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Live music review: Night Beats return to Austin for mind blowing Soundselect gig

Night Beats
Night Beats
Night Beats via Facebook

Night Beats at Red Bull Soundselect performance

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This past Saturday at Hotel Vegas, Seattle trio Night Beats packed Red Bull's Sound Select show. The group plays an amalgam of psych, blues and garage rock that has attracted a legion of fans since they performed at Austin Psych Festival in 2013. Red Bull's monthly event is hosted at various Austin live music venues and typically features a stellar local lineup. The undercard had two Austin bands on it, Sea Lion and Mirror Travel. Headliner, Night Beats was the sole out of town act. The Red Bull Sound Select program periodically books a local show with bands from their multi-city roster with the help of industry curators. Transmission Events assisted in putting together the most recent lineup.

Night Beats Red Bull Soundselect show poster
Red Bull Soundselect

There has been a proliferation of neo-psych rock bands popping up in the last ten years, most notably, Austin's The Black Angels. The Angels are responsible for creating Austin Psych Festival where Nights Beats gained notoriety in Central Texas for their scintillating live performances. Among the plethora of fantastic psych rock acts, they stood out enough to get prestigious bookings such as their one-off opening slot for Jack White on their current tour.

The first inkling for fans that a Night Beats set could turn out to be something more than just another psych rock show are the strange, pornographic samples the band cued up at the start. As the recording becomes stranger and stranger Night Beats launch into the first song and the narration fades behind a wall of distortion, fuzz and a surprisingly upbeat tempo from the rhythm section.

Lead vocalist and guitar wizard, Lee Blackwell has a curious singing style. With an intense gaze Blackwell crowds up on the microphone and shakes his head stiffly making those watching wonder if he might have a siezure in front of them. Then he calmly backs away and plays melt-your-face-off solos that leave the audience gasping. Blackwell also has some curious facial features; high forehead, mutton-chop sideburns, full lips and a weird, vacant stare. In other words, he is a mezmerizing performer.

The remaining two-thirds of Night Beats live up to the high standard set by Blackwell. Drummer, James Traeger was electric behind the kit, keeping time while filling in with thrilling riffs. Tarek Wegner held down a consistent, throbbing bass line and occationally worked the vox. Wegner has a penchant for show theatrics. The bassist produced a giant roll of crepe paper ribbon, wound the end of it around his own neck several times and flung it into the crowd. In minutes the paper was draped all over the Hotel Vegas back patio, flapping in the light breeze blowing as Night Beats soldiered on.

We grabbed 15 seconds of Instagram video of the band after the yard was covered with crepe paper. While the clip is not concert film quality material, it will give you a good idea of what you missed at the show last Saturday.

The band calls their music experimental blues and perhaps that might be an apt explanation except that the phrase seems somehow too short to decribe the depth of feeling and rock wizardry the band puts forth. Night Beats sound is both familiar enough and unique enough to clearly separate them from similarly positioned acts. All we know is we will be there next time the group graces Austin with their presence.

Currently the band is in Australia where psych rock is also experiencing a resurgence behind the the lead of Aussie groups, Tame Impala and Blank Realm. Listen to Night Beats song, "Outta Mind" from their recent, Sonic Bloom album joint released by the Reverberation Appreciation Society and Burger Records.

UPDATE: Set list as submitted by Night Beats. The band indicated the song order may be off a bit but it includes songs performed at Hotel Vegas.

  • Love aint strange (everything else is)
  • Right/Wrong
  • As you want
  • Rat King
  • Outta Mind
  • Barrel of the Gun
  • Dewaynes Drone,
  • Useless Game
  • New World(new song)
  • Puppet on a string

Special thanks to Mandy Reyes.