Yuma Celebrates Day of the Dead at Mohawk

brother bear-4The Mohawk celebrated Day of the Dead this Sunday with four superb Austin bands: Brother Bear, The Please Please Me, Magia Negra, and Yuma. A real diverse curation of unique bands who all seem to share a common attitude-thread that runs tight like the strings on a guitar. Though two days past the 31st, about a third of the attendees were in costume, some for Day of the Dead and others still living the Halloween Dream. Most of the bands had at least one member in some sort of costume.

yuma-5Lead guitarist and singer Matt Puckett, who you may know from Mother Falcon, lead his backing six-piece Brother Bear singing college rock-influenced chamber pop. The three-piece horn and occasional woodwind section added breeziness and affability to the songs, while bassist Dusty Rhodes held it down on the low-end with Andrew Stevens on drums. Brother Bear played an impassioned cover of David Bowie’s “Oh! You Pretty Things,” releasing the most emotion from Puckett and his bright red Tele, graced with a touch of grit that allowed for some rudeness. Local music buffs will have noticed Alex Cohen of Alex Napping on the mini-korg.

please please me-4The Please Please Me embodied rudeness and played a bizarre set of indie-pop songs, complete with a mildly obscure Freedy Johnston cover “Bad Reputation.” For their take, however, they kicked the bassist and drummer off the stage while lead singer Jessie Torrisi manipulated sampled beats and an Eastern-inspired groove that could have elicited bellydance requests. The band reunited after the Freedy please please me-5song and continued to demonstrate strong songwriting and a clear vision from Torrisi. Her focus on the performance was obviously apparent in her body language and impassioned persona on stage. The band had super sweet-sounding harmonies and keyboards in support, giving the group a 90s paisley vibe. They even had a log miked up. Like, wood. The bassist played the log with sticks, throwing in funky additional percussion.

magia negra-1The Austin four piece Magia Negra played next and is lead by the sultry Lolita Carroll who floated in all black on the Day of the Dead. Her voice carried into that high, lonesome sound, the kind of territory that hits a resonant spot way back in the back of your throat. That wrenching-type connection that is visceral. With ease, Carroll guided her band’s sleepy garage pop, her voice sometimes pushing back and at others pulling forward. Lead/rhythm guitarist Zeke Jarmon on stage right provided some quirky lead lines that interacted well with Carroll’s equally off-the-magia negra-3wall guitar playing. Magia Negra has remained a tight group for a few years at this point, centered on the duo of Carroll and drummer Victor Ziolkowski, who provide the backbone for the quietly raging sound. Despite the gentle vocals and cleanly biting guitars, the music is dark and carries unexpected weight, most likely achieved through and resting upon the killer songwriting.

yuma-6Yuma headlined Sunday night, the four piece fronted by lead man Jesse Liberty, whose vocals reminded me of Incubus’ Brandon Boyd. Go figure. Anyways, the band as a whole has a driving psychedelia akin to Grizzly Bear and Radiohead whose pop sensibilities are maintained despite large amounts of effect processing and progressive uses of traditional and non-traditional instrumentation. His sideways Elvis-microphone had a nice touch of reverb and cyuma-1ompression that lifted his soaring vocals. Occasional noisy freakouts made them the loudest band of the evening and righteous headliners to close out the night of facepaint, trenchcoats, and skeleton faces.

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