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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Black is the new black

In the course of a year there are many things that can change. Even things that are the same can be different. For example, I saw the band Black4 at SXSW 2014 by accident. Getting to a show early to make sure we would be able to see a friends band. We got there early enough to witness this rock n roll genius and fun that is Black4.

I wrote that review ( and was lucky enough to be contacted by the band with gratitude (I don't do it for that, but it's damn nice). We had continual contact for the next year, joking around, and even helping them try to find some extra gigs for their upcoming return to SXSW for 2015 - to no avail, which is everyone else's loss.

Lucky for me and all who attended, Black4 got a return spot to perform at The Aquarium on Saturday for SXSW15. Even better is I happened to be downtown on the Thursday of SXSW15 at The Fader Fort. After some messaging back and forth and missing the mark, one of the guys in the band invited me to their rental spot to hang out for a bit. GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE! Hell Yes! I am not stupid, or maybe I am. I found their rental place off of Oltorf and Congress and walked around to the back where I heard laughing, clanking of glasses, and music blasting from a cell phone speaker.

There I was face to face with the members of Black4 and their entourage. It was a surreal and amazing moment. Meeting these guys casually was not just awesome enough, it was having the lead singer jump up out of his chair and giving my a huge hug and exclaiming to everyone, "Will Tompkins! HOLY SHIT! You ARE fucking real!" How funny that the internet brings people so close and into our lives, but it is only that moment you meet them face to face it is no longer virtual is reality.

I was, and am, so humbled having the opportunity to share some personal time with these guys. Share some drinks with them (Lonestar it was!), and even share meal (bbq it was). The words I write about my experiences at different venues seeing different bands I do for the love of Austin, and the hopes that some one out their reads a review and decides to see that band or go to that club. To be taken into the fold and treated like family was stunning. Some point in time I will probably write more about this evening.

Don't get me wrong, I hang out with lots of guys here in Austin, but it is always at shows. I can think of only one time I have been invited to someones home to hang out and drink (and man did I get FUUUUCCCKKKEDDDD UP - thanks to MC Overlord and the guys from Aimless Gun/Cody Bryan Band).

Back to the show, believe it or not, there is a performance review in here.

The Aquarium is located on 6th St, Austin, Texas. Right in the middle of the entertainment district. Just a few blocks off of Congress Ave. It is a long bar. As you walk in the door the stage is in the corner immediately to your right, and there is some seating to the left. Ahead of you is a long bar that runs the length of the right wall and in wall fish aquariums run the length of the left wall. In the back are the bathrooms and some stairs that take you to an upstairs area for hanging out as well. I don't think the stage is set up for night time musical performances because there was absolutely no stage lights...just a neon beer sign in the corner above the stage.

Doesn't matter. The band that was onstage before Black4 was GRABBER ( By admission of their lead singer/guitar player, it was probably their 4th live performance. These guys were really good, with that hard Southern Hard Rock kind of sound. I really hate throwing out comparisons ('cause I know damn well this is not what you will hear, but I heard Molly Hatchet in their sound). They were loud, they were entertaining, and they were just damn good. I would not have a problem hanging out at a venue where these guys will be performing again.

Black4 ( took the stage and proceeded to tear that place down. By the 3rd song the Aquarium was packed. There were people in there that seemed to show up for something else, were surprised at the energy and sound, then stayed for the whole performance. Yup! some folks weren't expecting this at the Aquarium on a Saturday night and left, too bad because Saturday night got slayed!

With such a small stage the bass player and guitar player kept taking turns stepping off the stage and right into the crowd. The guitarist, Curtis, just kept is head down and commenced to punishing his guitar for the love of it. The bassist, Jason, now that was an entertaining and different sight. Being that he was on the corner of the stage next to the door, he would step off the stage and to the door, entertaining the hell out of the crowd outside.

All the while the drummer sat tucked in the corner killing it and flinging sweat everywhere. and there, There in front, Bryan, belted out the vocals in the most vicious and fun way. Smiling at the crowd like some kind of barker from a side show carnival, Bryan held no bones to entertain the crowd. Tales of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll between songs, and a wicked voice to carry them music right through your eardrums.

