On Sunday, I had already been to Lola’s in the morning for the monthly Rock N’ Roll Rummage sale when I saw that members of two of my favorite local acts – Frisky Disco and The Hannah Barbarians – were raving about something called Leopold and his Fiction that was going on at Lola’s. I had to journey back out there and investigate.
When I got to Lola’s I was disappointed to see that Animal Spirit (another of my favorites) was just tearing down. The joint was filling up quick with fans of the Austin-based Leopold. One of their fans described Leopold front man Daniel James as something like an old-time bare knuckle boxer who could really play guitar. Sounded odd, but I’ve seen weirder things at Lola’s.
The description wasn’t far off. Daniel James (vocals/guitar) took the stage sporting a hipster ’stache, muscle shirt and a pork pie hat. Indeed during the show James moved about the stage on the balls of his feet, presenting such a theatrical posture that had you half-expected him to toss down his Gibson guitar and adopt a Mendoza boxing stance. There is a good dose of showmanship to their stage presence.
However, for me anyway, the visual takes a back seat to the sonic, and Leopold and his Fiction prevail here as well. This thing is held together by an ever so solid rhythm section. Trevor Wiggans plays a minimalist drum kit with precision and violence, all the while adding keyboard and backing vocals. Shaun Gonzalez laid down a bass foundation that interlocked with the frantic pace of the drums effortlessly, providing a structure capable of supporting the dramatic mood changes of the well-timed flurries of guitar leads spaced around the vocals. (The band is rounded out by Emily Hello on vocals.)
James is a first-class guitar player, and while his playing is skillful and tasteful, that structure keeps everything believable. Soulful vocal harmonies finish off the overall sonic experience, giving us a touch of Motown to overall sound.
Leopold and his Fiction kept the audience engaged from the first note to the last. A sizable crowd for a Sunday crammed near the stage, and if it wasn’t obvious who they were there to see, once they left the stage venue emptied out considerably. The closing band was an electronic (mostly) dance band called The French Horn Rebellion. It was basically a drummer, two keyboard players, and at least one of the keyboard players played French horn for a bit. It was well done, and a small group stayed to dance to the music, but the energy level just couldn’t compete with Leopold. I hit the road before the second song.