The South by Southwest Music Festival kicks off in Austin next week. It's a great time to hang out with thousands of your closest friends, sleep little and get shut out of most of the shows you traveled there to see.
Austin, Texas, is a killer city with loads of great music, and going to South by Southwest may give you the opportunity to see many bands, most of which aren't from Austin.
That's fine. You don't have to travel far tonight and tomorrow to catch two Austin institutions right here in town. At 8 p.m. today at the Hank, The Gourds return, and at 7 p.m. Saturday, Grupo Fantasma makes its Durango debut at the Concert Hall.
The Gourds is a gaggle of multi-instrumentalists all adept at trading off instruments. Its quirky, loose sound has earned fans in Durango since it began playing at Storyville in 2001.
It put out a record a year since 1997 including this year's "Haymaker" and its shows are anything from a mix of Tex-Mex roots rock to full-on rock 'n' roll. The group plays loose improvised jams, loads of originals and throws in covers as obscure as Appalachian folk rock, doubling back to the random punk cover.
The members all have been schooled in classic rock, punk rock and American music in general, so look for the curveball they throw.
The band is Kevin Russell on guitar and vocals; Jimmy Smith on bass and vocals; Keith Langford on drums; Claude Bernard on keyboards, guitar and accordion; and Max Johnston on guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, lap steel and vocals.
Luckily the band is playing at the Hank, where the stage is big enough to house all the instruments and all the members' beer.
Saturday night's Austin band may not stray from genre to genre like the Gourds, but is quite capable of doing the Latino and funk thing. Grammy-nominated Grupo Fantasma formed in Austin in 2000 out of the remains of The Blue Noise Band and the Blimp.
The Austin Chronicle and The Village Voice have called it "the best band in Austin." It's touring behind its release "Sonidos Gold," which is as much as a Tito Puente-inspired Latin jazz album as it is a Maceo Parker funk record.
Grupo Fantasma is another band that needs some room, and the stage in the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College will give it to the band. This funk orchestra is made up of Beto Martinez on guitar, Adrian Quesada on guitar, Johnny Lopez on drums, Jose Galeano on percussion and vocals, Greg Gonzalez on bass, Mark Gonzalez on trombone, Josh Levy on saxophone, Gilbert Elorreaga on trumpet, Kino Rodriguez on vocals and percussion, and Matthew Holmes on congas.
Who needs South by Southwest?
Liggettb@fortlewis.edu Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and general manager of KDUR.