Neon Reverb is alive. The four-day homegrown local and indie music festival, which appeared to be gone for good after it went on official hiatus in January 2014, returns Thursday, March 10, and takes over a half-dozen Downtown venues, including two stages at the revived Bunkhouse. Neon Reverb is alive. I’m gonna step back a moment and let that sink in.
This news comes directly from Neon Reverb’s new organizational team: James Woodbridge, who co-founded the festival with Thirry Harlin in 2008; Jason Aragon, bassist for The Clydesdale and a key promoter in Reverb’s first iteration; Ronald Corso, owner of 11th Street Records and its hidden recording studio, National Southwestern; and Mike Henry, the Austin, Texas, transplant who booked the shows for the Bunkhouse’s first startling revival (The Breeders, Night Terrors of 1927, Mike Doughty and more).
“People have been telling me about Neon Reverb since before I moved here,” Henry says. “It’s time. Neon Reverb belongs here; it belongs to the scene. It rested for a little bit, and now it’s back, because it needs to be here.”
Past Neon Reverb festivals have included a number of known indie bands, including The Walkmen, Ty Segall, Akron/Family, Foxygen and Thee Oh Sees. (From the beginning, that March date was designed to draw bands and fans already on their way to Austin’s venerable South by Southwest: “Basically, Los Angeles empties out and heads east,” Corso says.)
But those popular indies are not what make Neon Reverb noteworthy or exciting. It’s the local angle.
“It’s our bands; it’s our music scene; it’s our venues,” Woodbridge says. “Life Is Beautiful and Punk Rock Bowling are great events, but you could pick them up and move them anywhere.”
Corso agrees, citing Neon Reverb as necessary for music scene morale.
“After years of this town being a tough place to be in a band, all of a sudden, stuff didn’t suck,” Corso says. “Everybody looked forward to Reverb; the energy was great. Every show was packed, and you really could see the possibilities of a thriving, vibrant Downtown.”
Organizers say that an all-festival pass will probably run $50—a ridiculously good deal for four days of wall-to-wall music. (Tickets will also be available for individual shows.) And Aragon says that one of Reverb’s biggest problems in the past—sets not beginning on time—should be less of a factor now that Downtown has evolved: “It’s gotten so much more professional down here, so much more well-oiled,” he says. “I mean, the Bunkhouse is just a better place to see a show now than it used to be.”
As for a band lineup, just hold tight. They’ve got a wish list of artists that I won’t reveal here, because the most important band might just be the one you’re in.
“We want to get the word out,” Corso says. “We want people to know about it so the local bands can start tooling up.”
Learn more about Neon Reverb at NeonReverb.com.