In the late fall we are told to turn our minds to the things for which we are grateful. For me over the last couple of years this thanks has been focused on the development of the fall music scene here. Several fortuitous events have occurred over the past three years that have set us up for a massive influx of musical talent through the October and November months.
Of course, this span is anchored by The Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. Over the past fifteen years the various forms of the festival have attracted national artists and highlighted local acts. This year was no different. For me the highlights of the festival were mostly on Friday. Sturgill Simpson opened the day with an absolutely fantastic set of postmodern country music. It was my first time seeing Simpson and I was impressed by how effortlessly his band produces the complexity of sound that has become his hallmark. Local favorites and rising star Royal Teeth opened the Ritual stage just a bit later. Their high energy pop sound combined with the perfect weather and the glee of Halloween to set the tone not just for the day but for the rest of the festival. Finally, Action Bronson delivered one of his characteristically over the top performances to a small but clearly devoted group of fans at the Carnival stage. As a former gourmet chef, Bronson feels right at home in New Orleans and did an excellent episode of his food show here as well. As usual with Voodoo there is always too much to cover but the great moment sear themselves into your memory.
In addition to Voodoo, a new festival has begun to make waves in November. The Hosting Improvising Performers Festival (HIP Fest) celebrated its second year this month. The festival, which is hosted at Blue Nile over two evenings, coalesced around a series of collaborations between international improvisational musicians and the New Orleans improvised music community. These collaborative efforts reached a watershed in 2011 when Italian drummer, Marcello Bennetti, moved to town. This year the festival hosted visiting musicians: William Parker, Rob Mazurek and Gianluca Petrella as well as a host local stalwarts led by Jeff Albert. The format this year saw the musicians alternating through small group performances with larger and longer ensemble performances toward the end of the evenings. The music was at times beautifully complex and other times hauntingly simple. At one point Gianluca Petrella stripped his trombone down to the slide at another Rob Mazurek abandoned his cornet for a muted vocal performance. This festival is driven by these moments of spontaneity and the joy they create in both the performers and the audience. Don’t miss next year’s installment.
Finally, last year’s expansion of the Austin City Limits Music Festival into two weekends has left many of the bands performing both weekends of the festival with some downtime during the week in between. This year many of those bands chose to fill that time with a quick trip over to New Orleans. This year in late September and early October we saw performances by Beck, Chromeo, St. Vincent, Fitz and the Tantrums, Jenny Lewis, Real Estate and Polica, All of these bands took the time for a side trip here around their Austin commitments.
On the whole fall is becoming a true rival to the concentration of talent that we see in the spring around Jazzfest. Hopefully this trend will continue to flourish as these new patterns become more established.