It is not just a pleasure meeting these guys, but a rockgasm watching and listening to their performance. I was lucky enough to catch one of the songs from that evenings performance, check it out here (

Best wishes and healing speed to the guitarist Curtis, as I write this he is currently recovering from a motorcycle accident that left him hospitalized. He is on the mend and recovering, but best wishes to you Curtis!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

SXSW2015 addendum

Day tripping.

That's what I call it. When you are out and about, checking out the music scene. Listening to bands, going into bars and venues, and the sun is still bright. Whether it is during SXSW or some other, random, vacation time of the year and you decide to explore our beautiful central Texas city, you will be amazed at the difference between the daytime views and the nightlife amusement.

Will I took a short break from the Rachael Ray event that had taken over Stubb's. Sean and I found our way to check out three other spots and three other bands. So here you go.

Flamingo Cantina (, located right there on 6th St, pretty much in the heart of everything is this interesting little gem. Something of a reggae bar and a Rastafarian hideaway, The Flamingo Cantina has been entertaining those in the know for many, many years. My opportunities to drop in here have arisen and then passed. Today was my lucky day.

The Flamingo Cantina has a small entryway. As you enter to your left, it opens up into what would almost appear to be an open air venue. The stage is immediately in front of you towards the back. There is a bar to the right hand side wall and bleacher, type seating along the front wall, wrapping to the right side, and then on the other side of the bar going to an outside back area. There is a DJ/soundboard set up at the top o the seating area in the corner as well. By no means is this place big. It is small, down right small, but the Flamingo Cantina does the most amazing job in maximizing the seating in here. AND, this place is straight up from music. There is no hanging out at the bar. Grab you dink, shut up, get out of the way, sit down I want to see the band kind of place. Not in a mean or aggressive way, simply's small in here.

The performer onstage when we walked in was Isaac Tauaefa ( Here it was, the most stunning, mind blowing performance of SXSW2015. I tell you this happens every single year. It is not the bands you plan to see. It is not the bands you hope to see. It is the one band you didn't know existed, and weren't planning on hearing or seeing that turns in the must mind blowing performance. Here was Isaac Tauaefa! There were no pyrotechnics, no dancing girls, and no video screens. Isaac with his voice and his guitar, and two other guys joining him on stage with a percussion box and a bass.

In this little non decrepit bar, this kid stood onstage and tore through the crowd with his smooth, sweet, and hauntingly innocent voice. It was not rock and roll, it defied genres and only was limited by the 4 walls that contained it. I will make sure this praise reaches him, because the greatest gift you have is even better when you share it. Every person sitting there that Saturday afternoon was blessed to have been in Isaac's company.

Okay! next stop was a side, parking lot stage which was set up in on Red River St, in between 6th and 7th St's. I have no idea who this band was. We caught their last 2 songs before they had to get off the stage. But not before I got some cool ass shots of their female bass/lead singer! If you know who this is, let me know. I would love to forward them some photos. It seemed like an epic daytime set, but sad too bad!

Finally there was this set we caught at Elysium (, Trashy and The Kid!

Elysium itself is located on the corner of Red River and something. The inside set up almost defies description. The stage is to your left as you walk in the entryway. There is a large bar ahead of you and seating all around. There is a pool table in a corner and a patio out front. It defies description because the layout is turned oddly from front to side as the bar is on an intersection corner, and the entry is in a corner on the other side of the street corner.

Anyway...Trashy and The Kid ( were here doing a SXSW show. And a show it was. Here was that stage show with the lights and smoke. A charismatic lead singer that worked the crowd from all parts of the stage. He moved and drew the crowd with him, leaning over the edge of the stage and getting right down in the faces of the crowd. It was punk music, rock music at it's noisiest, most arrogant style. But these guys were good. It was good enough to have the folks in attendance banging their heads, and moving around on the open floor in front of the stage. This was a Friday night is all right for a fight type of band and music. Another simple statement here, I LOVE ROCK AND ROLL!


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ain't no sunshine

when she's gone.

The first SXSW in many many years without Pat Tompkins at the helm. Organizing, mapping, and planning. Pat made an art out of going to see the best and biggest local bands and stars. Getting into events I could only dream of as a music lover in this great city that was her home for decades. Pat, herself, had many fans in the music community as well, her family and all of friends new this. During SXSW it was best to get in and drift along behind her or get the hell out of the way. My daughter, Angelina, had the pleasure of joining her on occasion. I was lucky enough to run into Pat, once, during her many adventures during this amazing week of music in Austin, Texas.

