On October 2, one of my favorite Austin bands to see live—Wild Child— released their third album, “Fools.” When you live in a city like Austin, a city that prides itself on being the live music capital of the world, it’s rewarding to be a part of it. I love playing shows in Austin, and I love, love, love going to see shows.
When I first moved back to ATX a few years ago, I went on a show-going bender, watching a gig every night of the week, sometimes even jumping to more than one show if I could afford it. Standing on concrete for that many hours, night after night, actually started giving me back problems! One of the first bands I fell in love with during this heyday was Wild Child. They danced. They laughed. They played raucous songs that made everyone in the crowd start dancing and laughing, too. I’d be at a show alone, and I couldn’t help moving my body when they played. I was broke. I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. But listening to their cello, and their fiddle, and their harmonies made me happy.
This new song, “Break Bones,” starts out with three heavy piano chords on repeat. Then one of the lead singers, Kelsey Wilson, comes in with gentle, airy vocals. There’s a pleading quality in the way she sings, “It’s getting too hard to pretend/ Too much to say, I can’t contend/ There is more breaking here than we could ever mend.” For a small, quiet moment, there’s stillness in the music and in her voice. Then a catchy chorus comes stomping in. The string section lays down some fierce accents underneath a piano riff and the vocals.
A lot of what we’ve seen so far from Wild Child includes interesting string and horn work folded into gorgeous pop melodies. This one has the orchestral stuff dialed back and really lets the vocal melody take the lead. There aren’t many harmonies or fluff to this one, which could maybe sound a little strange to someone who’s very familiar with their older stuff. I like it, though, especially because the lyrics are focused on a failing friendship, rather than a romantic relationship. It’s simple, yet powerful. Understated, yet profound. I’m excited to see how they continue to develop this side of their music.
There’s one other thing I admire about this band. Since I started going to their shows, they’ve pretty much exploded out of Austin. Their first album, “Pillow Talk,” was beloved in this town. Despite outward success, they still give back to the live music community. Last month, Holy Mountain, one of our venues that consistently booked local indie acts, had to close its doors for good. For one of its last shows, Wild Child and Shakey Graves gave it a triumphant send-off. I know it meant a lot to Holy Mountain and to local music lovers to see these two hugely successful artists supporting the indie community.
We’re so lucky in Austin. There’s always a good free show somewhere, and if it’s not free, it’s damn affordable. Just as an example, a local music blog called Austin Town Hall recently started a series called “3 x 3.” The idea is simple. Three local bands play a show for three bucks. A lot of tourists get sucked into the 6th Street trap. The bars on that famous avenue usually hire cover bands because they play the songs that everyone knows. Makes sense if you’re a business owner. But if you want to find the true heart of Austin music, venture a little further to Red River or the East side, or even a few bars on Rainey Street. There you’ll find hundreds of indie bands just like Wild Child a few years ago, busting their asses, playing shows that don’t make them much money but that give their lives purpose.
Maybe that sounds dramatic, but whatever. When I moved back here, I figured I’d probably leave in a year or two. This was just going to be a pit stop along the way to somewhere cooler, somewhere not so close to home. But now it’s five years later, and I love Austin more than I ever have. My love for the music, my love for the friends I’ve made through music, keep me here. My fucking awesome sister-bandmates keep me here. I find it hard to believe there’s any other place like it. Even though Wild Child has definitely grown out of Austin, in my heart I still consider them a local band. So I’ll keep going to shows, and I’ll keep spreading the love for my favorite local heroes.
If you like “Break Bones,” check out “Fools” and “Crazy Bird” by Wild Child.