With SXSW Online 2021 only days away, it’s time to celebrate the local artists who keep Austin well represented in the music showcase schedule. Due to the restrictions of the online format, there are 280 artists on the roster, 32 of which hail from the 512. And while each artist will get limited time due to the condensed showcase, it will be a great opportunity to take in a wide variety of music in a small amount of time. As I do every year, here are my Top 10 must-see Austin artists at SXSW Online 2021. But first, some notes![Read more…]
This will be a strange one for me. For the last five years, I took four days off from my 9 to 5 and ran around downtown Austin listening to music. Day parties, Black Fret showcases, 2 AM listening sessions. All exhausting, all exhilarating, all inspiring. It’s the journalistic highlight of the year.
This year, I’ll be doing the same from the coziness of my computer. While checking out a showcase, I’ll be able to burp my six month old. Instead of ducking into my favorite sanctuaries for meals, I’ll hit the fridge. But rather than be bummed, I’m intrigued and excited. In service to the artists who made the festival what it is today, SXSW is delivering innovative ways for musicians to perform in what’s hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic. Here’s everything you need to know to join in on the fun.[Read more…]
I love watching artists evolve. When I first met Mobley in 2016, he was a bubbling-under one man pop powerhouse. Exuding charm, charisma, and musical chops to spare, Mobley turned a rain-soaked Spiderhouse anniversary show into a mad dance party.
Five years later, Mobley has grown from man with the music to man with a message. Philanthropist, activist, and social commentator, this dynamic artist is using his influence and talents to not only create gorgeous music but say something meaningful with it. And his latest six-song opus, “Young & Dying in the Occident Supreme,” is the next evolution for one of Austin’s brightest stars.[Read more…]
When we think back on the local music scene in 2020, it’s easy to be disheartened. The ongoing pandemic crippled the live music scene. Venues closed, artists suffered, and while a steady stream of in-house livestream concerts helped soften the blow, there’s nothing like experiencing music with a crowd of people.
But take heart! Austin music remained strong and prolific in the face of COVID-19. New music from nearly every beloved artist flooded our fair city and what better way to celebrate than Austin Chronicle’s yearly Music Poll? A great opportunity to not only vote for your favorite artists but discover new ones, this year’s poll is a who’s-who of local favorites. As a primer, here’s how to get involved, some of the key categories, and five of my personal picks. The choice is yours!
Exercise Your Right to Choose
Like everything during the pandemic, this year’s Austin Music Poll needed to adapt with the times. The Chronicle team slashed the normal slate of categories from the usual 50 to a trim 20. The team also jettisoned the genre categories (except for best Hip Hop) in favor of 2020-centric awards like Best Livestreaming Artist and Best 2020-Themed Song.
Polling is open until February 1st and can be done via their official website. And some of my picks are…
My Five Cents
Band of the Year
- …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
- Black Pumas
- Sam Houston & Blk Odyssy
- Ley Line
- Sit Woman
My Take: While Black Pumas will most likely walk away with this one (that Grammy nomination never hurts), I would love to see Ley Line take the gold here. This year’s “We Saw Blue” is a sensational collection of soul-stirring world music incorporating influences from a dozen cultures and climates. Ley Line is the embodiment of what we need as a society right now. Sounds and rhythms from around the world combined to create something beautiful and welcoming.
Musician of the Year
- Gina Chavez
- Jake Lloyd
- Walker Lukens
- Jackie Venson
My Take: AlthoughI adore every artist in this category, you can’t deny what Jackie Venson did this year. She released four albums, performed on ACL Live, and pioneered weekly livestream sessions when COVID hit. All the while, successfully fighting for social equality in the Austin music community by curating an All Black Blues on the Green concert. And she’s still one of the best guitarists in Austin. An exceptional woman who more than deserves this honor
Hip Hop Artist of the Year
- Deezie Brown
- Kydd Jones
- Magna Carda
- The Teeta
My Take: This is an insanely tough category. You could make an argument for every artist on this list, but I’m going to buck tradition and go Blackillac. ZEALE and Phranchyze’s one-two lyrical punch is one of my favorite musical tricks and this duo pulls it off beautifully. Plus “6 Ringz” is a straight-up banger.
Album of the Year
- “End the Summertime F(or)ever” – Botany
- “Candy Blue Like Screw” – Deezie Brown & EC Mayne
- “Welcome to Hard Times” – Charley Crockett
- “2020” – Eliza Gilkyson
- “Primates” – Greyhounds
- “We Saw Blue” – Ley Line
- “My Love is a Hurricane” – David Ramirez
- “Skeleton” – Skeleton
- “The New Sounds of Late Capitalism” – Star Parks
- “Trinidad” – Sweet Spirit
- “The Quarentine” – The Teeta
- “Vintage Machine” – Jackie Venson
My Take: Why oh why must you give me 12 choices! Taking away Ms. Venson and Ley Line, as I already picked them for an award, I’m still left with a wealth of good options. Despite some wavering, I keep returning to Star Parks for my best album of the year. Laid back, lo-fi, and steeped in late 60’s Brian Wilson-esqe songcraft, “The New Sounds of Late Capitalism” is a fantastic listen front to back. But, this is an incredibly good list to pick from.
Song of the Year
- “Revolution” – Heartless Bastards
- “IDK” – Tameca Jones
- “James Crow” – Mobley
- “Karen O” – Sun June
- “Walk with Me Austin” – Adrian Quesdada w/various artists
My Take: With love to all the nominees, this one’s no contest. The first time I heard “James Crow” from Austinot favorite Mobley, I knew it was a keeper. It’s a prime example of everything he does well. Take emotionally charged subject matter, wrap it into an addictive dance jam, and attach a world-class video to the whole ensemble. The result is an instant earworm that, in a fair and just world, would be a Top 40 hit.
“Walk With Me Austin” is important, and “IDK” absolutely slaps, but “James Crow” ticks all the boxes as a standout track in an uncertain year.
And the Winners Are…
In a normal year, the winners would be announced during the Austin Music Awards as a kickoff to SXSW. Although it’s unlikely an in-person event will be possible, the Chronicle promises something special to celebrate the deserving winners.
Whether that’s a traditional livestream or something with a bit more flavor, there’s no doubt the capstone to an incredibly odd year for the Austin music community will be one to remember. Make sure your voice is heard: Vote today!
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Who are you voting for in this year’s Austin Music Poll?
2020 has beaten us all up. Most of us are exhausted, struggling in one way or another, physically, mentally, or financially, and Austin musicians are no different.
Without live music shows or venues to play in, how have our local musicians made do? How have they stayed afloat and on their fans’ minds? How have they dealt with releasing long-awaited albums without a tour to support it? How have they flexed their creative muscle?
I’ve asked a few of my musician friends these same questions. Hopefully, their answers can inspire all of us or introduce you to some fabulous new music and performers that shone brightly in 2020, despite the all-too-familiar obstacles that this year has placed in their way.[Read more…]
When COVID knocked out SXSW back in March of this year, I was crestfallen. Seven months later, my sadness seems petty, but at the time, it was crushing. And as we all know, everything else live music related fell along with it, including the other marquee music event of the year, the Austin City Limits Festival.
Luckily, the ACL Festival team refused to stay down and crafted a weekend long virtual event that both pays homage to the past while keeping an eye towards the future. All without the need for masks, social distancing or even tickets.
A Blast to the Past
This year’s event will run from October 9th to 11th exclusively on YouTube. The virtu-show starts at 7 p.m. each night and will feature iconic performances from past festivals. From last year’s headliners Billie Eilish and Gary Clark Jr to Phish and LCD Soundsystem in 2010, a decade’s worth of ACL Fest memories will be on offer.
