SXSW, RedGorilla Music Fest And Austin, Texas

SXSW 2009

I spent the last seven days in Austin, TX immersed in live music from both SXSW and an independent music festival called RedGorilla Music Fest.

If you haven’t heard of RedGorilla, it’s a renegade festival started by Brian Waymire and Chris York, of Dreamscapers International.  The pair is based out of both Nashville and Austin, and focus on discovering and promoting the best in independent music today.  While RedGorilla is in no way associated with SXSW, they do have an unmistakably large presence in Austin, during the same week as the mother festival, with 11 venues and over 500 bands playing up and down 6th st.  This year the RedGorilla lineup was killer, and featured The Matches, The Effects, The Hollywood Kills, Luna Halo, AutoVaughn, Dizzy Balloon, and many more.

I started the week off strong, seeing The Matches playing a killer set for SXSW, and then two secret shows for RedGorilla.  All three were incredible and even in the Texas heat people were dancing their little hearts out to staples like, “Papercut Skin” and “Sunburn Vs. The Rhinovirus.”  Complete with new bassist Dylan Rowe these Oakland rockers brought a taste of nor-cal to Austin in all the right ways.

I caught some incredible pop/rock from The Hollywood Kills Friday and Saturday night at RedGorilla.  This little band from Nashville is making big waves thanks to a polished sound that has evolved from garage rock to commercially shiny, alternative pop/rock.  There’s an element to their live performance that instantly draws you in and, whether you like it or not, keeps you dancing to their tunes all night long.  If you haven’t heard of THK yet, make sure to check out CakeOrDeath Productions for a FREE DOWNLOAD of four songs off their new record Idiot’s Guide To Desertion

One of the many surprises I encountered over the week was Ace Enders’ set at the Photo Finish Records Showcase for SXSW on Friday.  Formerly of The Early November, Ace played some new tunes for the Audience for the Recover Reunion show and had everyone’s ears on him.  It was great to hear the new project and get a tast of what’s to come from such a talented artist.  Make sure to check out Ace Enders And A Million Different People’s new record When I Hit The Ground asap.  You’ll love it!

Another high point of RedGorilla was Tulsa, Oklahoma rockers The Effects.  Now, these guys wouldn’t usually fall into a category of music I normally keep on shuffle, but after seeing them live all that has changed.  These boys are 100% rock ‘n roll.  They’ve put a sparkly millennial twist on classic rock with screaming guitar solos, and beats that keep your eyes fixed on drummer Erin to see what he’s going to lay down next.  The one drawback to The Effects is that they don’t currently have recordings that do them justice.  This is a live band through and through, and to truly experience the magic of their music you have to see them live.  So…make sure you check out their MySpace for a complete list of upcoming tour dates near you.

One final experience I’d like to share with everyone was a set by a somewhat unknown band called Dizzy Balloon.  Hailing from Oakland, CA this five-some is everything I could have ever asked for in a new band.  They’ve got the looks, the sound, the stage presence, and the personality to take them straight to the top.  With their Beatles-inspired sound and insanely catchy tunes like, “Raise A Glass” and “Chinatown” Dizzy Balloon kicked ass this week at RedGorilla.  I was most impressed by a cover they did of “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by the Beatles.  At first listen you wouldn’t think their poppy sound fits with the appropriately named, heavy tune, but DB pulled out all the stops on this one, mimicking the iconic song effortlessly, while still putting a signature twist on the classic riffs and turn-arounds that define it.  There’s a clear Beatles influence in Dizzy Balloon’s sound, and this was a perfect cover to round out their phenomenal set this weekend.

Whether you were in Austin for SXSW, RedGorilla, or even Texas Rock Fest this week, all the music on 6th St. was amazing.  Live music has the power to move people, bring people together, and keep them coming back for more long after their first listen, and that’s what all these festivals are about.  A good band is a good band, but a good band that is also good live automatically becomes a great band, surpassing the hordes of wanna-be’s and has beens chasing fame without a prayer.  Thanks to all the amazing bands for playing your hearts out at all three festivals, and making the trip to Austin to share your music with people that truly appreciate it.