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SOBBRS’ Fortunato sets a higher bar for Austin pop

 


   
Prolific singer/songwriter Jesus Acosta, aka SOBBRS, released his first full length LP Fortunato on October 7th. Compounding catchy hooks, detailed grooves, and savory synths the record crafts an original pop sound with one foot planted in 80’s throwback and the other stepping forward into the world of modern production. Rewarding repeated listens, Fortunato uses pop music tropes in a very controlled fashion, the key change for the last chorus of “Monsoon” for instance, while having the foresight to subvert those same tropes later. Consistent quality is prevalent but “Cameo”, “Motherlode”, and “Bones” are stand-outs. 

 

    Finding balance is Fortunato’s biggest accomplishment. The instrumentals forge an energy that finds balance in equal parts kinetic spectacle and melancholic meditation, leaving the listener the choice to either dance or cry. Lyrically drawing from Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado, the reflective words strike equilibrium between adverse themes of isolation and belonging. Even Acosta’s vocal delivery is balanced between rhythmic certainty and an emotive, quivering vibrato. This overall balance displays the benefits in both active and passive listening. 

 

    Upon the record’s release, SOBBRS packed Mohawk, seamlessly guiding the tracks into a live setting. His backing band consists of Springful’s Jim Hampton on guitar and Flora & Fawna’s Mason Ables, who is also responsible for the record’s intricate production, on keys and beats. Although playing the same songs, the group infused new life into them through the performance, teetering the scale towards dance and elation. With a St. Vincent cover, the premiere of a music video for “Crossfire”, and a celebratory onstage cake, it was a wonderful night.

 

-Hayden Steckel

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Black Fret Ball Shines in its 6th Year

 

In its sixth year, Black Fret continues to hit high watermarks as an organization; the deluge of financial grants to Austin artists continues while an expansion into Seattle is also underway. Black Fret founders, Matt Ott and Colin Kendrick, are now seeing their nonprofit surpass over $1.5 million in payments to artists. The Black Fret Ball, the nonprofit gala where grants are awarded, took place this Saturday at ACL Live and, as usual, it was a vibrant display of Austin’s diverse social scene.

 

The gallimaufry of musician mentors, donors and grant recipients at the Black Fret Ball is almost as entertaining as the show itself. Austin musicians are interwoven between local philanthropists and industry titans, creating a unique and rare scene in Austin.  The show itself featured brief but ebullient performances from Go Fever, Cilantro Boombox, Ley Line, The Watters and a knee-buckling performance from Tje Austin.  

 

In an act of good faith, The Black Pumas, who were slated to receive a $20k grant, deferred their grant money in order to boost all $5k recipients to receive $7k instead.  The local funk/soul band has been on a tear playing sold-out shows and just recently was nominated for a Grammmy for ‘Best New Artist’. The beauty of Black Fret is that any of the newcomer recipients can easily be on the same trajectory to national recognition as the Pumas; examples like Shakey Graves, Sweet Spirit and Bright Light Social Hour have paved the way for upstarts to dream big.

 

Some of the grants elicited heart-warming reactions when given, most notably Sydney Wright and The Watters, who were emotive and appreciative upon receiving the grant. With over 15 performing artists, the Black Fret Ball is an exciting and eclectic sampling of all genres of Austin music. With Black Fret’s growth, there seems to be much more on the horizon for giving back to the Austin music scene and beyond.

 

-Lee Ackerley

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JackLNDN Brings Infectious House Set to Empire Control

 

Young and ambitious, JackLNDN has a wizard-like ability to transform a room. The native Londoner has been playing sets and creating music at a breakneck pace that even his more experienced peers cannot keep up with. While Indiana-based rapper, Freddie Gibbs, performed through a cloud of smoke at Empire’s outdoor stage, JackLNDN invited an understated yet dedicated crowd to his set on the indoor stage. 

 

Local opening DJ, Ben///Jester, deftly set the mood for the crowd with samples and remixes of tracks by Bob Moses, Parcels and Bonobo. The youthful DJ orchestrated a dance party with assiduous attention to detail and endeared the crowd to his upbeat vibe by curating a gentle ebb and flow of danceable tracks. 

 

While the DJ openers made sure to limber up the Austin crowd, it was JackLNDN who would prove to be the tipping point in making Saturday a memorable night. While JackLNDN’s bedrock is firmly rooted in house music, he switches the lenses of which his music flows from pop to jazz to progressive.  Sliding through hits like “All I See”, “The Feels” and “Never Get Enough” - he kept his audience on his hook with an incessant barrage of grooved-out chord progressions. 

 

Playing late into Saturday night, JackLNDN showcased an incredible voice and a sharp skillset of playing keys while simultaneously mixing his own music. An entertaining light show with intricate visuals only added to the lounge atmosphere that continued a slow burn of sexuality throughout the night. While many in the audience were in constant movement for over 3 hours straight, the mollifying effect of the music unburdened the crowd for a cathartic release.

