Since I moved back to Austin in 2009, friends from elsewhere will ask me about the live music scene. I'm usually hesitant to talk about anything in terms of bests and favorites, but in this case I can easily name my top picks: The Saxon Pub is the best place to see live music in Austin and my favorite artist has got to be Bruce Hughes.
As for the Saxon, their own web site pretty much says it all: "Opened in 1990, the Saxon has hosted well over 22,000 musical performances. It has been the location for films, videos and countless live recordings. On any given night you might see a major celebrity from the film or music industry either having a beer or sitting in on stage jamming with the locals. This award-winning listening room has helped launch the careers of several prominent entertainers. It is also known for booking some of the greatest music legends around, performing in an intimate atmosphere that Kris Kristofferson likened to “playing in his own living room.'"
Bruce Hughes can be found onstage at least two nights a week, playing Sundays with The Resentments and Tuesdays fronting his own band, The All-Nude Army. He's been on the Austin music scene since my UT days in the late 80's and has traveled the world as a member or sideman of various touring acts. As a front man he doesn't try to match the rockstar charisma of the singers he plays behind, but his casual musical authority, laid-back-but-far-out humor and smooth, soulful voice let you know why his nickname is "The Golden Child." The rest of the band is made up of killer musicians who also have cool nicknames I can't recall exactly.
I love Bruce's songs because they seem to be informed by a timeless pop sensibility but aren't really trying to be popular, instead giving voice to his wry humor, whimsy and a mature but unjaded optimism. Whether he's belting out old-school straight-ahead rock or some silky white boy funk with a falsetto that kinda reminds me of Jay Kay from Jamiroquai, it all seems relaxed and uncontrived coming from Bruce.
I think I only brought my camera out once when I was a Tuesday night regular a couple of years ago, but stumbling across these pics brought back some great memories. I need to get back down to Saxon for a fix, and to support one of the town's great venues and great musicians.