By Erin J. Walter
Editor’s note: This article was originally published October 13, 2013
In a wet downtown parking lot near the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless, Los Angeles band the Mowgli’s threw a spontaneous acoustic concert Sunday that looked like a ‘60s sit-in and felt like a love fest.
"Don’t you want to see how good life can be?" the seven bandmates sang into the drizzle on "Time." "Let’s make a harmony and life will sing."
Indeed, many at the pop-up show said they’d all but forgotten the disappointment they felt just a few hours earlier when ACL Fest’s last day was canceled due to standing water in Zilker Park.
"This is almost better than the actual concert," Chris Kobez of Washington, D.C., said as fans hugged, chatted, and took photos with the Mowgli’s for at least half an hour after their 45-minute set.
The band invited fans via Twitter, urging them to bring donations for the homeless shelter. Mowgli’s singer Katie Jayne Earl said she’s lost track of the number of times the band has played on street corners or in parking lots, but that this is the first time they’d tied a performance to homeless outreach.
"We played a show near here during South by Southwest, and we remembered that there were shelters nearby," Earl said. "We called ahead to ask what was most needed, and they said, ‘We need everything.’ We figured if even one fan brought something, it would be worth it."
After standing for one song, the crowd of several hundred mostly sat down around the band, some holding HEB and CVS bags containing food, toiletries, and winter clothes. One woman blew bubbles that floated away into the raindrops. Song after song, the Mowgli’s music seemed tailor-made for this particular scene.
"Have you got some place to go? I’ve got some time and I would love to take you out," went lyrics from "Waiting for the Dawn." Later, fans cheered the line, "I think you know why we came here and what we are fighting for." One vocalist urged the crowd to "do something good, from the heart, every single day."
The Mowgli’s were not even playing their first pop up show of the festival. The band met its fans at an ice cream stand on the ACL grounds during the first weekend, passing out dessert and doing an impromptu acoustic encore. "They took a negative and made it a positive today," said fan Emily Hoppe, who brought toothpaste and winter coats. "Every band should’ve been doing this."
Interactions between Mowgli’s fans and people who had been standing on the sidewalk at the ARCH and nearby Salvation Army were limited and sometimes awkward. Only a handful of ARCH clients crossed the street to watch the show, and one woman said she felt uncomfortable facing Austin’s homeless population while wearing expensive ACL wristband.
After the show, shelter staff did not appear to be on hand to receive donations. Instead several ARCH clients approached show-goers to ask for their bags of goods, a few arguing over who got to take what.
"You need to find your own stuff," one man said, tugging a bag of toiletries.
"You need to share," the other replied.
But overall, the vibe was one of joy among fans and gratitude among shelter clients. Daryl Thompson was hanging out at the ARCH when he saw the Mowgli’s band’s van pull up. He walked over, helped the band unload its limited gear, and stayed next to them under a tree, swaying along throughout the set.
"I thought, ‘Maybe I can make five or six dollars," Thompson said, talking with multi-instrumentalist Spencer Trent after the show. "God will position you to make new friends, and here we are bonding. Because you’re homeless doesn’t mean your life has to be totally dark.
"These people, this band, they didn’t have to do this," Thompson added. "They could be anywhere, at home watching a movie, having a meal, but they’re here. I have to say thank you, thank you, thank you."