There’s always hundreds of things to do on an ordinary weekend in Austin, Texas. Bars, museums, galleries, clubs, vintage shopping. Having lunch in South Congress, catching a live show in East Austin, watching Texas football. Going out for movies and beers at the Alamo Drafthouse. Kayaking on Lady Bird lake. The weekend of Oct. 21 was nothing short of extraordinary. With the Texas Book Festival and the Austin Film Festival in town, crowds lined the streets to catch a glimpse of Johnny Depp and hurried to grab a seat for Chuck Klosterman’s reading. Streets were closed for the annual Dia de los Muertos festival, and foodies went crazy for their favorite trailer food at the Gypsy Picnic. And with that many options, The Naked and Famous still played a sold-out show at La Zona Rosa.
Unfortunately, there were technical difficulties on behalf of La Zona, so opening bands White Arrows and The Chain Gang of 1974 played short sets. LA band White Arrows still had amazing energy. The early crowd, however thin, clearly enjoyed their music, a refreshing mix of psychedelia and lead singer Mickey Schiff’s distinctive voice.
The boys’ chemistry was palpable, moving well together on stage, their passion hinting at the beginning of a successful band career. Half-brothers Mickey and JP Caballero, clad in quirky printed button-down shirts, drew the attention of girls throughout the venue, and guitarist Steven Vernet took over the stage with his hair-whipping mad dance moves. Had they more time, the crowd would’ve probably been blown away with the entire contents of White Arrows’ self-titled EP and their latest, Get Gone. But however short a set, White Arrows finished with pumped-up volume, perfect for a Friday night of music.
The Chain Gang of 1974 followed, much to lead singer Kamtin Mohager’s annoyance, with a three-song set. After a long and fruitless soundcheck, the band finally started and played to an excited but confused crowd. Clearly pissed, Mohager took his frustration out on the mic, violently jerking out to the music and carrying around the mic stand. The band played music from their latest, “Wayward Fire” such as “Undercover” which some people sang along to elatedly. The band thanked the crowd for their patience and walked out in a huff. Apparently some paid to watch Chain Gang and not TNAF, because several audience members walked out of La Zona Rosa, annoyed, with loud complaints of the short set.
As the sound crew fixed those tech issues, members of the audience grabbed some drinks and enjoyed their smokes outside. Others lined up to buy T-shirts from White Arrows and stock up on The Naked and Famous tees before they ran out. There was an energetic buzz around the place, and after a long wait it seemed it only took a few seconds before the large space in front of the stage filled with eager fans.
The show began.
The Naked and Famous proved their talent thrives on stage. The band seemed to feed off the hungry fans, who never ceased dancing and never stopped singing along. Lead singer Alisa was very interactive with the audience, thanking everyone between songs, joking around with people squeezed up at the front. They sang with clear, thick accents and wore minimalistic outfits; they let their music do the talking, with Alisa’s long, dark hair moving along to their beats. Whichever problems the venue had with sound, they clearly didn’t with lighting—lights of deep reds and purples framed the New Zealand band beautifully from start to finish.
After a year of media buzz, multiple music awards nominations and playing sold-out shows every night, The Naked and Famous played with precision and vigor. The set was tight, the crowd was happy, and their songs brought claps and cheers all night. The clear winners? Their well-known “Girls Like You,” “Punching In A Dream” and the predictable closer, “Young Blood.”
Fans dazed out of La Zona Rosa completely elated. Some stayed back to try to talk to the band, others stopped to buy copies of White Arrows’ EP’s being handed out by Vernet and Caballero. Walking through West Sixth, the night ended with lines of “Young Blood” still echoing down the street.
(The Naked And Famous performed at La Zona Rosa in Austin, Texas on October 21, 2011)