Walker Lukens Seduced Me at the Empire Control Room

Walker_Lukens_120414-2Yes, I was seduced by Walker Lukens this past Thursday at the Empire Control Room. And I’m still waiting for Walker’s nude selfie to find its way into my inbox. Belle Adair, who played before Lukens, hails from Florence, Alabama, just a stones throw from legendary Muscle Shoals, nestled along the Tennessee River in the Northwestern corner of the state. Singer Matthew Green writes the songs and leads the band comprised of Adam Morrow on bass, Jonathon Oliphant on keys, and Reed Watson on drums. The band played this past Thursday night at the Empire Control Room, offering their heavily groove-inflicted psychedelic tunes, which filled the room with rhythmic tightness.

Belle_Adair_120414-3Songs were short and often contained within three minutes but the group showed an eagerness on stage despite the unfortunately sparse audience. Loads of warble, phaser, delay, and reverb floated above the punchy rhythm section that drove the songs forward and provided direction for the atmospheric musings from Green and Oliphant who sang and flickered to the fantastic projections displayed on all available surfaces at the Control Room. The seasoned balance between atmosphere and rhythm reminded me of Kurt Vile whose long ramblings are built upon a sturdy foundation. The band cautiously introduced poppy hooks throughout the set as were the few harmonies that added a welcome dose of depth to the obviously rehearsed and well-executed set from Belle Adair.

Walker_Lukens_120414-1Walker Lukens followed the Alabama band, stopping home in the midst of a short run of southern tour dates. He demanded attention to his set, flexing unbridled muscle and command, with a hint of swagger, over the audience, leading his incredibly tight band through a set that consistently delivered a professional level of musicianship and finesse. The live sound was thick and eclectic with a diverse blend of affected vocals and high-quality instrumentation. Piano driven and guitar driver songs were equally commanding, mixing a blend of soulful 70s singer-songwriter funk with the contemporary swagger a la Father John Misty that was previously missing in Lukens’ sets I saw earlier this year. Lukens’ asked the audience to take a video of his last song and send email it to him, promising a “nude selfie” in return. Can we squeeze any more confidence out?

Walker_Lukens_120414-3Lukens had already found his stride as a performer and band leader, but I was waiting for the moment when Lukens’ music was able to bridge that sonic divide between sonic experimentation and straightforward songwriting. Songs with the pomp of “Brunch People” now stand with songs like “Year of the Dog,” no longer fighting for space on the stage. He has created a complete set of songs with a thoughtful progression from start to finish without the genre-jumping from past. Maybe the persistent touring has shown the band how to achieve this masterful combination, but the result is undeniably electric and we can’t wait to see more as this rising local songwriter extends his brand nationally and internationally, bolstered by his loving hometown Austin fans. Bryan Parker has the following report on opener Borrisokane.

Borrisokane_120414-2Usually, when I see Borrisokane, enough time has passed that I always forget just how good the band is. Working to create complex, textured soundscapes that surge forward and then recede like dissipating mist, the band executes each song impeccably. Their sound blends post-rock, industrial, indie-rock, synth pop, and other genres to create an always fresh blend of styles. One minute they’re doing a repetitive little chant that sounds like the Pixies, and the next they’re delivering a glittering tapestry of orchestral pop that recalls Explosions in the Sky. Earlier this year, the ambitiousness of The Versus Project put their name in the mouth of many new fans as it has garnered praise from notable outlets like The Austin Chronicle and KUTX’s Laurie Gallardo. You need to know this band. If you haven’t seen them, get to it.

Check out more photos from the night below. All photographs © Bryan C. Parker & Pop Press International; all rights reserved. Click any image to open in slideshow viewer.

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