After spending the past few months touring the country in support of his latest self-titled EP, Eric Tessmer returned to Austin Saturday night to celebrate his birthday at Mohawk. The Texas heat didn’t keep a few hundred of Tessmer’s closest friends from enduring a face melting display of guitar swinging acrobatics from the 2017 Black Fret nominee.
Soulful, alternative rockers, The Selfless Lovers, were the first to wish Tessmer a happy birthday as the local three-piece rocked their debut set on Mohawk’s ‘big boy’ stage. Vibrant frontman, pianist and lead vocalist, Nik Parr, kicked-off the evening’s celebration with an easy going, key-driven melody that walloped into a funky 9-minute freestyle jam session. Parr showed off his multi-instrumentalist range by swapping back-and-forth from keys to saxophone throughout the performance while guitarist Daniel Kerner and drummer Daniel Warner painted the soundscape with blends of funk (‘Slave to The Dollar’) and upbeat alternative rock (‘Glad To Be Here’) along with pleasant hints of soul and R&B.
Next up was 2016 Black Fret alums and my new favorite band, Swimming With Bears. This nu-soul, alternative rock foursome has been around the Austin scene since 2012 and have even opened for greats likes Weezer and Panic! At The Disco. Oddly enough, Saturday was my first time catching Swimming With Bears live and damned if I wasn’t blown away. Lead vocalist and bassist, Joe Perry’s resonating, tenor pitched vocals were an intoxicating surprise as he belted through EP heavyweights ‘Shiver and Crawl’ and ‘Without a Plan’. Swimming With Bears is a truly cohesive band that gels on all levels as lead guitarist Alec Conte and rhythm guitarist Jon Kerr swing in and out to provide vocal support behind Perry’s soothing howls. Their stage chemistry is smooth and harmonious and it’s evident these guys have spent countless hours together creating music with a purpose.
Shortly after 11:15 a central Texas cyclone ripped through the Mohawk as the man of the hour, Eric Tessmer, hit the stage unleashing a whirlwind of electric psychedelic licks from his brand new pearly Stratocaster. Draped in his customary blue jeans and a greaser Mickey Mouse three quarter sleeve straight out of Two-Bit Mathews’ closet, the rocking bluesman is one cool mother fucker up on stage. Think James Dean meets classic Marlon Brando with a little Billy Gibbons grit. An abstract thought, sure, but it makes for one badass blues-rock guitarist that can seduce a crowd for hours with a wicked fast repertoire. Tessmer was three songs and nearly fifteen minutes deep before he decided to check in with the crowd. All’s well from the packed venue as the crowd pulled their jaws from the floor to roar back towards the stage. A powerful three-minute solo on the tail end of ‘Buttons & Thread’ echoed into bluesy ‘See You Tonight’ before Tessmer completely cut loose with ‘Ms. Fortune Teller’.
It’s during his live performances where Tessmer can really dig into the depth of his uncanny musicianship by squeezing every infectious ounce of enjoyment from each track through intense, blistering solos. In Tessmer’s words, “The band has to kick the shit out of the studio record when they play it live.” No doubt about it, Tessmer did just that and more Saturday at Mohawk and it made for one spectacular birthday performance.
Images below by Corey Mendez
Swimming With Bears
Photo Credit: Corey Mendez