Accolades are in order for whoever put together the bill at Austin’s Mohawk this past Tuesday night. Each band complimented the others perfectly, sharing enough common ground to provide a bridge from one act to the next, while retaining their own individual appeals.
Local opener No Future is a reincarnation of Randy Reynolds’ project Leatherbag. The lineup has shifted substantially in personnel and in number over the years, as the group has delved deeper into highly specialized influences, most often early rock n roll and punk. Reynold’s earlier work, which emphasized more straightforward folk rock, has morphed into tight, high-energy songs, driven by repetitive verses and abrupt vocal outbursts.
Reynolds is a sort of visionary musician that wears his influences earnestly on his sleeve. His vast knowledge of musical history comes through in the songs, and because of this, No Future sounds like a lot of bands, but sounds like no other band. Their set at the Mohawk consisted of several new songs as well as a good amount of material from recent Leatherbag records. The trio also played a cover of “Hypnotist” by Sonny and the Sunsets, The Night Crawlers’ “Little Black Egg,” and Santo and Johnny’s 1959 classic, “Sleepwalk.” See? We said their influences were disparate. What, you didn’t believe us? On that latter cover, the crowd partnered up, dancing and swaying to the mellow, acoustic number. Leatherbag, now No Future, is truly one of Austin’s treasures. Stop procrastinating, and see them soon.
The UK’s Wave Pictures followed, who happen to be one of Randy Reynold’s favorite bands. The Wave Pictures happen to be another band with wide-ranging influences. Awkward and honest, the band falls somewhere between Morrissey and the Violent Femmes. The three piece has wonderful stage presence, likely due to their extended time performing together (the band formed in 1998).
Lead singer David Tattersall’s between song banter kept the crowd laughing as he delivered jokes and anecdotes about fruit before launching into a song “about pasta.” Tattersall navigated easily between stark, crisp electric guitar ballads and upbeat numbers made notable by Johnny Helm’s excellent drums. Helm himself actually left the drums for one song, standing center stage to sing, charmingly belting out lyrics with abandon. The Wave Pictures complimented the Austin crowd that perfectly filled the Mohawk’s indoor stage, and Tattersall would later confirm in a conversation with me that they felt they had finally gotten the “right” show, after several stateside tours involving difficult venues and under-promoted bills. Truly, the band was an apt fit following No Future and before the heartfelt pop of Allo Darlin’.
Elizabeth Morris and Allo Darlin’ have thoroughly researched the pages of the book of music that includes The Softies, Tallulah Gosh, and Tiger Trap, but the band’s emphasis on Morris’ ukulele provide a unique edge to their sound. Allo Darlin’ perform with unadulterated upbeat joy on stage, projecting their glee onto fans, and instigating uninhibited dancing. Morris’ exuberance on stage is practically unparalleled as she bounces and sways, strumming her ukulele with punk-rock tenacity.
It has been a long time since I have seen a crowd so genuinely enjoy a band, making up for their moderate size with energetic moving and shaking throughout the set, which leaned heavily on new material, such as “Neil Armstrong,” “Capricornia,” and “Europe,” all from the band’s recent full-length, Europe. The maturity and greater cohesion of the songs from their sophomore effort were obvious, and the band’s charismatic live performance indicates that the near feature may see much more widespread success for Allo Darlin’. When the band left the stage, it didn’t even cross my mind that the small crowd would induce an encore, but the relentless pocket of fans down front persisted until the band returned for a couple more songs. Acts of genuine affection and devotion such as this are increasingly rare in today’s indie-rock climate, and this refreshing, moving gesture defined the night for a set of bands, all a bit outside of the realm of standard fare, doing what they sincerely believe in.