Although this isn't about Pat, this particular event seemed to be her crown jewel and she so dearly loved to go to it, have a blast, and tell everyone all about it...until the next year. When the opportunity arose for me to finally experience this event, courtesy of Sean Claes from INSiteAustin  (, I dove at it headlong. With only a small twinge of sadness, but a massive smile in my heart and on my face, I finally was able to experience Rachael Ray's Feedback. It may have been dreary, wet, and muddy, but it was I said, Ain't no sunshine when she's gone.

So here's how the event was set up. Rachael Ray's Feedback  (  is held at Stubbs BBQ right there on the corner of Red River and 8th. There is the inside stage, the permanent large outside amphitheater stage, and opposite of that was a large outside stage. The food service was on one side of the Amphitheater yard, in between both outside stages. With doors at 10 A.M. and music starting almost immediately inside, the challenge was on.

Music from Australian performer Cody Simpson ( started the morning off right at the inside stage. His style was decidedly more pop/country than anything else, but labeling good music other than saying it was 'good music' is crazy. He was good to watch on stage. No electric personality and flashy show, but he was just the perfect start for the day. ESPECIALLY with a cold Blue Moon beer in hand.

After shooting some photos of Cody Simpson, it was the mad dash to get outside for the introduction of the main stage kick off. The return of the one and only Bob Schneider   ( Rachael Ray loves Bob and so does Austin. With the introduction by Rachael herself, Bob Schneider took that stage. The thoughts of the wet weather and muddy ground simply vanished with the music from Bob. Just great rock and roll. Fun, smart, and slightly irreverent with his sometimes naughty lyrics or subject matter, Bob Schneider once again proved day or night he can pack the house, turn your head, and make your body groove. I am thrilled that Rachael Ray has the courage and willful knowledge to have Bob kick this event off every year!

So while I went to shoot photos of the band Reptar ( on the back, outside stage, Sean managed to stand in line and grab two plates of the wonderful food from the bad ass menu RR had created. A chicken slider, a chicken taco, a hot dog wrap, and some corn in a cup. I am so downplaying the amazing plate of food RR, herself, should be insulted at my lack of descriptive gratitude. Look up the food and the recipes on the RR Feedback website I linked above. Hey...I am not a food critic, I am a music performance blogger, but that food, my friends, was THE BOMB!!!

After shooting Reptar on the back stage... which drew some of the crowd towards them, it appeared most were waiting by the main stage. Here RR introduced husband, John and his band The Cringe  ( And perform they did. IT was pure radio rock n roll gold. Exactly what you hear on rock radio now was what they offered up. They did it well, they did it in an entertaining fashion, and they did it with all the ballsy pride you would need to stand in front of the thousand or so in attendance, and make the crowd smile. It was really good rock-n-roll!

We dashed inside for another band which was along that Hony Tonk/Rock sound. Banditos ( were belting out their songs to the joy of the crowd that was dry and inside, it was a stellar perfomance. Seeming to enjoy being there on that stage in front of the crowd, Banditos performed and bounced back and forth with the vocals and the multiple folks on stage, all seeming to really enjoy what they were doing. There was no way you could be in the crowd for this performance and NOT have the desire to sing along. What? You don't know the songs? It doesn't matter, have another beer, raise your glass up, and cheers to a good time band.

After a short break we took for ourselves, we caught the last two performances before our time was up.

The surprise performance for me was seeing Scott Weiland & the Wildabouts ( Oh man it was awesome! Even after seeing the line up for the day, it didn't click that I would have the opportunity to see and hear him perform. In fact, it was probably two or three songs in when I snapped and realized I was in the presence of, and enjoying a performance from Scott Weiland. Man that shit was awesome for me! Any and all of his addictions and issues aside, nothing bad for me to say about this performance. It just simply KICKED ASS.

Before we left, the last performance seemed to be one that Rachael herself was the most thrilled about. Barely even able to contain herself to the point of forgetting to introduce the starring act (she left that up to special guest MC and the Blue Moon brewmaster himself).

 Raekwon ( took the stage. Just thrilling to see a live performance where the crowd is so deftly into it. Pushing up to the stage, singing/rapping along. It was like the crowd got turned up to level HYPE in an instant. Here again, was a smashing performance that set the crowd in motion and had every one completely forgetting the weather.

We were all there for the good time. One was had...and one was missed.