Friday night in Austin, Texas, brings with it a sense of possibility. One might start out with cheap beer, maybe some bar food. If you're me, you start out with a pitcher of Lone Star and a two dollar cheeseburger with jalapeño rings and chopped onion.
A few blocks from happy hour is Empire Control Room & Garage, a two-headed venue that sits a block north of Sixth Street near a small creek. The Garage, Empire's outdoor club, is closed for renovations. That's fine. It's chilly outside and the acts I'm here to see are well-suited for something intimate and indoor.
Tonight's show, presented by Heard Entertainment, features Austin-based ensembles Applied Pressure and Keeper, Brooklyn producer Taylor McFerrin, and a DJ set by Los Angeles producer Nosaj Thing.
The four talented beat heads who make up Applied Pressure team up with vocal group Keeper to premiere an interpretation of Portishead. The Control Room is crowded, and the set is above and beyond what I've come to expect from opening acts.
Taylor McFerrin's name is mentioned by several strangers in passing as I play a few tipsy quarters of NFL Blitz 2000. In fact, there's a row of arcade games near the bar to keep patrons busy in between sets. Taylor hits the stage around 11:30pm, beatboxing his way into the hearts of those of us who've never seen him play live before tonight. He's got good stage presence, and seems truly humbled to have recorded music with the likes of Thundercat and Robert Glasper.
Nosaj's DJ set starts around 12:30am, and as he tells us, it's highly inspired by what's been impacting him as an artist. This means we're singing along to Kanye West's "Can't Tell Me Nothing," vibing to Clams Casino's "I'm God," and relating to Chance The Rapper & The Social Experiment's "No Better Blues." Nosaj graces us with a preview of an unreleased Chance The Rapper collaboration before the lights come up and we all wander off into the night.
Live in Austin? Peep Empire's upcoming shows here.