On Friday evening in Austin Generationals, Charles Bradley and The Black Angels performed at Cedar Street Courtyard. The showcase would be one of the best I saw while in Austin. It’s still hard to find the words to describe how great it was.
Keep Away was the first band of the night. I didn’t end up watching most of their set, but from where I was near the back of the venue they sounded like a more mellow Animal Collective.
Generationals were the next band to take the stage. It seemed like the majority of their set came from their upcoming album Actor Castor. Generationals play upbeat indie rock that feels influenced by the sounds of classic ‘60s rock ‘n roll—bouncy music with a shimmery and timeless sound. Their energy was good throughout the set, but was kicked up a notch or two during their three final songs: “Ten-Twenty-Ten,” “When They Fight They Fight” and “Trust,” which are admittedly their most popular songs.
Dodos were up next. I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Dodos, but stood near the front of the stage and found their set to be fairly entertaining and impressive. I dug the tambourine that the drummer had gaff taped to his foot in lieu of using a kick drum, it added another layer of pretty and melodic to the music.
Charles Bradley was the best surprise that I experienced at SXSW. To be totally honest, I had absolutely no idea who Bradley was before he took the stage. In retrospect, this lack of knowledge makes me feel like kind of a tool bag. Charles Bradley is fucking awesome. Before the show started I met two incredibly enthusiastic fans that had come to the showcase solely to check out Bradley. Their enthusiasm was infectious and after a short conversation I was excited for what I was about to see.
Charles Bradley blew my mind. Daptone Records picked up the 62-year-old musician after someone at the label saw his performance as a James Brown impersonator in Brooklyn. Bradley is a performer in every sense of the word. He is almost so good that it’s hard to believe he is real. Maybe Daptone dreamed up the perfect soul man and made him into a robot?
Bradley’s stage presence and voice were beautiful, raw and powerful. He danced around the stage crooning to the crowd and blowing kisses. Eventually he did a spin on a stage to reveal a bedazzled jacket. His energy was intoxicating. Everyone seemed to be dancing to the sweet soul music he was producing.
If you ever get a chance to see Charles Bradley perform—GO! You are a fool if you miss out on a performer of this caliber. I feel like a fool for not being privy to who Bradley was before the show.
The Black Angels took the stage next. This is the band that I was anticipating seeing the most on this Friday night, although I did wonder if they could top Bradley’s performance. The band seemed to wonder too, as they stated on stage that Bradley would be a hard act to follow. Luckily, the Friday night show saw them perform at their highest caliber. Although their set was only nine songs long, they crammed in some of their best songs—opening with “Bad Vibrations” and closing with “Telephone” and “Bloodhounds” with “Entrance Song” and “Haunting at 1300 McKinley” shoved somewhere in the middle.
The performance saw the psychedelic Austin based band totally in their element—often appearing as if they were in some sort of meditative trance-like state. Alex Maas’s reverb heavy voice washed over the crowd like a dark wave and made the music sound larger than life. The performance was totally enthralling. I couldn’t have been happier that I had scored a spot front and center at the stage. The Black Angels are creating timeless music. I left this performance with a beaming smile on my face that continues to emerge every time I think about this show.
Dear The Black Angels,
Thank you for blowing my mind.
Jeanette D. Moses