Words by: Sarah Hagerman | Images by: Dave Jackson
Topaz & Mudphonic :: 08.22.08 :: Lamberts :: Austin, TX
John Branch's bottleneck guitar was infectious. Added to Topaz McGarrigle's howling tenor sax, a dangerous concoction was brewed that snatched me by the bones and made me want to dance with vigor. And looking around me, at a crowd that couldn't have been more than a 150 strong, moving and quaking, I knew I wasn't the only one under that spell. A torrid affair of percolating psychedelic funk and raunchy backwoods Texas blues produces Topaz & Mudphonic, a bastard child that could just as easily rock platforms on the streets of New York City as it could let its bare feet dangle in the Colorado River.
|Topaz & Mudphonic :: 08.22.08 :: Austin, TX|
Both that glitter and mud were on display at Lamberts. I had never been to the venue before, and was told it was a BBQ restaurant. Thinking it would be a bit like Stubb's indoors, I wore a t-shirt, my trusty denim skirt and my best dancing Birks. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a crowd in suits and stilettos. Sliced white bread with your brisket and three dollar cans of Miller High Life it ain't. So for the first half of the show, there was a slight oil and water atmosphere as comparatively casual Topaz fans packed in the front and the fancy winers n' diners at the upstairs bar gradually left, although a few stuck around (props to those gals that can seriously dance in heels; lord knows I'm not one of them).
Besides Topaz, who previously blasted through New York City's clubs with his versatile sax styles, Mudphonic is composed of experienced Austin (and, in Branch's case, the Bay Area as well) musicians that have already honed their craft and are hungry to see the sound evolve. The lineup is rounded out by Alex Marrero's spit fire drums and Bobby Perkins' slithering, snaky basslines. Their collective enthusiasm is contagious, and Topaz is a confident leader, bringing unforced charisma to the stage. After his sweaty moves during "Dirty Water," featuring his driving harmonica, he wiped the perspiration from his brow and proclaimed, "I need some water." A girl behind me turned to her friend and yelled, "Shit, I'll get him some water!" Besides inspiring the ladies to line up with liquid refreshment, he later managed to get a decent portion of the crowd to shush up for the tenderly sonorous instrumental "Brothers," sitting down to watch Branch play with a satisfied grin on his face.
|Topaz & Mudphonic :: 08.22|
The choice cuts from brawny debut album Music for Dorothy were interspersed with a few blues covers, including Blind Willie Johnson's "In My Time of Dying." The group captured its mystery and catharsis with nods to Zeppelin, amid long saxophone moans and deep lingering guitar cries. After "Dying," the band was renewed with ferocity. Of course, this perception may have had something to do with the fact that I was hanging in the back for the first few songs, surrounded by a drunk, chatty crowd near the bar. But upon spying my buddy Jamie grooving near the front, I was sucked into the throng during "Going South," happy for the change of location. In front of me, Branch was calmly planted on the stage, using a tiny glass bottle as his slide, letting the notes wind up and fall, kites tailing in gravity's mercy.
"City's got me running away," Topaz sang in "Yonder Funk." The song stretches back to his NYC days, and expresses a longing for country roots after the bright lights of the big city. It speaks to the T&M approach, as the four bridge to the urban/rural sound divide. As Branch wailed away, Marrero pounded those skins, shaking his mane and beaming, while Perkins pinned down the low end with cool style. Meanwhile, Topaz banged on his tambourine like a Hare Krishna, head straight up and staring at the ceiling, joyously possessed by the sound. Evolution is a damn fine and funky thing.
JamBase | Everywhere
Go See Live Music!