I didn’t mind supporting a good cause, but I admit I attended last weekend’s Spencer Bell Legacy benefit at the Mohawk in Austin last Saturday for selfish reasons: I wanted to see Tin Tin Can, a band from Chicago that I’ve been enjoying for over a year but hadn’t seen live yet. Indeed, they put on a hell of a show. I also discovered some other new favorites. If you’re not familiar with it, SBL is a foundation that raises money to fight adrenal cancer, the disease that killed a young musician named Spencer Bell. In addition to a lot of great music, there was a silent auction and a raffle.
The common thread among most of the bands — aside from the fact that they were passionate SBL supporters — seemed to be a rootsy, Southern musical influence. Austin reggae band Axis Unity was an exception. Very good. I’ll remember them when I want to scratch that particular itch.
Shawn Fernando gave a nice solo performance, singing and playing keyboards. His song “In the Motherfuckin’ ATX” was a real crowdpleaser. He also turned up in sets by Kissing Club and The Stevedores. The Stevedores, based in Madison, is actually his band I believe. And btw, Spencer Bell was lead singer and songwriter for The Stevedores before succumbing to adrenal cancer in 2006.
The Kissing Club had a nice country rock sound, as did The Stevedores.
Mechanical People, a band out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, had a great Southern vibe. Reminded me a bit of Deer Tick (who are not Southern). They were also very animated on stage, especially the lead singer. “Magnolia” was a very impressive song that really jumped. The drummer played bass guitar for one song I liked, something about an alley… I enjoyed their set a lot. I picked up a demo EP and it is OK, but it doesn’t do them justice.
Netherfriends impressed me a lot. Right up there with fellow Chicago band Tin Tin Can in my estimation. They were lush, with harmonies, some vocal looping, and some junkyard percussion providing a lot of texture — the lead singer drummed on a butane tank for one song. The drummer took on vocals for one song. They had folks in the crowd dancing. Very good show. Didn’t manage to snag a CD of theirs, which I regret.
Tin Tin Can surprised me by putting five people onstage. Three people on guitar, one on bass and keyboard, plus a drummer. I’m not sure if they were all regular members or not — the liner notes for The Devil and the Mockingbird EP only lists four. They put on a hell of a show, as expected. They performed songs I already knew and loved — “Arkansas” and “Celebration of the Damned,” plus some I didn’t know yet, including “Tourist,” a song written by Spencer Bell himself. There was quite a lot of switching, guitarists taking on bass and vice versa. Drummer taking on vocal duties for part of a song. They reminded me of Blue Oyster Cult in that respect. They still had that Southern Gothic sound that won me over when I first discovered them on T61.
Definitely a great night out. I hope the cash I plunked down getting in and picking up CDs made some difference. I would’ve given more if I could. SBL seems like a worthy cause. Check it out and see if there’s something you can do to help.
And give Spencer a listen if you’re new to his music as I was before last weekend: