Austin is a dynamic city that often ebbs away from the mainstream and blasé social constructs that most American cities face. The same could be said about both the music and gay/lesbian scene in this little liberal island in the heart of Texas. I often find it offensive to label music as being aimed strictly at the lesbian audience or one targeted at the gay male. Do all gay men want to gyrate to pulsating beats surrounded by lights and other, sweaty men? Even though that is quite an excellent way to burn calories, there seems to be a bleed of sexuality stereotypes leaking into our music choices. I would be quite content sitting in the grass unashamedly singing along to my personal favorite modern musician, Brandi Carlile, or any other fabulous singer-songwriter-lesbian folk artist. Why should our Austin-anything-goes attitude be different when it comes to music? Below are five bands performing at SXSW that are queer themselves or are gay friendly. You should be listening to these amazing acts. Seriously. Let’s freak out the socially conservative music fans by putting down our Madonna-signed glow sticks, which I would kill for by the way, and show them we have the same music taste as they do. Well, not exactly the same…we’ll always be just a little bit hipper.
The moment you hear the first clink of Quiet Company’s piano, you will fall completely head-over- heels in love with this local band. You can easily catch this band playing at various Austin hotspots where they will draw you in with their seductive blend of melodic pianos and guitars, all mixed with complex vocal layering. Listening to their catchy musical escapades, it’s hard not to imagine them hitting the national scene with jaw-dropping success.
Hip, sensitive, and with an all-around genuine love of music, Quiet Company is one act not to miss.
They may be classified as neo- folk, but Grizzly Bear will be the first to prove that their in-depth and musical spiritual wisdom far beyond their years. The openly gay lead singer jokes that the only publications to point out their queer tendencies are LGBT publications. That’s because their non-stereotypical style is the perfect soundtrack for a trek through the woods or the opening of a good bottle of wine with that special someone in your life. Don’t underestimate their psychedelic, earthy sound, as Grizzly Bear is guaranteed to shake your soul to the core.
You can easily picture Tom Brosseau spending countless hours at his university’s local coffee shop unashamedly strumming his guitar and writing catchy ditties that students in earshot got stuck in their heads. Little did his audience know that his earthy voice would be the vessel for some of the best folk music this side of the 21st Century. No stranger to SXSW, Brosseau will not jump out as the most rocking and crazy show at the festival, but he might be the musical elixir to heal our soul amid today’s over-produced music landscape.
Ra Ra Riot
There really is nothing quite like a cello. Whether it is being crooned by Yo Yo Ma or integrated into a great band like Ra Ra Riot, the beauty this instrument adds to an ensemble is divine. The band’s use of a cello is only one sensational part of their recipe for constructing complex and melodic ecstasy. On the standout “Ghost Under Rocks,” Ra Ra Riot croons that “with every little thing you own is looking back at you, it starts to mean less than it ever did.” Both the musical and emotional maturity of this band from New York illustrate the clear path of maturity and genuine explosions of creativity that the future holds for up and coming bands today.
Eugene Francis Jnr
Eugene Francis Jnr. has a tendency to don a Native American headdress, carry Captain America’s shield and have his labrador be the mascot that ultimately saves the day. Yes, it’s quite a bizarre picture to paint, but his music is just as elaborate in its layers and complex in its moods as the imagery he produces. His strangely positive and upbeat lyrics are accentuated by the melding of numerous instruments and heavenly sounds to produce plenty of songs that we can get our groove on to.
Also check out: Paper Lions, Crazy P, The Little Ones, Airborne Toxic Event, Peter Bjorn and John, The Dappled Cities Fly and the absolutely incredible The Decemberists. (Make sure to flip over for my L Style picks!)