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Black Fret 2019 Season Kicks Off at Empire Control Room

Austin non-profit Black Fret held its first event of the year on Saturday, January 19 at the Empire Control Room in downtown Austin. Kicking off their nomination season, this event showcased several acts with Austin artists/bands who are up for consideration to be nominated for a grant this year.

Founded in 2013, Black Fret is a public charity headquartered in Austin whose mission is to empower musicians to create and perform great new music. The organization is an innovative evolution of the age-old symphony patronage model that is focused on supporting popular local music. Together, Black Fret’s limited membership seeks to build an endowed institution capable of sustaining more than a million dollars a year in grants to Austin musicians.

The doors of Empire Control Room opened at 7 p.m. and soon after was flooded with Black Fret members excited to ring in the new season.

P1180170 Photo by Leigh Kettle


Retro pop band Mamahawk kicked off the event at the outdoor stage at 8 p.m. and got everyone warmed up with their alternative soul tunes packed with electronica beat and downright good vibes. Band members include James Reed, Adam Littman, and Brennan Howell.

Obsolete Machines

Shortly after, Obsolete Machines arrived at the indoor stage and dished out their unique, punk-pop melodies that had me feeling as if I was in a trippy, harmonious dream. Featuring Adam Diener, Shanna Bird, and Mike Hidalgo, Obsolete Machines blends genres to produce thought-provoking music.

The Watters

I popped back outside to catch The Watters, a husband and wife duo including Daniel and Jenna Watters beside band members Joe Beckham, Clint Simmons, Dalton Melancon, and Sam Howden. Embracing a sound they call “Americana Soul,” The Watters are a passionate band that merges jazz, soul, Americana, and rock while echoing what some describe as “Fleetwood Mac with a horn section.”

Sydney Wright

One of my favorite Austin musicians Sydney Wright performed at the indoor stage at 9:15 p.m. and once again amazed us with her experimental pop tunes that always feel fresh yet familiar. Sydney’s music delivers stories that are relatable to all – she always aspires for her music to resonate with listeners. Check out other recaps from some other events of hers here and here!

Dr. Joe

Dr. Joe serenaded us with his piano funk and soulful rock and roll jams that I’m pretty sure had every woman outside swooning. Frontman Joe Sparacino was accompanied by band members Patrick Young, Brennan Howell, and Pierce Saxon and even brought out the horn players from The Watters at one point. It was truly difficult to pull myself away from Dr. Joe’s mesmerizing set.

Cilantro Boombox

Last but not least, Cilantro Boombox wrapped up the evening indoors and graced everyone with their funky dance tracks that have pops of all sounds from salsa to punk. Band members consist of Félix Pacheco, Joe Woullard, Zumbi Richards, Andres Villegas, Greg Clifford, Joshua Thomson, Micah Shalom, and Jason Murdy.

Black Fret’s first event of the year was a night to remember and I can’t wait to see what they have in store for the rest of 2019. For those interested in attending Black Fret events, please visit to become a member. Memberships in the Black Fret community offer entry for yourself and a guest into all Black Fret event throughout the year.

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