Austin Music Review: Russel Taine Jr.

by Brianna Caleri

When Aaron Winston was asked to play at The Mohawk in 2017, he scrambled to get a group together. Within a week, Russel Taine Jr. went from a solo project to a band. Three years after that, the dreamy alt-rock band is leaning more into its country identity with four Austin-centric singles about summer in the city. The two released so far, “Sister Sister” and “Blue Jean Baby” offer Austinites some much-needed reassurance via serious nostalgia.

RusselTaineJr1(photos by Brianna Carleri, Russel Taine Jr. and band, 2019)

Winston started writing songs as a teenager, eventually adopting the pen name his grandfather used in correspondence to the United States from Moscow during the Cold War. His decision was a little intellectual, and a lot because he liked how it sounded; two key elements of the band’s future efforts. Now it inspires a conversation starter in the perpetual fan question, “Who is Russel Taine Jr.?” And while it may just be a happy coincidence, naming the band for a semi-fictional member anchors the group to their southern rock forebears (remember Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Marshall Tucker Band?).

RusselTaineJr2“Sister Sister” wastes no time in introducing the mysterious ghostwriter, slipping the band name into the lyrics as a way, Winston says, of reminding new audiences who they’re watching at local venues. In context as the first of four related singles, it has the unintended effect of staking a claim to a new, more purposeful identity. The track explicitly mentions Austin and it’s “hot summer nights,” but, lest the lyrics get too on-the-nose, sprinkles in charmingly confusing images like a demure woman’s “Rorschach grin.” Little intellectual twists maintain the group’s usual air of delicate fantasy over the song’s retro southern skeleton. Lots of delay and effortless arpeggios wash a haze over soulful organ and what might have been a screaming guitar solo is set back into the distance of the mix.

Winston clarifies the titular “sister” isn’t any woman in particular, but represents “any number of relationships” over time. This one is about nostalgia; a feeling best reserved for weak memories about strong feelings. It’s about sharing the tiny moments that build our identities, and the vagueness that makes them relatable and reassuring. The story told is a bid for reconnection. Emotional intimacy in the simplicity of summer is something many of us are missing right now while keeping our distance.

“Blue Jean Baby,” released on July 1, provides a foil to “Sister Sister,” with a shoutable anthemic chorus any band would be tempted to use for a show closer. Despite a more energetic presence, it’s overall lighter fare. The leading lady of this crowd-pleaser skews more toward the femme fatale. Like her, the electric guitars are grittier, but a riff runs through the song to nail down the kind of mellow reverie that ties together the Russel Taine Jr. catalog. This one in particular is packed with southern tropes: blue jeans, a tight sundress, standing on docks, and even dueling guitars. Against the muddy bass is jangly rhythm guitar that brings flashes of Tom Petty’s California to Texas.

Of the two tracks, “Blue Jean Baby” offers a simpler message, about dancing all night. It’s the one to sway along with while grilling for two and looking forward to the return of cookouts for twenty. Following the reassuring “Sister Sister,” it seems to seems to say we don’t always have to take ourselves so seriously. Summer hits are the ultimate form escapism, but in this case, the escape is in our own backyards. It’s not so bad to be stuck here, after all.

ATX Hometown Faves We Wanted To See at SXSW

by Susie Pulse

We had such a great list of artists we wanted everyone to see during SXSW 2020 this month. Sadly, the world health crisis forced SX to be canceled for the first time ever in it’s 34 year history. We are proud that many musicians call Austin home- we hope you will still go check them out!

White Denim: If you had to pick a genre to describe this multi-talented band it would be “good music”. Shifting easily between rock, soul and blues, this Austin group gives a great live show and has developed a strong following across the country.

Curtis McMurtry: Yes, he’s one of those McMurtry’s. Being the grandson of the cherished Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry and son of Choctaw Bingo musician Larry McMurtry makes Curtis McMurtry dang near Texas royalty. His lyrics capture the spirit of the West and his music has a decidedly Texas feel.

Whitney Rose: This alt-country dynamo is a current resident of Austin but is from Prince Edward Island, Canada. The Mavericks’ Raul Malo produced her sophomore album.

