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Austin City Limits Day 2: Sir Woman Brings Old-School Soul to ACL

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Local favorites Sir Woman combines their penchant for old-school soul and explosive stage performance to give audiences at ACL a show they’ll never forget.

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By Cy White, Photos by Cy White

There are times when you come across an artist and they completely subvert your expectations in a way that leaves you reeling after you’ve heard them for the first time. Sir Woman was that band for me at ACL. Bred from the soul music I grew up on, they have a truly honest approach to the way they pay homage to the classics. Shades of The Impressions and The Temptations, they have the same type of soul and grit of a Mayer Hawthorone or a band like the Free Nationals. Completely devoid of the urge to mimic, Sir Woman simply makes music for music’s sake. 

The obvious draw is certainly the vocal line of the band. Lead singer Kelsey Wilson holds dominion over the stage. She has the easy sort of presence that doesn’t insist upon itself, but you are utterly incapable of escaping her allure. Her voice, while mostly soft and lovely, still has a great deal of weight in it. She’s generous with her smile, with her banter. Even more generous with the members of her outfit. Every single one of them has power on this stage. No one is ever outshone or left seeming like an afterthought. Their strength as a band is the fact that each member has immense talent and puts it on display fearlessly and with the energy of an artist who feels like ths is their last performance.

Pure Energy

Before anyone sings a note, before the first drum beat, the crowd already buzzes with expectant energy. The camaraderie on stage speaks of years of trust and friendship. A connectedness that translates to a live show whose aura transcends Tito’s small tent stage. When the first blast of brass does finally ring out, the audience completely loses all semblance of calm that might have manifested during the soundcheck.

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Spice (left) and Roy Jr.

It’s more than just the music (which is amazing) or even the crowd participation (which swiftly goes from 0 to 100). What Sir Woman’s showcase highlights is the power of good music. The type of sound that has so much intention behind it. So much more than the sum of its parts. But if we break everything up into those aforementioned parts, you’ll find each one as brilliant as the next.

The Band

For anyone who’s followed Wilson from her days in Wild Child, the vocal excellence isn’t anything new. Each singer on this stage holds the audience by the throat every time they grace the microphone. The stage absolutely simmers with the performance, particularly of the background singers. Spice is as full of flavor as her name suggests. She grinds, winds and sings with sin and sugar. The carefree nature of her performance speaks to the freedom of the Sir Woman outfit. The same effervescence comes alive in Roy Jr., whose voice is full of church and heartache. When all three singers meet in the middle with their harmonies, it’s like an embrace from a grandmother who calls everyone she sees “Sugar” or “Baby.” 

Then…That. Damn. Band! At first you see the brass section, a merry band of misfits wearing casual clothes and wide-brimmed hats. Next comes Nik Lee, a guitarist who at first doesn’t make an impression (other than the obvious chemistry he has with Wilson; they’re all smiles and inside jokes). But when he lays into that damn axe, it’s like he’s trying to exorcise a demon that got lost in the audience. If Lee’s shredding is trying to exorcise the demon, drummer Amber Baker is trying to beat the damn thing to death. This woman is a demon in her own right behind her kit. Indicative of the whiskey and fire of this outfit, Baker’s the embodiment of a hurricane.

Their Name is Sir Woman

Weaving between uptempo numbers about negligent lovers attempting to get back in good standing and anthems about self-reflection, Sir Woman takes its audience on a life-affirming journey. Longtime fans of Wilson and newer fans who follow the band as a whole were treated to something utterly magical at the Tito’s stage.

Their name is Sir Woman. And they are a force to be reckoned with.

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