Austin has more than established itself as a creative hub for bands both new and established. Gary Clark Jr, Shakey Graves, Ephraim Owens and Midland are just a few that call the Live Music Capital home.
Providing further support and visibility to the flourishing music scene in Austin is non-profit Black Fret. Established in January 2013, Black Fret nominates and provides grants to Austin musicians through membership votes.
Now in its fourth year, Black Fret just awarded grants to its 2017 nominees at its Black Fret Ball. The festivities were held at the Paramount Theater where the 2017 class of nominees all performed. $18,000 grants were given to ten nominees: Jackie Venson, Warren Hood, Sarah Sharp, Carolyn Wonderland, Bright Light Social Hour, Whiskey Shivers, Eric Tessmer, the Deer, Mobley and Leopold & His Fiction.
$5,500 grants were awarded to the remain ten nominees: Akina Adderley, Cowboy Diplomacy, Croy & the Boys, Daniel Eyes, David Ramirez, Greyhounds, Jane Ellen Bryant, Kinky Machine and Los Coast. The remaining nominee, Black Pistol Fire, chose to remove themselves from consideration on account of having a great year, and asked Black Fret to allocate their grant funds for distribution among the other minor grant recipients.
Culture Collide is no stranger to the Austin music scene, through hosting annual events during SXSW and the Collide ATX outpost featuring local bands and DJs. The list below features a number of acts we’ve heard or seen or have on our radar – and they should be on yours too. A lot of bands are already finding national and international success in their own right (most notably Whiskey Shivers who appear in the latest Pitch Perfect 3).
With that said, here are 20 Austin Bands To Watch in 2018:
Soulful singer Akina Adderley comes from a legacy of singers. Her father, Nat Adderley, Jr. was jazz pianist and former bandleader for Luther Vandross and her grandfather and granduncle were renowned jazz musicians Nat Adderley and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. Using this as inspiration she creates a sound and style completely her own, crossing jazz, rock, or sweet soul music.
Black Pistol Fire
Black Pistol Fire deliver high-octane rock that draws on blues and R&B. Their electrifying live performances have garnered them slots at Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Bonnaroo, Sasquatch Music Festival, Shaky Knees, Governor’s Ball and more.
The Bright Light Social Hour
Melodic, psychedelic rock, Bright Light Social Hour released their debut full-length album in 2011 and received six awards including Band of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year at the 2011 Austin Music Awards. They’ve also played Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, and opened for Aerosmith at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City. They released their second full-length album, Space Is Still The Place in 2015.
Acclaimed American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist Carolyn Wonderland has mastered the art of singing with soul and wit. Over her decades long career she’s collaborated with countless artists, and performed on Austin City Limits Live with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings.
This southern rock four-piece led by frontman Ian Cochran, have garnered a quick following in a small amount of time thanks to Ian’s signature growling vocals, their soulful bluesy sound and skilled songwriting. Cowboy Diplomacy was voted Best Band in Austin Monthly’s Best of ATX 2017 issue, were runners up for Best New Austin Band at the Austin Chronicle’s 2017 Austin Music Awards, and have opened for A Thousand Horses.
Croy and the Boys
Rooted in country, Croy and the Boys make quirky and delightful southern rock tunes about their life experiences. They invite listeners to join them on their journey. The band was an official 2016 SXSW showcasing artist, and have played the iconic Pappy + Harriet’s.
Singer/songwriter Daniel Eyes stands out for his fresh musical approach that references classic rock, as heard on his band, Daniel Eyes & the Vibes, debut EP, Sweet Dreaming, released in January 2016. The Austin Chronicle hailed them as having “swagger bigger than the stage, unloading slacker punk energy with tunes that bounce between eighties Dire Straits and Police, and the rawer garage guitar of Kurt Vile.” During SXSW 2016 the band was voted #2 Best New Austin Band and #3 Best Performing Rock Band in the Austin Chronicle Music Awards.
Winning hearts over with his honest songwriting and moving vocals, David Ramirez just released his latest work of beauty, 2017’s We’re Not Going Anywhere. Compassionate and political, the album was inspired by the current climate and news cycle, and standing up against hatred and discrimination. It’s equally soothing and invigorating, and a must listen.
