Homegrown Duo the Point Present a Feast of Talent With Berto's Banquet
When two old souls meet an Italian drummer twice their age
By Gary Lindsey, Fri., Feb. 3, 2023
Since 1987, a simple red cursive sign has declared 2928 Guadalupe St. to be a subcultural ground zero, not just for Austin blues, but for music collectors around the world. Walking into Antone's Record Shop, a Bukka White poster inches away from the latest Spoon release tells that you're in the right place to personally connect with Austin's history as a music city. Trying to fill 6,000 square feet with a profitable variety, there's no room for the historically petty tribal politics of music – country vs. blues, rock vs. hip-hop, alternative vs. mainstream.
All of that goes out the window, the only feud being doors open vs. doors closed.
Homegrown prodigy rockers the Point likewise practice such genre agnosticism, squeezed among the stacks last month at Antone's to promote their new EP, Berto's Banquet. On keys, Joe Roddy wore a plumbers jumpsuit with his first name above the pocket while conspirator Jack Montesinos took guitar in camo pants. With drummer Alberto Telo in between, and many more decades down the line, the trio breezed by a surprising wealth of catalog material to play their new platter.
Prior, 2020 sophomore iHOP soundtracked a sunny Sunday drive à la Air's Moon Safari, while 2021 follow-up Phonkadelic – an homage to DJ Screw and Houston hip-hop – confidently grew into a smokey lounge at midnight. With their latest release, citing Texas psych, Peruvian chicha, and dub, Point front-line Montesinos and Roddy seem to have matured overnight, like a schoolmate returning from basic training as a full-grown adult. Which makes perfect sense considering that the two were still in high school when they began the project, releasing their first album, You're Just a Dream, in 2019.
"I took a break from playing live music in high school, just to make beats," Montesinos shares about the early days of collaboration with Roddy, who he has known since junior high.
Hearing a 21-year-old talk about taking a break from playing live during their teen years, one could easily imagine the common tale of frustrated young artists trying to be taken seriously in a cutthroat industry. Quite the contrary. Both Montesinos' and Roddy's résumés tell the story of an Austin hall-of-famer, rather than the tale of two twentysomethings just beginning their careers.
Roddy is the only son of Austin rockabilly royalty Ted Roddy, whose biannual Elvis tribute, the King Conjure Orchestra, has been electrifying Austin audiences since 1986. At the age of 12, Roddy first took the stage on trumpet for "Suspicious Minds" with the group. "I was not very good at trumpet yet ... but I was really trying my best," he grins.
Montesinos began even earlier, when his father would protectively take him to hang with Austin's heaviest of hitters at the Historic Victory Grill's Monday blues nights at, remarkably, just 10 years old.
"My dad would have to carry my amp; it was too heavy," Montesinos laughs.
Antone's Records co-owner Eve Monsees also has the unique experience of playing Austin clubs as a teenager, often with schoolmate Gary Clark Jr. At the in-store gig, she reflected on first seeing Montesinos play the clubs as a preteen. "It was really apparent that he just had it," she told the Chronicle. "He just had the feel, and he understood when to play, and when not to play, how to attack certain notes. He just instantly figured it out."
But after years of playing Austin hot spots under the watchful eye of their supportive parents, the two became understandably bored with playing the music of their elders. Fortunately, just as their fertile minds entered high school, the duo discovered hip-hop and shifted focus from Albert King and Scotty Moore to Roni Size and A Tribe Called Quest. Tired of tuning instruments and carrying gear, Roddy and Montesinos put down their amps and picked up their phones.
Suddenly, all of that music theory procured firsthand was channeled into making new beats and atmospheric grooves on GarageBand.
"A lot of the stuff on iHOP and You're Just a Dream, we didn't think of it to play live. Just a lot of layers and having fun," Roddy explains.
In a perfectly timed move, just as Montesinos and Roddy were diving deep into the production of this new style, COVID-19 came in and wiped out live music completely. Left with an exciting new sound and nowhere to go, the boys explored new beats and melancholic tones fitting for universal malaise. Like so many, isolation gave them a renewed appreciation for live performance and the unique intimacy of ripping through a great hook with other talented musicians.
Come 2021, it was time to get their groove back, and Montesinos had the perfect candidate. An Italian immigrant with a wonderfully thick accent, Alberto Telo has been playing drums in Austin since he arrived here, seeking adventure, in 1996. Telo and Montesinos built a familiarity from crossing musical paths for years, on one stage or another, in the blues scene.
Although on paper the 56-year-old might seem like a strange choice for two collegiates just starting to get serious about a future in music, when it hits, it hits. So much so that the childhood friends felt compelled to name their new release after him, as Berto's Banquet. The EP followed a summer of winning new fans by launching fresh, adventurous sounds in matured Austin venues like C-Boy's and the Continental Club.
"Alberto has a very distinctive sound that you cannot find anywhere else," Roddy asserts.
To which Montesinos adds: "Once we started to record the album, we knew he was the one."
Berto's Banquet sounds like a band ready to play. Trading in their GarageBand app for a garage rock sound, "Shackled" builds ideally toward a simple yet fiery lead, which is becoming Montesinos' signature. The bossa nova-touched, yet still driving, "Double Oh Seven" follows. If the Doors' Ray Manzarek were still alive to hear this song, he would immediately call up Robby Krieger and say, "Hey man, I really feel like jammin'."
Standout "Caesar's Malice," sounding like a Clash warmup, catches you off guard with dark reggae, while "Baby Blu" presents the Point's affectionate interpretation of a song by rapper/chef Action Bronson with Chance the Rapper. After building to the frenetic, feverish leads on "Pet Gun," the album just as quickly restores your regular heart rate with instrumental "Shleepy," the perfect digestif for this seven-course meal.
Armed with good hooks and good humor, Berto's Banquet is anything but a final course for the twosome.
"At this point we're having fun doing what we're doing," says Montesinos. "We're just gonna keep doing what we want."
Roddy, with a gentle fortitude, addresses the topic a bit more directly.
"This is our life. This is my life."
The Point officially celebrates the release of new EP Berto’s Banquet at the 13th Floor on Red River on Saturday, Feb. 11, with New Strangers and Dewey Ivy.