Black Fret flooded the banks of Onion Creek Saturday evening pouring muddy, rock-filled blues from the historic home of Austin’s Music and Entertainment Manager, Don Pitts. Iconic Shady Grove was on hand serving partygoers Tex-Mex pork and chicken tacos while Ben E. Keith kept the Alaskan Whites, Moscow Mules and Merlots flowing from the bar.
Teenage blues phenoms and 2016 Black Fret nominees, The Peterson Brothers, set the party off and got the crowd rocking early with ‘Don’t You Lie to Me.’ The Bastrop boys, Glenn (Guitar & Lead Vocals) and Alex (Bass) Peterson, have an infectious on-stage chemistry and infuse the blues with a lively, outgoing energy that shoots through the crowd. “They deliver more smiles per measure than any band in Austin” as they sway back-and-forth in unison, play to the crowd and even hop off stage to play through the crowd. The brothers paused a 30 second freeze-frame before soloing right into crowd favorite, ‘I Gotta Go’ then delivered a bluesy, central Texas version of The Spinners’ classic, ‘I’ll Be Around’. Alex Peterson cooled the crowd of the late July heat with a chilling, fiddled rendition of ‘Amazing Grace.’ The Peterson Brothers’ set was so captivating even the residents of Onion Creek took to the skies with a couple of ‘V’ formation flyovers to capture a birds-eye of these funky blues brothers.
Black Fret cofounders, Matt Ott and Colin Kendrick filled the break between sets with interesting news and updates regarding the organization and its artists. In Ott’s words, “I’m really good at killing time up here” However, when it comes to Black Fret, that statement couldn’t be any further from the truth. Over the past two years the organization has raised more than $280,000 and helped local musicians schedule 198 national tour dates. Black Fret artists have also contributed to 44 fundraisers for other local organizations and charities. Oddly enough, the next musician that took the stage was not a Black Fret grant nominee…not yet at least.
A breeze finally blew through the blanketing humidity when Austin’s own guitar prodigy, Eric Tessmer, unleashed a cyclone of lightning fast riffs from his personalized “Tessmer” Fender. The vibrant blues-rocker electrified the crowd with an intense, solo-filled performance packed with several new tracks from his upcoming EP; check out the release party, Friday 7/29 at Antone’s. Tessmer opened his set with howling vocals on ‘See You Tonight’ and nearly caused the amps to short-circuit with a wicked solo midway through blues-groovy ‘Ms. Fortune Teller’. He plucked flute-like squeals from his Stratocaster and laid down powerful, string yanking licks reminiscent of…dare I say…Stevie. Tessmer paid homage to another guitar legend with a sweet cover of Jimi’s ‘Are You Experienced’ and closed the set with a brand new track and a rapid-fire drum solo.
“The depth of talent in this town is amazing,” proclaimed Ott. And after witnessing Tessmer’s high-octane performance, this assertion, I believe, is an understatement made even more evident when TMI favorite, Jane Ellen Bryant closed the evening with a 3-song set that included hot new single ‘Twenties.’ Bryant is a rare singer whose vocal capacity, somehow, someway, stretches further during her live performance. However, that’s an opinion I dare not voice with Bryant’s super-producer, Frenchie Smith, standing a mere few feet away. There’s no denying her sining range is utterly mesmerizing on the assumed harmoniously tame ‘Want it With You‘. The Austin songstress took the crowd home on a “high-note” with a vocal rich cover of Prince’s ‘Kiss’.
Black Fret continues to host brilliant listening sessions showcasing the best of local talent. The depth of that local talent, in my opinion, is fan-friggin-tabulous. But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself below.
Written by: Doug Leach (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Photos courtesy of: Becca Kadison and Black Fret