Crucial Concert: Exploded Drawing, the DIY Gathering at the Center of Austin’s Beat Community, Returns

Friday’s lineup includes Mattie, DJ Design, and Fennec

Ben Webster (l) and Andrew Brown of Exploded Drawing (Courtesy of Exploded Drawing)

Exploded Drawing is back. The convergence of bedroom beatmakers, experimental electronics, hip-hop sound sculptors, and out-of-the-box instrumentalists with an art-warehouse vibe and DIY punk ethics (all ages, low cover, no stage) makes its terrestrial return Friday at its usual Eastside stomping grounds.

The event, which for a dozen years has drawn a crowd as multigenerational as its performers (young upstarts/underground lifers), hasn't tapped a keg since early 2020, but thrived in the compulsory virtual realms. Where many music curators leaned on livestreams of either scrappy, homespun performances or well-produced attempts at capturing the feeling of concerts, Exploded Drawing collected performances from producers like Black Milk, arted-out the videos in postproduction, and presented nights of stylized sets on YouTube with active live-commenting conversation. Hosts Ben Webster (punk drummer and costumed abstract-electronic performer Butcher Bear) and Andrew Brown (the producer and KUTX radio personality known as Soundfounder) are reticent to admit anything learned via their online events will influence their tried-and-true in-person parties, except one thing:

"We've doubled down on the live visuals and it's a bigger focus," says Webster, noting that they've expanded resources to allow Exploded Drawing chief visualist Orión García to put a trippy touch on the performances. "After 12 years, we can roll back in there and make it fresh – that part of it is going to be really dope."

Friday's gathering brings in Dallas electronic/soul/hip-hop singer Mattie, whose acclaimed new Leaving Records-issued EP, Jupiter's Purse, was co-produced by Black Taffy; Louisiana sample-jazz vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Zetroc; and beat-game veteran DJ Design, known for his Madlib collab, "Sparkdala."

"DJ Design is someone who I've been a fan of since the first Quasimoto record came out," says Webster. "Last year, my buddy told me he's living in Round Rock and I just freaked out. So as soon as we knew we were going to throw an event, we hit him up."

Also on deck: the first local show of Fennec, a recent Indiana-transplant whose tropically grounded March LP a couple of good days earned a four-star review in the Chronicle (plus extensive love in Rolling Stone and Pitchfork); Austin's Crystal Voyager, whose work ranges from meditative sound baths to squelchy, staticky alien communications; and a collaboration with experimental triad Lyman Hardy, Leila Henley, and Thor Harris – likely involving modular synth, sax, and vibraphone.

"That's part of the recipe of what keeps Exploded Drawing fun," Brown says of the latter. "Some beat events are just a bunch of people playing samplers, but at Exploded Drawing, you might have someone playing a flute. Whether it's accidental or on purpose, we've been able to curate a really good crowd of people who are there for whatever's going to happen – that's really rare and awesome."

Exploded Drawing returns on Friday, May 6, with music starting at 10pm. The event is at the Austin Cinemaker Space (2200 Tillery) and is open to all ages.

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