A (Very Loud) Classical Refuge at SXSW 2016

GrahamReynolds1- Aubrey Edwards
Austin’s Graham Reynolds. Photo by Aubrey Edwards

It’s not Classical — it’s Austin’s Graham Reynolds, Justin Sherburn, Line Upon Line, Mother Falcon, Fast Forward and others, all under one roof, tucked away in the Hideout Theatre on Congress.


It’s only a block away from the action, but walking into the dark theater to sit down was an awesome exercise in sensory deprivation. You have a seat, immersed in the dark instead of jostling with a bored, chatty crowd, and on stage is Graham Reynolds and his piano, two singers, a cello, violin, guitar, drum kit, and bass/tuba.

The one thing this show had in common with the rest of SXSW was the volume. It was freaking loud. Stupidly loud. But at least with earplugs, it worked well enough to send the message that this was not delicate music. And let’s be honest, anything that so much as hints at old people’s music is not going to play well here. So it’s a smart strategy.

And so was the music, Reynolds’ epic piece about the life of Pancho Villa. The singers, Liz Cass and Paul Sanchez do much of the heavy lifting of this chamber opera, singing in Spanish. But it’s a choreographed affair — shifting moods that tell Villa’s tale.

The strings are solid, Adrian Quesada does gorgeous work on guitar, and the strings and percussion keep the pace moving. It gets a little messy — Reynolds tried to cue solos but sometimes the players were unsure when to come in and out. This will hopefully change as the piece grows. 

The Hideout seems to be a good fit for this show. It gives the performers a quiet performance space in the theatre, and a place to mingle just outside. The result was both an oasis away from 6th Street and an epic storm of something different. 

Author: Luke Quinton

Freelancer for the Austin American-Statesman and public radio.

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