Austin rockers ready to light up festival stage
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 13:07
Curtis Roush of Bright Light Social Hour on guitar and vocals during a performance at Grounds for Thought. (Photos: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
The band Bright Light Social Hour came together in a house in Austin, Texas.
That’s where one of the founders guitarist Curtis Roush lived. And where the band’s equipment resided. The place had a kitchen and a nice backyard, all the amenities musicians need to hang out and party after grueling practices.
When keyboardist A.J. Vincent first showed up to play with the band, he ended up passed out on the couch. That’s how drummer Joseph Mirasole recognized him later... the guy who passed out on the couch.
Seeing the band, which also includes founder Jack O’Brien on bass, perform at Grounds for Thought, it’s evident the spirit of those times live on in Bright Light Social Hour’s shows.
On July 16, Bright Light Social Hour delivered a set of throbbing, shaggy-mane-shaking, instrument-flailing hard rock that had the audience on its feet demanding an encore.
The band obliged with a tune in waltz time, with shades of delicate ballad, that the quartet powerlifted to a full-throated roar.
Bright Light Social Hour will be back in town as the headliner for Friday’s show at the Black Swamp Arts Festival.
The band’s no stranger to these parts. It has also played a couple times at the Village Idiot in Maumee.
Four and a half years after those house sessions in Austin,  band is in a schizophrenic stage of its career, opening for Aerosmith in Quebec City for a crowd of 80,000 one night and then playing a club in Louisville, Ky., for seven people... and getting food poisoning.
Jack O'Brien (bass) and A.J. Vincent (keyboard) of Bright Light Social Hour.
The band bought a brand new van in September, and has put more than 50,000 miles on it. That’s their home.
Those early house sessions inform the band’s ethos. Sharing meals and hanging out fosters the collective creativity that fuels Bright Light Social Hour. The band’s roots go back a few years before that to jams that O’Brien and Roush organized while student at Southwestern University in Austin. “We played very experimental rock with a lot of screaming,” O’Brien said.
When O’Brien returned to town after spending a year in Madrid, he and Roush decided to pull another band together.
They posted an ad on Craigslist. Mirasole, then a senior in high school, spotted it and was intrigued. The ad listed a bunch of obscure bands he thought only he knew about. He’d been involved in a band but it broke up, he said, when two of the members took jobs scooping ice cream at a Maggie Moo’s franchise.
He practiced several times with the band before getting the nod. At 23, he’s the youngest.
Vincent was invited to audition by his friend Alex O’Brien, the bassist’s brother and band manager.
Bright Light Social Hour’s recorded its initial offering, a self-titled recording in summer of 2010 and released it that fall both as a CD and on vinyl. It took a few years, Roush said to work out tunes that all fit together and told a story. Now the band is working on a second recording.
The music is a joint effort. Everybody brings in bits and riffs, that the band works into a musical whole. Lyrics are created the same way, with one band member charged with taking his bandmates’ ideas and shaping them into a draft.
Joseph Mirasole of Bright Light Social on drums during a performance.
The others then polish the draft, workshop style.
The band’s camaraderie nurtured through those hours in the Austin house make such a work arrangement possible. They have developed a knowledge, respect and trust of each other that allows them to be open during the creative process.
The songs find the final form on stage, with fans’ reaction and the flow of the live shows shaping the final product.
The wildness of those ur-sessions has been stylistically tamed. The band formed around a style that could incorporate the musicians far-flung interests. They share a love of many of the same bands, but each also has his own tastes.Mirasole bring dance beats and techno to the mix, and takes in an appreciation for classic rock, that he previously thought of as “old man music.”
The band maintains its hyperkinetic approach to performing. Vincent is as likely to slash at his keyboards using his whole arm as to finger it traditionally.
The musicians underscore those frenetic jams with tight grooves. No matter how high and wild the jams get, O’Brien’s melodic bass licks and Mirasole’s driving beat keep them grounded.
Bright Light Social Hour delivers a rousing homemade sound that travels well.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 July 2012 14:51

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