It’s tough to be a musician in the Live Music Capital of the World. On any given night, world-class artists ply their trade for the contents of a tip jar. Award-winning singers hold down regular jobs. Venues that find pride in treating artists fairly close the doors in favor of no-cover bars with a makeshift stage in the corner.
Enter Black Fret. By building a community of industry folks and music lovers, with a heart of keeping Austin music alive and well, this nonprofit provides an answer to the issues plaguing the local music scene. And on the Dec. 7 Black Ball extravaganza at the Moody Theater, Black Fret awarded $250,000 to deserving musicians. It was an evening of giving, music, and all around good vibes.
What Is Black Fret?
Founded by friends and music lovers Colin Kendrick and Matt Ott, Black Fret is a member-driven nonprofit dedicated to creating a sustainable environment where Austin musicians can thrive. Members pay a yearly fee and, in return, receive access to dozens of intimate listening room-style shows featuring some of Austin’s finest talent. The funds are funneled into an endowment that provides grants to member-voted recipients.
But grant winners don’t just receive a check. Black Fret provides grant dollars as musicians reach career-enhancing milestones and further their craft. The organization also has a thriving mentorship program. Prominent industry professionals coach artists on everything from promotion to studio technique. The whole goal is to cultivate a culture of sustainable musical excellence in Austin.
Black Ball 2018
Every December, Black Fret throws its year-end celebration known as Black Ball. Presented with the pageantry and prestige of a major awards show, member-voted artists receive either a minor or major grant.
From a pool of 20, all of the 2018 nominees received an award. With minor grants worth $5,000 and major grants totaling $20,000, winning a Black Fret award can change the course of a band’s career. And the awards go to…
- Donovan Keith
- Los Coast
- Jane Ellen Bryant
- Jaimee Harris
- Wood & Wire
- Jeff Plankenhorn
- Israel Nash
- Shy Beast
- Tomar & the FCs
- The Texas KGB
- Rebecca Loebe
- Dave Scher
- Palo Duro
- A Giant Dog
- Trouble in the Streets
- Billy King & the Bad Bad Bad
- Otis the Destroyer
- Kalu & the Electric Joint
➡️ Keep reading: Tomar and the FCs Burn Up Austin Stages With Electrifying Soul Music
Evening of Music and Magic
But what would a Black Fret event be without live performances? Fifteen of the 20 nominees played trim two-song sets throughout the evening. Despite the brevity, the music was sensational. Eclectic soul man Donovan Keith kicked off the night with blistering power, and jump-up-and-jam showmanship.
Throughout the night, the lineup showcased Austin’s musical diversity. From Megafauna’s guitar-slaying heavy rock to the touching country twang of Rebecca Loebe, the show was full of surprises. One of the biggest crowd pleasers was recent Grammy nominee Wood & Wire. Performing a set of four-on-the-floor bluegrass, the foursome brought the politely enthusiastic Moody crowd to its feet.
My surprise of the evening was Billy King and the Bad Bad Bad. A rock star combination of southern rock, CBGB’s thrash, and ridiculous chops, I’ve found a new local band to add to my Spotify rotation.
Good People, Good Music, Good Fun
The evening closed with the explosive R&B soul sound of Austinot favorite Tomar & the FC’s. As usual, frontman Tomar Williams commanded the crowd to stand and jam, as he darted and danced. After his first song, he invited all of the musicians to join him on stage for a rousing cover of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home.”
The Moody theater transformed from a quietly respectful crowd to a gospel church revival. Afterwards, musicians and attendees stayed for an after-party that ran until 2 a.m. A DJ played in the downstairs lobby, while musicians grabbed guitars and played acoustic sets in the mezzanine. Past winners like Gina Chavez and Ray Prim mingled with benefactors and newly minted awardees.
Black Fret isn’t just a group of benefactors donating cash to a worthy cause. It’s a family. A close knit tribe of music lovers who strongly believe this town should do everything it can to support local talent. An evening of music, emotion, and magic, 2018 Black Ball was a triumphant celebration of everything right in the Austin music scene.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Who is your favorite Black Fret artist?