The Spirit Sustained: The Deer, Nightblooms, Devon Sproule at Spiderhouse

The_Deer_121214-3This past Friday night, the Spiderhouse Ballroom hosted the record release of The Deer’s new album, “On the Essence of the Indomitable Spirit,” slated to be officially released at the start of the new year. You can pre-order the LP at The Deer’s bandcamp page. If you don’t know the band yet, it is headed by the captivating Grace Park who exudes that Indomitable Spirit in her live presence. The band is made up of Michael McLeod on guitar (also of Good Field), Jesse Dalton on bass, and Alan Eckert on drums. Joining the band for the show was Roger Sellers on guitar, banjo, and keyboards. The band waltzed and rolled through a set full of classically influenced contemporary Americana. Dalton’s presence on the stand-up and backing harmonies was a presence to experience. He felt each note, strapped in by his suspenders and floppy hat. Looking out into the crowd as the band geared up for another brilliant refrain, Dalton willed that Indomitable Spirit from each one of us in the crowd, which was a healthy dose of some of Austin’s most talented performers in their own rights, and otherwise verdant fan base.

Nightblooms_121214-5Before The Deer pranced up to the stage, we were treated to a cosmic showing by spirit-transducer Karla Manzur and her project Nightblooms, which includes Lauren Gurgiolo on guitar and an entire choir, framed by a billowing effervescent stage set up. Ephemeral sheets of gauzy wisps were dimly lit with purple and blue with green laser lights shining alien-like stars into the planetarium-esque facade. Manzur lead the choir into a psychedelic star party complete with tripping electronics and warbling delay decays, floating with liquid amounts of reverberation from guitarist Gurgiolo (Okkervil River). Her choir is made up of an all-star “who’s who” of Austin’s finest: Dana Falconberry (Dana Falconberry), Christopher Cox (Feverbones), Zac Traeger (Zorch), and Matthew Shephered (Dana Falconberry), just to begin. We wrote about the Nightblooms stellar album release last month here, which took place in an inflatable planetarium (what???), blowing us away with the thoughtful production of the intimate and immersive performance.

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Devon Sproule; photo by Lukas R. Truckenbrod

Beginning the night was Devon Sproule, who has made a name for herself as a beautifully gifted singer-songwriter who also demonstrates that immediate spirit-channelling that was one of the main themes for the evening. With a delivery from which Robert Ellis must draw at least cosmically, she dug into her songs, swaying and bouncing with almost manic eccentricity before bringing the hush down over the audience with the same kind of recognizably surreal lyrics comparable to another local singer-songwriter, Bill Callahan.

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Devon Sproule; photo by Lukas R. Truckenbrod

Sprout sang about friends and family, working and loving, endearingly illustrating the delicate balance we attempt to strike between our hearts and our heads. The pain that accompanies, and the pleasure that makes it all worth it. The fight is never-ending but the love we receive for our efforts gives us the same kind of release we feel when watching a singer like Sproule. The minute details she captures through singularly relatable observations pull the listener into an escape of storytelling. I felt this and witnessed it on the faces of the audience that stood in rapture of her powerful yet graceful vocals, her strong yet delicate guitaring.

The_Deer_121214-4The community was rich Friday night. Musicians, artists, and friends-of-all came upon the Spiderhouse Ballroom in an official gathering of sincere support. Diverse genres and mediums all coalesced into an amalgamation of shared joy, one that I am personally, and Pop Press collectively, is privileged to be a part. We work to support our friends and local artists—to sustain them—for on the other side of the same stage, they sustain us with their Indomitable Spirit.

All photographs © Bryan C. Parker & Pop Press International, except where noted. Additional photographs by Lukas R. Truckenbrod. Click any image to open set in slideshow viewer.

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