Monday night I was at Stubbs thanks to 101x, a local alternative rock radio station here in Austin. I won tickets to see Rilo Kiley last week by texting in. It was completely at random. I am not one of those people who are professional radio contest winners. I confess that I had never heard Rilo Kiley's music before last Sunday. I only knew the name because my sister listens to them. I really tried winning them for her as she bought me a ticket to Rancid last week. Luckily for both of us I guess, I won. I couldn't have been happier now that I went.
The concert couldn't have fallen on a better evening. Stubbs Outdoor Amphitheater is the best place in the world in my opinion to see a concert....as long as its a nice weather that is. Yeah it was humid and hot, but it was beautiful none the less.
The first thing I noticed once at Stubbs was the ratio for girl to guy was probably about 7 to 1. I have never been to a show like that before. Most of the shows I go to are a bunch of dudes ready to go crazy and get in the pit, at least lately that's been the case. The second observation was that everyone there seemed to shop at Urban Outfitters and/or American Apparel. I'm not sure how I missed that memo about the dress code requirement. Last observation, I was way taller than everyone and I'm only 6 ft.
Before I could really notice everything else, opening act Benji Hughes started. Ironically, he was the one act I was looking forward to. I heard of him in an interview with Josh Shepard on Rock y Roll Radio. Josh is the music director over at M.E. Television and was a guest on the show that week. Host Paul Saucido asked Josh about what artist or group he liked most from SXSW or something to that regard. Shepard answered "Benji Hughes". I mean, here is a guy who must see so much stuff come through M.E. and he said Hughes was the one who stood out. I remember Shepard describing Hughes as something between Andre 3000 and Willie Nelson. Anyway, that's how I heard of Benji Hughes. When I saw his name on the bill, I couldn't wait to check this guy out.
Hughes had a short set, but he totally won me over. I thought he was funky. Looking at him I thought that Rick Rubin had a brother I didn't know about. His look is that of a biker with a long ZZ Top beard, which didn't match his sound. Hughes had sort of a deep voice with a slight rasp. It is definitely distinguishable. No one out there sounds like him that comes to mind. He is worth looking up and listening to. I doubt he will go mainstream, but I can see him getting more popular as he tours with Rilo Kiley. If he came back around to Austin, I'd go and take some people with me. I'd like to see their faces when they see what he looks like and then hear what he actually sounds like. My favorite song he did was "You Stood Me Up" because he mentions my birthday and its indie rock funky.
Following Benji Hughes was Thao With the Get Down Staydown. Kind of a long but I dig the name. Thao With the Get Down Stay Down was a indie rock folk band, fronted by Thao Nguyen. Thao has a great voice, which combined with the music itself reminds me of Edie Brickell. Feist also comes to mind, but only when talking about the voice. She also showed personality. I loved it when she told the crowd Austin was better than Dallas. She was also proud of her new dress she bought for the Austin show. The girls clapped for that, but I didn't care. I guess that's a gender difference. I just wanted to hear the music.
Now I love folk as much as the next guy, but I do have to be in the mood for it. The only folk artist I can ever be amped about anytime is Annie DeFranco. Monday night, I was just not feeling it. I wanted something louder and with heavier guitar. Thao's guitar was acoustic. The other guitar player was a bassist. Now understand I am not bashing Thao, but I could only listen to their music while chillin' at home late night relaxing. That's not a bad thing. I just don't think I was really the target for this genre. Kudos anyway Thao With the Get Down Stay Down.
Now comes the part about headliner, Rilo Kiley. I wanted to see what the buzz about them was all about. All I knew of them was what I sort of read in Spin magazine a while back. Spin said they were the next Fleetwood Mac. Despite knowing that, I had zero expectations before tonight and was just glad to be there. At that point, Stubbs was finally packed and crowded.
As they came out, a loud surge of screaming girls erupted. Beach balls also started floating or bouncing around here and there. It was also dark outside so the scene was officially set.
The whole make up of the band was very Fleetwood. The main singer, Jenny Lewis, was totally everyone in the audience's girl crush. I could totally see why. She is the beautiful indie girl next door who told me "no" every time I asked her out in high school. She is the indie poster girl of the current young generation. I think she looked like Kirsten Dunst a little bit, but a little prettier.
Even now I'm distracted by the aura that is Jenny Lewis. Getting back to the concert.....Rilo Kiley was exceptional. Jenny Lewis has a voice that really conveys the emotion of the songs she sings. I love that in singer. That is how it is supposed to be done. She was not the only singer. Guitarist Blake Sennett also took lead vocals on a couple of songs, hence completing the Fleetwood reference I remember from Spin. He was good, but Jenny Lewis is what gives the band its signature sound and over all vibe. There were several songs I liked, but since this night was my first Rilo Kiley experience, I couldn't tell you the names of all of them. After asking my sister and another girl next to me, I figured out my two favorite songs were "Silver Lining" and "Portions for Foxes". I dig the guitar on both of those and course the voice of Jenny Lewis. Kudos Jenny.
Since I didn't pay for the tickets, I feel obligated to pick up Rilo Kiley CDs next time I hit up Waterloo. I mean, I usually don't buy anything but vinyl when it comes to buying music. The only CDs I pay for are usually from local Austin artists I catch at a show. However, Rilo Kiley was just so good that I feel I owe it to them to show my appreciation for such a great concert. Check out a clip for yourself:
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