Utopia Fest 2019

Another Utopia Fest is behind us. Every year there is a question that rumbles under the surface… will this festival survive another year? The answer is yes, at least one more! Travis, the founder and proprietor is going to make it happen and the lease agreement has one more year on it. They just need $50,000. Do you have any cash to spare because this fest is awesome and it would be really sad to see it go the way of the Armadillo (music venue). Viva Utopia 2020!

I am so grateful this festival exists in our hill country backyard of Burnet, TX. I mean, who doesn’t love Utopia, TX but let’s face it, driving an hour vs. 3 hrs is much easier. Don’t get me wrong, I am already making plans to attend Sweet Party in early April at the old Three Sister’s Ranch in Utopia, TX with 500 of my closest friends BUT the new site at Reveille Peak Ranch is really growing on me. (Note: Utopia Fest 2020 dates are Sept 18-19)

They’ve done away with camping separate from your vehicle and gave some more options for those who prefer to glamp. Our friends opted for the Granny Camp option so we joined them, leaving our car in the free lot. It worked out perfectly. Our camp consisted of friends we had made at Sweet Party and friends we made at UtopiaFest last year, plus their friends, plus a couple of cool teachers who were nearby. We shared stories, drinks, food, and a campfire and well, it was Utopia!

The music was Utopia as well. A lot of local bands that bring both a festival, rocking vibe and an accessible sound that everyone can enjoy. Also, if you weren’t feeling the music, you could go back and hang at the GIGANTIC bonfire! There was a lot of recent clearing on the site so there was a lot of wood to burn and recent rain combined with cold nights made it a perfect time.

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Spoon, Cage the Elephant, Beck & Wild Belle @ COTA 360 Amphitheater 7.27.19

Wild Belle took the stage a 6pm. It was early and we were lucky to have been connected to tickets through our friend who is a venue regular. The lawn was filling up but many of the seats were still open.

Wild Belle was engaging. The female lead has a smoky voice with a flow that matched her outfit. Picture Melania Trump in the white suit and big black hat. Now try and clear your mind of that plastic model and picture a real human, with a microphone and a good groove. Wild Belle was fun to watch and sounded good… even in 90-something temps at 6pm.

Next, Spoon took the stage. Britt Daniel, the lead singer was donning a cowboy hat, fit for the Texas sun. They are Austin natives and while the more expensive seats up front were still filling in, the cheap seats on the lawn were packed for the 7pm show and the lawn crowd was loving them. Laurie Gallardo, the DJ “who rolls her rrrs” was also loving them. She was sitting near us and I enjoyed watching her jam to Spoon almost as much as I enjoyed jamming to them! They have a new album out called “Everything Hits at Once” and it is kind of a greatest hits album. That’s fine with me because I enjoy all their old stuff. My favorite, Underdog, was a fist-pumping jam that I loved every minute of.

Cage the Elephant was on stage next but didn’t spend a whole lot of time actually on the stage. The lead singer, Matt Schultz, came out dressed in a suit with a red cover over his face and a wide-brimmed hat. As the performance continued, he began to loose more and more of his clothing until he was in a flesh colored body suit, looking more like a rock climber or interpretive dancer than a rock star. He also continued to enter the further depths of the audience with each song and closed his set by climbing the sound booth and then an elevated platform, which was sandwiched between the seats and the lawn, while “We Are The Champions” by Queen played. It was fun to watch but felt a little too contrived and then uneventful. I suppose if you are going to play ginormous venues like these sandwiched between great bands like Spoon and Beck, you need to pull out out all the stops.

Beck didn’t need to do anything but play his hit songs. My God that guy has so many hit songs! I realized, watching him perform, that he has had a major hit song with the latest generation every 10 years  or so since he hit the music scene. What might be more incredible is that they don’t all suck and he is still a blast to see live. When he introduced his band, they each selected a cover and blew it up with their talent. At one point he was covering “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads and I was thinking, “I wonder if these kids know this is a cover or if they think this is just another Beck song?” Ha. Welp, I guess Beck is just timeless. On the big screen he also looks a little like Ed Sheeran, so that might help him mesh with the younger crowd too. Either way, this lady from Beck’s first generation of fans had a great time!

 

Bahamas – July 3rd in Huntsville, ON. Canada, eh!

