The 12 Best Acts of iFest's First Weekend
The Apple Scruffs
Photo by Francisco Montes Los Skarnales
Performing as "The Down Under Band" for the day, The Apple Scruffs took an inspiring break from their usual gig as a Beatles cover band to cover music from Australian musicians, in homage to this year's spotlight country. This quartet was so good, it inspired thoughts about what their original material might sound like. The best part of their set, however, was when they unintentionally performed Men at Work's single "Down Under" at the same time as Travis Caudle across the courtyard. ALYSSA DUPREE
Saturday afternoon, the Australian native Travis Caudle gave Houston a taste of what the country has to offer in the singer-songwriter department. And he didn't disappoint either. At the Down Under Pub Stage, Caudle flaunted his vocal chops and songwriting prowess for an hour, much to the delight of a small but enthusiastic crowd that was relaxing in the shade of the on-site canopy. He performed plenty of original songs and even incorporated a cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army."
Caudle has played with the Black Crowes and performed at SXSW in the past, and his stock in Houston inched up some Saturday afternoon. I didn't catch either of his supplemental performances, but his act continued into the evening at the GenuWine Tasting Room in the Woodlands, and again at iFest Sunday. He may not be coming back to Houston any time soon, but his music can be found on iTunes and Spotify. MATTHEW KEEVER
Photo by Marco Torres
As I arrived to the festival on a warm Sunday afternoon, the cool sounds of a tejano accordion greeted me in the shadow of City Hall. In front of the stage, a trio of couples danced to Conjunto X, a lively and energetic group whose lead singer and accordion player provided both superb instrumental mastery of his squeezebox and a bit of comic relief.
They ended their set with a medley of classic songs that paid tribute to la paloma (the dove) with "El Palomito" and "Como Te Llamas Paloma." Don Antonio, a short, happy-go-lucky gentleman in the audience, took the opportunity to dance and sing to his heart's content. "Me gusta el baile" he told me. (I love to dance). You've come to the right place, sir. MARCO TORRES
By far, my favorite act so far at iFest has been Endurance. The San Francisco-based vocal quartet lifted spirits and got the crowd dancing Sunday afternoon, sweeping through songs about a mother's love and the generosity of our maker. Fans raised their hands high, humming and singing along after being taught the choruses. And during "Ain't God Good," the singers even walked into the crowd, shaking hands and giving out hugs while continuing to sing. They may be from the Bay area, but if that ain't Southern hospitality I just don't know what is. MATTHEW KEEVER
To say that Steve Krase loves his harmonica is an understatement, but whether you're a fan of blues-infused rock or not, his conviction will turn you into a fan. But though Krase's stage presence lights up the set, his music wouldn't have the same allure without his band, which brought just as much joy as he did. Hiis guitarist in particular put me in mind of a young Ozzy Osbourne and helped bring Krase's humorous lyrics to life when he brooded over "Put the Cocaine Down." ALYSSA DUPREE
Omid Aski Laridjani
We had no idea who was on stage at Coopers Pub Sunday afternoon, just that we had to go check it out considering that seemingly half the people at iFest were gathered underneath the small tent. They even spilled out into the grassy area surrounding it, so obviously there was something worth taking in. That was Omid Aski Laridjani, a native of Oz who was chatting about his homeland in between playing the digeridoo.
After watching him for a few minutes, it made sense why he was garnering so much attention. He chatted away about the origins of the instrument's name and told hilarious anecdotes about Oz, while wearing little more than body paint. Not sure how he pulls it off, but there was something artistic and mesmerizing about him, while not feeling forced or cheesy. Not to mention the digeridoo looks ridiculously hard to play -- at least to play well -- and doing so while sporting underwear and paint makes it all the more impressive. ANGELICA LEICHT
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