THEY CALL AUSTIN the "Live Music Capital of the World." Every night at every bar, bands are playing. And at some of the more traditional stages, where hipsters seldom venture, Martin Crane likes to occasionally drop by.
"At Texas swing bars people like getting dressed up in western wear to dance the two-step," says Crane, singer and guitarist for Brazos. "When you see that kind of stuff," Crane continues, "you can't help but look at it and be like, 'Wow, those guys really know what they're doing.'"
Crane is quick to note that Texas swing bears little direct influence on his own music: a sublime, hypnotic, lightly psychedelic, but mostly organic, thoughtful, and wistful pop. Brazos, are indeed much more likely to be found at a buzzing SXSW showcase than a place where guys and gals in boots dance the two-step. But Austin, it seems, leaves a common brand on almost all its denizens. The characteristics are simple: Musicians from Austin can flat-out play, and because of the town's glut of stages they are exceedingly well practiced.
The story is much the same for Friday's headliners, White Denim, who sharpened their teeth at the same time. Seeing Crane & Co. come into their own, White Denim invited them on tour. It was Crane's first time playing outside of Austin.
Two years prior, in a weeklong creative spurt, Crane wrote the songs that would make up Phosphorescent Blues. He fully submerged himself in the recording, sleeping little for the duration. After sifting through a number of players, Crane found bassist Paul Price and the stunning drummer Andy Beaudoin—who holds a master's in jazz studies—and finally finished the record. It's effervescent, catchy, and beautiful, at times not unlike Portland's own Blind Pilot.
And though it took time, Brazos are really just beginning. Crane enjoys the open road stretching out before him. For him, there are moments on tour of profound connection and feeling. "More than that," Crane adds, "is getting to play every night. For me it's really fun because I just feel myself getting better." He continues, "I'm growing exponentially faster than I would normally."