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Christian Sparks and the Beatnik Bandits Give Folk A Gritty Edge

 A folk-rock trio from San Marcos who are a self-described as a 'new breed of classic American musician', Christian Sparks and the Beatnik Bandits have had success constructing roots-styled storytelling with a gritty rock patina. The band released their debut self-titled EP in March and have ridden those five songs through a Southern state tour to reach the choir most receptive to their gospel. While their songs typically begin with an ambling, folksy vibe - the rowdiness creeps up through the chorus and ultimately transforms into a good ol' fashioned 'rock out'. While folk and rock music have tried to coexist, ever since Bob Dylan went electric, it has been a tenuous relationship where purists hold their ground by passing judgement. Many musicians have since made their bones trying to bridge the two styles and exploring the grey area between the two, but its the journey to and from the two genres that we get to see the brilliance of Christian Sparks songwriting. While the band is in its nascent stages, and is yet to release a full album, there are harbingers of future success that avail themselves through strong songwriting and a good performance work ethic.

 

 

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Black Fret Ball Gives Back to Austin Artists

 Black Fret’s fifth annual Black Fret Ball set a few different milestones this past Friday night, not the least of which was surpassing over $1 million in grants to local bands as well as upgrading the event venue to the ACL Live Moody theater.  Black Fret co-founders, Colin Kendrick and Matt Ott, have made progress by leaps in bounds since inception by not only growing the charity organization in Austin but also expanding to other cities as well. Moving the Black Fret Ball venue from the Paramount Theater, where it was held last year, to ACL Live could have meant a lot of empty seats. Instead, the crowd was massive and members and attendees flooded the venue in impressive fashion.

 The recipients of Black Fret’s grant money were a mixed bag of returning artists and some brand new acts.  Groups like the Greyhounds, Los Coast and Jane Ellen Bryant all returned from last year’s ball to claim $20k grants while newcomers Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad, Trouble In The Streets and The Texas KGB all claimed their first grants.

 Major sponsors like Dell, Deloitte and NY Life gave the notion that Black Fret has ascended to a high level of recognition within the corporate community as much as the artistic one.  While there is a bit of an Oprah-esque vibe to the grant giving, “You get a grant! You get a grant!”, ultimately the impact is profound for the artist – financially and with newfound exposure.

 Performances by Donovan Keith, The Texas KGB and Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad were all highlights of the night, as a dual stage setup allowed for a more fluid transition to showcase more music. While there is a lot of love in the room, it was still left to A Giant Dog’s Andrew Cashen to inject some legitimate Rock n Roll spirit by accepting his band’s grant while grandstanding on an amp like a golden god, with music writer Kevin Curtin in tow.

 A quarter million dollars was given out the night of the ball which was awe-inspiring, as artist after artist beamed onstage upon receiving their grant amount.  As Austin’s cost of living continues to skyrocket, charities like Black Fret are becoming more vital to allowing musicians to remain viable or reach the next level.  

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Austin Music Video Festival Offers 5 Days of Unique Fun

  

The Austin Music Video Festival, which debuted in 2014, has embraced its eccentric identity and seen exponential growth as a result. More awards, categories, attendees, and fanfare are making the festival a staple in the already competitive and saturated Austin calendar.The festival kicks off on December 4thwith a performance from local electro-artist, Neon Indian, and continues for the next four days with video screenings, live performances, and nightly after-parties. Rather than a typical film festival, the AMVF’s intersperse video showings with interactive events and lots of live performances by bands like Whiskey Shivers, Sorne, Graham Reynolds. The various venues for activities include the Alama Drafthouse Ritz, Native Hostel, The North Door, Austin Visitor Center and Empire Control Room. While there is a plethora of categories that will be judged, none make a local impact like the ‘All ATX’ award which will feature familiar acts like Walker Lukens, Holy Wave, Toma, Fort Never and many more. The festival comes to a conclusion on Saturday night at Native Hostel with an awards ceremony where winners are announced and then a close-out party ensues. Whether you are interested in viewing uniquely creative music videos or just want to get down on a dance floor, AMVF offers it all and you can grab your tix here.

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Much 2 Much wraps up residency at Swan Dive with female-centric lineup

Photo credit: David Brendan Hall

Austin's indie-folk quartet Much 2 Much just wrapped up their November residency at Swan Dive last Thursday evening. The lineup was a female-centric smorgasbord of intricate harmonies, instrumental versatility and head-turning musical approaches. 

The first act of the evening was a duo set by two of the women of Ley Line, Emilie Basez and Maddy Froncek. The duo played soft and slow, but with raw power and a unique emotional intensity that kept the inhabitants of Swan Dive silent and attentive as ever. Basez and Froncek effortlessly exchanged duties on acoustic guitar, banjo, upright bass and percussion, seamlessly shifting between songs without missing a beat. Their set included originals, some sung beautifully in Portuguese, and covers by artists such as Gillian Welch. 

Much 2 Much - fronted by Erin Thelen and Angie Holliday - took the stage next. With fluttering, ethereal harmonies and concise songwriting, Much 2 Much are masters of dynamics and catchy hooks. Thelen and Holliday are each proficient at guitar and keys, and both bring different methods to their instruments, so no single song sounds quite alike. Backed by a powerful rhythm section consisting of Tyler Irvine on drums and Alex Browne on bass, Much 2 Much plowed through their set with smiles and fervor to an uproarious crowd.

The last act of the evening was the trio of Allysa Grace Music. Grace's music is an intriguing blend of jazz, soul and prog-rock, with songs that often descend into what feel like free-form jams. Grace's stage presence is strong, and she addresses the crowd with an affable ease that belies the complexity of her music. In a town filled to the brim with guitar players, it's refreshing to see a band without guitar. Instead, Grace's keyboard is the centerpiece instrument, with bassist Ben Bradshaw often taking lead excursions on his five-string bass. 

You can catch Much 2 Much at The Lodge and Tavern in Wimberley on December 22nd. Listen to a live version of "Footsteps" below! - Ethan Ames

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Fuss Ricket Gets Weird with "Feed Us Fun"

"Feed Us Fun" by local fringe electro trio, Fuss Ricket, is an earworm of the highest degree. The recently released single lobotomizes the apprehensive and unfun parts of your brain and lets lead singer, Tyler Cochran, exert his frenetic charisma all over your psyche. Frantically urgent vocals bounce over analog synths and robust funky bass lines that reverberate in perfect synchronicity. Eccentric and out for a good time, Fuss Ricket has dance-friendly beats but simultaneously ushers in a welcome overdose of weirdness that make them unique and captivating. Show Fuss Ricket some love at www.fussricket.com or check out their next show!

 

 

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