Minutes before Austin band Sweet Spirit was set to take the stage at the Mohawk inside Sunday night, I noticed I was standing less than three feet from Austin indie rock icon Britt Daniel. He was talking to a local music enthusiast who had spied him in the crowd. “So (expletive) good,” he said, shaking his head. While it’s possible the Spoon frontman was referring to his new down filled coat or the delicious falafel wrap he ate before the show, it’s much more likely he was talking about the colossal Sabrina Ellis-fronted indie rock outfit who proceeded to blaze through a phenomenal 45 minute set.
Ellis is a force of nature who’s no stranger to the Austin music scene. She made waves a few years back with the local indie sensation Bobby Jealousy who broke up shortly after their debut Austin City Limits Festival appearance. She also fronts the band A Giant Dog. Sweet Spirit is remarkable as a vehicle that beautifully captures and showcases Ellis’ energy and charisma. Her voice soars, pierces through swells of sound even when she’s barreling into a guitar riff or go go dancing (which she does, frequently and enthusiastically). As they proved at the Mohawk on Sunday, they are also one of the tightest and most versatile bands in Austin or, quite frankly, from anywhere right now.
Playing as an eight piece outfit that includes a trumpet and saxophone, the group seemed just as comfortable and confident playing doo wop and covering Marvin Gaye as they were conjuring sweeping, anthemic rock ‘n’ roll. The band is currently working with 9 Mile Records on an EP, tentatively scheduled for a late spring release. They also have a “Live at the Blackheart” album on the way. Beyond all of that, they’re packing that “it factor,” the magical energy of a band on the verge.
It’s still the beginning of Free Week, and you know, 2015, but after what I witnessed Sunday, I’m ready to predict Sweet Spirit will be one of the year’s great success stories. My money says they’ll make a huge breakout after South by Southwest. And if there’s any justice in the world the pop-punk number they closed on, with its chanted hook, “Got a broken heart so take me to a party,” will end up as a song of the summer, something akin to Icona Pop’s “I Don’t Care” or Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” bringing solace and Sweet Spirit, as it were, to jilted young women across the land.