I took a trip to Austin, TX last weekend specifically to check out the !LIVE! music scene. Austin boasts over 900 live music venues, and is known as ‘The Live Music Capital of the World.” The lively music scene, beautiful landscape, and friendly folks combine to make Austin a favorite destination for music lovers.
The live music scene is more important than ever before to the music industry. The huge profits that came from full album sales have drastically declined over the years with the advent of single song downloads, homogeneous broadcast radio, illegal downloading and the record industry’s relentless push for ‘product’. Concert tours, merchandise sales, and film and television deals are where the profit in the music industry reside now. This leaves us with a mixed bag of musical offerings in our daily lives. The internet provides a myriad of choices for music but still lacks a consolidated, easily accessible anywhere/anytime (like my car) reliable source for music that the majority of people are familiar with. Gone are the days when you would arrive at work or school and everyone was talking about the same radio program, the same music, the same listening experience. Our points of reference for music are less communal and more individual. This has left a gap in the way we experience music as a community and emphasizes the need for the group dynamics that accompany the live music scene.
I listen to Romani (commonly and erroneously referred to as Gypsy) music because…I love it! It’s complex, lively, and compels my body to MOVE.. The Roma play in larger groups, a duet or foursome is uncommon. More likely there are 6-12 members that perform together at any single time. Forced into an itenerant lifestyle, the Romani people developed skills and trades that could travel easily from place to place. Their affinity for music left them in demand as musicians and composers for decades. I’ve noticed a trend in today’s live music scene that mirrors the Romani style dynamics. There is still the traditional 3-4 piece bands but another trend is emerging. I’m seeing 6-12 musicians on stage now with instrumentation that provides a richer musical texture than we’ve had in popular music for quite sometime: horns, more keys and my favorite: drum kits that include a myriad of hand held percussives in addition to the standard kick, snare, toms and bass. Good music is an instant community builder…when the band and music are good, everyone grooves together. And in oppositin to the current trends in pop music, it’s rhythm and melody that are driving these artists…the rhythms are not being used to dominate a piece to the point of diluting melody to an insignificant aside. The complex rhythms weave themselves in and out of pieces to accentuate the melody…did you hear what I said? I said MELODY! This is probably the most exciting part of all – melody is weaving it’s way back into music! The music I heard last weekend had more than the typical 2 to 3 note range popular in today’s style. I walked away from performances being able to hum the tunes and tap out the rhythms and it felt great. And the stars of these new bands are the groups themselves, often with the entire band singing or switching between band members for main vocals. It’s a group dynamic that’s unprecedented in American popular music.
In the course of a few days I heard original music (and a few covers) that contained elements of: Ska, Rock, Reggae, Cajun, Spanish, Blues, and Country: different ethnic sounds and musical styles emulating from the same band. The term Americana is currently being used to describe this patchwork of new sound but in my opinion it’s inadequate. Americana has come to be accepted as a blues/folk style that ranges from stand-up bass and fiddle to searing blues guitar licks…that doesn’t really fit this new style laden with heavy doses of ethnic and cultural influences not common in single pieces of American music before now.
I’m looking forward to the exploration of this new style of music and am very curious to see how/if/when it might work it’s way into pop music (broadcast radio) or if it will remain ‘too good for radio’!
A very limited sampling of what I’m call ‘new’ folk is The Big Ol’ Band from Austin, TX. A mutual Facebook friend hooked me and Dustin Edwards (drummer) up. Dustin emailed me their ReverbNation press kit and a few seconds of listening was all it took to know I wanted to hear it all (yes, they passed the ten second rule with flying colors). I agreed to come to Austin to check them out. This is just some of the viddy from my most recent trip.
The TBC House Band from Austin is perhaps the best musical example of the Neo Folk style; these guys cover lots of ground musically, playing nearly all originals I love being in the audience when these guys are playing because they astound people! Every time I see them play I hear the same thing from everyone in attendance: these guys are good!! And it’s not just their musicality or their obvious camaraderie (they are best friends after all) it’s their music, too. No hiding behind fancy guitar licks or crowd pleasing showmanship (don’t get me wrong…they’re fun as hell to watch and have plenty of technical expertise) to disguise music that reflects an artists inability to compose genuinely memorable tunes…TBC is the real deal.
This too short viddy was taken last Saturday at Jovita’s in Austin ; I was too close to the speaker but you’ll get it.
I told you they were fun to watch! Hatch Hilliard (guitar) is sporting his favorite wig: a red mullet, Nathaniel Cox (harmonica man in this viddy) and horn and percussive players: Mark Mikulin (who got married the night before) and Jake Middleton and Adam Kaylor prefer ties worn around their heads…not their necks I’m not sure but I think this might have something to do with Mark’s nuptials the night before. BTW: when TBC walked into the audience after their show, the crowd broke into another enthusiastic round of applause.
This viddy was taken the first night I was introduced to TBC. Showed up at KC’s on the Creek in Oyster Creek for a birthday party and was blown away by TBC. Performing the “Get Wet” song (a TBC original), notice how they transition from a reggae/ska beat into punk and back again.
This is a mix of covers and originals TBC style.
Fr Belle’s Landing, E. Columbia: Bo Counts Band Country
Fr Castaway Bar & Grill: Surfside: Karaoke with Kelly Jansky
Sa Rumors Nightclub, Freeport: