In the neighborhood graveyard of venues such as Holy Mountain and Red 7 stands what used to be known as Red Eyed Fly, a venue that escaped the same defeat by reinventing itself through a merger between the owners of Red Eyed Fly and Red 7. As an unassuming stony plateau renamed Sidewinder, the venue opened earlier this month and is exclusively booked by Transmission Events. While it is the infant brother to surrounding downtown high-rises, it welcomes unforgivably strong performers and offers two band playgrounds, one inside a cozy indoor lobby likened to the living space of a family log cabin and the other located outside in a modestly sized patio area. Last night, perched on a wooden stool, I observed the indoor stage where Sidewinder hosted their Oct. 29 lineup: The Bravo, Ghostbunny, Otis the Destroyer and MCG.
The Bravo starts the Night Strong
At the strike of 9:30 p.m., a crowd of five enthusiastic collegiates called The Bravo hopped onto a small platform stage, all but one wearing a grungy black t-shirt and blue jeans. As I listened to them do a quick one-two, I swallowed the forgiving pain of a difficult week now behind me, resting my eyes on a shining gold-edged drum kit and relying on the subtle murmur of the bar to ease me as the band prepared their set. A deep breathe away from show time, the stage lights finally casted a pale yellow hue onto my heroes.
Under the unconvincing tawny light, the band introduced a whole new genre.
The Bravo began with an energy-tempered beat and graceful sharp clinking keyboard notes which gave their hard rock edge a nice pop. Under the unconvincing tawny light, the band introduced a whole new genre: reinvented surfy garage rock too hard to be dubbed the modern Beach Boys but still subtly poppy. The composition was intriguing; their dual performance of rough, harmonizing vocals complemented a handsomely talented drummer and a spitfire keyboardist, both of whom proved to be chameleons of various genres.
Greg Clifford, a budding genius on the drums, had performed with Interrobang Brass at On Vinyl’s premiere event, the annual Boat Party, this past April. Now in a completely different setting, he transformed his style flawlessly to match the temper of The Bravo. Before the set, he introduced me to his friend and the band’s keyboardist Joey Listrom who presented a similar knack for musical diversity.
The band delivered some deep hooks and often suspended impatient pauses following up with shameless and quick hot firestorms of sound. A curious audience began to trickle into the bar. By the fourth song of their 8-song set, they started to resonate a less surfy vibe, giving to a more generously alternative sound while still maintaining the integrity of being a rock band. Their subtle pop vibe was received well by a increasingly liquor-happy crowd.
The Bravo continued their unique pacing until the very last song, taking their set down to a hard close, inviting Ghostbunny’s performance next onto the tiny stage that could barely fit the band, much less a partying quintet that hydrated with beer. Their excitement was contained only by the invisible wall between the stage and the audience, and if it were not for such a vague wall, the band would have spilled their passion onto the venue patrons, past Sidewinder’s doors and into the streets of Austin.
GHOSTBUNNY’s energy rush
Ghostbunny had a similar set-up with two guitarists, one long-haired bassist, a keyboardist (the same one, actually–borrowed from the Bravo) and a skillful drummer graced with magic ghost arms. This time, the pale yellow light turned into a flashy magenta, giving the stage character and painting the band a quasi-pink landscape.
I couldn’t help but notice the slight melancholic quality of his voice which could have either swayed me into a trance or inspired within me an internal riot.
Playing songs from their recently released freshman album Silver Tongue the performance had similar effects on me as a focused Adderall rush. Ghostbunny drummer Brandon Raehl murdered his drum set. He delivered a careful obsession with his snare, choking his beats short like rapid fire bullets, and often generously crashed energy into the cymbals. Joey Listrom from the Bravo, returning as a recycled keyboardist, also maintained enthusiasm for round two. Usually, with any band, I find the keyboardist to be the least compelling of the group. However, Listrom killed it on his board, treating his keys as if they were hand drums–very skillfully creating a melodic canvas for the joining instruments. The band’s lead vocalist, Nick Hanson, kept the set steady, offering a stable pace to each song. I couldn’t help but notice the slight melancholic quality of his voice which could have either swayed me into a trance or inspired within me an internal riot.
In addition to their synchronized talent, the band had an appreciable sense of humor. The group’s bassist, Mark Kopecky, provided some meaningful and elegant hair-flipping while the lead guitarist, Michael Walker, shoeless and dressed for success in his patterned ankle socks, added some comic relief with transitional jokes in between songs. “We are Ghostbunny, for those of you who are already too drunk to remember,” he announced. “This song is called, ‘Please Don’t Call Me Lover’ and it’s about Nick’s mom,” thumbing over to the other guitarist and vocalist while the audience gave a communal chuckle.
Watching the performance was like watching five large fish wearing black T’s struggling to escape their tiny fish bowl. Their last song, in particular, proved to be the loudest, most telling of their prowess and most energized of their set. It inspired a packed room and provided a nice bedrock for the following performances, Otis the Destroyer and MCG.
Sidewinder reawakens the local austin music scene
With hot sweat cast upon the indoor stage of Sidewinder, the venue proved to be the reawakened spirit of Red Eyed Fly and Red 7. With a pulsing buzz, I left happy, refreshed by the night’s show of talent and eager for what other local talents awaited me this Halloween weekend.