The Bright Light Social Hour: The energy these guys produce at their live shows could be considered an alternative energy source. Their unique version of psychedelic rock fills venues around the country, but their favorite place to play is here at home.

Deanna Wheeler: Wheeler is a California transplant turned Austin native. She has a fiery and powerful voice that pushes country rock to a soul-stirring level.

Jackie Venson: Electric guitar aficionado and Berklee College of Music pianist, Venson is a musician’s musician. Her brand of soul and blues is often compared to Gary Clark, Jr. and is generating attention across the globe (and she plays with him too).

Ume: This Austin based band melds together punk and pop and delivers it with an exhilarating live show.

Bourgeois Mystics: A collective of multinational Austin-based musicians that has been described as, “genre-defying dance party waiting to explode”.

PNTHN: Comprised of a 10-man collective of rappers, DJs and producers, PNTHN (pronounced “pantheon”) hails from San Marcos-just a few miles down the road. One cannot help but make comparisons to that other rap collective from San Marcos, Brockhampton (and there are some similarities). But PNTHN has their own sound- one that adds a little more rap to the sauce.

Tone Royal: Austin resident Tone Royal, is a hip-hop artist and winner of the 2019 ATX Hip-Hop Award for Album of the Year. Often writing lyrics during his Uber driver shifts, Tone Royal (real name Ray Villareal) delivers a smooth sounding frat rap flow with a subtle Eminem-ish vibe. Austin, your driver has arrived!

Check out the SXSW site for the complete artist list.


10 Popular Must See Artists We Would’ve Seen at SXSW 2020

by S. Pulse

Even though SXSW has been canceled for the first time ever, we wanted to share our recommendations for artists you might have seen in hopes that you will still watch, listen, and love their music. You can also see our ‘101 artists to watch’ list at the bottom of the post.

While SXSW is known for bringing recognition to emerging artists, it also attracts a-list performers.  Many of these hugely popular artists will be performing in unusually intimate venues or on the free outdoor stage at Lady Bird Lake.  Either way, SXSW is a great way to see these successful bands. (Double check all times and locations on the SXSW app as they may change.)

Milky Chance:  This duo of high school friends from Germany are proven hitmakers (“Stolen Dance” and “Flashed Junk Mind”).  Meshing an acoustic guitar-driven sound with electric beats, Milky Chance creates a sound that crosses genres, includes infectious hooks, and enjoys wide appeal.  (March 19: SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake, 8:40-9:40 pm)

Soul Asylum:  Grammy winning 90’s alt-rock band Soul Asylum is known for their monster hit “Runaway Train”.  Still creating music, they have a new single out called “Got It Pretty Good” – – and it is pretty good! (March 20: Performing on the intimate stage at Lambert’s 1:00-1:55 am)

Max Frost:  Austin born and raised musician Max Frost may now reside in LA, but he’ll always call Austin home.  Check out his high energy pop-dance beats (try “White Lies” and “Adderall”) and we dare you not to dance along. (March 19: SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake 5:35-6:15 pm)

Watch this

Walshy Fire:  Widely known as a member of Major Lazer, Walshy Fire will be showcasing his solo DJ music at SXSW.  The son of a Jamaican Cricket star, Walshy Fire often invokes the sounds of his Caribbean heritage in his music — mixes that will surely have the crowd rocking to his island vibes. (Date and venue TBA)

Glass Animals:   Feeling “gooey”?  Well, you will after Glass Animals coats you with their dance-heavy electric tunes drenched in “peanut butter vibes”.   Experience this four-man UK group in person at their SXSW show at Stubbs. (March 18: Stubbs, 12:30-1:30 am)

Carla Morrison:  One of the most popular indie singers in Latin America, she has won two Grammy awards as well as multiple Latin Grammys.  She also has cultivated an enormous fanbase that adore her clear, clean pitch-perfect vocals. (March 21: SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake, 8:10-9:40 pm)


JP Saxe:  This Canadian singer-songwriter’s popularity has exploded largely as a result of his newest song “If The World Was Ending” (which features Julia Michael). His goosebump-inducing lyrics are packed with soul touching emotion and feel a lot like a reassuring hug. (March 19: SXSW Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake, 7:35 – 8:15 pm)

