The Good Music Club – a new web series started by KUT’s Laurie Gallardo – held its debut taping last night at the ND on East 5th Street, with performances by four of the more prominent names in Austin music: CultureMap pals Crooks, The Couch, Not In The Face and our 2011 album of the year honoree Quiet Company.
According to Gallardo, the show was taped to “take our talent and brag about it,” but it’s hard not to suspect that maybe it was partly about showing off her killer taste in music, too.
In any case, the ND was a little over half-full — not bad for a Monday night at a venue that’s still developing a full-time music calendar — at 8 o’clock for the first set of the night, from Crooks.
The band, gussied up like they were playing the hipster version of the Grand Ole Opry, got five songs to introduce themselves to the world outside of Austin via The Good Music Club, and they pushed their love of using a broad array of instruments, utilizing two guitars, upright bass, drums, banjo, two trumpets, and a tambourine between the five members to create its dusky, honky-tonk sound. It was a good sampling of what the band does well, culminating in the stomping country pastiche of “Bending The Rules, Breaking Hearts,” a new track that the band wrote and quickly recorded as the closer for their forthcoming debut full-length.
Attendees were asked to stay for the entire taping, so the room stayed crowded for the Austin Free Week heroes The Couch. The Free Week vibe — the show featured no cover charge — was present throughout the evening, and a tight set from The Couch helped assert that, as well. The band, all satisfying rock crunch, elevated by harmonies and an instinctive knowledge of when to let its songs breathe, offered a glimpse of why its just-released debut long-player, Old & Touching Blue, is one not to sleep on in the coming months. Even in its quieter moments, the band is still buoyed by a propulsive energy, with summery hooks and a fearless deployment of vocalist Taylor Wilkins’ falsetto carrying the material.
"My director, Richard Whymark, and I filmed a pilot about five years ago with a similar premise for a New York City network. They couldn’t afford it, but he called me recently and said, ‘Let’s do it here.’"
If all of that up there reads like a lot of gushing, well, it kind of is – and we haven’t even started on the sludgy, bullshit-free set by the rising Not In The Face or the performance from the gushed-over-enough headliners Quiet Company – but that speaks more to something Gallardo told Culturemap about her original intentions with the series than it does to how easy we are to please. “In Austin, we are overwhelmed with talent,” she says, and the Good Music Club isn’t a new idea for her.
“My director, Richard Whymark, and I filmed a pilot about five years ago with a similar premise for a New York City network. They couldn’t afford it,” she explains, “But he called me recently and said, ‘Let’s do it here.’ You can go to shows, or a CD release, or whatever in Austin, but we need to take our talent and brag about it to the rest of the world.”
Call it homer-ism if you want, but the talent onstage at the ND last night was definitely brag-worthy. Not In The Face, the questionably-named but powerhouse two-piece, stormed the stage with big, meaty riffs and a bluesy swagger that might invite comparisons to, say, The Black Keys, but which was infused with such a joy in being alive that it felt positively Springsteen-ian. Quiet Company, always a hot item, took to the stage determined to validate their matching beards-and-suits ensemble, the huge array of instruments alongside them, and came on strong from their first notes.
In short, if these four sets are something that Gallardo is hoping will show the rest of the world the best of what Austin has to offer right now, in 2012 — the way that Echotone did for the city’s scene circa 2009, or Austin City Limits did in its debut season — then she’s on the right track, and the potential for The Good Music Club is pretty high.
There’s still some fine-tuning needed for the series as a live event — four bands, given the amount of set-up and sound-checking required for a taping, means there’s an awful lot of dead-time between sets, and it’d probably be a better night out with two or three on the bill — but that stuff always gets sorted out.
What’s most important to take away from the inaugural taping of The Good Music Club is that, as proof-of-concept that Austin music in 2012 is worth documenting and taking to the rest of the country, it’s as good as the name claims it is.