Best of Austin Music, July 2016: Willie’s Picnic, Antone’s anniversary and more

WILLIE AND ANTONE’S: AUSTIN ORIGINALS

Midsummer just feels right again now that Willie Nelson has brought his Fourth of July Picnic back to Austin. Its second straight year at Circuit of the Americas went smoothly despite scorching heat, with Nelson’s Family Band and a terrific team-up of Alison Krauss & Jamey Johnson shining on the main stage after an afternoon of longtime Picnic faves such as Billy Joe Shaver and Ray Wylie Hubbard on the plaza stage. Back in the center of town, Antone’s celebrated its 41st anniversary with a two-week run at its new downtown location. The party kicked of July 1 and hit a fever pitch when co-owner Gary Clark Jr. played a surprise set on July 14, then turned up the next night to jam with Jimmie Vaughan.  — P.B.

BEST LIVE SHOWS

Austin, TX - Canadian rapper, singer, songwriter Drake performed live in concert at the Frank Erwin Center on July 20, 2016 in Austin, Texas. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman.

Drake at the Erwin Center on July 20, 2016. Photo by Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

July 20: Drake at Erwin Center. In a nearly two-hour extravaganza, marked by floating balloon lights and bombastic fireworks, Dreezy easily topped his 2015 Austin City Limits Festival headline sets with his Summer Sixteen tour kickoff in Austin. — D.S.S.

July 19-20: Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ at Sahara Lounge. If Willie’s Picnic was Austin’s obvious nationally-recognized marquee event of July, this two-night stand by the long-running Atlanta foursome was perhaps the sleeper hit of the summer. Playing for two and a half hours with no opener in the sweltering-hot but funky-cool Sahara space on the east side, bandleader Kevn Kinney and his mates — including a ringer of a guitarist in Jason & the Scorchers alum Warner Hodges — testified that they’re still one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands in America. — P.B.

Also: Gary Clark Jr. at Antone’s, July 14; “Baby Got Back to the ’90s Tour” at HEB Center, July 22; Steve Miller Band with James Cotton & Jimmie Vaughan at Statesman Skyline Theater, July 26.

BEST NEW SONGS/VIDEOS

Da’Shade Moonbeam “Power” In mid-July, as the country was reeling from the officer-involved shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philandro Castile in Minnesota plus a peaceful protest in Dallas that ended with deadly violence, local hip-hop artist, social worker and activist Da’Shade Moonbeam quietly released the video for “Power.” The song is a rallying cry for the modern battle against injustice that pays homage to the Public Enemy classic “Fight the Power.” The artist born Jeffrey Johnson recorded the track and the video over a year ago. It was sitting on a hard drive with no release date when he returned from an Austin Black Lives Matter demonstration. “I left the vigil at Givens Park feeling like almost every black man in America, feeling like I wasn’t safe anywhere,” Johnson said shortly after the video dropped. “I thought to myself if I’d died right then and there, that the art I had worked so hard on would never see the light of day. Since I felt powerless, I needed a reminder that we have all of the power.” — D.S.S.

Basketball Shorts, “Hot and Ready.” Even with the brief intro and outro on the video, the title track to this party-punk band’s new album still clocks in at less than two minutes; rare is the band that knows how to get in and out of a song with such perfect brevity. And the pizza-slinging footage might be the best use of cuisine in a band’s presentation since Southern Culture on the Skids started tossing fried chicken and banana pudding at audiences. — P.B.

BEST NEW ALBUMS

South Austin Moonlighters, “Ghost of a Small Town.” Following their 2014 studio debut “Burn & Shine,” this local supergroup of sorts, whose members marked many miles with the likes of Monte Montgomery, Stonehoney and the Whiskey Sisters, ups the ante on this 13-song set of  all-original material. — P.B.

Money Chicha, “Echo en Mexico” More than 15 years ago, a group of funk enthusiasts who migrated to Austin from Laredo began an experiment in cumbia that led to the birth of the mighty Grupo Fantasma. As the band grew into one of the finest Latin music ensembles in the world, they also became leaders of a rich and diverse Austin Latin music scene through the members’ many offshoot side projects. Chicha, a psychedelic cumbia hybrid that raged out of Peru in the ’60s and ’70s, is currently going through a resurgence.  It’s a no-brainer that these current and former Fantamites, living in the city that originated psychedelic music in America, would embrace it. While Grupo Fantasma’s latest album, resounds with the poise and polish of a band that plays posh concert halls, Money Chicha’s debut is darker and dirtier. “Echo en Mexico” is a beguiling instrumental collage, fueled by a turbulent undercurrent of vague unease. — D.S.S.

ARTIST OF THE MONTH

Our July artist of the month, hip-hop collective Mindz of a Different Kind is a homegrown hip-hop crew with furious rhyme skills and an explosive live show.

ONE DAY IN JULY

For the fourth installment of our new monthly series in which we visit a half-dozen local music hot spots in one outing, we traded the night for day. Sundays are the best day in Austin for catching music while it’s still light outside, and we found plenty of fine opportunities. — P.B.


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