Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Little Brave, Daniel Thomas Phipps, Seela Misra

This past Sunday afternoon I rode my bike over to Strange Brew to check out a show that was billed as the Sunday Bedlam with Daniel Thomas Phipps, Little Brave, and guest.
I didn't really know anything Phipps or Little Brave (also apparently known as Stephanie Briggs) before heading over to Strange Brew, but my own band had been out of commission for a few weeks (the holidays wreaking havoc on our practice schedule), so I needed a music fix.  Also, I've noticed that the sound quality at Strange Brew, which tends to very good most of the time, anyway, is even better at early shows, when the audience seems to be a little smaller, quieter, and really focused on the music.
So... free show at Strange Brew.  Decent biking weather.  Unless the band turned out to be a troupe of amplified howler monkeys, I didn't see how this was likely to end up being a losing proposition.

And, in fact, the performance turned out to be really good.  Excellent, I would even say.  Little Brave and Daniel Thomas Phipps were the two Sunday regulars, and their guest was Seela Misra, who was also extremely good.  Jon Greene, Misra's husband, played drums.  My understanding is that Misra and Greene perform with the Purgatory Players at the Sunday Gospel Brunch at Strange Brew in addition to playing other gigs around town (Misra also mentioned the fact that she's played quite a bit with Matt the Electrician over the years).  Ali Holder, who apparently plays pretty regularly with Phipps, also joined Little Brave and Phipps on stage for a song.  The show had a sort of song swapping, singer-songwriter format, but Greene's subtle, nuanced, imaginative drumming lent a certain rhythmic undercurrent that added some spice to the folk style instrumentation .

The contrast between the three voices was interesting.  I really liked all three of them, but they sounded very different.  Phipps has a very rich, full, and slightly coarse sound.  Little Brave has a powerful voice that is clear, distinct, and emotive.  Seela Misra had a smokier, more soulful sound.  They each had songs with interesting lyrics.  They managed to evoke imagery and empathy without bogging down in cliche.

Little Brave played a ukulele the whole show.  She used it primarily as a rhythm instrument, but occasionally played riffs and short solos.  She got a surprisingly full sound out of it.  Even played a distorted solo on the uke at one point.  Phipps and Misra both did a solid job on guitar.  Phipps did some interesting work with finger rolls and arpeggios in addition to more straightforward strumming.

But the highlights were the songwriting and the singing.  The songs, although quite different in style and delivery, shared themes that involved personal struggles, interpersonal conflicts, and confusion about the state of the world.  The lyrics came off as sincere and honest, and the performances were engaging.

It was a really pleasant way to spend an hour and a half on a Sunday afternoon.  I'd definitely be happy to see any combination of those three performers, solo or as a group, sometime soon.

Afterward, I got on my bike and rode home to tell Amy all about it.  I must have sounded excited because she jumped on the internets to see who I was talking about, and in short order was telling me that she was sorry to have passed on my invitation to go to the show.

Next time...

Intro: A Sort of Mission Statement

So this is a blog that's meant to chronicle, in some small way, the Austin music scene.  I'm hoping not to focus so much on non-local acts that are coming through on tour, and I don't even really want to cover Austin-based musicians who already have thoroughly established themselves and created a substantial presence for themselves on the national music scene.  I'm hoping to make this a blog about local musicians who are from Austin and/or Central Texas or who are at least willing to claim this place as home.  I'm hoping to spend some time discussing Austin musicians who are talented, but not widely recognized yet (or at least not widely recognized outside of the Central Texas region). 
Austin hosts some major music events which bring musical artists flooding into our city from all over the country and the world (obviously, SXSW, ACL Fest, and Fun Fun Fun Fest are major players), but we also are home to a different music environment that many people, including some that local Austinites, are much less familiar with. 
There are interesting things happening in that less obvious, more hidden Austin music scene these days.  Some acts are better known than others.  There are extremely talented people struggling to make a little money by playing music.  There are people who have been playing for years, but who are really only well known amongst a small, devoted audience, and there are talented musicians who are just trying to get a career started.  There are people who are working day jobs and squeezing acts in between better known headliners at odd hours of the day.  There are musicians out there who are under appreciated, but VERY good at making music, and who keep playing and playing because they just love it more than anything and can't imagine living life without playing music.
I want this blog to chronicle some of those people.  I want this blog to celebrate the musicians who make this town great.  I'm not sure how well I can pull this off, but I'm going to give it a shot.  Maybe I can get better at this over time if I can keep plugging away at it as I figure things out.