If you grew up in San Antonio and your formative years were somewhere between 1998 and 2007, you probably know that San Antonio has a thriving local music scene. Whether it was the fire pit stage at Café Revolucion or the underage keg parties at the silos on First Friday, the San Antonio crowds came out in large numbers to support local acts. While the amount of venues regularly corralling local bands has decreased over the past decade, the San Antonio music scene is showing that it is still alive and kicking with Paper Tiger’s Free Week.
Free Week is an institution that has quickly become a great opportunity for local bands to win some fans over and an even greater opportunity for San Antonio to discover new acts coming up in their own backyard. We made it out to the opening night of Free Week late Thursday night and watched some of the most talented acts San Antonio has produced.
We showed up right as The Holy Knives took the stage, a band whose appearance at Free Week this year came full circle as they made their debut at Free Week 2018. The band is reminiscent of the mid to late 00s boom of somber indie rock, except instead of being influenced by Ian Curtis or Morrissey they take more cues from Nick Cave. They have a dark, sullen atmospheric sound but aren’t afraid to crank up the amps and throw out some dirty bluesy guitar riffs.
They were followed by The Hawks (of Holy Rosary), a band that erupted the stage into a rock and roll party. I jumped on their bandwagon a few years ago when they released the single “Robert Deniro” that is infectious as it is fun. The band has a sound reminiscent of The Rentals having a love affair with The Hold Steady. They are the type of band that makes you want to start a band.
Lonely Horse took the stage shortly after and brought down the house. The two piece blues revival has been an institution in San Antonio for so long that these kinds of events are almost expected to feature a set by them. They play the kind of blues that inspired Led Zeppelin, the kind that The White Stripes played before White Blood Cells. If you haven’t had the privilege of having your face melted off by Lonely Horse, just imagine Son House songs played as loud as possible with a lot of distortion.
Chris Conde is an artist that has risen over the past few years. I was first exposed to his raw rapping ability when he opened up for a Rainbow Starchild fashion show and he hasn’t let up since. Conde raps quick and fluidly, his articulation feels similar to Eminem’s flow at times, but at other times stretches the vernacular of Aesop Rock and even other times stylistically draws up comparisons in my mind to Danny Brown. Conde has a raw energy that is a driving force and as an openly queer rapper, he is leaving a mark and opening up a path for other queer rappers to follow.
The show closed out with Wayne Holtz, an amalgam of sound and aesthetic that is very difficult to fully capture without further explanation. Along with his music partner Bobby Rivas (a strong force in the local music scene – see Islands and Tigers and Fea, just to name a couple), Holtz took the stage in a see through dress and made the stage his dance floor as he paraded around singing his heart out. His music blurs lines between 00s dance, 80s goth, and Disney channel musical. Somehow, he manages to fit all of these conflicting sounds into a blender for something that is as entertaining as it is beautiful to listen to. He shutdown the show dancing through the crowd and even jumped up on the bar Coyote Ugly style during his set. On a night that crossed so many genres of music, Holtz was the perfect ending to the first day of free local music.