Maverick Music Festival Brings ‘Alternatives’ Home to San Antonio

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Variety and accessibility didn’t exist on today’s level when The Beatles played Ed Sullivan 50 years ago. In the age of variety, it is nearly impossible to pinpoint singular representations for an entire generation. To say one group of artists define our times is naïve, yet to think nothing can set one generation apart from another is also inaccurate.

The 2nd Annual Maverick Music Festival is obviously not San Antonio’s first music festival of its kind, but it is an event that reflects the music of 2014. This is the type of show that San Antonians would typically have to drive up to Austin to see, but next month San Antonio will have another opportunity to show it can support nationally-touring artists that aren’t Top 40 celebrities.

San Antonio is a diverse city, with many tastes and cultures, yet has had a reputation as a hard & heavy music town for years. In 1978, Sex Pistols played one of only seven shows in the United States at Randy’s Ballroom on Bandera Road. Legend says Ozzy Osbourne was banned from SA for supposedly urinating on the Alamo 32 years ago this February. The popular ’90s band, The Butthole Surfers, formed in San Antonio in the early ’80s. My first concert was White Zombie at the Sunken Gardens back in 1995.

In May, Spurs Sports and Entertainment (SS&E) along with AEG and 99.5 KISS are hosting the second installment of the Rivercity Rock Fest at the AT&T Center. This concert has “yesterday” written all over it: celebrity musicians like Kid Rock and major label rock stars like Deftones at a corporate-managed arena.

The Maverick Music Festival, however, will be held at a public owned space downtown and will host headliners that get zero commercial radio play yet have a wide enough fan base to pack venues across the country. I asked festival director Blayne Tucker if he was confident these bands would do well in San Antonio without a radio presence.

Bands perform at the Arneson Theatre in La Villita during Dia de los Muertos. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

Bands perform at the Arneson Theatre in La Villita during Dia de los Muertos. Photo by Iris Dimmick.

“We didn’t have any empirical data to go off of, but after traveling all over the country as Gary Clark Jr.’s tour manager, it’s obvious what music people respond to,” Tucker said.

The Maverick Music Fest takes place March 21-22 in downtown San Antonio at La Villita. This two-day music festival is headlined by quintessential 80s synthrockers the Psychedelic Furs (Pretty In Pink), Phantogram, Twin Shadow & the hip-hop duo Run the Jewels (El-P and Kller Mike). Three stages will not only see indie or electrorock bands, but also local and regional artists such as The Black Angels, Piñata Protest, Carlton Zeus, Juantanamos and more. The concert’s lineup reflects the current atmosphere in San Antonio, full of rising stars on a steady climb and no overnight or mid-afternoon sensations.

Win two tickets to this year’s Maverick Music Festival by commenting on this article with which artist you’re most looking forward to see at Maverick Music Festival. Winners will be selected next week and contacted via email/Facebook.

Indie, Chillwave, Nü Gaze

During the first decade of this millennia, several new sub-genres developed and matured partly due to music blogs and Internet exposure. One example of these new categories was something listeners and critics hesitantly have called ‘chillwave’. It’s a micro trend whose lo-fi & DIY aesthetic caught on like wildfire. MMF performer Ernest Greene’s project Washed Out was at the trend’s center. Other ‘chillwave’ artists like Toro y Moi, Memory Tapes and Air France also broke on the scene around the same time. Washed Out’s song “Feel it All Around” may be more recognizable as the opening theme song to the cable television program “Portlandia.”

Washed Out. Courtesy photo.

Washed Out. Courtesy photo.

Here we are a half decade later and Ernest Greene’s music has evolved beyond lo-fi exploits, yet his newer songs still maintain that spacey, ethereal feel of early bedroom productions. Washed Out performs before Friday’s main headliner, Phantogram.

Phantogram’s new album “Voices” is phenomenal. It explores more of the electro-rock shoegaze we expect from the duo out of upstate New York. Once again Sarah Barthel’s voice, while sounding youthful, has a sultry feel that soothes. The album is loaded front to back with solid, well developed songs and was produced by John Hill who is credited with producing the smash hit “LES Artistes” by Santigold as well as songs for M.I.A. like “Born Free.”

