Rock the Rio

Texas bands end the summer on a high note

By Chelsea Schmid, Contributing Writer
On August 31, 2007

They came in by the hundreds-five of them approximately-and lined the terraced hillside in front of the River Stage. Crowding into their front-and-center positions, they sang the familiar tunes that radiated from the P.A. while they waited for the show to begin. The day was a hot Friday afternoon on August 10. The event was the first concert of the "Rock the Rio" series, featuring music from Mother's Anthem, Ember, Seth James and Vallejo.

For most, the day marked one of the last of summer vacation, a day the majority of people were not even in town. For San Angelo, and for the concert going students who lingered behind in the off-months, it was likely the best rock show of the season.

Though their varying starting places ranged far and wide, all bands were officially from Austin. The show kicked off with an energetic and wholly impressive performance from the newly formed Mother's Anthem.

Comprised of Kirk Baxley, Julian Mandrake, Jonathon Scott, Zak Loy and Drew Walters, Mother's Anthem formed approximately two months ago, a fact that is hard to believe given the unity and talent they exhume onstage. Julian Mandrake, former guitarist of Blue October and lead guitarist of Mother's Anthem explains that the members had known one another from previous bands.

"We're really fortunate to be playing together. We had thought about putting a band together for a long time and we are really dedicated to putting out a positive message," Mandrake said.

With a stage presence to be likened to Papa Roach, and a sound summed up best by the quote on their MySpace page as "the start of something fresh," Mother's Anthem rocked the house (and the Rio) like no other up-and-comer I've seen as of late.

Having been blown away by the openers, the crowd quieted a bit as Ember took the stage. A five piece band with a sound nearly congruent to Evan's Blue, Ember slowed the pace for a graceful transition into the Seth James band, a trio whose sound is defined by Seth's southern guitar riffs. Talented musicians and performers with a little more down-home feel, this third act diverted the crowd from the typical nodding of heads to partnered dancing, attracting the older crowd in the audience and prepping the show-goers for what was about to be unleashed.

As the stage went black and the intro CD played, fans previously occupied with beer and concessions made their way up front to see the show. You could look around the venue and determine who had and had not seen these guys live-they would all be flocking to the pavement before the first song was complete.

The band, formed by the three brothers A.J., Alejandro, and Omar Vallejo, with two additional members Angel Ferrar and Jeff Hartsough, can best be described as a blend of Latin percussion rhythms and rock and roll. The sound is truly distinct-bearing resemblance (if only for the congas) to the music of Santana. Vallejo inspires a movement in their audience usually reserved for dance clubs, while still encapsulating the solidarity that is live music.

By the time they said, "Goodnight," just about everyone in the house was at the foot of the stage. There would be no encore, but the crowd, spent, yearned for more. It seemed all artists had exceeded the audience's expectations. Amid cries for CDs and autographs, they slowly dispersed, scanning the ground for guitar picks and other memorabilia as they left.

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