You may know Austin as the only major city in Texas that has no ordinance against women appearing topless in public. Or maybe you know it as the home of SXSW. Or perhaps as the city where Dazed and Confused was filmed. Or maybe you still can’t wrap your head around the Bush era and refuse to think about Texas. Either way, it’s time for Austin to invade your mind, or at least your ears…
In the arts sphere, Austin is pegged as a prime for film studios, lining up behind LA, NYC, and Vancouver. In fact, a lot of Seattle filmmakers aspire to have their city’s film industry mirror that of Austin’s. It’s no surprise, then, that Austin’s music scene embodies the same reputation and respect as its film industry. Though she may occasionally be typecast from outsiders as just another southern city brimming with ranches, Austin easily rises above these assumptions, proving itself to be a fairly progressive city.
It’s this attitude that cements Austin’s self-proclaimed slogan of “Keep Austin Weird.” Titled as “The Live Music Capitol of the World,” the city has an eclectic, anti-corporate, independent vibe. Austin alone boasts over 200 live music venues and over 1,900 working bands. It’s home to SXSW, Austin City Limits, and the historic 6th Street, which houses many of Austin’s favorite live venues like Emo’s, Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, La Zona Rosa, The Parrish, and Cactus. With a handful of hip-hop and electronic artists, it’s psychedelic, blues, indie, and post-rock that dominate the scene.
MUSIC: Bands You Probably Know
The Black Angels
Genre: psychedelic rock
Think Black Mountain, The Warlocks, Spiritualized, and the Velvet Underground, which makes sense, considering they named the band after the VU’s “The Black Angel’s Death Song” from the VU’s debut album with Nico. They have a new album out September 14th, Phosphene Dream, followed by tour dates with Black Mountain!
Genre: doom/stoner metal
The Octopus Project
Okay, so you don’t hear the tag “indietronica” extremely often, but it’s pretty fitting. With a mix of electronic and analog equipment, they make mostly instrumental music. Think Black Moth Super Rainbow, Dan Deacon, The Books.
Think Real Estate, Toro Y Moi, Wild Nothing, Memory Tapes, Small Black, Air France. Add Neon Indian to the list of touring bands this fall. You can catch him with Prefuse 73 and Miniature Tigers.
Explosions in the Sky
MUSIC: Ready To Break
Candi and the Strangers
Genre: electro/psychedelic pop
Sounds like something that would have been in Lost in Translation had it been a less somber movie. With a light new wave synth quality, it sounds something like Ultra Orange & Emmanuelle (Roman’s Polanski’s wife’s band) combined with electro-pop group Glass Candy. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to find their music online outside of their website.
Think Iron & Wine, J. Tillman, Horse feathers, Damien Jurado, Peter and the Wolf—lacking the strings of Horse Feathers, but complete with lots of aching guitar parts and earnest singing.
Genre: post-rock, experimental, indie-rock, classical
A minimalist instrumental group released their fourth studio album in February and is about to depart on a European tour this Fall.
Genre: garage/noise rock, shoegaze
Woven Bones has a Spacemen 3 and Velvet Underground feel, with a tendency toward the heaviness of A Place to Bury Strangers with less distortion.
Shapes Have Fangs
Genre: indie pop
Self-proclaimed garage R&B. It’s definitely worth a listen if you worship The Black Angels as Shapes Have Fangs are one of their favorite hometown bands.
This festival spreads on four stages in Waterloo Park in downtown Austin each November. Founded in 2006, its DIY attitude celebrates independent music of the punk/hardcore, indie rock, hip hop/DJ, and comedy variety. Some of this year’s highlights will include RJD2, MGMT, Mastodon, A-trak, Devo, Bad Religion, Devin the Dude, Kaki King, Deerhunter, Toro Y Moi, and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
Each March, Austin celebrates their contribution to psychedelic rock with a three-day festival with the likes of Austin’s own The Black Angels, and other bands like A Place to Bury Strangers, Dead Meadow, Asteroid #4, and Woven Bones. In fact, it was The Black Angels who founded this festival in 2008 and continue to run many of the logistical decisions, including deciding to extend the festival to three days. Austin is deemed one of the birth places of psych rock in the States, with bands like the 13th Floor Elevators (The Black Angels actually collaborated with Roky Erickson—the guitarist and vocalist of the 13th Floor Elevators), Bubble Puppy, The Golden Dawn, and Red Crayola.
The truth is, there’s a whole of music down here. Hip-hop, electronic, psychedelic, garage…the whole works. Explore Austin Sound and The City of Austin to get the lowdown, see some local music blogs, and get exposed to even more bands and venues.