New Austin Music Worth Your Bandwidth This Week
What we’re listening to
By Kevin Curtin, Raoul Hernandez, Rachel Rascoe, Derek Udensi, Alejandra Ramirez, and Greg Stitt, Fri., Oct. 2, 2020
Eastside Kings Festival
www.fb.com/eastsidekingsfestival, Monday 5, 7pm
Exquisitely charismatic blues showman whose career extends seven decades, Bobby Rush recalls a 1951 gig in suburban Illinois with friends Howlin' Wolf and J.B. Lenoir.
"We played behind a curtain because they wanted to hear our music but didn't want to see our faces as Black men," scoffs the 86-year-old singer. "I'm about the only guy who talks about what went on, because I've always been independent."
Racism notwithstanding, the Louisianan says both autonomy and ambition led him to be crowned the King of the Chitlin Circuit. His relentless touring of Black and Black-friendly clubs brought him to Austin in the late Fifties and early Sixties.
"I remember the Victory Grill, yes," he affirms of the historic venue still standing at 11th Street. "I played there. It wasn't nothing but a local tavern, man. We also had another little place in Austin, a recreation center for teenagers because they couldn't come to the juke joint at 9pm.
"So we had two audiences: played earlier for the teenagers, then at night for the adults."
Underrepresented history also anchors the eight-year-running Eastside Kings Festival, which features veteran and emergent Black blues, R&B, and soul talent. For this year's virtual adaptation, Dialtone Records prime mover Eddie Stout united two blue-chip backing bands, the Eastside Kings and Texas Horns, set them up at Stuart Sullivan's Wire Recording, and ushered in a cavalcade of showstopping performers, most of them local: Soul Man Sam, Orange Jefferson, Lavelle White, Classie Ballou, Birdlegg, Tutu Jones, Andrea Dawson, and Mr. Bobby Rush himself, who drove all night from Mississippi to be there.
Rush, whose phenomenal new acoustic LP Rawer Than Raw focuses on the blues Delta's deep song pool, performs on the broadcast both as a featured artist and alongside Crystal Thomas' rich vocalizing. For a musician who made his name playing 200 shows a year, Monday's ESK appearance marks a rare opportunity for live performance during the pandemic. So what does Bobby Rush do when he gets bored?
"What I do is grab my guitar and go in my bathroom or some room and set myself up," he outlines. "I play and escape through my music – write and read and study. I've always done that. When times get hard, I pick my guitar up, soothe myself, and uplift from the down valleys of whatever I'm going through." – Kevin Curtin
ACL Live Lounge Series
ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Friday 2 & Saturday 3
Downtown's largest venue isn't too big to pivot. Last month, ACL Live adapted into a chapel, marrying 14 couples under lights typically shining on bands. This weekend they baby step back into live entertainment with local, socially distanced double bills raising money for Austin music nonprofit Black Fret. Violin and ukulele-anchored indie folk combo Wild Child, whose new Song Confessional-inspired track "Going In" proved a popular Spotify addition, link with Beau Bedford's country, funk, and blues wrecking crew Texas Gentlemen. Melodically vibrant multi-instrumentalist Jackie Venson plays Saturday after explosive rappers Blackillac. – Kevin Curtin
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Hardlystrictlybluegrass.com, Saturday 3, 4pm
For the first time in 20 years, multitudes of music fans won't crash San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for the best free fest in the nation. Per 2020 custom, Hardly Strictly's gone virtual with its Let the Music Play On broadcast, featuring prerecorded segments from 37 acts including copious Austinites: deep soul/funk/indie/psych movers Los Coast, bilingual Americana violinist/vocalist Carrie Rodriguez, rock/punk/folk troubadour John Doe of X, potent songwriter Patty Griffin, and moonlit poet Shakey Graves. Townies emeritus holding place on the bill include: blue-eyed soul/soft-rocker Boz Scaggs, Flatlanders Jimmie Dale Gilmore & Butch Hancock, and Steve Earle. – Kevin Curtin
Austin Corn Lovers Fiesta
Facebook Live, Saturday 3 & Sunday 4
Limited scientific research exists as to whether COVID-19 can be transmitted through crotch sweat. To err on the side of caution, Hickoids frontman Jeff Smith, who uses the front of his Jockeys as a microphone holster, throws his annual ACL Fest alternative digitally this year. The Saustex Records blowout runs 2-6pm all weekend, with Saturday's multi-city broadcast growing increasingly heavy via Harvey McLaughlin, Stefan Murphy, Churchwood, DiNOLA, and orbiting freak rock conglomerate We Are the Astroid. Sunday's service shucks ears with Mitch Webb & the Swindles, the Me-Thinks, Frontier Dan with the Hickoids, gutter poet Hamell on Trial, and the anti-church, pro-pill honky-tonkers the Beaumonts. – Kevin Curtin
Suzanne Vega Livestream
www.oneworldtheatre.org, Wednesday 7, 8pm
