Big band music and old school swing is making its way back into the mainstream. Then again, did it ever really leave? With the explosion of artists across the board who are building up horn sections, classic stage antics and providing a wealth of backup singers, it is an exciting time for music. However, none quite do it so well as The Nightowls. The Austin artists brought their unique flavor of pure musical enjoyment to Pianos this past week and made sure to make every person there remember their flair. It was truly a blast from the past that was sorely needed!
With yet another cool night beckoning on all listeners of the night, Pianos was the place to be that evening. In fact, there was a movie or television show filming right outside the bustling streets upon the arrival for many. It was rather difficult to keep the poor production assistants happy as they had to constantly remind everyone walking the sidewalks to speak in their inside voices due to the filming. Many scoffed and chuckled that the film would not then have the authentic New York ambiance in it. While migrating through all of this, listeners entered the crowded and loud Pianos to trek on towards the back to the main stage. It was wise to snag a Heineken from the tiny bar before the audience began to push people away from aggravated thirst. While the space did slowly dissipate, it was still difficult to pass through the shoulder to shoulder mob. As if the night could get more unusual, a tiny man started walking through the audience attempting to sell cheap light-up toys to the adult fans. A few raised eyebrows and grins appeared, but no sales made it through. It is also worth noting that the space had a faint barbershop scent in the air which just added onto the strangeness of the night.
Finally, things got a bit more real when the band, Ryan Harkrider, Tara Williamson, Sara Stein, Ben Petree, Luke Scallan, Zol Waterhouse, Vince Wiley, Andrew McLemore, Vallejo Posada and Rob Alton began setting up on stage. Lovely Tara and Sara were already stealing the show as they situated themselves on stage in front of their microphones sporting some glittering gold tops. Meanwhile, the horn section were goofing around with each other as they set up, all wearing baseball caps and black attire. In fact, everyone was in black attire save for Tara and Sara. The now medium-sized crowd were just as lively as ever as they danced to the superb radio overplay which was rocking out Bill Wither’s Use Me. Ryan and the ladies made sure to take advantage of this as they used Bill’s lyrics for their soundcheck. That received some approved grins from the crowd. Everybody was pumped and ready.
Eventually the lights dimmed and it was time to begin. Immediately, the entire band came alive with loud beats and funk. In pairing, synchronized dance moves began full with clapping. Relying heavily on a horn introduction, it was immensely groovy. The start of this hour was all focussed on funky swing. Out of everyone on stage, Vince, Vallejo and Rob were completely mellow compared to their compatriots who were full of energy in the music. It was easy to see the performance art colliding brilliantly with the catchy music. All of the dances were nice and quick followed by Ben’s magical drum playing, which was also infused with his soulful vocals. The big band feel was captivating. The Nightowls were keen to keep an old school vibe with a modern look purely their own within their enthusiasm and spirit.
Throughout their set, the audience was easily grooving to the music as well as the antics on stage. With their impeccable choreography and horn section solos, made popular by Luke, Zol and Andrew, it was hard not to lose it in their music. Even the Grease dance made its way into their set with much enjoyment. Every song had perfect transitions into the next to make the most out of their one hour performance. The Nightowls were truly honoring the craft and made sure to expand from it as best they could. The horn section, who were talented musicians in their own right, were also hilarious comedians with their acting bits around the lyrics of the songs. Many had smiles plastered on their faces watching and listening. Musically, it was sublime and pure fun. Shared clapping ensued and the excitement grew ever onwards. With cheers and urging from the crowd, Ryan unleashed a encouraging dance and shared the experience with the fans as they took part in a collective dance filled with chants.
As their set came to a close, a rendition of James Brown’s Get Up (Sex Machine) was performed with many cheers from the space. Mr Brown’s tune was given a quick take and a blending of their unique swing-funk. As it grew, it turned into another new song complete with original dances and wonderment. Tara and Sara had their moments to shine as they sang in response to Ryan’s replies. They were powerful and full of graceful soul. A couple began dancing up front as the disco genre took hold. The wails of the guitar behind the ladies brought the rocky vibe back in for a bit. It was at this point when obvious friends of Tara and Sara started taking selfies with the ladies as they sang with amused faces.
To end, The Nightowls played their hit, Right Around The Corner, which ended with a collective bow from the band as the ladies, Ryan and the horn section wandered off stage in a cover of arms stretched over their heads from the fans. The rest of the band jammed on to a intense close that was too perfect all the way through. Just give them a listen below and cut loose.