Jens Lekman is a born performer—hilariously witty as he sways and croons. After only one song, Lekman announced a surprise for the Austin crowd Tuesday at the Mohawk. “We’re going to play the new album entirely tonight,” he told us, adding that the band would follow that with a shorter set of older songs. Both of these facts led to wild cheers from fans. With only ten tracks, I Know What Love Isn’t passed shockingly quickly.
Notable high points included “I Want a Pair of Cowboy Boots,” enhanced by hoops and hollers from the crowd, and the album’s title track. “I Know What Love Isn’t” was prefaced by the back story for the song and album of the same name. Lekman told fans that he was on tour in Australia, fresh out of a relationship, when he had a long conversation with a friend that turned to a discussion of marrying so that he could stay in the country, building a relationship on function and purpose rather than something like love. However, he said, “If I did this I realized it meant I could never tell the story, which is hard if you’re Jens Lekman.”
Fans cheered Lekman back onto the stage for several crowd-pleasers I had been holding out to hear including “Black Cab” and “Postcard to Nina.” As Lekman tried to leave the stage in earnest, insistent fans prompted him to relent; “Okay I’ll do one more,” he said, picking up his guitar for a solo number, “Pocketful of Money.” As we all snapped along in support, Lekman delivered the best song of the evening. (I’ll admit I’m a huge Calvin Johnson fan and adore the recorded version with Johnson’s booming background vocals.)
Earlier in the night, Taken By Trees, featuring Swedish songstress Victoria Bergsman performed a chilled-out, down-tempo set of songs culled largely from her outstanding new album, Other Worlds. “Dreams,” the album’s standout single served as the night’s standout song as well, prompting fans to get down to its mellow, reggae-esque groove.
Earlier still, California’s Big Search, the new project of Matt Popieluch of Foreign Born played a set of his electronically leaning surf-folk music. The songs sound like the Beach Boys slowed way down with some contemporary elements infused. We’re big fans and hope to see more of Big Search in the future (and we have a hunch that we will, very soon).
On top of these outstanding performers, concertgoers were treated to an aftershow of epic proportions with some of Austin’s finest local talent. The Sour Notes kicked off the bill inside with a powerful set of indie-rock songs. We keep writing this, but the band sounds increasingly focused and intensifies with each show. These guys and gals, who also do a tremendous amount in the way of promoting other local musicians, are arguably the most active and most important band in Austin right now. If you missed this one, you’ll have to wait a while since they aren’t playing again until New Year’s Eve.
Belaire, another vital Austin act, followed with a set of pop-oriented electronic music. Lead singer Cari Palazzolo laughed, joking lightheartedly from behind her tower of keys and synths. She always possesses an easy-going stage presence, which makes the band’s set enjoyable to watch. Jason Chronis (Voxtrox, JC and Co) supports Belaire on bass, adding backing vocals along with a more stoic stage presence.
Paul Banks closed out the night with his country-tinged songs that featured him on piano. Banks is an artist who continues to garner more press and land on more important bills, so keep an eye out for this one.
After three outstanding touring acts and three of Austin’s best, who could want more? Tuesday night at the Mohawk emerged as perhaps the best bill of the month if not the past few.