 

-Lee Ackerley

 

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Levitation: The Coathangers Thrill and Thrash at Barracuda

  

 

The Coathangers, a punk rock band from Atlanta, headlined at Barracuda on a Friday during Levitation. First thing that comes to mind when you think of a  coat hanger? If you’re thinking DIY abortions, you got it. This 3 piece female outfit arrive at the venue early to sound check and shoot the shit. Meredith, the bassist, and Stephanie, on drums, were there to answer some questions. Check out the interview at the end of the article. 

They went on at 12:30am. The show was loud and fun and upbeat. Julia, lead vocalist and guitarist, takes the stage in a raspberry beret. One of the funky features of Levitation is the wild fashion that walked the streets. Everyone looks like they are in the band, and this weekend revealed that berets are back. 

They progress through the set with only a few pauses to laugh or banter between songs, or ask Karen to bring them all shots of tequila. The played mostly songs off their new album released this year, The Devil You Know. As the band loosens up with tequila, so does the audience begin to jump around and get hyped along just in time for “F the NRA,” an anthem that sounds exactly how it sounds. Fuck yeah. 

For the final songs, the ladies rotated instruments clockwise: Meredith moved to drums, Stephanie moved to vocals, Julia moved to bass for “5 Farms.” Stephanie on vocals was a visceral affair, her rapping raspy voice stirred the crowd into a mild mosh marked by jumps and stomps in unison. The audience shouts along to the liberating (and existential) chorus: “Can’t take it with you/ Nobody gets out alive.” 

Back to their own instruments, they close the set with “Bimbo” and Julia has now introduced a squeaky toy. She squeaks the squeaker how someone would bang a tambourine, the squeaks complementing the satirical nature of the song as she laughs maniacally with her bandmates. See the music video once, and you’ll wish you were in their band too. 

The Coathangers give their entire selves to the performance. You can see the spirit of music pulsing through them as individuals but also through the band as a greater entity from beyond the ether. Saturday night at Barracuda was one of the most alive lineups of Levitation, and these ladies killed it with a class of their own coathanger design. 

-Mel Green

Do you ever feel fear when releasing music or art out into the world? 

 

Meredith: Not really because we do it for ourselves.

Stephanie: No, fuck no. Everyone’s going to have an opinion and you can’t control that. 

 

Did you have to cultivate that feeling within you?

 

S: It’s with anything else, I guess. If you live your life based on what other people think about you, it’s not much. 

 

What advice do you have for young punks?

 

S:  Do whatever you want but be nice. 

M: Just be nice! 

 

What artists inspire you the most?

 

S: Jesus. The good lord, Jesus. 

M: Julia and Stephanie inspire me. 

S: Yeah, my other Coathangers. We were inspired to start the band because of a lot of local Atlanta bands back in the day. It was Predator, The Hiss, Black Lips, Dear Hunter, Mastodon. That’s what helped us get the idea to do what we do now. 

 

There’s a lot of music in Athens, too, right?

 

S: What we joke about back home is that Athens is the musicians, and Atlanta is for people in bands. So, they do drum circles and stuff there and we just get drunk and play shit. 

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Pidgeons Playing Ping Pong Mesmerizes Audience at Emos

 

 
Maryland funk jam band, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, blazed the stage with two full sets at Emo's on Friday night with a spectacular light show and performance. Frontman, 'Scrambled' Greg Ormont, was full force in his theatrics and brought increasingly high energy to an eager crowd. 
 
The band kicked off their first set with "Whoopie", enticing the crowd to start grooving along with them. Their call was indeed heeded, and the dancing never stopped. "Julia" from their 2014 album Psychology, was undoubtedly a crowd favorite with it's beachy cabana vibes recalling an adolescent missed opportunity with a girl named Julia. It would be remiss of me not to mention the mesmerizing rainbow of stage lights that transformed the bare concrete inside of Emo's into what I can only imagine psychedelic dreams are made of.
 
The band returned for their second set, and Ormont acknowledged a blow up pickle prop and even performed a short, improvised and amusing song about the pickle. However, the apex of the night came halfway through their second set, when the band transitioned from "Burning Up My Time" into a cover of "Kashmir" by Led Zeppelin. A bold move, but the cover was well received by a plethora of cheers and subsequently a mix of hands and cell phones shooting into the air to capture the moment. Jeremy Schon, on lead guitar, bravely ripped out a high energy solo before the band transitioned back into "Burning Up My Time," to the crowd's absolute delight.
 
The cheers for an encore were answered with, "Lowdown" and "Schwanthem." When the set finally concluded and the house lights came on, all eyes were wide and satisfied, adjusting back into reality and perhaps experiencing some light tracer sensations following a gratifying performance of sight and sound in equal parts.
 
-Amy Arnold
 

 

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