One Night in Austin: Stores, hotels, restaurants, pubs and clubs
Why wait till SXSW in March to run around like crazy all over town trying to catch a bunch of good music, when that opportunity awaits on any given evening in Austin? That's especially true on weekends, as we found on this first-Friday-in-February foray to six venues that offered experiences from the divine to the bizarre. Check out the video highlights, with a brief recap from each stop below.
5 p.m.: Bright Light Social Hour at Waterloo Records. We often begin these marathons with Waterloo in-stores, in part because it's a great way to get started early but also because the Sixth and Lamar institutions is one of the city's best environments for live music. Bright Light Social Hour, celebrating the release of their new album "Jude, Vol. 1," typically hits with a wall of sound in the clubs, but the scaled-down record-store setup meant you could hear details in their psychedelic music that might otherwise be missed, even as they still played with plenty of energy and enthusiasm.
7 p.m.: Little Mazarn at Fairmont Hotel. Someone contact the Guinness Book of World Records, because I'm quite certain this performance established a new benchmark for highest number of people wearing tuxedos to hear someone playing a saw. We caught Little Mazarn, the duo of banjo player Lindsey Verrill and sawman Jeff Johnston, play a magical SXSW set last year in a tucked-away quiet space. This was totally not that: The Fairmont's main Fulton bar tends to be awash in cacophony, especially on nights like this one where some big social event is happening. An early-evening Project ATX6 showcase mostly got lost in the noise, but the culture clash was fascinating to observe, like Old, Weird Austin and New, Affluent Austin having a head-on collision.
8 p.m.: Gurf Morlix at El Mercado Backstage. Morlix was celebrating the release of his new album "Impossible Blue," but he just happened to book the gig on the 30th anniversary of the death of Blaze Foley, a renowned songwriter and close friend to Morlix who was shot and killed at a house just a few blocks from this South Austin restaurant in 1989. Morlix paid tribute by opening his set with a stirring rendition of Foley's song "Cold, Cold World."
9 p.m.: Pat Byrne at Saxon Pub. An Irishman who's at least temporarily relocated to Austin this year, Byrne has quickly become an artist that everyone who goes out to hear music regularly in Austin needs to catch. The guess here is that he'll be playing far larger rooms before long; he's too good of a songwriter, and singer, to not reach his level. He also has a great band, with fellow countryman Stephen Carolan on guitar plus a solid local cast of keyboardist Micah Motenko, bassist Chris Wade and drummer Jeff Sanders.
11 p.m.: Quiet Company at Mohawk. Touting songs from their new EP "On Corners & Shapes," frontman Taylor Muse and his mates perservered through several technical difficulties out of the gate but soon enough got the sound dialed in quite well on the Red River District showcase club's outdoor stage. The addition of cello to their lineup is intriguing if challenging, as the band plays at a volume that can easily drown out a string player. Still, they're careful with the mix, and they're especially good at keeping the vocals out front; that's important, because Muse's angsty but sharp lyrics are central to the band's identity.
11:45 p.m.: Guitar Grady Pinkerton at C-Boy's. I'd made a mistake reading club schedules and was expecting to catch the stellar blues trio of guitarist-singer Sue Foley, B3 organ ace Mike Flanigin and drummer Chris Layton at the cool South Congress bar. They were there last weekend but had a gig in Foley's native Canada on this night. No matter: The great thing about C-Boy's (and its parent club the Continental down the street) is that they always set the bar high, so it's a given whatever they present is going to be worth seeing. The draw wasn't big for this quartet of Pinkerton, bassist Larry Lange, keyboardist Matt Farrell and drummer Herb Belofsky, but they sounded great, mixing R&B, soul, blues, country and more into that quintessential Austin sound — just the right vibe for ending this night on the town.