10 Austin Acts to Catch at Free Week 2020

Free Week bands you’ll be hearing more about in the coming 12 months

Being Dead

Fri. 3, Mohawk, 12:30am

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Being Dead touts an "invention" composed of only a headband, string, and a 9-volt battery. One side goes around the skull of Cody Dosier, the other rests on a synthesizer key. With it, he can sustain a single piano note while drumming and singing, then cease it by jerking his head to the side. Such functional outlandishness epitomizes the tandem of Dosier and Juli Keller, who exchange guitar, drum, and vocal duties. From dry comedic banter to highly compatible harmonies and the ability to craft memorable songs, Being Dead thrives on siblinglike chemistry. No surprise their Fame Money Death by Drive By emerged as one of the most ludicrously lovable local albums of 2019. – Kevin Curtin


Cha'keeta B

Fri. 3, Empire Control Room, 9:30pm

Late this summer, a two-part spotlight on Austin's rising rappers, "Thee ATX Cypher," dropped on YouTube. Its typical Mars-Venus split – men in the first round of rhymes, women in the second – seemed like an antiquated setup until you realized Cha'keeta B spearheaded the project. "Look me in my eyes and watch a goddess rise," spits the MC born Lauren Riggins, looking straight into the camera. Over two mixtapes and 2018 EP 2Incomparable, she pairs slow beats with lightning-fast wordplay not unlike Houston's genre forebears. As such, CB's established herself as a leader in the elevating Austin hip-hop movement. – Abby Johnston


Hong Kong Wigs

Thu. 2, Mohawk, 9:30pm; Sat. 4, Barracuda, 11pm

Looking for a let-loose side hustle from his main gig as Sweet Spirit's bassist, Jon Fichter tuned up as lead guitarist in forming Hong Kong Wigs. The scuzzy, rocking trio, completed by Anastasia Wright of Black Basements and Ex Romantika drummer Adam Galvan, fuses post-punk New Wave with hooky jams. This year's eponymous debut EP boils a cauldron of touchstones from Television to Spoon, and even touches on producer James Patralli's White Denim. HKW closed out 2019 by putting out sharp-shooting power-pop single "I'm So Free," poising Fichter and company for a potential 2020 breakout. – Doug Freeman


King Woot & the Holy Nah Nah

Fri. 3, Swan Dive, 12mid

Wide-eyed and maniacal, King Woot & the Holy Nah Nah unleashes its namesake frontman, who contorts his voice like a demon through soaring growls, screams, and bellows. Although lo-fi DIY, the locals' debut demo Vega packs the punch of "Careen," which blasts through fuzz riffs compounded by sloshed snare percussion. Meanwhile, "House on the Corner" gallops on fingerpicked twang and tom-tom frenzy, while "Tainted Glass" tripwires as it chugs mass distortion against a slab of power chords. All amp fever, their live shows blow back hair with a sharp-cut serving of rock & roll brutality. – Alejandra Ramirez


Manifest Destiny's Child

Sat. 4, Barracuda, 9:30pm

Built on the childhood friendship of guitarist Carol Gonzalez and bassist Sabrina Tionloc, Manifest Destiny's Child initiated in Denton as a spunky teenage noise-rock presence. Driven by drummer Kaylin Martinez, the trio upped regular local offerings last fall following Gonzalez's transfer to UT. That proved lucky for Austin, given the group's spooky deadpan harmonies and pleasant sludge of heavy bass. July debut Rio//Discotheque establishes a shifty foundation of surf, psych, and noir extra attuned to noted influence Warpaint's dreamy dissonance on the title track. In line with their name's droll wordplay, scatterbrained "Nailpolish Nut" also stands out. – Rachel Rascoe