Beabadoobee:  At only 19 years of age, UK’s Beabadoobee has become an indie-pop sensation.  Her light and airy song “Coffee” was a massive overnight success that continued to gain momentum when it was heavily sampled by Canadian musician Powfu and featured on his track “Death Bed”.  (March 17: Latitude 30, 11:00:-11:40 pm and March 18, Cedar Street, 1:00-1:50 am)


Vistas:   Popular in the UK, this trio of Scotland based musicians is now making major waves in the US with their upbeat indie-pop music. (March 18: Maggie Mae’s Gibson Room, 11:00 – 11:40 pm and March 19: Swan Dive, 10:00-10:40 pm)

See the entire lineup and schedule at SXSW.

Austin 101 Magazine’s “101 To Watch at SXSW”:


99 Neighbors

Ailbhe Reddy



Baby Rose

Balming Tiger


Black Lips

Bourgeois Mystics

Brian Fallon

Bridget Kelly

Caroline Rose

Cassper Nyovest

Christina La Rocca

Chuck Prophet and The Mission Express

Curtis McMurtry


Dead Horses

Dead Poets Society

Deanna Wheeler

Declan J. Donovon

Delta Spirit

Demi Grace


Devon Gilfillian

Drinking Boys and Girls Choir

Early James

Edan Archer

Electric Fields

Fenne Lily

Ferreck Dawn


Free Radicals


Ghetto Kumba

Gina Sicilia

Girl Skin

Grace Pettis


Hamilton Leithauser

Haviah Mighty



Honey Harper

Jackie Venson

Jadu Heart

Jeff Lofton

Jenny Lewis

Jinmi Abduls

Josiah Johnson

JP Saxe

Katie Pruitt

Kyle Craft

La Dona

Laundry Day

Laura Cantrell

Lesly Rehhagg

M. Ward

Margo Price

Max Frost


Milky Chance

Mir Fontane

Modern Love Child

Naked Giants

Nasty Cherry

Native Sun

Naya Ali

Neal Francis

Neon Dreams

Nicklas Sahl

Noya Rao



Reb Fountain

Renni Rucci

Ringo Deathstarr

Ryal McMullen

Sarah Klang

Savannah Sgro

Shelley King

Sir Woman

Soccer Mommy

Soul Asylum

Spooky Mansion

Sport Team

Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

The Brother Brothers

The HamilTones

The Talbot Brothers

The Teeta


Tone Royal

Tre Burt



Walshy Fire

Whitney Rose

Wiley from Atlanta


George Winston Concert Review Austin

February 2020 at One World Theater in Austin, Texas (Night Two)

by Gina Alligood

I attended Wednesday night’s concert looking forward to hearing live, the sounds of the Winston music I fell in love with in the early 80’s. I’m happy to say I was treated to that and a much broader range of Winston music than I was acquainted.

George Winston - Publicity Image 3 COLOR - Photo Credit - Todd V Wolfsonphoto by Todd V Wolfson
Austin’s iconic One World Theater offered just the right intimate, earthy, and elegant atmosphere for a George Winston concert. In his no -frills manner he stepped onto the stage and announced to the audience that he had two setlists- Winter and Summer. Tonight we would be hearing “Summer” and with that out of the way, he sat down on the bench, still and straight-backed, and let his fingers do their magic.

George Winston - Publicity Image 7 - Photo Credit - Todd V Wolfsonphoto by Todd V Wolfson

The first piece, “Dr. Professor Holly,” livened us up on a cold night with a blend of styles, New Orleans jazz and Buddy Holly. True to how the evening would transpire, he took off in a whole new direction with “Rain”, his signature, self-described ‘rural folk’ piano. Like a summer sprinkle, the notes cascaded across the audience , and I could feel the calm settle on the listeners around me.

Anyone familiar with George Winston knows his admiration for the compositions of Vince Guaraldi, so of course we were treated to his medley of Linus and Lucy tunes. Happy music punctuated by the quick, lively and light movement of Winston’s fingers across the keys. “Elephant and Mouse” showed off his love of the Stride piano style made famous by the 1930’s legendary stride pianist Fats Waller.

