Traditional American rock and country music is alive and well, borne along by a healthy stream of bands coming out of the southern part of the country. The headliners at Brighton Music Hall on Sunday, The Wild Feathers, had two fellow Austin bands in tow, Jamestown Revival and The Saints of Valory. Each brought a distinct facet of the Austin sound to the stage.
Jamestown Revival, built around longtime friends Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, was the first act of the night. The band recently played on Conan O’Brien, and received a warm welcome from the Brighton crowd. Their harmonic twang was intimate and heartfelt, and did not feel contrived at all. Jamestown Revival ended with their song “California,” which sounds every bit as good live as it does on the recording.
Of the three bands, the second act, Saints of Valory, was the odd one out. Their praise-music earnestness was in stark contrast to the melodic Americana of Jamestown Revival and The Wild Feathers (they even have a Christmas song under their belts despite not having put out a full album yet). Singer Gavin Jasper’s earnest bombast evokes nothing so much as a lite version of Imagine Dragons, and the songs have the same read-for-the-arena polish.
Nonetheless, the Saints of Valory showed genuine creative chops with their insertion of marching band percussion into songs (with all four members banging on drums). Their cover of Lorde’s “Royals” captured the harmonies of the original impressively, although their decision to tack on a guitar solo onto the end didn’t totally work: it petered out into a long moment of silence before the applause began.
Infinitely less alternative than Saints of Valory, and more rock ‘n’ roll than Jamestown Revival, the five members of The Wild Feathers strolled onstage to a torrent of applause. They held the stage with hardworking swagger, hats at jaunty angles and accents just twangy enough to confirm that they hail from that part of America where good ol’ rock n’ roll still flourishes.
From the first bars of their opening number, The Wild Feathers’ most immediately striking feature was the depth of their vocal lineup. Perhaps the Beatles have become such a standard in rock music that it’s easy to forget that having three lead singers is very rare indeed, even in the harmony-rich alcoves of country rock. Ricky Young, Joel King and Taylor Burns traded lead duties regularly, but many of the best moments came when they interwove lead lines and layered their voices on top of one another.
And man, those brilliantly earthy harmonies. Without the polished mixing present on the Wild Feathers’ LP, the distinctiveness of each singer’s voice shone through brilliantly. Although their debut album came out the past year, it quickly became clear that the Wild Feathers have amassed a significant enough fan base to pass a basic metric of popularity: The crowd was enthusiastically singing along to the choruses. Given that many of the lyrics are the likes of “It’s okay, baaaaby,” perhaps memorization isn’t so remarkable. Songs like these aren’t meant to stand up to analysis, but with dual chugging electric guitars (Young’s acoustic was an insubstantial third wheel) and incessantly catchy harmonies, that hardly detracted from the enjoyment: It was a top-notch performance of well-written rock songs, and the crowd expected nothing more or less.
At the end of the night, as members of all three bands crowded onstage for an impeccably harmonized rendition of The Band’s “The Weight,” a line from The Wild Feathers’ Facebook biography describes the sentiment in Brighton Music Hall: “Long before it got broken up into a million sub-genres, rock & roll was just rock & roll. Pure, true, organic.” Looks like Austin’s leading the charge of this particular revival.
- All three bands maintained a warm rapport with the audience
- The Wild Feathers' three lead singers laced together strong harmonies
- Jamestown Revival played a sunny and intimate set of their folk-inflected country
- Although well intentioned, The Saints of Valory's earnestness often came off as cloying and unconvincing