During most months of the year, The Sideshow Tragedy can be found driving its van across the country, exporting Austin’s blues rock music style in hopes of converting new ears into fans of Texas rock. The band’s strong work ethic is evenly shared between the band members — a 50-50 split.
“We don’t usually ever do this,” Jeremy Harrell said on the telephone while leaving Austin to play a single show at Fred’s Texas Cafe in Fort Worth. “It’s a good gig, though.”
With a background in punk rock, the band diverts its aggression from music into a relentless touring schedule.
Nathan Singleton’s bottleneck slide on his resonator guitar produces a furious, metallic roar while Harrell’s heavy, syncopated drums soak up any excess space. Even though The Sideshow Tragedy is only a two-piece band, it makes more noise than bands with more members. The duo consolidates punk aggression with a lifelong appreciation for blues, resulting in authentic Texas rock that will be showcased Tuesday, March 12 at Headhunters Patio.
After experimenting with several bass players during their decade-long partnership, a reverence for simplicity brought them back to the pair’s original solidarity.
“There’s definitely some sort of unspoken connection between us, and that’s why this thing works so well,” Harrell said. “It’s like we’ve been married for a long time.”
Last year the band put out its fourth record, Persona, and extended its heavy touring schedule to Belgium.
“Everything’s real close together over there. It’s easier to get around,” Singleton said. “In the U.S. there’s so much space between cities.”
They’ve played in every state in the continental U.S., minus the elusive Dakotas and Maine.
“I will spend all of my time playing music and I don’t know why. It’s just rad, man,” Singleton said. “I’ve never thought about doing anything else.”
Singleton said that an appreciation for musicians like The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix inspired him as an 11-year-old to create music.
While listening to Persona, it seems that these artists are still just as influential on the band’s sound. The jumpy energy of the Stones circa Exile on Main St. and Hendrix’s heavily distorted guitar tones play large roles in crafting The Sideshow Tragedy’s gritty feel. There’s also some early Zeppelin in the mix, which is made possible by Singleton’s impressive ability to multitask. He plays spacious rock ’n’ blues riffs reminiscent of a young Jimmy Page while simultaneously invoking trebly, Robert Plant-ish wails. His mastery of the guitar renders any other instrumentation irrelevant and unnecessary, excluding Harrell’s irreplaceable rhythms. What could become boring because of a lack of other instruments is, instead, refreshingly straightforward and diverse.
Although they’ve played unofficial South by Southwest events for years, this is Harrell and Singleton’s first year as an official band. While it will be their first official performance, an entertaining performance can be guaranteed. They’ll probably play a slew of newer material from Persona, supplemented with live staples like traveling blues anthem “A Pint of Whiskey And a Pound of Grace,” from 2008’s Itinerant Youth, and, if lucky, older material like “Fishing Song,” from 2007’s Borrowed Guitars, Unwound Hearts and Broken Strings. The chaotic live energy of The Sideshow Tragedy will probably overshadow the night’s main event.