Xetas, Borzoi, and Exhalants Live @ Beerland
Friday, December 22 in Austin, TX
By Andy Lowe
Austin is a growing city that continually pushes out quality acts and keeps its music venues alive and unsterilized. While Seattle has a great music scene, many venues have shut down or changed for the worst since I started playing the Seattle circuit. For the past 8 or 9 years I’ve been playing in two Seattle-based bands, Devilwood and The Mighty Dreadful, so I was excited to visit Austin, a city that Seattle aims to rival for America’s “City of Music,” I obviously caught tons of shows, and thankfully I had PT Stinson of #SXSWSixPack fame to help guide my live music choices on Monday, when much of the city takes a breather, towards storied punk rock and SXSW mainstay Beerland. (#ProTip for Austin music: Unless you are catching a big show at the Paramount Theater on Congress St. you can skip downtown.) The name might sound like a bar in Anyville, USA, but thank the gods that was not the case.
Beerland is the a bare wood beamed venue with a small L-shaped bar that has two or three taps, and bottom shelf spirits you’d expect in a basement bar. It reminds me a bit of the old 2-Bit Saloon or the Central Saloon before it got a facelift to serve the new tech clientele.
On this night, I was able to catch three killer local bands, Xetas, Borzoi, and Exhalants as part of 12XU Radio’s XXXMas Holiday Spectacular, two of which Paul has written about before.
Kicking off the night after a strange Link Wray on speed type opening act (didn’t catch the name unfortunately,) Exhalants took the stage and quickly reminded me why I should listen to more brash punk music, and the new crop – not the venerated punk of yesteryear. While you can’t understand the vocals, you can understand the urgency and abandon with which they are delivered. Vocals and thrashy guitar are exhaled over heavy bass-lines and solid drumming which have a bit more groove than your typical punk rhythm section. I do want to stress that punk is a catchall label, that doesn’t express how much variety is contained within the genre. But with the amount of energy this group puts out it I also wouldn’t call it easy listening. The group released its first recording “democore” this year and you should check it out.
Anytime the drums are set at the front of the stage you know the band is going to be interesting. And holy shit did Bozoi deliver with high-energy tempo-changing powerhouse of psychedelic rock. Each song clocked in at about 3-5 minutes but had enough tempo changes to make prog rock dinosaurs itch in their graves. The arrangements were not the typical verse/chorus/verse/bridge/chorus deal, the songs never felt conceded or heady. The musicianship just added to the excitement.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay for the full set, getting a shitty head cold and food poisoning on the trip drained most of my energy. But, I did catch the first three or so songs. Screaming guitars and split female/male vocals make Xetas an interesting band as well. Admittedly, they were not my favorite band of the night –but the energy they bring to the stage is something I intend to bring with me to my own shows in the near future.
Austin’s music scene is where Seattle’s was ten years ago. There are a large number of clubs supporting groups that don’t already have an established core audience. But more importantly, people seem to get out there and go see shows for bands they don’t know. Hopefully that is something Seattle can borrow even more of from it’s city sister.