I was mesmerized by the bold, quick rhythm of his left hand providing the dependable beat while the fingers of his right danced with the definitive rhythm of Stride piano and its hints of ragtime. I enjoyed listening to the music as much as watching the movement of his hands, appearing to have a life of their own.

Throughout the evening it was clear that this is an artist who continues to have more to explore and more ways to push his instrument to its fullest. He reached into the piano with one hand to dampen the strings as he tickled keys with the other, intermittently emphasizing a note with a slide of the finger down off the edge of a key, and finally bowing reverently over the black and white as the sounds of his last note come to absolute quiet.

The evening continued with more Stride piano, New Orleans Jazz, rural piano, the classical sounds of epic Pachelbel’s Canon  in “Variations on the Kanon by Pachelbel”, and Sam Cook’s civil rights protest song, “A Change is Gonna Come”. We got to hear the Doors’ “Riders on the Storm”, from his 2002 album “Night Divides the Day: The Music of the Doors”, and “Kai Forest 2”, a harmonica piece. Turns out he has a set of harmonica recordings you can listen to on his website.

And if that wasn’t enough to give everyone something they could enjoy, he took us in a whole new direction with a guitar piece. Always interesting, Winston plays a Hawaiian finger-style genre of music known as Slack-Key guitar. This reflects Hawaiian and universal themes of the past, feelings of the present, and aloha for loved ones; the ocean, bays, rivers, and waterfalls; the volcanoes, mountains, and valleys; the forests, plants, animals, and birds; the sea, the wind, and the land. What a perfect synergy to Winston’s nature-themed piano pieces. The dexterity and speed of the movement of his fingers was fabulous on the guitar; he added a low 7th string. I hope we hear more guitar from Winston.

Restless Wind-GeorgeWinston

The evening came to an end with a piano fan favorite from the early years, Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate to the Wind”. With a formal bow he headed off stage then quickly returned for a wonderful Appalachian guitar piece and then said “goodnight” to a standing ovation. It was a fabulous evening of a diverse sampling of genres and instruments, more than I had hoped for. I’m excited to buy his 2019 CD release, “Restless Wind”, for a lovely evening of music at home in front of the fire.

See the full set list at

Oprah Winfrey Brings 2020 Tour to Texas


Oprah brings her 2020 Vision: Your Life In Focus tour to Dallas’ American Airlines Center this month! She wants to inspire wellness in others so they can live their best life.

She’ll have a live interview as part of the packed full day with Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish). She’s planned these US events to be a start to 2020 with renewal and celebrating all we are meant to be. Expect some motivation to be about her WW and some surprise special guests (perhaps Tina Fey?).

The event is February 15th (what a perfect, loving Valentine thing to do for ourselves). Doors open at 7:30 am and the event starts at 9am. There are very few tickets available- you can try to find them here. Find more info here.

“A Night with Janis Joplin” Celebrates Female Vanguards of Blues and Soul

Playing Now thru March 8th at ZACH Theater

By S. Pulse

ZACH_Janis-2020L70-1061636_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck(photo credit: Kirk Tuck)

Who wouldn’t want to spend a night hanging out with Janis Joplin?  Imagine Joplin traveling through time to sing her hits and, not only talk about her musical influences, but also conjure up their presence to perform for you. That is precisely the format of “A Night with Janis Joplin”, a musical now playing at ZACH Theater.

ZACH_Janis-2020L24-1094774_PhotoCredit_KirkTuckMary Bridget Davies delivers a spot-on performance as the hoarse-voiced songstress.  The show pays homage to Joplin’s musical influences including Etta James, Bessie Smith, Odetta, Nina Simone, and Aretha Franklin. A talented ensemble cast recreates performances by each. Vocal powerhouse, Nattalyee Randall, appears as both Franklin and Simone startling the audience with her potent vocal capability.  The show also offers fierce vocals by cast members Tricky Jones, Tawny Dolley, and Imani Ani.

