ATX Popfest 2015

ATX Popfest 00It all started when Nathan ran his mouth about getting a bunch of bands together to celebrate just how damn good Austin’s Pop scene is right now. It is a renaissance. With long time ATH faves like Shivery Shakes, She Sir, Young Girls (HTX) and Letting Up Despite Great Faults, Popfest had a number of shiny new things to shimmy to including Templo X, Summer Salt, Polio Club, (new to me) MCG and new old friends in Tres Oui to round things out. Well, OK, Tres Oui is kinda Literature, but not really, so still “new”…

Pics and recap? Sure.

If you feel like skipping my superlatives and all around happiness at being a small part of a really fun event to peruse the photos, click here.

I got there early, before the sprawl of UT game parking made it all the way down Red River. Everyone was setting up, the merch was being poised with care. After all, this was a release party for the Templo X/Rose Selavy 7″. Pretty much everything ATH Records had was in a suitcase ready for consumption. Some friends of the program were treated to a freebie or two to round out their collections or if they tweeted nice things about us (and we checked to make sure they don’t buy followers). It was still happy, so a $2 Lone Star was in my near future, my first thank you to Cheer Up for cheap beers before 7pm and not that much more after.

The one word I could describe the whole evening as would be friendly. The weather was amazingly nice, a friendly breeze from the north giving a preview of fall. Beautiful. Every band was showing up early to load-in and just hang out. People were telling stories about the tribulations of the road or how the new family was finally settled enough to allow for new songs and a few gigs. Bands shared backlines and amps, pedals even. Popfest had a community vibe to it. I would like to retire the word scene and replace with community.

Tres Oui was up first as the full patio tables created a lounge environment. Nate took on a lounge-singer vibe at points, taking advantage of some squelch in the monitor to use a percussion, while the band tried to figure who wrote what songs that were dug up form the catalog for this set. We’re happy the band is alive in whatever incarnation in Austin again. The light feel and playful snark of the start was slightly contrasted by Polio Club. Lankford likes to call them No Wave; I prefer saying they are synth-pop for the analog world. There is a Joy Division vibe at times, but the playfulness of band members constantly swapping instruments and seats along with the melodica and claves used to fill or punctuate gives a decidedly lofi version of moodiness with a smile.

It has been a hot minute since we last saw She Sir. Such a great rhythm section and when things roll for them, they roll smooth. These are well-crafted pop songs with a bit of precision behind them. Young Girls followed inside and we found that Pete and Charlie were backed by a few friends form the Ton Tons. Friendly. This band has hits. It was at this point that you could start to feel the crowd around you as fans of earlier bands (and the bands themselves) stuck around for what was next. By the time I went back outside, Letting Up was just about ready to run the outside stage for the most synthetic set of the night. I took a bunch of photos early on and sat with the wife and friends, made some jokes, talked politics (not really) and just smiled for a bit. The setting was great. People seemed happy to be there. Maggie (co-owner) strolled past with a happy look as the night’s only blemish, an issue with the bar registers caused a logjam, was resolved and beverages were flowing into revelers.

You can get a Defend Red River koozie at The Mohawk. I suggest you do, it is a great conversation starter. #defendredriver

We had a lineup change, Rose Selavy swapped with Templo X. Steven, who plays bass in Tres Oui and guitar in Rose Selavy and Templo X, helped organize the affair. I guess he was quite invested, being in three of the featured bands. This was about the best I have seen from the band lately, they played the hit from the 7″ and plenty of familiars from recent sets and it was fun. It is here that I confess to popping next door for journalistic responsibilities. I had to make sure Sego was good live. Two songs, back to Cheer Up to walk in on MCG. I would say they were the most polished band of the evening. That is good and bad sometimes, but MaryClaire Gamble has the personality and vocals to blow up fast. By now, burnt orange became a more prominent color in wardrobes of arriving Popfesters; UT won.

The cat was let out of the bag that Nathan’s next record endeavor will be some jams out of Summer Salt. I loved their set. Quirky pop fun that was equally new and familiar. Cannot wait to hear this record. Templo X is kind of the jam band version of indie pop with front-person-Paul having the best line of the night. “Anybody heard any good bass lines?” Templo X deploys three guitars and the resulting layered sound is like a jangly security blanket. Finally, Shivery Shakes. My wife hadn’t seen them in a bit and she noticed how much more polish there was to the live set. We’ve commented on how the road trip did the band good and since returning, it does not appear that there isn’t any rust building. We said our goodbyes and ventured around the corner to the car, the only topic of conversation on the way home was just how nice an evening that all was. Friendly.

I want to thank the bands for all the kind words and for being part of a great evening. Thanks to Cheer for giving us the keys to the place for a night. If you missed this, you really missed out on a house party. I can’t wait for Popfest II.

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