Crucial Concerts for the Coming Week
Ethan Azarian, Soccer Mommy, OUTlaw Pride Fest, Fuckemos, Playboi Carti, and Dr. James Polk & Centerpeace
By Doug Freeman, Carys Anderson, Doug Freeman, Kevin Curtin, Derek Udensi, and Michael Toland, Fri., Oct. 22, 2021
Ethan AzarianWyldwood Shows, Saturday 23 (outside, 5pm)
On the Fringe Album Release
Ethan Azarian is an Austin icon and iconoclast. His music, like his artwork, fills with a sense of wonder and possibility, raw and vulnerable, but beautifully surreal. As leader of the Orange Mothers in the 1990s, Azarian's pop style could be joyous and provoking, and his subsequent solo work unfolds with a lo-fi pop and folk reveling in lyrics both bizarre and poignant.
Azarian's latest LP, On the Fringe, spins a journey both reflective and cosmically adventurous. Marked with Azarian's familiarly quirky lyrical visions and offbeat winding melodies, the album celebrates his outsider artistic style while also marking one the best recordings of his career.
"I feel like I've always been on the fringe, and that's not like 'poor Ethan.' I'm thankful," Azarian notes. "I'm still playing music and it's a real therapy for me. It's good for me and I know I need to make a noise. But also the fringe is the idea of the planet as a whole, that we're out here on the fringe. We're not the center. I'm on the fringe, but we're all on the fringe."
Will Courtney's production fills the album with a much more lush pop sound behind Azarian's nasal croon and the atmospheric support from longtime collaborators Lindsey Verrill and Jeff Johnston of Little Mazarn, who open his outdoor house show Saturday night at the Wyldwood in South Austin.
"I'm right where I should be," Azarian adds. "Because I'm older now, and I've spent so much time doing both, I feel accomplished and pretty happy about what I'm doing musically and artistically. And that's pretty awesome." – Doug Freeman
Soccer Mommy, AlexaloneEmo's, Friday 22
Playing Bernie Sanders rallies and preparing for tour, life was inexplicably different when Sophie Allison released her second Soccer Mommy LP in February 2020. Twenty months later, the singer-songwriter finally performs songs from color theory, a gentle but brazen traversal through personal crisis. Pairing unflinching ugliness with soft sonics, she sings lovingly of her terminally ill mother in the lush "yellow is the color of her eyes" and tears herself apart in the stark "royal screw up." While decidedly louder, Austin openers Alexalone harness a similar softness at their center, a plus for knowing fans and unassuming reverb lovers alike. – Carys Anderson
OUTlaw Pride FestRustic Tap, Saturday 23
Hard-fought expanded inclusiveness in country and Americana music have opened the genres to new artists and audiences. Austin's first annual queer country music fest now celebrates the rich history and vibrant future of LGBTQIA songwriters. Lavender Country paved the way in the Seventies for today's OUTlaws, including the torching power of Jaime Wyatt's Neon Cross and poignant East Tennessee crooner Adeem the Artist's Cast-Iron Pansexual. Buffalo Gals and Devin Jake bring the local Appalachian-hitched twang while Julie Nolen kicks Texas-hardened "Piss and Vinegar." Emily Herring, Alden Hedges, Jett Holden, and duo Hardened & Tempered round out the benefit for Out Youth. – Doug Freeman
FuckemosLost Well, Saturday 23
I've been holding out on using the popular pandemic phrase "life returning to normal" until Las Cazuelas reopens their salsa bar and Fuckemos play a show. While I still can't ladle nine kinds of hot sauce on my tacos, mouths water over the return of Austin's sludge punk miscreants. Spawned in 1992 when Russell Porter puked into the cultural petri dish of punk, noise rock, and metal, Fuckemos took not giving a fuck to new heights with their absurd lyrics, depraved vibes, and pitch-shifted vocal belch. Prom punk offering "Do You Wanna Dance?" and fist-pumper "Ed the Creep" remain sing-alongs for twisted locals three decades on. The gravestone stompin' hard rock of Sabbath Crow and delinquent country drinking songs of Dirty Charley Band set the stage. – Kevin Curtin
Playboi CartiH-E-B Center, Tuesday 26
Playboi Carti: an enigmatic talisman for a large coalition of rabid ragers. The Atlanta rapper at times shapes his verses in a way that sounds like the Microsoft Office font Wingdings over banging, hypnotic instrumentals. Long-awaited second studio album Whole Lotta Red saw the 25-year-old reach new levels of darkness. Take "Vamp Anthem" for example, with its bewitching chemical mixture of Bach Halloween favorite "Toccata and Fugue in D minor" and explosive drums. Week one of the Narcissist tour saw eager fans literally breaking down a venue's door. – Derek Udensi
Dr. James Polk & CenterpeaceMonks Jazz Club, Tuesday 26
If there's an Austin jazz musician who needs no introduction, it's Dr. James Polk. Outside of playing with Lionel Hampton, Hank Crawford, and Ray Charles, among others, he also led James Polk & the Brothers in 1959, inaugurating one of our town's first integrated bands. He's since kept ATX jazz alive with James Polk & Company, JAMAD Sextet, Church on Monday, Dr. James Polk Academy of Arts & Technology and, of course, Centerpeace, featuring a three-horn front line that swings like nobody's business. Part of Monks' weekly benefits for Project Safety Net, the show will also be streamed on YouTube. – Michael Toland