It sometimes pays off to take a look at the local music bookings when you travel. I was lucky enough to recently travel to Northern Ontario, a few hours north of Toronto to spend some time at a lake cabin. It’s a place I visit annually and one of my favorite places in the world. We’ve had so many good times that there is a curated soundtrack for it. Bahamas are one of the special bands on that playlist. They’re from the Barrie area, just north of Toronto so this was a show in their own backyard! I happened to see the band post about the show on Instagram and snagged a single ticket, splitting off from the group for one night and staying at a perfect little AirBnB with the most fantastic hosts, who were also going to the show!

The Bahamas last album features video of some of the music being played while visiting a very similar lake house cabin and I can’t help but feel that there’s just something in the water up there. I love it.

Watch this: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=P0aKRipsb9U

With more harmonies to carry the rhythm than rhythmic guitar beats, this Canadian Jack Johnson is one of my favorites. After a few days of soaking up the cold Canadian waters and striking sunsets, I dropped into Huntsville, Ontario’s Algonquin Theater for their summer series with Bahamas.

The theater was tiny! 500 seats maybe.

The sound was a little loud and distorted as the show got started but by the third song or so they seemed to work it out. There was no opener, just the band. Alfie, the lead singer dude, played to the audience, talking about his kids sippy cup or gallon jug choice of water vessels and that reuse and recycling are important, eh. ( I told you Jack Johnson, right.)

It was an incredible night and I was lucky to share a drink with a crowd of wonderful new Canadian friends at the local pub after the show. It was great.

Joseph with Haley Johnsen at the Paramount Stateside 05.04.19

Haley Johnsen has these wooden tape decks at her merch table with download codes on the cassette liners. Do her fans even know what a tape deck is? Well yes, cause I’m a fan, and I had a tape deck in my car up until 2011.

Despite her youth, Haley’s voice is strong and her lyrics deep. She was on American Idol, making it to the top 24. No surprise, American TV didn’t appreciate her talent. The audience tonight did however! With a Brandi Carlisle like voice, she really was a pleasant surprise.

Jospeh is a band of three sisters. One plays guitar and seems to have the rhythm/melody voice. The blonde one seems to be trying to let her demons out, in a good way. The third is cute, with a kinda gravelly voice and told is she is touring with her Irish boyfriend who plays the fiddle sometimes and sells merch the rest of the time. It really works for them. I love sibling bands. These gals have major similarities with First Aid Kit and that’s not bad at all.

Brett Dennen at UT’s TX Union Theater 05.03.19

It’s storming on a Friday night in Austin but I’m out solo tonight to see Brett Dennen, the tall redhead who rocked my socks off at ACL years ago. That show was also in the rain so maybe it just fits that it’s pouring tonight.

Raina Rose opened. She’s an Austin staple. A female folk singer who’s paid her dues. She’s the real deal and if you’re into singer-songwriter female warbles, this might be tour jam. She sounded great tonight and told a story about her porch at her old place on e 9th was built from tombstones.

Brett took the stage and sang all the hits with stories and reflections peppered between. I sat near some of his high school buddies and these bros had so much love for their guy. It was sweet.

It would have been cooler if they hadn’t been dipping and spitting into water bottles. The guy sitting next to me actually offered me a pouch. He really honestly did and I don’t think he was aware of what was going through my head. I just calmly said no thanks and that’s kinda gross.

Anyway, the crowd was great. Full of love all around and in this small of a theater, that can really make a performance a show. The sound was beautiful and interaction with the crowd was heightened. Nothing like you might have in a dark, former porn theater, as Brett suggested to the audience.

Telekinesis with Sun Talk

@3Ten 4.24.19

Tonight was a real treat. Sun Talk was awesome. It’s hard for me to put it into words. A little Jeff Tweedy with the lead singer talking about songs and deep lyrics coupled with Jim James or ??some other smooth, slightly greasy rock and roll crooner… this was great. Definitely worth your time if they are in your town. They’re touring with Telekinesis right now so catch em while you can.

Sun Talk

Telekinesis put on a great show. It was harder rock than I was expecting. The lighting was dark, with a projection screen behind the band playing psychedelic images and other trippy things to keep the audience entertained. Really though, the band was enough to keep me engaged and I enjoyed it.

Telekinesis

SweetParty UtopiaFest Day 2

I slept pretty well and made it up in time for yoga. It was a nice, relaxing class taught by a local Utopian. Perfect way to start my day!

The weather is cloudier, windy, and a bit cooler than yesterday. The weather isn’t bad, we just need more layers.

SAPD… bagpipes 🙂

Emora

Jenny Parrot

Ley Line

Shane Cooley – we missed this show accidentally while hanging with these friends. It happens!

Sucka Please!