ZACH_Janis-2020L24-1083769_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck With Joplin acting as both performer and emcee, the show flows like an all-star concert peppered with tales of the great women that inspire her music.  Viewers unfamiliar with Bessie Smith, learn about her humble beginnings, untimely death in an automobile accident, and burial in an unmarked grave (for which Joplin is rumored to have purchased a proper headstone).  Odetta’s emotion-laden voice transforms the world through change-provoking folk songs.  And, the show also reminds us of the weighty impact of the more familiar voices of James, Simone, and Franklin.  Joplin’s sound is rooted in these legends and she would often pay tribute to their efforts.  Fittingly, this musical does the same.

ZACH_Janis--2020L24-1094649_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck Viewers also gain insight into Joplin’s life. A native of Port Arthur, Texas, she describes herself as a misfit child that initially set out to be an artist.  Joplin’s artwork is projected onto the stage backdrop.  Her time spent attending the University of Texas in Austin is noted along with her frequent visits to iconic Threadgill’s.  The show segues between important moments in Joplin’s life and Davies’ remarkable delivery of Joplin’s most important songs; a performance that earned her a Tony Award nomination.

She nails her unbridled screaming execution of Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart” and the lyrical “Me and Bobby McGee” before concluding the show with an encore acapella performance of “Mercedes Benz”.  The song is delivered from an upper-deck catwalk; perhaps, symbolic of her passing.  Joplin’s dialogue with the audience repeatedly eludes to the artist’s substance abuse and early death, but never specifically delves into her ‘gone too soon’ departure from this world at age 27 from an accidental overdose.  Rather, the show focuses on her musical legacy and the female role models that lay the groundwork for her bold, soulful style.

ZACH_Janis-2020L24-1084330_PhotoCredit_KirkTuck We recommend booking your tickets now for this vocal-rich ride through musical history.  “A Night with Janis Joplin” is playing now through March 8th at ZACH Theater.

The Best Shows of 2019 Review with Photos


This year was an amazing year in music across all genres in Austin and cities nearby.  For icon and pop lovers- JLO, Cher, Backstreet Boys, and Billy Joel were epic productions with big fan sing-alongs and the artists looked and sounded great. We covered every genre from country (Tim McGraw, Lyle Lovett, Brett Young, Kacey Musgraves) to hip hop (Wu Tang Clan, Lil Uzi Vert, TI) to Emo (Blink 182).

final-9843For indie lovers, Imagine Dragons, The Killers, Kaleo, Flaming Lips, The B52’s, Kurt Vile, The Cure, Nick Cave, Vampire Weekend, Hozier, Smashing Pumpkins/Noel Gallagher, and The Raconteurs jammed big time.

final-9039For true rockers, The Rolling Stones, Sting, Jeff Beck, The Who, Eric Clapton, Dead and Co., Paul McCartney, Todd Rundgren, Zakk Wylde, Warren Haynes’ Gov’t Mule, and Lenny Kravitz were huge highlights as these legends don’t often tour and rarely do you see so many rock icons tour in the same year.

We covered huge festivals this year including ACL Fest (Lizzo, Billie Eilish, GNR, , Crossroads Guitar Fest, KAABOO (Avett Brothers, Lionel Richie, TI), SXSW, Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion and Outlaw festival, Levitation Fest, iheart Country Music Festival, Superbowl’s Big Night (Foo Fighters), Koke Fest, and Old Settler’s Fest.

Maggie Rogers
Heard It In A Past Life

The most unique and interesting shows by far included: Jake Shimabukuro, Nick Cave, and Claypool Lennon Delirium. The best show for a local Austin artist goes far-and-away to Black Pumas who sold out 3 nights in a row at iconic venue Mohawk.

Here is our list for the top concerts of the year: (if you want to see more photos just click on the link to the photo gallery for each show)


This film and music legend gave one of the best shows- seemingly brought her Vegas act to Texas-and not only does she look and sound amazing but the production and the constant costume changes (every few songs) and the nostalgia for Mama Mia and Sonny and Cher make our best of list.

Cher gallery

final-5658Lizzo’s ACL Fest

Although she didn’t headline, Lizzo was by far the highlight and had to take up an additional stage to broadcast to the massive crowd. There was no getting up close to hear hit “Juice”.

ACL gallery

Photo Oct 17, 21 43 28Tenacious D

A funny and unique blend of hard rock and comedy, Jack Black put on a super fun show at ACL Live in Austin. A bit raunchy for kids, but entertaining.