Monster of a guitarist and singer/songwriter Eric Tessmer, consistently mesmerizes audiences with his live performances that put his vigorous and precise guitar playing front and center. Tessmer has captivated crowds at festivals such as Montreal Jazz Fest, Summerfest, and MusikFest and has shared the stage with Dick Dale, Gary Clark Jr. and more.
This funky duo is comprised of guitarist Andrew Trube and keyboardist Anthony Farrell. Together the pair create a sound all their own that’s been described as ” Hall & Oats meets ZZ Top.” The Greyhounds have three albums out on Memphis’s Ardent Records and are currently working on a new full-length record for 2018.
This soulful singer can go to town on a guitar in a split second. Jackie Venson’s raw, gritty and vibrant sound, blends blues, rock and R&B with thoughtful lyrics that leave an impression. Her third studio release, the Transcends EP is out now.
Jane Ellen Bryant
Singer/Songwriter and guitarist Jane Ellen Bryant writes candid songs that everyone can relate to, delivered with panache and an impressive vocal range. 2017 proved to be her biggest yet. In February, Bryant released her smash, pop single, “All in My Head.” In March, she was an official SXSW showcasing artist, playing the Pandora SXSW stage, and she won “Best New Band” and “Best Female Vocalist” at the Austin Music Awards 2017.
Postmodern garage rockers Kinky Machine take the DIY scene to new heights with their hard-hitting anthems. They been featured on the Good Music Club, a concert series curated by KUTX’s Laurie Gallardo.
Leopold and his Fiction
Leopold and His Fiction have crafted a singular sound that marries garage punk with Motown pop/R&B influences. The band released their fourth full-length, Darling Destroyer, earlier this year. The album embodies an urgent yet soulful sound: “The songs were telling me, ‘This is what you’re made of, so trust it’” says frontman Daniel Leopold.
Los Coast features singer Trey Privott and keyboard and guitarist John Courtney, and is completed by Megan Hartman on bass, Damien Llanes on drumkit, and Nat Wright on keys. As a unit, Los Coast creates punchy, psych-tinged songs. The band is slated to release their debut album in 2018 via New West Records.
One-man show Mobley writes, produces and performs all his music, including every instrument. His live show consists of the artist moving from keys and synth pads, to the drums, to guitar and back again. He remains his cool throughout it all, never once breaking a sweat or his concentration. Chances are you’ve heard Mobley’s voice. He’s composed dozens of pieces for stage and television (with placements on HBO, ESPN, Fox, and NBC), shared stages with Phantogram, JUNGLE, Mutemath, Robert Delong, & Wavves and played ACL, SXSW, CMJ, and more.
Jazz singer and songwriter Sarah Sharp has an international reputation, thanks to her soulful singing and lyrics. She was awarded Best Female Vocalist, Producer, Songwriter, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Band of the Year, andBest Jazz Band at the 2014 Austin Music Awards and was featured on NPR’s Song Travels with Michael Feinstein. Her songs have been featured in campaigns for Chanel, Dell, “The Good Wife” and more.
Described as transcendental Texas folk and stargaze surf-western, The Deer creates psychotropic soundscapes and tranquil, vivid dream-pop. The Deer have played Kerrville Folk Festival, Old Settler’s Music Festival, Utopiafest, and Oregon Country Fair. They released their sophomore full-length Tempest & Rapture in 2016.
Musician, composer and singer Warren Hood, got his start at age eleven when he first picked up the fiddle. He’s since added violin and mandolin to his roster. He earned a rare scholarship to Berklee College of Music where he majored in Violin Performance, and played with Steven Tyler, and earned the coveted String Achievement Award.
If you encounter a barefoot bluegrass band, chances are it’s Whiskey Shivers. These guys are all about having a good time and their positivity is infectious, as is their effervescent folk-rock. Bobby Fitzgerald leads the way with his gleeful fiddle playing and singing. Their forth full length, Some Part of Something is out now. Look for the band on the big screen in Pitch Perfect 3.