Every year, Austinites start the New Year off right by indulging in the live music event known as “Free Week.” Several local clubs including Holy Mountain, Red 7, The Mohawk, and Hotel Vegas participate in this event, waiving their normal cover charge and giving music fans a chance to hear their favorite bands and discover some new ones. This year’s Free Week included performances from favorites like Ruby Jane, Not in the Face, My Jerusalem, Phranchyze, and Ringo Deathstarr, as well as some newer, fresh faces on the Austin music scene. Two of the standout bands from this week both played at Holy Mountain, and despite their completely disparate sound, they were equally remarkable.
My Empty Phantom is a one-man band fronted by Jesse Beaman, a multi-talented musician who is equally gifted on guitar, piano, and drums. His performance is more of a total experience than a traditional live show. Beaman has shared the stage with such renowned acts as White Denim and This Will Destroy You, and his confidence as an onstage presence is fascinating as he moves from crafting a lilting, classical piano intro to playing a mighty drum set. With haunting images of clouds, sunsets, and birds moving on a screen in the background, the My Empty Phantom show was cinematic, combining live music with an almost theatrical experience. The show at Holy Mountain was Beaman’s first in Austin after completing a year-long tour of Europe and Mexico City, and it was truly stunning.
Megafauna, a three-piece band who describes their music as “the thinking woman’s hard rock,” is one of the latest bands in our city to shake up the Austin rock scene, and one of the best. Fronted by lead singer Dani Neff, who plays a mean lead guitar, Megafauna exudes a muscular sexuality to their music that is reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, Garbage, and sometimes Portishead. Neff’s voice has an incredible range that is most apparent on songs like “This Town” and “Love Project.” Backed by bassist Greg Yancey, who plays so fast and so hard that he had to shake his hands between songs, and Zack Humphrey on drums, this trio plays no apologies, in your face music that also manages to be smart. It’s refreshing to see a band with such brawn and talent in one package.
My Empty Phantom and Megafauna display what’s so unique and compelling about the Austin music scene. Both bands will be playing upcoming shows in Austin soon. Check out their websites for more dates in the Winter and Spring.