Penny Loafer PR Hosts Pennyfest 2015: Empire Control Room & Garage overwhelmed with Texas talent

pWhat is even more impressive than the culmination of Austin and other Texas talent under one roof is that the connections of Penny Loafer PR founders and Australian natives, Rob Pascolo and Sharna Haine, put this local home run event together. This promotions company, providing opportunities for local artists from Austin all the way to Australia, masterfully put together a bill that accurately encompassed what the local music scene is all about. Needless to say, Empire Control Room & Garage was the place to be on Red River St. on Sept. 20.

The lineup featured Austin punk/grunge scene favorites Residual Kid, coming off of a recent tour that included overseas dates in the United Kingdom. Residual Kid also played the Mumford and Sons curated festival, Gentleman of the Road Stopover, featuring headliners like The Flaming Lips. This eclectic trio finished the night out strong (and angsty) on the Control Room stage. You can also catch them at Austin City Limits Music Festival Oct. 2 and 3.

Much like Residual Kid, the lineup was not short of high octane rock ensembles. The Austin indie band MESSAGES, who has been making moves all around the country, performed their original rock sound led by lead singer Jonathan Horstmann and featuring innovative violinist Lexi Cardenas. The Rocketboys also brought down the house on the Garage stage, flexing their professional ambient rock muscles, inciting the crowd with a creative rendition of Michael Jackson’s, “Billy Jean.”

Other Austin powerhouses of the night include That Girl Dre, bringing their soulful “summer rock” sound to the Control Room. Keyboard player and front woman Dre Mazzenga, exuded contagious energy that made even the sound techs dance in the booth. The band, even though named after Mazzenga, was definitely not a one woman show. That Girl Dre was holistically one of the tightest bands of the night.

Hailing from Beaumont, Texas but no stranger to the Austin music scene, Purple, the headliners of Pennyfest, absolutely kicked a tired audience in the teeth. The alcohol had been flowing since 8 P.M so this Texas rock trio had an uphill battle on their hands. Lead singer and drummer Hanna Brewer, from beat one, took the Garage stage audience on a full sprint into punky goodness. Brewer was no exception to the Texas heat and removed her shirt to make sure nothing would get in the way during this packed headlining set. Purple has been making waves all over the country, and if you haven’t heard about them yet, get ready, because you won’t stop hearing about them.

Considering all of the talent showcased at Pennyfest, I must say my absolute favorites of the night, straight off the release of their album “Silver Tongue,” was Ghostbunny. The aural sounds fit perfectly together in front of the projected graphics of the Control Room stage. Sporting three guitarists, each instrument had it’s own space contributing to this spacey melodic atmosphere. I got to talk to lead singer and guitarist, Nick Hanson, about his experience traversing the Austin music scene and how he found success from it. Coming from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Hanson was surrounded by great musicians from successful bands like Bright Light Social Hour and Walker Lukens. When Ghostbunny was formed and came to Austin, Hansen highlights making “musical connections” and “supporting other local talent” as imperative for the success of local bands like his. Hansen had this advice for other local bands fighting to survive in the ATX scene:

 When you surround yourself with talented and good minded people in Austin, it constantly pushes you to do more and more to stand out in the crowd. Making friends is a whole lot better than breeding enemies. 

All of that said, if you missed it, you will just have to wait for Pennyfest 2016.

Photos by: Alex Duck