Monday, December 14, 2009

Concert Review: Ola Podria at Mohawk

Dave Wingo of Ola Podrida (photo by Mary Rehak)

Friday night I found myself once again at Mohawk, one of my favorite Red River hangouts here in Austin. Headlining was Austin’s own Balmorhea, whom I heard on the local tastemaker radio station earlier in the day. As brilliant and symphonic as Balmorhea may be, the attraction for me was their label mate, Ola Podrida. I was actually looking forward to seeing both bands, as this bill sounded like something worth seeing live underneath the night sky at Mohawk’s outdoor stage.

Unfortunately due to the cold weather (cold for Austin anyway) and the chance of rain, Friday’s show had to be moved into the smaller indoor stage. The indoor stage isn’t the outdoor stage by any means, but at least it’s intimate and everyone was warm. It just tends to be too crowded indoors for a show that draws a crowd the size of Friday’s.

As I walked inside, Martin Crane of the Austin based indie band Brazos, was performing some solo stuff he’d written. It was just Crane and his electric guitar. I caught the last couple of songs from Crane and it was literally over in a flash. Shortly thereafter, Ola Podrida took the stage for the first time in Austin this year. Ola Podrida, which translates in Spanish as “rotten wave”, is fronted by Dave Wingo. Wingo is an Austin based singer-songwriter who has spent the last year receiving great critical acclaim for Ola Podrida’s latest album, Belly of The Lion.

As Ola Podrida got started, Wingo introduced new band mates Colin Swietek (guitar) and David McComb (bass). Wingo also introduced his drummer, who he told everyone was with him since the beginning, Matthew Frank. After a couple of sips of the Lone Star to his side, Wingo and company started playing songs from Belly of The Lion.

From the get go, the band had to deal with sound issues. Their faces showed them trying to play through it, but it was clear that it was bugging them. It wasn’t anything terrible, just an annoying little buzz coming through the speakers for all to hear in between songs. Once Ola Podrida started playing a song, the buzz was hardly noticeable. I only heard it because I was front and center to the stage.

As much as I like Ola Podrida's albums, it didn’t start translating live until they picked up the indie shoegaze. The first couple of songs were acoustic guitar driven and when the buzzing sound was at its worst. Come the third song, the electric guitar and the drums woke up with “Roomful of Sparrows”. Watching Colin Sweitek strum away at light speed and hearing Wingo turn up his internal vocal volume woke us all up.

Right after, Wingo put his guitar down and picked up the banjo to start playing “Donkey”. On “Donkey” Wingo had to start that over a couple of times as he pulled the cord out of his banjo only to create more of that darn buzzing noise. Having made a full recovery from the small hiccup, they went on to play “Donkey” and nailed it. That was a nice gift for me as it is my favorite slow song on Belly of The Lion.

The other highlight of the set for me was “This Old World”, also off Belly of The Lion. Wingo had his banjo again and the buzz almost wasn’t there. I think because their music is so good, there wasn’t anything that could have kept me from enjoying Ola Podrida’s set. There was just something about being there for their first live show that added something special to the evening.

(Review written for and published on Double All live photos by Mark Rehak).

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