Austin City Limits festival sells out passes on the promise of high power headliners, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great place to discover new artists. Case in point: the moment Con Brio lead singer Ziek McCarter paused the band’s electrifying afternoon set in the Tito’s tent to ask how many of the hundreds who crowded in for the set were familiar with the funky soul outfit. About half the crowd cheered. Then he asked how many were first timers and the other half of the crowd went absolutely wild, expressing unadulterated joy about the accidental afternoon encounter with a new favorite act.
The band takes their name from a musical term that means with spirit, with gusto, and they embody the direction perfectly. McCarter sings like his life depends on it. He also dances like a hip-hop era James Brown who can do a spin drop into the splits one moment and a b-boy’s windmill the next. But it’s not just the front man who pushes the band’s high octane shows to 100. Guitarist Benjamin Andrews and saxophonist Marcus Stephens also put in blistering solos, moments made more exciting by the way the band bowed down, physically demonstrating awe at each other’s skill.
In the media area after the show they sat in a circle easily vibing off each other. McCarter said his signature moves are in his blood. He comes from a music-loving brood and family reunions often end up with relatives strutting their stuff. It’s good old fashioned southern soul. He moved from Houston to San Francisco, where the band is based, five years ago.
Two years ago, the group of musicians, who had been circling each other in the city’s tight knit scene, came together and realized almost immediately the band’s formula was magic. They released their debut EP earlier this year, on Valentine’s Day, and hope to have a full-length out by next spring. They’ve been touring extensively and hope to be back on the festival circuit by next summer. With any luck another Austin performance will be in the cards very soon.