Tenacious D

Wu Tang Clan - ACL Live-18Wu Tang Clan

These hip-hop legends were a hot ticket in Austin and their show was an epic throwback to these rap trailblazers.

Wu Tang gallery

SNP_9390v1(photo Scott Newton/KLRU)

The Raconteurs

Jack and the boys put on a ridiculously cool and memorable show for their KLRU taping for Austin City Limits-just nights before playing the festival at Zilker park. This is a must-see show if you’ve never seen these guys.

Raconteurs gallery

Unknown-2(photo Michael Amico)


Lopez’ It’s My Party tour was a true production. The party celebrated her 50th bday and included epic costume changes, moving stages, and pyro. No other show had more.

JLo gallery

final-8836Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Music fest

The highly anticipated Eric Clapton music festival returned to Texas after many years. This show is special as it’s only held every 6 years and includes the best guitar legends like Jeff Beck, Peter Frampton, Clapton, and more.

Clapton’s Fest gallery


Ella Mai

Mai was one of the most buzzed shows of 2019. She is young and soulful and we’ll be seeing a lot more of Ella.

Ella Mai gallery

Mike D (Beastie Boys)

Rachael Ray Party at SXSW

Ray’s party is always the bucket list item in Austin each year during SXSW at iconic Stubb’s Amphitheater. This year included JS Ondara, Lukas Nelson, Salt and Pepa, Mike D, Bleachers…

Feedback gallery


This music legend still tours frequently but it was a very unique show at Houston’s rodeo early in the year. His guitar skills blow us away every time.

Santana gallery

Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz

Lenny Kravitz

Lenny hasn’t toured hear in awhile so it was a great treat to catch him for a huge stadium show.

Lenny Kravitz gallery


One of the coolest shows in her hometown- we included this release party in our best of because she is one of the best things of 2019. Solange gallery

11-blackpumasBlack Pumas

Local band makes big- nominated for Grammy’s- this show is a must see for any music lover.

Black Pumas gallery

12232737_10156201107050545_5951359276579487641_o(courtesy Facebook)

Foo Fighters

These rockers haven’t been touring much lately so we were floored to get to cover this awesome show in Atlanta for part of Superbowl 2019. Foo put on a ridiculous show that will not be forgotten.

Foo gallery


Nick Cave

One of the coolest and most intimate shows we have ever seen. Cave shared deeply personal stories and emotions to help others.

Nick Cave

final-0065Paul McCartney

What can we see. There’s no way Paul is not making this list. His show was nonstop music from this legend and the mere presence of this Beatle was memorable.

Paul M gallery

Chris Shiflett

Willie Nelson’s Luck Reunion

From legend Mavis Staples to Foo guitarist Chris Shiflett, this party goes down near Austin at Willie’s family ranch during SXSW and is a very small gathering that takes place in saloons and churches.

Willie’s gallery


John Mayer

We covered his last tour too and Mayer never disappoints. He’s not just pop, he’s a great guitarist (and Clapton brought him to his guitar fest to prove it).

Mayer gallery

Austin 101 Cage Austin360-3Cage/Beck/Spoon

Not only was this lineup cool, but each could have headlined individual sold out tours. Non-stop action from Cage’s frontman make it a total surprise- you never know what he’s going to do next.

Beck gallery

dac_02Dead and Co.

John Mayer hits our list twice due to his great work partnering with Bob Weir and the gang. Although yes we agree, nothing can replace Jerry.

Dead and Co gallery

final-8873 copyClaypool Lennon Delirium

One of the most unique and cool collabs around today combines hard rock/metal Les Claypool from Primus paired with Sean Lennon. Feels like you’re on shrooms even if you’re not.

Claypool Lennon gallery

final-8297Twenty One Pilots

From cars on fire to a fan-suspended drum kit, this show was a spectacle and an amazing visual production all night long.

21 P gallery

final-9044-2Rolling Stones 

The Stones are back and make our top spot on the list. Hands down the best and coolest high-energy show of the year. After a brief rest to recover from a heart procedure, Mick and the boys put on a performance that made you scratch your head that these guys are in their 70’s.