Rattlesnake Milk

Fri. 3, Barracuda, 11:30pm

Surf-punk motor, ghostly country twang: If Oh Sees hailed from the dust and rigs of the North Texas' flatlands, they'd probably sound like Rattlesnake Milk. The ATX quartet ratified its constitution of spazzy, minor-key country with yipping CB radio vocals in 2013 via impressive cassette Snake, Rattle & Roll, then gradually exported members from Lubbock to Austin until fully rooting locally two years back. Now a reliably badass live offering, they lead with frontman Lou Lewis' fire-eyed delivery and Andrew Chavez's rush of watery guitar leads. Finally returning to the studio, this time with Danny Reisch, the band busts out its self-titled sophomore LP in early 2020. – Kevin Curtin


The Rotten Mangos

Sat. 4, Swan Dive, 10pm

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Self-described as the "sound of mangoes," TRM ripens psychedelia and lo-fi riffs as tremolo delay textures become tender and gooey like yellow pulp. On 2017's Couldn't Find a Word, the Austin trio charges through twang overdrive as vocalist Ramiro Verdooren's drowsy-eyed timbre drifts like an apparition on the album's title track. In "Baby, Baby," loose guitar drips like syrup, and "Please Don't Objectify Me" coalesces slinky guitar slides and tumbleweed acoustics before nearly 10-minute opus "Musky Mantra" ebbs and flows with serpentine melodies and a labyrinthine wall of noise. – Alejandra Ramirez


Sir Woman

Fri. 3, Empire Garage, 10:25pm

Photo by David Brendan Hall

Longtime local favorite co-responsible for the bittersweet pop symphonics of Wild Child, Kelsey Wilson lights out solo as Sir Woman. The new project gives her more room to run, and results from her three singles last year tease 2020 debut LP Party City as a spectacular mix of grooving soul and pop showcasing her range as both songwriter and singer. "I felt hesitant about separating myself from the Wild Child world and stepping out of my comfort zone," Wilson told the Chronicle last month, "but I knew it was important for me to find my own voice." – Doug Freeman


Tolkien Tribute

Fri. 3, Mohawk, 8pm

Since the birthday of Lord of the Rings author and fantasy fiction godfather J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973) falls in the middle of Free Week, a tribute concert clearly needed to manifest. Masterminded by local percussionist/composer Jeffrey Olson, formerly of White Denim, the evening features proto-prog ensemble Nolan Potter's Nightmare Band fresh off the release of debut Nightmare Forever. Like-minded participants from Austin's experimental side include Thor & Friends, Being Dead, Magic Rockers of Texas, AMA, Batty Jr., Large Brush Collection, and Olson's own band, Food Group. Face-paint, temp tats, and an Olson-curated zine help conjure Middle Earth. – Michael Toland


Van Mary

Thu. 2, Cheer Up Charlies, 9pm

After unsuccessful attempts to capture her project's fuzzy charm, Emily Whetstone met producer Matt Parmenter in a test band for a college recording class. The harmonious connection prompted Van Mary's upcoming debut EP, which merges the Breeders' salty-sweet noise-pop with beguiling narratives à la Julia Jacklin. "Ennui" begins with "smoking in bed like the girls in Godard's films," an unplanned tribute to recently passed French star Anna Karina. On Instagram, Whetstone expands: "It's about knowing you're being mistreated by the person you love and wanting to be with that person anyway. It's a really sad song and it was my reality for a long time." – Rachel Rascoe


Free Week 2020 runs Thurs.-Sun., Jan. 2-5, in the Red River Cultural District and beyond at venues including Barracuda, Beerland, Cheer Up Charlies, Easy Tiger, Elysium, Empire Control Room, Mohawk, Plush, Scratchouse, Stubb’s, Swan Dive, Valhalla, and Venue ATX.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Free Week 2020, Being Dead, Cha'keeta B, Hong Kong Wigs, King Woot & Holy Nah Nah, Manifest Destiny's Child, Rattlesnake Milk, The Rotten Mangos, Sir Woman, Tolkien Tribute, Van Mary

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