Spencer Bell Legacy event in Austin was great music experience – and (bonus!) it helped a great cause as well

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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:



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11 responses to “Spencer Bell Legacy event in Austin was great music experience – and (bonus!) it helped a great cause as well

  1. jodieplatz

    Thanks for writing this and for coming out in search of good music and leaving loving the cause!

  2. Very welcome! It’s obvious this man deserves to be remembered and SBL seems like a great way to do that.

  3. Lisa Knox

    Wonderful review! I’m glad you had a good time. Each one of those bands was absolutely amazing, as usual. Most of them seem to be an exception to the usual rule of studio produced cd’s being better than live sound. All these guys give such passion and love for their music when they are on stage, that it makes the live show like a hook to draw you in.
    The song about the alley by Mechanical People is called Alleycats. 🙂

  4. Hi and thanks for attending the Austin SBL show.
    I’m Spencer’s dad and try to be a part of the whole thing as much as possible. Tin Tin Can is a great band (note that the drummer, Pierce Codina, was actually in a band with Spencer in high school called Sheer Funk & Misery – they actually had a studio produced cd called Early Morning Hours).
    Anyway, lots of cross-over between the bands (Tin Tin Can, The Stevedores, Mechanical People, et al) as many were friends of Spencer and/or each other. They ALL are willing sharers of instruments, harmonies and mixes. A fantastic community of artists with loyalty to each other and to Spencer’s memory/artistic legacy.
    Two of the performing Stevedores (Drummer, Ben Johnson and first-time lead singer, Ben Graupner – in Spencer’s stead – are regular members of a real up and coming band called 100 Monkeys – http://www.100monkeysmusic.com , fyi.
    Again, thanks for taking the time and for the nice review. Claudia Garate and Brittany Wolfe (Austin Locals) put on the show with Shawn Fernando and we’ll definitely be coming back next year.
    All the best,

  5. Kim

    What a fantastic review and it’s so awesome to read about new fan experiences! And I’m so glad you had a great time, and thank you for sharing your experiences! 🙂

  6. Tink

    Great review! Im so glad you enjoyed the show and were a part of helping us celebrate Spencer and raise some money. Just like the other bands, TTC tend to switch it up a bit with the who plays what, but I think that just makes the sound even better! It really gives everyone a chance to shine.
    Shawn defintely was/is a member of the Stevedores and I think its great that we get to see not only their collective sound but something from them individually. The amount of energy and creative talent among these bands is amazing and Im glad to be a part of it and experience it! Keep and eye out for the announcement of the next SBL show on http://www.spencerbellmemorial.com. We always have a great time and love when new folks join us! And for sure check out that band Mr. Bill mentioned. They are truly worth a listen!

  7. Georgeanne

    Welcome . Glad you enjoyed. There is so much more! Thanks for the positive commentary. Hope you’re able to attend more SBLP events. They’re always great and guaranteed to leave you in a very good place no matter what you got going on.

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