Started with the intention of bringing more awareness to surf music, Second Saturday Surf is now established as a home base for the Central Texas surf guitar scene. The monthly event at Knomad Bar has been going strong for over five years.
Surf guitar enthusiasts from around the country schedule Austin visits to coincide with a Second Saturday show. At last count, nearly 50 bands have played the event, with a draw that has both regional and national bands occasionally dropping in for a set. One visit to surf night is an excellent introduction to many takes on this musical style (and it’s also a surfin’ great time).
Surf Music in Austin?
It may seem odd that a landlocked city like Austin would nurture such a strong surf scene. But with committed musicians, some transplants from other cities, and some looking for a fun way to diversity their repertoire, the scene continues to grow.
Musician Kaleb Asplund of The Spoils, who organizes Second Saturday Surf along with Ted James of Deep Eddy Records, has been watching over the growth of the Austin surf scene for more than 20 years. Yet even with Asplud and James’ dedication, the opening of NLand Surf Park, and several coastal festivals within driving distance, surf music can still be overlooked in Austin.
“Surf music doesn’t typically have lyrics,” explained James. “Kaleb created this night to make a space for the music.” James went on to explain his theory that the lack of lyrics may be why surf music doesn’t draw the same audience as other acts around town. Or maybe the ever-growing music scene here is a blessing and a curse. Are there simply too many musical choices in our great city?
What to Expect at the Event
Whatever the reason, a space has been made at Knomad Bar. Typically, Second Saturday Surf features three bands that play for about an hour each. The lineup usually spans the different “takes” on surf music. One night might feature a surf-punk band such as The Bat City Surfers, or progressive-minded The Nematoads, and then end with a spaghetti western act such as Sheverb (one of the few all-lady surf bands).
This diversity keeps the genre alive. Asplund expanded by saying, “That’s been my favorite aspect of the show, getting to see all the different takes on a common inspiration….Like the genre itself, we’ve been through a couple waves, but the music is constantly compelling.” Asplund can’t help but continue the surf metaphors as he discusses the music.
“Surf music was the dominant form of rock n’ roll that bridged the four years between Elvis and the military, and the British invasion,” noted Shaan Shirazi of The Poi Pounders. He goes on to explain the elements of surf music. “Clean reverb-drenched guitars playing exotic melodies, combined with heavy rhythm from the drums and bass.”
On Second Saturday Surf night, the sofas normally found at the south side of the bar are stacked against the wall to make way for the stage. The musicians load in and out quickly, so there is hardly any downtime between sets.
As the musicians end their sets, they chat easily with fans new and old. Everyone talks to one other. Surf music tends to invite this easy camaraderie. Maybe it’s the result of surf culture, where the exchanging information is about waves, their strength and patterns, as a means of survival. Or perhaps it’s just a flow of fun sounds that leave everyone smiling at each other.
More Than Music
At the November 2018 event, the late UT football game was still on when the first band started. But as the game ended (Hook ’em Horns!) the focus turned to the music. Patrons started dancing. Even those not dancing swayed, clapped, or tapped their feet. It was infectious.
Before long, the scene evolved into something resembling a spontaneous beach party (minus the bonfire). A gentleman moved his chair off to the side to better assess the music. A woman snapped pictures. And one couple chatted with another about surfer life.
It was the party you found once on vacation and always hoped you would stumble across again.
The next Second Saturday Surf Night is on Dec. 8, 2018. It will be a special Christmas edition with The Poi Pounders and The Stone Robots. Coming as you are is highly encouraged, but you can learn more on the Surf Guitar 101 website, Austin Surfs Facebook group, or the Deep Eddy label site. There is no cover charge, but as always, don’t forget to tip the musicians.
1213 Corona Dr.
@theAustinot wants to know:
What kind of surf music are you most familiar with?
Camellia “AuntieCam” Falcon is a financial consultant by day. She can be found dancing, biking, and spoiling her littles around Austin, or asking herself tough questions at Auntiecam.com.