Geography G Spots: Austin, Texas

 

It may not be as musically famous as its two honky tonk neighbours, but Austin can still lay claim to birthing some of the most diverse and talented music acts of the last two decades.

With a yearly festival calendar that includes SXSW, Urban Music Festival, Old Settler’s Music Festival and Austin City Limits, and over 250 live venues around the city, it’s downright foolish to disregard Austin as one of the world’s best music sources.

Here are just five renowned artists to have come out of Austin.

 

1. Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr is one of those born-and-bred Austin prodigies, beginning his music career as a teenager playing gigs at Austin’s legendary club, Antone’s. Blues sits at the core of Clark’s sound, influencing his rock, country and hip hop melodies.

Although Clark’s known for his distorted electric guitar riffs, it’s his dulcet voice – best heard on his slower songs such as ‘Please Come Home’ and ‘Our Love’ – that gives his albums such depth and diversity.

The Grammy-winning guitarist has slayed the stage at Bonnaroo and Glastonbury, while also playing alongside such legendary artists as the Rolling Stones, Dave Grohl, B.B. King, Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton.

 

 

2. The Sword

The crowd at a Sword concert is a sweaty, relentless mass of brandished bodies eager to find another’s shoulder. Heads are on hinges and the ground mistaken for a trampoline, and it’s the heavy metal rockers from Austin who create such a rabid frenzy.

The Sword only recently broke into the Australian charts with its latest album High Country, but has been electrifying fans in the USA and UK since 2003 with some fantastically rotten guitar riffs and vicious drum solos.

The four rockers practically kill themselves on stage every performance, playing with unearthly amounts of energy. And there isn’t a single soul in the pit below who doesn’t love every second.

 

 

3. Shakey Graves

With his laid-back shabby appearance and busker-style minimalist setup, it’s no surprise Shakey Graves’ music has been described by some as ‘hobo folk’. The insanely talented Americana musician started out as a one-man band before teaming up with drummer Chris Boosahda.

The two tour from one live gig to the next around the world covering off big-name festivals such as Bonnaroo, before jamming out in cowboy hats and flag capes at the low-key Pickathon. Each performance is unique, not just due to the banter between Shakey and the crowd, but because he almost never plays his songs the same way twice.

Shakey Graves picked up the Best Emerging Artist award at the 2015 Americana Music Awards, but his greatest accolade to date is having the Mayor of Austin name a day in his honour. You need to listen to ‘Dearly Departed’, ‘The Perfect Parts’ and ‘Late July’ to understand why this isn’t surprising.

What a combo: Tick two of these Austin acts off your list when Shakey Graves tours California with Gary Clark Jr at the end of September this year. Grab tickets here.

 

 

4. Spoon

It’s fair to say, with a couple of number one albums and semi-mainstream hits, that Spoon’s 20-plus-year career hasn’t been the most prolific. However, the five-piece rock band has given us such bangers as ‘The Underdog’, ‘Inside Out’ and ‘The Way We Get By’, the latter of which was many teens’ anthem in the early-2000s after featuring on The OC.

Spoon still boasts a loyal fan base in the USA and its two founders, lead singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno, have never strayed since the band’s inception in 1993.

Gimme Fiction is one of Spoon’s most successful albums to date, a complex serving of rock, pop, punk and something indescribable that climaxes with ‘I Turn My Camera On’.

 

 

5. Explosions in the Sky

There’s a real chance Explosions in the Sky has made more money off movie soundtracks than its actual albums. The band’s emotionally-rich instrumental music lends its songs to so many epic cinematic moments.

Anyone who’s seen Friday Night Lights will recognise and possibly succumb to goose bumps upon hearing the high-pitched electric guitars and building snare drum of ‘Your Hand In Mine’.

Geniuses in the studio, these guys also routinely put on spectacular live shows, thanks to their divine ability to tap into the hearts and souls of any crowd through simple emotion and a mastery of instrumental storytelling.

Watch our full filmed set of theirs here.

 

About Ben Stower

If I write until I die, I'll die a happy man. If I'm being serenaded by Robert Plant, Elton John or Brittany Howard at the end, well, that's just perfect.

View all posts by Ben Stower

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