Stones gallery

See all our photos and concert reviews on our site Austin 101 Magazine

Kaleo Rocked at Rare Hometown Austin Show

It was a rare and special night in the ATX for our boys, Kaleo. The best friends moved here from Iceland a few short years ago and have blown up so much that we’re lucky to catch them around town these days. They hit everyone’s playlist in 2015 with winner, “Way Down We Go” and global success of their 2016 breakthrough album, “A/B” – which went on to be certified Gold. As if they needed it, they opened for a small band- The Rolling Stones this year and that sealed it. Not bad for some 29-year olds.

2019-12-19_Kaleo-7(by Diego Donamaria)

It was a cold night in December so the crowd was a tad calmer than usual. The intimate ACL Live venue is the perfect place for this show. The recently formed ex-KGSR, now ACL Radio ‘Starry Night’ concert was hosted by our very own Andy Langer and had great openers Devon Gilfillian and Adam Melchor.

2019-12-19_Kaleo-9Frontman JJ Julius Son, set the tone with his black leather pants, red jacket, boots, and rockabilly guitar (and later a santa hat). His voice is haunting and unique. Backed by great bassist- Daniel Kristjánsson, drummer- Davíð Antonsson, guitar-Rubin Pollock. They skillfully switch genres, often sounding a bit Americana or indie and other times, a glimpse of serious rock n’ roll reminiscent of The Black Keys and the likes. Those who only know their big hits like ‘Way Down We Go’ (a slow, ghostly vibe) were probably surprised to hear the high energy rock songs. They also have a unique sound with the guitars including acoustic/resonator. A little harmonica and bongos adds to their truly interesting sound.2019-12-19_Kaleo-11Although short with only a one-song encore, die-hard fans loved the show. The set list was jam-packed with a mix of slow and deep vibes and hard core, high-energy head bangin’. The crowd was slanted on the young side and we had a blast watching 3 teenage boys direct center in the front row- rockin’ out hard and getting attention from the band. A memorable night for these kids who will now be on a music-loving path throughout their lives-who knows, maybe they’ll be rockstars one day. There were several Iceland soccer scarves waving in the air during the set- groupies that follow the band? Probably just happy locals.

Word is that JJ is in the studio working on a 2020 release-we can’t wait.

Check out all our photos from the show: Austin 101

Syml’s Pitch Black Concert at Antone’s Review

by Dan Radin

“It’s pronounced SIM-ill. It means simple in Welsh,” Syml’s manager told us upon entry to the show at Antone’s on Saturday. Simple, it was.


Most concert experiences are a chaotic combination of subwoofers and flailing limbs. Syml’s performance was the exact opposite. The famed nightclub was pitch black with sound so cleanly mixed that Billy Mays would have endorsed it. The crowd took “attentively silent” to a new level.

The solo project of singer Brian Fennell, Syml’s 3-piece lineup consisted of just Fennell on keys/guitar, a drummer, and another keyboard/sample setup. The band looked balanced and at-ease- that is, when you could see them. The room was pitch dark, complete with noticeable absence of stage lights during the performance.


The effect was a complete focus on the music. You could feel the audience breathing it in. Concertgoers stood shoulder to shoulder, and could only assume their fellows were still next to them once the lights went out. The sound consisted of a great mix of electronic and acoustic elements, between acoustic guitar, auto-tuned vocals, and alternating triggered drum pads and live drums and cymbal crashes. Syml glided through the tunes without so much as a peep from the faceless audience at his feet.


At the conclusion of each song, house lights poured over the crowd who came out of their coma to applaud Syml. Onstage, a spotlight finally lit up Fennell, where his personality shone just as bright. He took a live Q&A session, referred to his drink as “whiskey beer,” and led the house in a round of “Happy Birthday” for his daughter’s 3rd year around the sun.

6G0A7713Syml may have intentionally kept his visuals sparse, but the message was delivered succinctly. Fennell’s defense of his songs balancing depression and celebration of life tied the performance together, and gave new connection to his reverb-soaked vocal chain. Devoid of stage light, it was that much more impactful to feel the rhythm of electronic synths before the climactic push of live instrumentation.

Musicians don’t need an elaborate stage plot to keep an audience engaged. Sometimes you just need to keep it Syml.