Not All Texas Music Is Country — TXFEST Arrives Tomorrow to Prove It
I have an admission to make: I yell at the TV every weekend. No, not during Fox and Friends (well, okay, I do that sometimes, too), but during Texas Music Scene, or rather, right at the beginning of Texas Music Scene, which comes on after SNL on Saturday nights. Each episode starts with Asleep at the Wheel‘s Ray Benson blathering about “Texas music” and then proceeding to ignore any kind of music that’s not country.
I’m not going to tell you what it is I typically find myself yelling, and I’ve got nothing against Benson or Asleep at the Wheel themselves, but the whole thing really pisses me off. In this day and age, labeling this one subset of music made in Texas as “Texas music,” with the intimation that the rest of what comes out of the Lone Star State in terms of music doesn’t qualify, is freaking ridiculous, at least to me.
I mean, c’mon, people. We live in a state with a massive number of talented bands and musicians, of all types, with vibrant music scenes not just in Austin but also in Houston, DFW, Denton, and San Antonio (and a bunch of smaller scenes, as well). And it’s all “Texas music,” whether some goddamn TV show thinks it is or not.
With that mini-tirade in mind, it makes my soul feel all bright and shiny to see TXFEST come along. The festival, which happens tomorrow, Saturday, May 9th, right next door to City Hall in Hermann Square, says that it’ll showcase “the best Texas music” (and beer, and music, and whatever else, but music’s what I’m focusing on, here), and holy crap, it looks like it’ll actually deliver on that promise.
Going down the list of performers, I’m psyched to see a pretty H-town-centric lineup, with our city represented heavily, but there’s a fair bunch from Austin, as well, namely Wild Child, Jamestown Revival, Roger Sellers, and Not In The Face, Midnight River Choir from New Braunfels, Purple from Beaumont, Scooter Brown Band from Midlothian, and headliner Kevin Fowler from Amarillo. So while there’re no San Antonio or Dallas-area bands represented (sorry!), it’s still a nice cross-section of music from the different corners of the state.
Granted, I’m not familiar with everybody playing, but there are several that I really, truly love. The Wild Moccasins are one, having matured from a fun bunch of kids into a serious, thoughtful (but yes, still fun) indie-pop act over the past several years out on the road; last spring’s 88-92 is the band’s best so far, sucking everything good about the ’80s and using it to create some ridiculously good songs.
New York City Queens are also playing, and I tend to think of them as being kinda-sorta the Moccasins’ younger siblings in the scene here (although I think they’re all around the same age). They’ve kept a relatively low profile the past year or so, but I’m told they’re hard at work on the followup to 2012’s Burn Out Like Roman Candles, which saw the band doing these bright-yet-sharp pop tunes that owe as much to old-school power-pop as they do to anything contemporary. I’ve got high, high hopes for the new album…
Along somewhat similar lines, I can’t leave out Young Mammals — they’re another band I’ve been fortunate enough to watch grow over the last decade, and they, too, have morphed from a bunch of happy-go-lucky youngsters into a real-live, tight-as-hell band, the kind a lot of naysayers once would’ve said wouldn’t ever come out of this city. They’ve left a lot of the blazing pop fury of the old days behind on new album Alto Seco, sure, but what’s in its place is actually better, in the end, and a whole lot smarter and self-aware.
On the rock front, there’s a ton of bands to choose from, which the last place you look residing at the top of my own personal pile. The band is hands-down the best post-emo alt-rock/metal band I’ve ever seen in this city (or in most other cities), merging the emotive tunefulness of Jimmy Eat World with the heaviness of metalcore to make a sound that would stomp any modern “emo” band you can name right out of its Goth makeup. Plus, they’re an awesome band to see live.
Skipping eastwards, the aforementioned Purple are badasses of rock awesomeness, too, the three-piece coming off like Nirvana if they were fronted by Courtney Love except with less pretense. I’ve only gotten to see them once, crammed into a tiny side room at Warehouse Live with a crowd so tight I had to stand around the goddamn corner from the actual stage, but holy shit, they were incredible even then. I’m glad to see Purple getting some press lately in the world beyond Texas, because they absolutely deserve it.
It’s very cool to see them on the same bill with Beaumont expats We Were Wolves, by the by; the WWW guys headed westwards a while back to make Houston home, but I’m sure they still think fondly of their hometown pals. And judging by the bluesy, boozy, grunge-y rawk of Wolf House, the move was a damn good thing for us Houstonians, at least. Think Mudhoney, Federation X, and Queens of the Stone Age all balled up into one band, and you’ll get an idea of what they sound like…
I finally, finally got to see BLSHS just last weekend, and yeah, it was everything I hoped it’d be: gorgeously layered washes of sound, CHVRCHES-style beats, and Michelle Miears‘ crystalline-pure voice, accompanied by intricate lasers and lights. Alongside the inevitable CHVRCHES comparison, it was like a more down-to-earth M83 at points, and that’s no bad thing.
There’s a bunch more folks playing, some of whom are similarly cool like Young Girls, Jamestown Revival, Nathan Quick, and Wild Child, but I’ve got to leave those off in the interest of (relative) brevity.
Oh, but I should mention there’s cool stuff other than the music going on, including games for kids, some excellent local vendors — I got to try Bravado Spice‘s ghost pepper & blueberry hot sauce recently, and it was insane, in a good way — a slew of Texas-made beer and harder liquor, and a bunch of great local food trucks. The tickets aren’t cheap, unfortunately, at $35 a pop at the door for the General Admission, but I think it’s pretty well worth it, even still, given the lineup.
So there you go — get on out there tomorrow and enjoy some actual “Texas music” that doesn’t need any qualifiers or follow any damn preconceived notions about what music from this state is supposed to sound like.