Kevin Morby Charms Sold Out Austin Crowd, Covers Townes Van Zandt (SHOW REVIEW)

On a hot, swampy Texas summer night, the last thing you want to do is stand in close proximity to hundreds of sweaty overdressed individuals chain drinking cold whiskey in an attempt to drown out the uncomfortable heat. That is, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who made it to the Kevin Morby show at The Sidewinder Wednesday night in Austin, Texas. Sold out well before showtime, the venue was packed with an impressively disproportionate amount of lady and non-binary concert-goers (the music scene in the city tends to get overcrowded with testosterone if you’re not careful).

This shift perhaps came from cogent openers Big Thief, female fronted by soft crooner Adrianne Lenker. Then again, considering the quiet truths Morby imbues so heavily in his music, it’s fitting that his audience would perhaps have a wider spectrum when it comes to understanding the emotions behind the words. Or it could be that Morby is a low key Indie/Americana babe and a half.

Kicking things off, Big Thief had a solid audience to dangle their craft in front of. The higher energy band of the evening, Big Thief hails from Brooklyn, New York. Often referred to as storytellers, the band didn’t disappoint as they wove a web through their set indicative of a larger talent vastly important to a better understanding of their own music. With the sun up and starting to set, there was a magic in the air that laid the foundation for the rest of the evening. Owing heavily to Big Thief, it seems that Morby chose the perfect openers to compliment his own sweeping talent.

Stemming off originally from American folk rockers Woods, Morby left his position as the band’s bassist to pursue a solo venture that thus far has proven to be exceedingly fruitful. Donning a full suit and a bolo tie, Morby took the stage ten minutes early to the delight of the thronging crowd. The beads of sweat teeming down the public’s over-exerted bodies would cause a collective chill by the time he finished his first song. Goose bump to goose bump, people literally didn’t stop making their way through the entrance until half-way through the set, and no one dared move from their spot for fear of missing out.

Complimented beautifully by Meg Duffy on guitar and backing vocals, Cyrus Gengras on bass, and Justin Sullivan (The Babies) on drums, Morby easily wooed the audience. Playing most of his new album Singing Saw and drawing equally from Still Life and Harlem River, Morby embodied a sense of his earlier work with Woods, while playing at the level of modern rock gods. His stage presence is off-putting and stellar, making for an excellent front person. While Woods had (and continues to have) a tendency to jam a little too heavily, Morby has found the balance between giving the audience what it wants and giving it what it needs. Impressively, it wasn’t until his solo break that Morby removed his heavy coat jacket to reveal the same horrors we were all facing due to the Texas summer.

The set went quickly with a melodic flair, sinking quietly into the damp air as the full band left the stage and Morby performed two songs on his own. His guitar skills are impressive – he casually builds a structure that one would equate to at least two musical instruments while singing along without missing a beat. Standing formidable, yet comfortably vulnerable, Morby performed his song “Black Flowers” followed by Townes Van Zandt’s ‘No Place to Fall’. The man knows his audience. The band came back to perform two more songs to finish out the night, and we were all better for it.

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