Photo by Rebecca Mendoza.
Saturday evening, the cloudless sky was a muted blue and a partial moon floated casually above the stage. The crowd was attentive to both their beer and the bands and sat lazily in fold-out lawn chairs. Overall, the environment seemed relaxed and ready to hear some great music performed on the large stage at Nutty Brown.
First up: Robin Alice. The duo made up of Jeff Hortillosa (“Horti” for short) from Whiskey Shivers and Kelley Jakle of Pitch Perfect, was up first on stage to battle the beating sun. Horti’s melodic guitar riffs, led by the powerful vocals of frontwoman and musical heroine of the evening Jakle, opened the night up beautifully.
Playful tones of the the man on keys uplifted their songs. The rhythm section, which included powerful drummer and nomadic upright bassist, held it all together. The highlight of their set was their latest and first single “Greed” started with a slow and simple beat that doubled over a few measures in. The song flirted with a fun bassline and poppy guitar parts and gave a cool relief to the overheated Nutty Brown crowd.
Overall, the strength of the band was based less on compositional complexity and more on individual musicianship. The drummer was steady and controlled, the bassist brought the band to another dimension and the main duo led the band confidently.
To check out Texas Monthly’s review of “Greed,” click here.
I had heard so much about Black Pumas and never had the opportunity to see them live until late into the game. They’d built up so much hype around their psychedelic soul band that it truly caught my attention and got me so excited to see them perform.
On a general observation, the problem the majority of bands have is being stuck in the bleak grey area between “pop” (defined as audience-friendly, simple, and generally enjoyable by the masses) and “avant-garde” (defined as groundbreaking and compositionally complex), resulting in boring music. Black Pumas, however, have hit a sweet spot for me.
Though their set was tainted by sound problems the first couple of songs in, the band persisted and impressed. The strength of the band truly came from the lead Eric Burton‘s strong vocals backed by the complementary vocals of his backup singer and the musicianship of each of the members of the band, specifically the guitarist–every single one of local legend Adrian Quesada’s riffs took each song to the next level.
The band worked really well together as a six-piece blues outfit, but I failed to connect it to the psych genre that previous reviews had identified it as until I paid more attention to the organ parts that pulled every song beautifully together. The songs were well composed but nearly each of them started with a 4/4 beat; I would have liked to see Quesada experiment with a different time signatures and push the boundaries of psych.
Overall, their music reminded me of Joplin- and Hendrix-era rock ’n’ roll — blushingly soulful vocals, energetic guitar riffs, and a confident and imposing bassline. I would watch this band closely as they gain more attention for bringing their audience back to the good days of rock and roll.
Finally, the main course of this meal: Bob Schneider. With an electric personality and stage presence like his, there are no words that will ever do the legendary Bob Schneider justice. He needs no introduction or review, but he is owed a giant thank-you. With a band like Bob Schneider’s, one that is like a well-oiled machine, he’s set the bar high for Austin music.