Faster Than Sound: Spoon Returns On Full Blast
Reigning local rockers' surprise show at Mohawk and more music news
"This is real life," noted Britt Daniel upon taking the stage at Mohawk last Thursday night during Spoon's post-pandemic return to live performance. The locally bred group announced the surprise appearance a day prior, with two-per-person $20 tickets available exclusively for pickup at the Downtown venue. "The band's all in town and the Mohawk was down, so we've decided to put on a show here in Austin," they posted.
Hundreds lined up during Wednesday lunch breaks for an opportunity to see Austin's reigning rock ambassadors. The quintet emphasized founding members Daniel and drummer Jim Eno's enduring raw rock and pop power 25 years after the release of debut LP Telephono. The show also marked the return of a stuffed Mohawk, which relaunched with reduced capacity in May.
In an electric entry, singer/guitarist Daniel shook off the past 16 months offstage in prime form. Bending over backward on opener "The Beast and Dragon, Adored," the precision bandleader took a sharp inhale on the line "sneeze and sniff." After "Small Stakes" and "The Way We Get By," he grabbed at his V-neck for the lyric "a tender throat" on "Do I Have to Talk You Into It."
"That was one of the greatest walk-ons we've ever had," he told the crowd after. "We wanted to put on this party tonight because the spirit of Austin is on full blast right now. I've felt it so clearly over the last couple of months. I know you felt it, too."
Capturing the weird, woozy delight of the city's recent thrust into maskless festivity, the frontman added: "I don't know what's going to happen, but this is a great moment."
National tour dates planned for September, Spoon had almost finished their 10th LP, with producer Mark Rankin at Eno's local Public Hi-Fi studio, before pandemic delays. Unlike the surprise preview of last studio album Hot Thoughts at Antone's in 2017, last week's show offered no spoilers, although Daniel prefaced a midset cover of "Held" from Austinite Bill Callahan's Nineties band Smog by saying, "This would sound good on a record."
After said local nod, an unbeatable run of "Inside Out," "I Turn My Camera On," "Don't You Evah," and "Do You" followed to finish out the main set. In an encore of B-sides, the band took on John Lennon's "Isolation," supercharged by the last year and a half. Daniel also mentioned wanting to "fuck up the scalpers" and ensure a low ticket price with the last-minute gig.
Additionally, he advocated for release of Save Our Stages grants intended to aid nationwide concert hubs suffering COVID-19 losses. Despite efforts by the National Independent Venue Association, which includes many Austin members, the money remains tied up in bureaucracy. "Still waiting on that NIVA grant," deadpanned Daniel.
To a packed house, Austin pop purveyor Walker Lukens opened alongside hometown electrician DJ Sue. Fearless solos from vocalist Mickey Rose and saxophonist Topaz McGarrigle of Golden Dawn Arkestra supercharged Lukens' set of Willie Nelson reworks from October tribute Red Headed Strangers, with sales benefiting the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians. As part of the red-headed songwriter's sextet, multiple members of the Bright Light Social Hour granted additional groove to a cool "I Can Get Off on You" and comforting "On the Road Again."
Kicking off the redemptive evening for Austin music, Lukens pinpointed the celebration's two takeaways: "Thank god for vaccines, and thank god for Spoon."
• Austin's Opry Hall opened last Friday with performances by Jacob Jaeger, Big Cedar Fever, and Colt Wayne Keeney reimagining the historic space at 311 W. Seventh as a Texas dance hall. The room sits above the storefront of bootmakers and restorers White Buffalo Room of Austin, whose owner Cory Rankin presented the show. As a tenant there in the Royal Arch Masonic Lodge building, he boasts access to the 100-year-old premises when they're not in use for Freemason meetings or Hidden Room Theatre productions. "I'm trying to create a space where people who are serious dancers can come – no tourists," explains Rankin, who hopes to book monthly music at Austin's Opry Hall (@austinsopryhall). "I've been infatuated with the two-step scene for some time. I can always spot a dancer's boot when I'm repairing them."
• Rio Rita, now owned by Cheer Up Charlies team Tamara Hoover and Maggie Lea, detailed plans to reopen the Eastside lounge last week. According to Lea's Instagram, the Chicon Street space will serve as a coffee shop by day and queer dance club at night under the after-dark title She She Lounge, referencing Springfield's lesbian bar in The Simpsons. The couple renovated the business after taking over the lease from original owners Donya and Randall Stockton in November 2019. They shared: "Can't wait to bring that energy that we had with Cheer Ups on East 6th years ago back to East 12th St. East Austin needs a designated LGBTQIA+ space and needs queer people and queer ownership to bring it back!"
• Hotel Vegas hosted a show indoors last Thursday for the first time since March 2020, debuting a new bar and blue velvet backdrop. Kicking off regular weekly programming, Chronophage offered new material to a sold-out crowd alongside Borzoi and Wet Dip. A punk scoffed at me for saying I came from the Spoon show at Mohawk. Nature is healing.
Ed Ward died in May at age 72, leaving behind a legacy of pioneering music journalism (revisit "The Table Ed Ward Built"). The local's lifelong scholarship was on display June 25-27 during an estate sale at his South Austin rental, packed with thousands of books and CDs, as well as a collection of bygone print publications: Crawdaddy, Creem, Broadside, The Realist, Rags, New York Rocker, Rat, Let It Rock, Black Music, Hot Wacks, Chili Monthly, Not Fade Away, Sing Out!, The Rip Off Review of Western Culture, The Little Sandy Review, and Sluggo! Shopper Rick McNulty honored Ward's "treasure trove of soul and R&B" on the air last weekend during his KUTX show Uptown Saturday Night.
Black Fret announced its 2021 class of artists to receive grants from the local nonprofit: American Dreamer, Clarence James, Darkbird, Deezie Brown, Eimaral Sol, Guy and Jeska Forsyth, Harry Edohoukwa, Jake Lloyd, James Robinson, Jon Muq, Jonathan Terrell, Lisa Morales, Motenko, Nané, Pat Byrne, PR Newman, Primo the Alien, Sam Houston & Blk Odyssy, the Reverent Few, and Zach Person. Dues lowered to $750, members gain access to concerts throughout the year, culminating in the Black Fret Ball on Dec. 4 at ACL Live.
Sun Radio relaunches its Sun Radio Recharge program, continuing COVID-19 relief efforts that have reached over 1,000 individuals. Committing $20,000 to CenTex "musicians, sound technicians, and roadies" to cover utility bills, the effort offers grants up to $200. Apply by July 16 at sunradio.com/recharge.
Eastside beer hall with a new outdoor stage, Central Machine Works hosts a vinyl market this Sunday, July 11, 11am-4pm. Pop-up shops include Waterloo, Blk Vinyl, Love Wheel, and Half Price Books alongside local labels Polyvinyl, Keeled Scales, Nine Mile, Austin Town Hall, the Next Waltz, PorchFire, and Australian Cattle God.