Mamahawk

The Deer

SirWoman

Commonheart

Superfonicos

Ley Line @ Good Times

Kelsey Wilson @ Good Times

Sweet Party 2019 Day 1

So my partner decided he was going to Sweet Party in Utopia to support Utopiafest.

Here I am on my way to Utopia Texas.

Cowboy Iris

What a lovely band to open! I like that fringe vest!

She opened with some nice versions of Patsy, then Dolly.

We took a walk up to the camp GoodTimes where fully acoustic shows start at midnight. They have a solar powered neon light that says shhhhhhh!

DJ Mr Rodgers played the Bahamas blended and their doowhop was all I needed to hear.

He played that Lucas Nelson song, Just Outside of Austin. It was perfect. Wildflowers blooming, perfect weather, nice humans. I ran into some of my brothers friends and made some new ones!

It’s so beautiful here. Approaching 76 and sunny with a few clouds. There is a rainbow kite flying high along a strong breeze. It’s a damn Utopia.

We missed a band.

Then this guy, Sid Fly.

And a really adorbs puppy named Bella.

I’m sure Sid is cool but he seems a little dickish. He was mad about bad sound, mouthed off to the sound guy, and then figured out that he needed to adjust his own equipment. His sound was notably better. The sound guy was ready for his set to end.

It’s hard to maintain Utopia. The suns come out and it’s a little warm. Bella bit a human. I mean, she’s a puppy, but also, no dogs, right. She’s fucking cute tho. As our bartender friend says, “Dogs are fucking cool.”

Sid showed us his year 2 t-shirt. Street cred. Their sound is good. It’s sounding a little Jimmy Buffet to me but I’m not totally sure if that’s the sound or the BYOB situation.

There are very few rules here but in Utopia people do what they should… it’s Utopia.

Wood & Wire

Gravel Tooth

Utopia Players

The Eagles Nest where DJs and single member artists make sounds.

Trouble in the Streets

This band was awesome. Great sound and a super fun performance!

Wood & Wire up at the Good Times stage

The Deer

So beautiful and special in this all acoustic silent setting. I wish I wasn’t so sleepy.

Goodnight!

SXSW 2019 Jammies Awards!

We saw over 50 bands play in 16 venues. (Andee saw 70 in 19 but it isn’t a contest, is it? Or is it?!?)

Our favorite:

2019 Jammies Award Winner: The Artisanals

Winning with great sound, amazing performance, and also for being nice guys who talked to us before (and after) the show. These guys have professional rockism! They put it all out there on the stage for us before 3pm on a Wednesday at a bar on the corner of 5th and Congress. During their final song, shirts were taken off, glam rock knee bends were happening and we were smiling ear to ear. Our only complaint is that there are no women in the band… but that is a sad fact for most bands, although we do see it changing a little. Way to go guys! You rocked us hard!

Others in consideration:

  • Sweet Crude was a top contender! They rocked the little stage at Lucy’s Fried Chicken! And they had a woman in the band too! I wanted to give it to them, but I couldn’t get The Artisanals performance out of my head!
  • Darkbird (not eligible because Jenn didn’t see them) but a great female-led band that is reminiscent of Sweet Spirit and Heart
  • Stealing Oceans – a very close second. This was a very special find while we mistakenly tried to see a show a day early at the bar across the street. You really can stumble upon some of the very best shows at sxsw. There was angst! There was dancing! There was audience participation! They really had it all! watch the video here!
  • Illiterate Light – When did everyone decide light-theme band names were the thing this year? These guys, complete with the drummer’s bare midriff, were fantastic. They didn’t have the crowd; it was too early in the day and there weren’t enough audience members, but that didn’t mean we didn’t enjoy them with our spiked Topo-Chico’s
  • KOLARS – They won last year, but in our hearts they keep winning!!! They performed an excellent set in the Fairmont Rules & Regs bar for pretty much just us. We loved it a lot! They also performed a rocking show at Rachel Ray’s daytime party. It was phenomenal!!!
  • The Beths – sad and crying, but still rocking. This very popular band from New Zealand held it together after learning about the mass shooting back home.
  • Duncan Fellows – The crowd wasn’t there yet but we were digging this sound and hope to see more of this local Austin band.
  • Star Parks – this is another local Austin band that we would like to see more of. Jenn missed them play so we hope they make it to the Bay area soon or that she makes it back to Austin to see them.
  • Other honorable mentions would definitely include:
    • Hayes Carll — He’s amazing!!!
    • Matthew Vasquez Logan — He might have been a contender if he hadn’t taken the state directly after Sweet Crude rocked us hard!!

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