Ah, good old Emo's in Austin, TX. It's pretty much the epitome of what a punk rock club should be. It's dirty (beware of the bathroom, especially during crowded shows), has friendly staff, cheap drinks, a kick ass jukebox, a nice low stage without a barrier, usually cheap admission and they allow ins and outs so you can peruse 6th St. if you're killing time before the show.
I arrived a little late and missed local Austin band Broken Gold (sorry guys).
Josh Small was up next and played a half-hour set of bluegrass, country and folk. Josh put on a good show, often telling a funny aside between songs. I still haven't had the chance to pick up his record Tall, out on Suburban Home, so I was not familiar with his songs, but if you're a fan of Tim Barry you will most likely enjoy Josh's music. Austin Lucas joined Josh for the last song of his set. I was bummed that most of the crowd was talking loudly and not watching Josh play. Oh well, their loss.
Austin Lucas is someone I've heard great things about, but up until that night I had only heard one or two songs off of compilations. This was technically the record release show for his latest album, Somebody Loves You (available through the nice folks at Suburban Home Records as well). He came out dressed in all black wearing a metal T-shirt and sleeved out in tattoos. The average person would not expect this man to play authentic country and bluegrass that could easily stand side by side with music from the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack. He has an amazing voice and while some of the crowd was still rudely talking through his set (it's an acoustic show, have some respect, you assholes!), he managed to get a really good response from most of us. He definitely lived up to expectations.
Next on the Emo's stage was the man we were all waiting forā?¦ Tim Barry. He was accompanied by Josh Small on banjo and guitar for the whole set and Austin Lucas sang back-up on a few songs. This was going to be my fifth time seeing Tim Barry and I could not have been more excited. It ended up being one of the most intense, emotional and incredible performances I've ever seen. Tim started off with "Trash Inspirations" and then played a slower song and pretty much switched between slow and faster songs all night. He played a lot of material off his first LP, Rivanna Junction, as well as newer songs off his latest LP, Manchester. The alcohol-fueled crowd was up front singing along like crazy. He played a new song about an escaped Virginia slave and started it by telling us that he was gonna do what he's not supposed to and play a five-minute, really slow brand new song. The song was great and gave us a break from singing along. Anyone that has seen Tim live knows that he likes to talk very candidly to the crowd between songs. He has had a really crazy and difficult time in the last year and a half. His two best friends died within months of each other and he revealed that after The Revival Tour he got really sick, went into the hospital and almost died. He told us he is still sick and now plays each show like it could be his last. You could tell the crowd was emotionally stirred by his words and I know I was thinking that this could be my last time seeing him (he didn't say what was ailing him, but I hope he gets better and continues to make music until he's old and gray). It made for a very emotional yet inspirational night.
Throughout the set Tim ended up breaking a string on three different guitars. He was getting anxious while a roadie re-strung his guitar, so he grabbed a guitar minus a string, said "Fuck it" and went into the middle of the crowd and sang the fan favorite "Idle Idylist" with no mic and all of us singing the song with him (he did have to stop us once to help us get our timing right). When he jumped back on stage he said he felt much better and proceeded with the show. Before playing one of my favorites, "Wait at Milano," Tim spoke more about his friends who passed away. During the song you could tell he was holding back tears and after the song he admitted that it was really hard to get through. He ended the set with another somber song, "Church of Level Track".
Afterward many fans came up to Tim to shake his hand and share a few words. He looked very emotionally drained. I usually don't like to bother someone right after they come off stage, but I felt so moved that I had to shake his hand. He introduced himself and gave me a hug. I told him he had us all practically in tears and he said "Me too, maybe one of these days I'll end on a high note." I heard he has a reputation for being very sincere and down to earth (which is also evident from his stage banter) and it is most definitely true. I'm used to leaving a show feeling elated, but I've rarely left a show feeling like I was just socked in the gut emotionally like I did that night.
I can't remember all the songs played, but here is a partial list (he played a few more, but I had a few drinks in me and I'm spacing on the rest of them):
- Trash Inspirations
- Ronnie Song
- Avoiding Catatonic Surrender
- Sagacity Gone
- new song
- Dog Bumped
- Idle Idylist
- Wait at Milano
- Church of Level Track