A Journey to RF Shannon’s Jaguar Palace

As you cross over the Montopolis Bridge, the last vestiges of Austin’s expanding boundaries dissolve into rolling green hills and farmland. From the edge of the city, it’s just a half-hour journey to Lockhart, where a baroque courthouse sits on the town square, surrounded by shops and a couple of the state’s most lauded barbecue joints. Leaving behind traffic and rising rent, a number of notable artists and bands–Danny Reisch (Shearwater) and Natalie Gordon and Jason Chronis (Tele Novella)–have relocated here in recent months. Other ex-pats also include several members of RF Shannon; bassist Austin Burge moved to Lockhart to open Chaparral Coffee last year, and singer Shane Renfro followed sometime after. While still in easy proximity to dip into Austin for a show at one of the city’s innumerable live music venues, the RF Shannon crew now has the option of hosting small unique shows for those willing to make a short trek out of town.

The few who procured one of the 77 limited tickets made their way to the secret address they were emailed, arriving at the mysterious Jaguar Palace as the sun began to disappear below the horizon and dusky light blanketed the small Texas town. Jaguar Palace revealed itself to be an expansive home from the early 1900s with yellow siding, steep green rooftops, and decorative balconies shaded by large oak trees. Outside, a mass of young people buzzed around a patio illuminated by strands of lights as local onlookers in trucks driven likely craned their necks  with curiosity as they rumbled by.

The palace’s inner sanctuary was lighted only by candles, and a crystal chandelier dangled from the ceiling, glimmering in the warm light. Attendees crowded congenially into the room, occupying the open french doors that joined it to an adjacent sitting room, as Molly Burch began to play. Channeling the vibe perfectly with her smoky vocal pop hinging on wavering guitar lines, Burch sounded more confident and sharp than ever. She’s received well-deserved acclaim in recent months, and will be out on the road for more tour dates throughout the next several months.

Kings of the evening, RF Shannon commenced their set long after the woozy swarm of ministrant travelers had fallen under the spell of the temperate night. With Shane Renfro singing and brother Jeff holding down drum duties for the rhythm section, RF Shannon broadcast a set of reverberating avant-folk songs. Littering the lawn in clumps like the first sproutings of spring wildflowers, concertgoers who weren’t peering in from adjacent rooms stood outside and listened to the songs drift from open windows.

Like RF Shannon’s distinctly moody vibe, the entire evening, including the locale and travel involved, created a singular event that moves beyond a simple show. The texture of an evening like this provides something onto which the memory grips, creating a lasting experience. The luxury of being able to see live music any night of the week in Austin is a gift, but an evening in this outpost of burgeoning creative culture somewhere out in the expansive Texas darkness felt refreshing and important, a whisper of a wonderful promise.

About author
Bryan Parker is a writer and photographer living and working in Austin, TX. He is the founder of blog Pop Press International and print journal True Sincerity and recently released his first book, a volume on Beat Happening in the 33 1/3 series.

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