AUSTIN, Texas -- It's a searing 92 degrees when Austin-based band Leopold and His Fiction take the stage Friday afternoon at X Games Austin. Even in the Texas heat and humidity, front man Daniel James incites a roaring response from the crowd.
James shakes, jives and howls his way across the stage. Drummer Trevor Wiggins and bass player Shaun Gonzalez supply the thick grooves and pulsating back beat. Much to the crowd's delight, the three-piece band delivers soul-drenched, bare-bones rock 'n' roll, a sound they've honed from playing over 250 shows a year. But this gig is different.
Leopold and His Fiction are one of 10 emerging Austin bands representing the Live Music Capital of the World in front of a diverse audience of action sports fans -- and for these bands, the pressure is on.
"It didn't really hit us until last week -- we're kind of nervous," says Dougie Do, producer and beats master of the Austin multi-instrumental hip-hop group Magna Carda, also playing this weekend. "We've never been able to perform in front of an audience like this before."
Magna Carda is a fresh take on classic hip-hop that features the smooth flow and conscious lyrics of Megz Kelli. The group's latest single, "Every Weekend Feat. Olivia Applegate," kicked off Saturday morning's lineup that also included alternative rock group English Teeth, over-the-top Texas rock band Not In The Face and indie art rock ensemble The Black and White Years.
Other Austin musicians performing on the KUTX Austin Music stage at X Games this weekend include a dynamic lineup like psych/pop/rock band FeatherFace, classic rock 'n' roll duo Black Pistol Fire and garage rock darlings Little Radar. Most of the bands are seasoned players that have performed at major festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest, but still, they have no idea what to expect from the X Games crowd.
"I wouldn't consider myself a risk taker, but performing on stage is my adrenaline rush," says singer/songwriter Scott Butler of The Black and White Years, an award-winning rock band with pop tendencies. "Nothing beats that feeling. It's a roller coaster ride that I want to get in line and do again and again."
In many ways, what these local musicians are experiencing on stage -- thrill, adrenaline, nerves -- isn't that different from what the athletes competing at X Games feel when they drop into competition in front of thousands of spectators and live TV audiences.
"Music should be thrilling and dangerous," says singer and guitarist Jeff Klein of My Jerusalem, which performs Sunday on the KUTX stage. From early on, Klein was drawn to "growly voices and growly instruments" and his deep baritone evokes the croons of such greats singers and storytellers as Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.
The decision to include high-energy bands from the Austin music scene was an intentional one. "We chose bands with a lot of energy that will grab your attention amidst all of the X Games excitement," explains Matthew Reilly, program director for the local radio station KUTX, the host and curator of the Austin Music Experience stage at X Games Austin.
And combining sports and music at the Circuit of the Americas, the X Games Austin venue that was originally built as a Formula 1 track, is not a new phenomenon. "One of the best ways to pay tribute to Austin, Texas, is to ensure music plays a prominent role in every major sports and entertainment event we host at Circuit of the Americas," says Julie Loignon, vice president of media relations for Circuit of the Americas. "We hope fans stick around after the competitions each day to sample what Austin is famous for -- authentic sounds from some of the country's most-respected performers."