I went to MWTX Saturday morning to hear an Austin band I adored, and left infatuated with a San Francisco group I never knew. A twist of fate you might say. For two years I’ve followed Austin lo-fi rockers Pure X, eagerly awaiting a performance in SF but never getting the chance. So you can be sure of it that I left early Saturday morning determined to make their performance.
Nick Waterhouse was the first billed. The Bay Area based blues rock and R&B singer is one of many members aboard the soul revival train led by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, Mayer Hawthorne, Charles Bradley, Lee Fields & The Expressions, among others. Of the lot, Hawthorne is the best comparison. Both are young white males (Waterhouse is about twenty-five) that don Buddy Holly images. But where Hawthorne’s falsetto voice and soft melodies reflect artists from Motown and Staxx, Waterhouse draws from the edgier tones of Ray Charles or Ben E. King.
Wearing high wasted jeans, a tucked in button down shirt, and sunglasses, Nick Waterhouse and his seven piece band including a saxophonist and three back up singers appeared out of place in the dark Texas warehouse. Tracks like “I Can Only Give You Everything” made this writer shimmy as the saxophone gnarled gruff notes between cool lyrics like “I can’t give you more than I got, you can’t expect to get what I have not.”
Pure X’s follow up performance was a startling contrast. Forced to sit center stage with a broken leg, Grace could not escape the crowd’s gaze. Wrought with emotion, screams, and expressions lead singer and guitarist Nate Grace is an open book on stage. Beginning with “You’re In It Now,” he plucked his ocean-sweeping guitar and slowly lost control as he slammed on the pedals, harder, harder, until they crashed onto the floor while screaming “You’re in it now!”
Through the set reverb washed over the crowd like hazy hangover mornings looming until each song concluded. Subdued lo-fi tones never spun into progressive or hardcore rhythms maintaining a “surf rock” cool. And underneath the melodies were Grace’s somber lyrics like “Don’t want to live, don’t want to die” peering into the thoughts of sleepless nights.
And with that, I got the final taste of Austin—the one I so eagerly awaited.