By Hannah Walls
In 2018, indie rock group Mt. Joy played a SXSW show at Stubb’s Bar-B-Q with only three songs on their setlist. I had the opportunity to hear this little anecdote this past Saturday while anxiously awaiting their 2022 performance on the Outdoor Stage at Lady Bird Lake, the largest SXSW stage.
As I stood in the crowd of what had to be hundreds of people there for the show, I was amazed to hear that the group had started out with humble beginnings at the very same festival years before.
After performances from Austin’s own Emily Wolfe and Susannah Joffe, and indie folk rock trio Houndmouth, who also gained traction from their SXSW performances in prior years, Mt. Joy took the stage.
Despite the chill, unmistakably Americana road-trip vibes I was feeling from the beginning of the group’s performance, the crowd was insanely energized. Fans were especially engaged, swaying and singing at the top of their lungs, when the group performed “Astrovan,” their first ever single.
Following a few songs from previous albums, Mt. Joy went on to give the audience a taste of some new tunes coming soon, including one titled “Phenomenon.” This song took me a little by surprise, as I was able to hear the iconic sound and influences that are so characteristic of Mt. Joy, but also heard a lot of new elements.
“Phenomenon,” combined the folksy blues-tinged rock that Mt. Joy gained popularity off of with funky psychedelic interludes that gave a completely new dimension to the group’s dynamic and usual sound. It sounded totally different from the previous songs, but to me, made complete sense and almost gave the group the illusion of heightened confidence in their performance.
My favorite part of the performance had to be the group’s cover of the Grateful Dead’s, “Fire on the Mountain.”
I’m usually not super favorable to covers that aren’t wildly different or genre-flipped from the original, but Mt. Joy’s cover was truly electrifying and really gave me insight on direct parallels between the group and their influences. The cover was actually so similar to the original I felt transported back to 1978, and the crowd seemed to feel the same.
The group also performed their new single, “Lemon Tree,” which featured shimmery guitar riffs, dream-like floaty vocals from frontman Matt Quinn, and an acid-drenched interlude that felt like another perfect homage to the 1970s and 1980s.
This performance completely surpassed my expectations, and it was amazing to experience a taste of what’s next to come from the group. I am really looking forward to seeing their growth as they dip their toes into many genres and influences!
Featured Image by Hannah Walls