“Voices” features Phantogram’s versatility with Josh Carter singing a few songs that sound like they could have come straight out of a Sparklehorse/David Lynch collaboration. In songs like “Fall in Love” and “Howling At The Moon” soulful samples are mixed with hip-hop beats and become as infectious as a J Dilla record.

Phantogram. Courtesy photo.

Phantogram. Courtesy photo.

Watch out Houston, Here comes San Antonio hip-hop

The other headliners slated to perform at the Maverick Music Fest include heavy hitters in the ‘indie-music’ world like Twin Shadow, The Joy Formidable and YATCH, but the lineup also features hip-hop and R&B by Run The Jewels, SZA (pronounced Sizza) and local hip-hop artist Carlton Zeus.

Killer Mike and El-P are well established as individual artists but as a duo, Run the Jewels produced one of the most talked about rap albums in 2013. The two are expected to release a much anticipated follow up some time this year. Run the Jewels has never played in SA, so “it’s a huge score for SA hip-hop heads,” says local hip hop artist Ariel Faz.

As all boats rise in SA, so does San Antonio hip-hop. Beautiful Lou and Western Tink’s “Mobbin No Sobbin” was one of SPIN Magazines Top 40 hip-hop albums of 2013. Other San Antonio artists like Third Root, Milli Mars, and Chisme have been grabbing local headlines,  and Guuru Sagod recently won the Freshman pick on MTV U to have their locally produced video on regular rotation.

Earlier last month, Carlton Zeus released a video for his song “Alpha Child” and frankly, it’s quite impressive. With help from local producers and film crew, they created a music video that’s puro San Antonio. Carlton Zeus ”will be holding it down on Saturday in support of his new album” said Ariel Faz of Chisme. “He has a fun live show (that’s) definitely worth showing up early for.”

For two days La Villita will once again be transformed from a quaint historic enclave into a modern music concert event. Music venues that can handle an event on this scale are in short supply downtown. TrafficKing Events will once again have to build stages and have a sound system brought in, but this is an expense Tucker says is worth every dollar.

“Music is an aural experience, without good sound and production” you’ll get a subpar event, he said.

I’ve attended festivals here in San Antonio over the years such as Ozfest, Tattoo The Earth and Lollapalooza. These concerts were held in empty, desolate environments like an open field and a parking lot. La Villita is surrounded by character and history in the middle of our urban core, equipped with shade and transportation options. The Maverick Music Festival is a step up for our city’s arts and entertainment industry, and bringing music back downtown fuels the goal of everyday living in the city center.

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New Class of City Leaders March to a Different Beat

Music, Money and What Success Looks Like in 2013

41 thoughts on “Maverick Music Festival Brings ‘Alternatives’ Home to San Antonio

  1. I can’t choose. I want to see ALL of ’em!! When I was growing up I always complained about having to go to Austin to see all the good shows. Now that I am all growns up living in Austin, I might have to start complaining about driving to San Antonio to see all the good shows…thanks for an excellent write up and finally bringin the good sh*t to ma hometown!

  2. I’m so glad to see a music festival in downtown, with quality bands. Really exciting.

    I’m excited for all the newer bands, but to be honest, “Ghost in You” by the Psychedelic Furs still holds a permanent place in my music rotation. They put on a great show, too!

  3. Obviously, I am very excited about the Psychedelic Furs. I’m a sucker for nostalgia and I love, love , love ’80’s movies.

  4. Nice piece on the festival Miles. Looking forward to sets by The Black Angels (they’re always good live), Joy Formidable, Hydra Melody and Washed Out. Also curious about SA bands on bill I haven’t heard yet.

  5. super stoked for Carlton Zeus! I have yet to catch his show…but I’ve heard it’s a good one! this will be my 2nd year attending Maverick and I can’t wait =)

  6. Lets hope this fest and the line-up it’s touting is just the beginning of bringing San Antonio out of the dark ages in terms of music and events like this – the venue, the options of entertainment that will surround it and the atmosphere it will cultivate.

