Megafauna delivers scorching set at Solstice Fest 2016

Amidst the smell of sweat and sunscreen, Megafauna braved the burning Texas sun during Solstice Fest to perform a killer set to a crowd full of amped fans.

Humphrey’s killer drum grooves helps complete Megafauna’s electric sound.

If you’re not familiar with Megafauna, you should be. The four-piece psych-metal, prog-rock outfit, hailing from Austin, has created a name for themselves by delivering a mix of technically impressive rock with an aggressive, feminine edge that seamlessly fluctuates from mellow, spacey vibes to moody, charged riffs. Backed by masterful bass and cataclysmic drums, it’s a treat to see how the foursome fuses together influences like Radiohead, Jimi Hendrix, Tool and Mars Volta to create something entirely unique.

Comprised of Dani Neff (lead guitar and vocals), Zack Humphrey (drums), Will Krause (bass) and Winston Barrett (keys, guitar), Megafauna has finally–seven years and four albums later–started to garner well deserved acclaim outside Austin.

Recently, the Austin American Statesman even named Megafauna artist of the month, and almost a month ago they released a trippy music video for “Desire,” the lead track from their most recent album, Welcome HomeCheck it out below:

Speaking of Welcome Home, Megafauna opened their 4:15 p.m. set at  Pan Am Park with a cut from their newest album. Though I’d heard of them before, I’d never actually heard any of the band’s music. Walking in blind, it didn’t take me long to see that Megafuna shredded and that I had been missing out on some of the best music Austin had to offer.

Krause, a very animated and exciting bassist, threw down some grungy, heavy riffs during Solstice Fest.

The first track showcased was the blistering “Panpsychist,” which immediately opens with a dark, sludge-like bass rift reminiscent of Tool with some excitable percussion. Krause and Humphrey’s sound shines here as it sets the scene for Neff’s ethereal vocals and dark, psychedelic lyricism: “Can the whole house really hear me as I stroke my hair and these sheets?” Sonically, things shift into a more psychedelic realm as the track progresses into a story where the narrator deals with being isolated inside her own home, able to converse with her surroundings–a clever nod to concept of Panpsychism–the idea that every object in the world has some level of consciousness.

Next up was the hectic “Hogs Out” which displays the great, upbeat guitarmanship of Neff and Barrett. Their sound melds perfectly with Humphrey’s drumwork to create a fluctuating, prog-rock tone that weaves in and out between order and chaos.

An accomplished guitarist and vocalist, Neff shredded and sang beautifully throughout Megafauna’s set.

Taking the time to momentarily rest from the heat, Krause dowsed himself off with water before the band led into “Gaia”, the Mars Volta-esque track that gave me a first taste of one of the coolest things about Megafauna: the head-banging, adrenaline-inducing riffs. The guitar bridge of this song alone outshines some fully fledged solos I’ve heard from other bands. Little did I know, this was just a taste of the impressive musical technicality to come.

“Don’t Ask Questions,” my favorite song from Megafauna’s set, opened with Neff’s enchanting vocal delivery and a spacey, layered intro that makes all one’s problems (even the blistering Texas heat) melt away. About two-thirds of the way through, the Milky Way vibes crescendoed into a heavy tonal shift, as the wavy, distorted guitarwork set audiences up for Neff’s complex, scorching solo that put the blistering Texas heat to shame.

Another rad thing about Megafauna is something I’ve noticed recently about many Austin musicians–The Ghost Wolves for example, spring to mind. These artists bring so much bravado and charisma to the stage, but in the quiet moments between songs they always remain down to earth and endearing in their humility. As audiences screamed things like “Make America rock again,” and “We believe in you,” Nerr and company flashed smiles and took the time to show their fans some love:

“Thanks so much for being here and braving the heat with us,” Neer said between tracks. “And thanks to Solstice for having us!”

I could go on and on about Megafauna–and the rest of their set was excellent (check out “Haunted Factory” and “Hug From a Robot” when you get a chance),–but I think you’d be more convinced of their talent if you just gave them a listen. You can check out a slew of their work on Soundcloud or you can follow them on Spotify (like I did).

However, like all great things in life, Megafauna is even better if you experience them in person. They’ll be touring around the country for a while, but you can catch them on again in Austin on August 7, at the Danimal Kingdom Summer Pool Party.