When Suzanne Vega sat down at my dark, empty table at the Austin Music Awards last year, our look at one another read simply ... "Pay no attention to the entertainer in front of the curtain." Onstage, she lit up like any NYC street poet. Livestreaming from Manhattan's famed Blue Note Jazz Club, the singer partners on the show with independent venues and promoters in the U.S. and Europe to feed a comatose live music infrastructure, including her Austin host villa the One World Theatre. An Evening of New York Songs and Stories, her new album, also serves as the evening's agenda with her trio. "Luka" and "Tom's Diner" cohabit with a Big Apple repertoire featuring "New York Is My Destination" from Lover, Beloved: Songs From an Evening With Carson McCullers, Vega's one-woman play. $20. – Raoul Hernandez
Kendra Sells, "All In Your Head"
The solo debut of Austin native Kendra Sells, "All in Your Head" soundtracks an artist stretching their boundaries. The fluid, exploratory track follows years of the singer leading San Marcos neo-soul project BluMoon, which put out last year's lively Slow Burn. Sells' latest single journeys soulful vocals in a playful intro, before shifting entirely through pulsating, ooey-gooey beats to a jazz-influenced indie center. The charismatic performer rides a hypnotic refrain: "Was it all in your head?" The unmastered track sits on Quiet Year Records' Quiet Year Comp Vol. 1, previewing Sells' upcoming EP with the Virginian DIY label. – Rachel Rascoe
Ghostboy Jaysee's "Lust"
Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube
Jean Meama follows introspective May release, "Pray to God," by letting his adult-rated desires run wild on "Lust," which makes clear that whatever debauchery transpires will fall under forgettable "entanglement" rather than Shakespearean love. The Austin-based MC melodically lists the benefits that come with associating oneself with him. Lawofthewest, an instrumentalist from Houston, uses a simple guitar loop mixed with pronounced snares to produce a rock-and-rap backdrop befit for an artist that's already demonstrated an ability to dabble into other genres such as R&B ("Radar"). An accompanying video for "Lust" finds a confident Jaysee entertaining multiple women joyfully twerking inside his hotel room. The former Texas State track athlete continues to leap into Austin's upper echelons of rap. – Derek Udensi
Nané, "Clementine Tree"
Apple Music, Spotify, SoundCloud, YouTube
Delicate and tender, Daniel Sahad's falsetto rides the wind of an evening breeze on Nané's newest single, "Clementine Tree." Acoustic chords and keyboard embellishments ripple as the now-local Dominican Republic native's vox drifts weightlessly until it sinks to a corporeal boom or rises like smoke. This song follows the Austinites' slew of 2020 singles: the mai tai funk of "Blue Velvet," hooded lust burner "Wolverine," and interstellar psychedelic cruise "Pink Jag." Lushly arranged thanks to producer John Spiece IV (Brownout, Grupo Fantasma), engineer Adrian Quesada (Black Pumas), and mastering engineer Erik Wofford (Explosions in the Sky), the quintet's self-titled debut arrives November 13. Prior to the album's release, the band plays with Brownout for ACL Live's Lounge Series on October 16. – Alejandra Ramirez
To the People of the Land
A heaping helping of mostly CenTex artists unify to raise legal funds for the Esto'k Gna, a Rio Grande Valley tribe with ancestral lands stretching the border and Southwest. Without increased awareness and assistance, they face relocation and eradication in the face of environmental devastation caused by gas terminals, pipelines, and border wall expansions. Curated by musician Jordan Moser and local imprint Keeled Scales, the digital compilation culls the unreleased tracks and demos of 31 performers, from Black Belt Eagle Scout and Big Thief to Molly Burch and Christelle Bofale. Much of the active Keeled Scales roster represents, while Jess Williamson and Jackie Venson offer live cuts. Available online for only 30 days starting October 2 – that's the monthly "Bandcamp Friday," during which the online music hub waives artist fees – all revenue goes to the fund. More info: www.carrizocomecrudonation.com. – Greg Stitt
"Walk With Me Austin"
Apple, Music, Bandcamp, Spotify, YouTube
Austin Mayor Steve Adler ushered in the Sept. 24 digital premiere of "Walk With Me Austin" by describing the large-scale collaboration as a "reflection of this moment, an anthem to bring our community together." The track is part of a national, mayoral-backed movement that started with April's "Lift Up Louisville." Originally a response to the coronavirus pandemic's mandate of quarantining, the initiative moved to also include calls for racial justice after the murder of George Floyd. Over 45 local musicians from a multitude of genres contributed to the diverse, galvanizing plea for unity as produced and mixed by Adrian Quesada of Black Pumas. Figures such as Abhi the Nomad, Gina Chavez, Shakey Graves, Ruben Ramos, and Jackie Venson virtually assemble for a star-studded affair more 1985 than 2010 on the "We Are the World" measuring stick. All royalties from the song will be donated to HAAM. A simple request prevails throughout the near six-minute fusion of contrasting artists, visuals, and sounds: to proactively "walk" with one another to establish steps toward building a brighter, more inclusive Austin for all. – Derek Udensi