May 1, 2015 Magic Man pack the Parish with joy Austin, Texas 3-31-15
Synthrock band Magic Man have been some noise over the past few years after signing with Columbia Records. Hailing from Boston, Massachusetts, the band which first formed in 2010 with Alex Caplow (vocals) and Sam Vanderhoop Lee (guitars/keyboard), began with the duo traveling around France trading labor for room and board. It was at this time that the band took its name after their first fan, who happened to be an aspiring amateur magician. Using a laptop to record their first tracks, they fashioned their Synth-Pop sound which became the foundation of their self-produced album, Real Life Color. Later adding Danial Radin (bass) and college friends Justine Bowe (keyboards) and Joey Sulkowski (drums) to the roster, the New England based group crafted their EP, You Are Here, which was released in 2013. That same year, they got their big break while touring with Walk The Moon. This tour was followed by a smaller tour later with Sir Sly, and another tour with New Politics in early 2014.
Following the run with New Politics, Radin left the band and Gabe Goodman, an old high school friend of Caplow and Vanderhoop, replaced him on bass. In February 2014 the group released Paris, which rose on Billboard’s Alternative Songs chart to #33. Later that year the group released Before The Waves and embarked on tour alongside Panic! At The Disco and Walk the Moon. This led to their first visit to Austin’s SXSW in 2014, a visit that would not be their last. Now in the Spring of 2015, the band embark on their first-ever headlining North American tour that kicked off March 3rd, ending one month later on April 3rd. On a warm evening, Tuesday March 31st, in the afterglow of the annual South by Southwest festival, Magic Man came to Austin’s music-trendy 6th Street to bring their own brand of synth-driven Rock to a sold-out crowd in the heart of Texas at the Parish.
The night began with Milwaukee Synth-Pop band Vinyl Theatre taking the stage. The band is touring in support of their debut album Electrogram, which was released in September of 2014. Keegan Calmes (guitar/vocals) and Chris Senner (keyboards), two high school friends, founded the band, later inviting Nick Cesarz (drums) and Josh Pothier (bass) to join. The members of Vinyl Theater are almost young enough to be considered digital natives, and as such, they had much success using the Internet to get their music heard, generating enough buzz where they were able to play this lauded event less than three years after forming. Performing a set of songs like “Shine On,” the catchy “The Rhythm of Light,” and single “Breaking Up My Bones,” Vinyl Theatre made the most of their time on the stage. With an enegetic sound, colorful synth textures, and upbeat vibe, this band has a lot of promising years ahead of them. Catch them from now until the end of June touring with the likes of Panic! At The Disco and The Mowgli’s.
Next up was the suavely dressed Brooklyn-based duo Great Good Fine Ok. Sporting shiny jackets and gold chains complemented by LED drum sticks and glowing fluorescent tambourines, Jon Sandler and Luke Moellman delivered a string of hits that sounded oddly like a combination of ’70s Funk married to the kind of Disco one might hear in a New Jersey nightclub. Fortunately, this odd blend of sounds works. The tunes they played included “You’re The One For Me,” “Not Going Home,” “Say It All,” and “By My Side,” all of which were highlighted with solos and dance moves from touring members Russ Flynn, Tristan Clopet, and Danny Wolf. Adding to the excitement, the crowd was again fired up by Moellman shredding a keytar at the edge of the stage throughout their performance. Great Good Fine Ok are excellent showmen and theirs is a performance worth seeing. Be sure to check out their brand new EP 2M2H.
Finally Magic Man took the stage and the packed room was ready. Up until this point, most have only seen the band as a supporting act, so with the ability to play a lengthened set had most clamoring for what laid ahead. With fans standing attentively on the floor, the lights dropped and the show was on its way to a sea of cheers.
Coming out and jump-starting the mood with their song “Waves,” they immediately delivered what everyone had come for. Caplow worked the stage as well as the microphone, making sure to build up the crowd as the band slipped into the synth echos of “Everyday.” Though the hardwood bar and dusty wooden floor make the Parish resemble an old saloon, the keyboard charge from Bowe as she began “Apollo” dispelled any notions that Magic Man was playing to a Country crowd. Having recently appeared on MTV’s Catfish, the song “Catherine” resonated with more vocals than most of the band’s other songs, leading to the moody, slower-paced “Honey.” Everything picked up speed again when the band played the obligatory “Texas,” followed, of course, by their other state song, “South Dakota.”
The night took a fun turn when the band played a cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “The Middle,” with Goodman and Lee dueling together with their guitar and bass styles. This song had everyone up and dancing, including the ladies at the merchandise tables in the back. Finally, the bitter-sweet strings of “Paris” had everyone swaying in time to the music with their hands up in the air, in a sea of blue and magenta. Caplow crooned the sad lyrics until the last beats, then wished the crowd a good night.
Performing a great mix of their music, even including a new song which everyone is curious to find out the name of, Magic Man shined bright as a headlining act. Not allowing a dull moment to conjure, the atmosphere was light and most of all joyful. While the tour has come to an end, hopes are that Magic Man will be popping up here and there throughout the summer months for some more shows. Judging by the applause raining down all set long with a capacity crowd at the Parish, the band’s magic return to the “live music capital of the world” cannot come soon enough.Photo credit: Mark Vittek