bread & butter beats – Russo handles all JRAD drumming.
"I try to occupy both territories as much as possible, keeping a propulsion going with a traditional drum set part, then adding in flourishes here and there," he reveals. "It's like the left side of my body is Billy and the right side's Mickey."
Austin Groove Project
Friday 7, Waterloo stage, 4:30pm
Supersquad of soul, blues, funk, fusion, and R&B, Austin Groove Project unites dynamic vocalists Tameca Jones and Alesia Lani with guitarist/singer Jackie Venson, instrumentally wicked brothers Glenn and Alex Peterson, R&B keyboardist Jon Keyz, and groove-guaranteeing drummer D-Madness.
Oteil & Friends
Friday 7, Waterloo stage, 6:30pm
Heroically versatile bassist Oteil Burbridge has anchored Col. Bruce Hampton, the Allman Brothers, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and Dead & Company. The D.C. native's highly entertaining ensemble, including Jeff Chimenti and Jay Lane, pull heavily on Dead, Jimmy Cliff, and Marvin Gaye covers interspersed with originals like "Water in the Desert."
Friday 7, Relix stage, 11:30pm
A New York quartet that infuses funk and fusion impulses into tightly composed, jazz-studied, keyboard-heavy instrumental jam rock. Seventh album Shapeshifter II: Outbreak arrives this month.
String Cheese Incident
Friday 7-Sunday 9, Waterloo stage, Fri.-Sat., 9:15pm; Sun., 7:45pm
The second-biggest draw amongst regularly performing jam bands, Colorado's quarter-century-clocking prog/roots doodlers are no stranger to three-night stands in which the sextet digs deep into a 10-LP canon, plus covers, without repeating songs.
Easy Star All-Stars
Sunday 9, Relix stage, 6:45pm
Now 15 years in, this NYC troupe re-creates classic albums in vibey dub style: Radiodread, Lonely Hearts Dub Band, Thrillah. Their strongest send-up, 2003's gravity-defying Pink Floyd reinterpretation Dub Side of the Moon, gets Sunday's focus.
Other Crucial Festers: Railroad Earth, Los Coast, Motet, Leftover Salmon, Hard Proof, Boombox
Eastside Kings Festival, Friday 7-Sunday 9
East Austin blues rings ancestral and pure (revisit "Black & Blue," Sept. 8, 2017). Eddie Stout's sixth-year fest spotlights the genre's living progenitors and potent perpetrators as backed by A-list combos, including local slingers Jay Moeller, Steve Fulton, and rarely sighted master Bill Campbell. $10 per day wristbands available at Antone's Records, with C-Boy's Heart & Soul shows requiring separate entry fees. Full schedule of workshops, awards, and afterparty at www.fb.com/eastsidekingsfestival.
Friday 7, C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, 11:20pm; Saturday 8, Mission Possible parking lot (1100 Chicon), 7:45pm
Jewel Brown exited the music industry at the peak of her career. In 1971, she finished headlining the Sahara in Las Vegas, then returned home to Houston to care for her ailing parents. Any regrets?
"Oh no! I would have regretted it if I hadn't come home for my mother and daddy to see me and feel me," Brown declares.
A child prodigy discovered at 9 through a Fourth Ward talent show, the blues and jazz singer soon found herself playing paid gigs in segregated venues. In 1961, after working with notables like Joe Sample, Lionel Hampton, and Earl Grant, the Texan joined Louis Armstrong's band, with whom she "went around the world three and a half times." The bandleader ceded center stage nightly to the charismatic Brown, belting bulletproof versions of "Lover, Come Back to Me," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," and a spectacular version of "Jerry," the classic work song about a lumberjack and his mule.
"When I was with Louis, we did the Riviera and little did I know the song's writer was there," she recalls. "After I finished it, he hollered so loud – 'Whooooooooo' – that everybody knew Harry Belafonte was there. Baby, I still cannot do a show without it. People just want to hear it!"
After a long respite from the stage, Brown returned in the Eighties. She cut a live album with Arnett Cobb and Dizzy Gillespie and, more recently, a studio LP with fellow H-towner Milton Hopkins. At 81, she remains a powerhouse vocalist.
"I can still sing in the same keys as I did when I was 16," she confirms. "People say if you don't use it you lose it, but I never lost it. Grace, mercy, and favor, baby, that's a blessing."
Friday 7, C-Boy’s Heart & Soul, 12:20am; Saturday 8, Mission Possible parking lot, 6:30pm
A raw delta bluesman in the R.L. Burnside vein, with irresistibly fun and slippery countrified songwriting. The Mississippian plays incredible homemade guitars or "diddly-sticks." One's made from a shotgun.
Saturday 8, Big Easy Bar & Grill, 8:10pm
Tight curls and a Gibson SG make Cookie McGee look like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, but she plays and sings like Mavis and Pops Staples combined – albeit more bluesy. The Dallas-raised artist took notes from her neighbor, Texas blues great Freddie King, and once wowed a crowd at the Armadillo World Headquarters sitting in with him.
Sunday 9, Mission Possible parking lot, 6:15pm
Boasting an emotive and magnetic soul-blues presence akin to Bobby "Blue" Bland and Otis Redding, this sharp-dressed Dallas microphone man's singles stretch back to the late Sixties. On "Lovin' You" and "Narc Man," he's got something for the ladies and the fellas.
Sunday 9, Mission Possible parking lot, 7:20pm
Electric R&B hitmaker, whose "Oh Baby (We Got a Good Thing Goin')" was covered by the Rolling Stones, remains a divine vocal presence and wild southpaw guitarist, thumb strummin' a custom Fender.
Other Crucial Festers: Birdlegg, Classie Ballou, Jai Malano, Andrea Dawson