“Stubb's is a place I never thought I’d be playing” bassist Jack O’Brien says before a show in Bryan, Texas. “I’ve seen some really, really great shows there growing up.” But it's not just Austin that loves these guys anymore.
The band has been on the road constantly since its debut, self-titled album was released in late 2010. Despite being named Austin’s best band at the 2011 Austin Music Awards, Bright Light Social Hour has played relatively few shows in town, but the Austin shows have been memorable — from wild shows at the Mohawk to playing for thousands at Auditorium Shores during SXSW.
Saturday’s show at Stubb's show is the 17th show on this tour, but the two-week stopover is not just family, laundry and breakfast tacos. The band plans be toiling in rehearsal, working through new material.
Constant touring has seen highs and lows, but the effort is finally paying off. “The hard work gets addictive,” O’Brien says. “First time we go to a place, it's quiet, but coming back now the second, third time, the crowds grow.”
Crowds nationwide are responding well to the Bright Light Social Hour sound. While the band was a bit nervous leading up to a gig at the historic Bowery Ballroom in New York City, the show sold out — on the band's first headlining gig in NYC.
And at a mid-September gig in San Diego, the crowd was more than wild. “One girl licked Curt’s [Guitarist Curtis Roush] guitar during a solo,” O’Brien laughs. “I woke up and had all my clothes on, but my underwear was missing. I think it was taken by the ocean.”
Bright Light Social Hour formed in 2004 when O’Brien responded to an email from guitarist Roush about starting a band at Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. Soon, they added keyboardist A.J. Vincent and drummer Joseph Mirasole, and by the end of 2005 they already had an Emo's gig under their belts.
It was the 2010 album that really kicked the band into high gear. Since the release, The Bright Light Social Hour has played in front of some huge audiences, opening for Aerosmith in Canada and playing to festival-sized crowds across the U.S. and Canada.
The live shows are unruly; and the fun, high-flying rock has a distinct '70s vibe, full of innuendo, heavy riffs and plenty of the funky stuff. Fans have been right there along the way, helping to fund the first album, and coming together when the band's gear and clothes were stolen in Canada.
Bands like them, too. While playing this summer at Wakarusa in Arkansas, Indiana jam titans Umphrey’s McGee — playing ACL Fest — invited Bright Light Social Hour out on tour, which is where the band is headed in October. Umphrey’s booking agent also picked them up as a client.
Spend some time watching the videos on the band’s website and you'll understand the appeal. The U.S. Rubdown, the band’s tour diary, is a hilarious and incredibly well made firsthand account of the on-the-road adventure — you can almost taste the PBR.
Despite the obvious fun that comes through in their songs, website and look (Austin's best mustache?), these guys are serious. The next 19 dates, including 10 opening for Umphrey’s McGee, are very strategic. “Most of the places where we’re playing with them we don’t have history there, so it will be really nice to be put in front of a great big audience being the new guys in town.”
Saturday’s show at Stubb's show is the 17th show on this tour, but the two-week stopover is not just family, laundry and breakfast tacos. The band plans to spend time at home toiling in rehearsal, working through new material. Bright Light Social Hour has been road-testing some new songs and plans to let a few new tunes fly for Saturday’s Austin crowd.
O’Brien reports they hope to be in the studio by the beginning of the year with an album sometime in 2013.
But for now, the band is psyched to be in the van pointed towards, Austin heading to its first headlining gig at Stubb's.