Live: Batfest, Austin

Two million freakin' bats!

They sure love their bats in Austin, Texas.  About 2 million bats live under the Congress Avenue bridge and just about every summer night people gather along the busy bridge around dusk to watch these bats come out from their hiding places and fly out into the night.  Look closely at the photo above – those are people lined shoulder to shoulder along the bridge.

Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush

Anyway, every Labor Day they have a Batfest to celebrate this bat population/tourist attraction, and the festival has food, beer, contest and – because it’s Austin – lots of live music.  We caught the first night of Batfest on August 30 with performances by Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush, the BoDeans and Edgar Winter.  Mahogany Rush is a 1970s heavy-rock guitar band, with emphasis on the “heavy.”  Marino, a student of Jimi Hendrix, has lightning fast fingers that trick the eye while the piles of notes he produces from his guitar tantalizes the ear. 

I couldn’t tell you half the songs he played in his hour-long set – it seemed to me they played only three songs anyway.  But I did recognize “Strange Universe” from the band’s 1975 album of the same name, “Voodoo Chile” from Hendrix, and the show-stopping finale, a long instrumental version of “Amazing Grace.”  Amazing is just about the right word to describe Frank Marino.

The BoDeans

Then, the BoDeans.  This Americana group from Wisconsin has been going for 20-plus years; it seems for most of that time they’ve been touring and getting better with each passing year.  Fronted by Kurt Neumann and Sammy Llanas, the BoDeans crank out meat-and-potatoes rock and roll stamped with their trademark harmonies.  Also limited to one hour, the group kicked off with “Pretty Ghost” from their latest, Still, and whipped the crowd into a frenzy with “Texas Ride Song,” a stomper with lots of room for the players to show off. 

Other highlights included a singalong “Still The Night,” which Neumann mentioned went waaaay back to 1986 (where does the time go?), “Everyday” from the new album and the Chuck Berry-styled rocker “Good Work.”  They wrapped with “Good Things,” also turned into a singalong for the Batfest faithful.  And I must confess: I didn’t stay for Edgar Winter, opting for a Conan’s pizza instead.  Next time, big guy!

MP3: “Land of 1,000 Nights” by Mahogany Rush

MP3: “Everyday” by the BoDeans

Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush official website

The BoDeans official website

Bat conservation website (with more stuff about Austin’s bats)

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