Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World and my new home as of a few weeks ago. Hearing lots of great stories about legendary acts, I was excited to check out the scene and luckily for me, Fortunate Youth was rolling through on their Fall with Friends Tour. The venue could not have been more perfect, the Flamingo Cantina on 6th Street. For those that have not been to 6th Street in Austin, it’s party central and it’s debauchery essentially increases exponentially as one travels east from Congress Ave. and the Texas State Capital building. As one can imagine, there are a lot of “touristy” spots along the way, enticing newcomers with their air conditioning on blast and cover bands at their windows. However, towards the end of the strip is a haven, a bastion of good vibes, for the seekers of one-drops and the One Love attitude. Boasting no AC but plenty of cold drinks, Flamingo Cantina made me feel right at home despite the heat.
Also familiar to me was the irie music from Ease Up, who kicked the night off with their signature blend of ska, reggae, and rock. The band has been tearing up stages across the country in support of their latest, self-titled release. The third release from the Southern California group has them at their best, the ska hits hard and the reggae sweetly soothes. Next up were the island rockers, The Steppas. I watched their set from the roof deck, which was directly above the stage, a vantage point I was not used to but enjoyed until it started raining. The music kept going inside and The Steppas got everyone moving to their Island rhythms.
Fortunate Youth again solidified their spot as one of the best live reggae bands out touring to date.
Before Fortunate Youth took the stage, I was able to catch a set from the local favorites in the house, Ashes of Babylon. This 8-piece reggae powerhouse originally from Lafayette, LA recently relocated to Austin, TX and judging by the crowds reaction has found a good home with plenty of reggae fans. Bringing heavy roots vibes mixed with soaring vocal harmonies on sing-a-long inducing tracks like “I Suppose”, the band is making their mark on the reggae scene with their impressive songwriting and musicianship. Keep an ear out for this group.
Finally, shortly after the stroke of midnight, Fortunate Youth entered a very hazy, sweaty, venue packed to the brim with fans. Having never been to Flamingo Cantina before, I was pleasantly surprised at the intimate feeling of the venue. With a roof deck you can watch the show from and tiered levels to sit or stand on the inside, it was almost impossible to not get a good view of the stage. Additionally, the good vibes were present and nobody was pushing or shoving to get the front, everyone seemed to be there to enjoy the experience collectively. FY came out on stage strong, starting out with some of my personal favorite songs such as “Stay Positive” and “It’s All a Jam,” the title track off their latest album. The crowd was not only dancing and swaying with the beats but also singing along to almost every word. There was so much energy between the band and the crowd you could almost see it in the air, especially when lead vocalist Dan Kelly held the mic out to the crowd to hear them sing out loud lines like “Peace, Love, and Unity”. Watching a Fortunate Youth show is never boring as Jered, Corey, Greg and even Travi Bongos constantly switch up their instruments while Jordan holds down the solid reggae riddims on the drum set. The crowd got a special treat towards the end of the night as the artist Hirie, who had finished a set earlier in the night over at Stubb’s, jumped up on stage for a rendition of the crowd favorite, “Sweet Sensi.” Finally, they closed out the night with another personal favorite of mine, one that has really resonated with me and my experiences as a rebellious youth since I first heard it, “So Rebel”. I could almost feel every voice in the crowd singing along with band, feeling the energy and coming together in unity.
After two encores, Fortunate Youth left the crowd chanting and wanting more. I’m sure if the Austin PD would have let it, the show would have continued on until the morning. Even with a torrential downpour happening outside, everyone left the venue with smiles and a renewed positive attitude. Fortunate Youth again solidified their spot as one of the best live reggae bands out touring to date. Check the out in a town near you on the rest of the Fall with Friends Tour and I will be keeping my fingers crossed that they return to Austin soon!