by Dan Radin
In the kind of night where the heat weighs like a hot day in Sedona, Houndmouth’s signature vocal-layer rang through the sweaty outdoor stage Wednesday at Austin’s Historic Scoot Inn. The band didn’t need to play ACL Fest (again) this year- they packed the house all on their own.
Houndmouth is one of those bands that seems to fly under the radar for most audiences, but when you see them play live, you understand why they draw crowds. The band’s multiple singers (Matt Myers (guitar, vocals), Zak Appleby (bass, vocals), and Shane Cody (drums, vocals) could have each been the lead frontman in their own right. The guys had their vocal chops down to a science; they didn’t miss a note.
The band flaunted and bopped around stage with the energy of a teenage punk band. They looked like twenty-somethings that still skateboard to 7-Eleven for gas station nachos. Houndmouth’s well-rehearsed garage rock matched the crowd’s contagious energy. And they smiled a LOT.
While Houndmouth’s personnel has changed a bit since their 2011 debut (now touring with a pair of phenomenal saxophonists and keyboardist), the sound has never been better. Each player listened amongst each other for builds and fills, and passed the lead vocals to bandmates with precision between songs. Myers, Appleby, and Cody were all in total control of the songs they each sang. The audience loved the versatility.
Everyone knows Houndmouth for their 2015 smash, “Sedona,” but the band revealed how much they’ve evolved since. Many songs danced on the edge of punk and blues, while a melodic rock drove the core of the act. They flashed hints of The Strokes and The Front Bottoms with vocal harmonies and saxophones woven together. The older Louisville-infused songs still caught the most eyes from the crowd, with home-cooked favorites like “My Cousin Greg” and “Hey Rose.”
Houndmouth’s sax-driven lineup backed a smooth dynamic to the multi-faceted band. The band built exceptionally strong energy to explode into a Clarence Clemons-like solo at the top of “Darlin’” and “Penitentiary.” The musicians were prone to feeding off each other, and then dropped to snap right into a southern groove.
Opener Jerrod Dickenson started the night in a similar easy fashion. Accompanied by his singer/utility musician wife, his storytelling of growing up in Texas himself was well-received and appreciated by the crowd. By the end of his set, the sweaty audience was ready to dial it up.
Much like Dickenson, Houndmouth seemed genuinely happy to be performing. There was smiling, talking to each other between songs, laughing with the audience, starting claps, cheering along with arm pumps for the 3-song encore. Well before the end of the night, everyone was smiling and singing along.