    • It also takes proper media coverage of significant events such as these. The folks at traditional media outlets here in SA are busy covering traditional news and their expertise in newer forms of music and art lack a relevant perspective.

  7. Psychedelic Furs! That would be awesome. That’s one band it won’t matter how old they are they are. They’re fantastic musicians and songwriters.

    Also Candlebox. So long as Peter Klett is still on guitar, they are guaranteed to rock.

  8. Phantogram has been one of my faves for a few years. I was excited to hear that they would be at SXSW this year. However, I decided last year that I probably would not attend SXSW in the future because it’s not as fun as it used to be. Too much merchandising and people around just for the free drinks and not a lot of people seem to care about the music. Seeing Phantogram and other great bands here in SA would be pretty awesome.

    • Thanks yall! There’s a ton of SA rap, hip-hop and R&B artists like Kree23 or Alyson Alonzo that deserve press for what they’re doing. Yall included. In the next few months, I’m looking at another essay on the topic. — Stay Tuned!

  9. As much as I know Psychedelic Furs are great musicians, they don’t really fit this mold IMO. They haven’t released an album since 1991 and fit the stereotype you mentioned about SA using aging bands to lead shows. I know they will put on a good performance and it won’t detract from the show, but honesty is the best policy and I think Matt and Blayne can respect constructive criticism.

    That aside, this festival is great for the city and now we just need a quality Electronic Music Festival that complements the ideals of this one – no “pop” B.S. (read as cookie – cutter EDM).

    • Thanks for your comments! In defense of the Psychedelic Furs, a common thread in a lot of current music and the accompanying imagery is very much influenced by the 80s. An electronic music fest of MMF scale would do well in SA. I’ve always felt San Antonio has had an authentic house/dj/urban culture and dance music is huge in the mainstream right now, ergo an electrofest should fit perfect.

      • What is the current situation with the EDM festival Mr. Lynd wants/wanted to put on? Similar to Chicago’s Wavefront Music Festival which he puts on.

        • Josh, I heard a bit about that from someone but never got any details. I think it’s a great idea, but I’m wary of corporate festivals coming in and bringing the same ol’ same ol’ that people get elsewhere. I think we need something the likes of Decibel, Movement and BPM here. If we had a PURELY electronic festival like that, the support SA would get from the valley, Austin, Houston and surrounding areas would be huge. Euphoria does very well, but the organizers opted out of the opportunity to do a quality underground house/techno lineup this year and went for a more traditional “EDM” lineup. Not knocking them for it, but they definitely went a safer more “commercial” route.

          I think SA can do better, it’s just about having the right people who have the finances and can see the vision.

  10. It’s a great lineup, with a little something to please everyone’s musical tastes, but I’m most excited to see Phantogram and being a child of the 80’s The Psychedelic Furs are a must see!

  11. I think my comment was sent but unfinished. Nonetheless, Run the Jewels and Candlebox, for me, should be the highlight of the festival. I’m glad we were able to snag a smart, hard hitting duo like Run the Jewels to perform in our city. All the local acts ,especially Piñata Protest , should be a treat as well.

  12. I’m French, here just for the semester, and I’m looking forward to see Black Angels, Twin Shadow and Washed Out sets, three very different bands/artists but it’s a great opportunity to see them in the same festival. And La Villita is such a nice place!

  13. Phantogram has to be my reason to see this show. But the best thing is discovering some of these other artists that I never knew I liked.

  14. Great article! I love that San Antonio is taking the chance to do something different by bringing these artists here. I think Phantogram would be fantastic to see, and it would also be great to be exposed to indie bands I’m not yet familiar with.

  15. Joy Formidable is who I am most excited about. But now Phantogram and Washed Out are close behind. I am curious about the Psych Furs but don’t really like the geriatric-rock thing although I liked them in their time. I am really hoping to discover a new favorite. Thanks to the organizers for bringing this together. I wish you success but not too much that it gets out of control, if you know what I mean.

  16. I attended last year’s festival. It was a great event & I was certainly looking forward to the next. I about fell out of my chair when I heard that Phantogram was included in this year’s lineup. It’s just not something we see in San Antonio. Looking forward to a fantastic evening here at home in SATX!

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