But it’s not all “re-runs” of classic ACL Fest moments. Determined to keep the lineup current, the festival will feature a variety of new content and recorded performances featuring some of Austin’s finest talent. One of the coolest examples of old meets new is an animated video of Willie Nelson’s 2016 ACL Fest performance of “On the Road Again” presented by Texas Monthly.
New Content with a Local Flair
Like the in-person event, this year’s edition leans heavily on both local talent and organizations. Yearly sponsor, Austin Parks Foundation, will showcase local artists performing in unique locations around Austin:
- Melat from the Zilker Botanical Gardens.
- Jackie Venson from Pan Am Neighborhood Park.
- Los Coast from Zilker Clubhouse
- Otis the Destroyer from the Heath Eiland and Morgan Moss BMX Skatepark.
Another long time sponsor, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, hosted a series of brand new performances from the Black Pumas, Mobley, and Paul Cauthen which will be broadcast throughout the weekend. And as they do every year, Tito’s will match all donations to the Austin Parks Foundation up to $10,000 made during ACL Fest 2020.
More Than Just Music
Anybody who’s been to ACL Fest will tell you the weekend is more than epic live music. It’s a gathering place, an innovation showcase, and sometimes a social call to arms. ACL Fest 2020 continues this important piece of the festival puzzle in this year’s virtual format.
In the conversation department, Salesforce has partnered with ACL Fest 2020 to create the Make Change initiative. Matthew McConaughey will host two sessions, one starring tennis legend Andy Roddick and a group of community focused entrepreneurs while the other will center on providing educational assistance to underserved high school students. While these smaller sessions often get swallowed by the music, please make a point to attend these enlightening and important sessions.
Other sessions and partnerships include:
- Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote, a non-profit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to changing the American electoral landscape by ensuring everyone is registered and empowered to vote.
- The Equal Justice Initiative, committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishments in the American penal system.
- The All Together ATX Relief Fund, a joint partnership with Austin Community Foundation and United Way for Greater Austin designed to combat the economic impact of COVID-19 on already vulnerable neighborhoods.
New Location, Same Energy for ACL Fest 2020
And the list of awesomeness goes on and on! When many festivals packed it in and said, “see you next year” when COVID struck, the Austin City Limits Festival team dug in and found a new way to celebrate. While it won’t be the eight stage, 400,000 person extravaganza we’re used to, this year’s virtual edition is a thoughtfully curated and planned event that does more than make the best out of a challenging situation. ACL Fest 2020 uses the limitations to create something different but equally impactful.
Enjoying some of the best moments of ACL’s past from the comfort of your couch for free sounds like a lovely way to spend an evening. Try to do so at least once this weekend!
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Do you have a favorite ACL Fest performance? Tell us about it!
Back when I did my first “6 Singles” article, COVID-19 was still a newbie we all hoped would be gone in a week or four. Nearly six month later, it’s time for another batch of wonderful music to be thrust into the spotlight. Sequestration may have crippled the live music scene, but Austin artists continue to churn out quality art at an inspiring rate. Check out these seven new singles and fall in love.[Read more…]
The bright side of yet another week of COVID hiding and staying home? No need to brave weeks upon weeks of 100 degree weather! Not only that, you can enjoy the AC and great live music from the comfort of your home. This weekend is full of streams that demand your attention – so give it! Listen local, y’all![Read more…]
Right now it feels like every day’s the same. As we’ve settled into COVID confinement, it can feel like the world’s slowed to a crawl. Luckily, our local music scene continues to grow and create, despite a lack of live performances. If you’re feeling the grind, try checking out one of these awesome acts doing their best to provide some musical light in these dark times. Listen local, y’all![Read more…]
Austinites! With Stage 5 looming, ACL Fest cancelled, and another round of “essential travel only” on the horizon, we’ll all be sequestered for the forseeable future. Plenty of time to work on our video game backlog, do some Netflix binging, and check out local music via rad live streams. Nothing replaces the energy of true live performance, but when you’re in the midst of a year long pandemic, any port in the storm. Stay safe, support our local music (monetarily if finances allow), and listen local![Read more…]