Just one album into their catalogue, Austin’s Lexi and the Bleached Roses have already figured out something other bands might struggle to pull off – that is, a marriage between easy acoustic indie rock/pop and traditional, string-heavy Americana.
It’s a fairly hard balance to strike. Do it wrong, and you can unintentionally come across as a novelty – a bunch of old-timey-fixated jokers who are trying to pretend they stepped out of a 1931 shack and leaped eight decades ahead to save music from 808s and processing.
Fortunately, that’s not what Lexi Cardenas (pictured above) and her band are. Their concoction of indie, folk, and string music – driven by singer Cardenas’ violin and Mario Salas’ hypnotic cello – brought something both fresh and classic to Radio Coffee & Beer on Saturday night, suggesting Lexi and the Bleached Roses are one of Austin’s best up-and-comers in the indie-folk game.
Though their strings certainly play a starring role, both the originality and quality of the Bleached Roses’ music are bolstered by their refusal to be stuck in the distant past. For one, synth player Mo Paynter is around to augment those traditional tools Cardenas and Salas carry (along with drummer Jacob Wiviott). For another, the group’s melodic sensibility is steeped in the folk-pop territory of the last three or four decades, with Cardenas keeping her pleasant but powerful voice right in the middle of the road. It all makes their music perfect for an intimate venue like Radio, and on Saturday night they delivered.
Several moments of Saturday’s set could’ve been picked out as highlights. The title track from their highly accessible 2017 debut album, Sweet Desire, propelled the show forward early on, with Wiviott’s driving, folky beat and Salas’ hypnotic cello standing out. Or the highlight could’ve been the way the group completely transformed Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” into their own. Opening with Cardenas laying down a plucked violin line for looping, this version of the nearly quarter-century-old grunge anthem sounded utterly original after its folk-pop facelift. At each chorus, Cardenas lodged the song’s “new complaint” three times, with two loud rounds followed by a quieter one. The unexpected dynamic shift worked, and so did the transformation of the song. “Waiting,” a ballad driven by acoustic guitar and cello, provided another captivating highlight, recalling some of the best 1990s performances of MTV’s “Unplugged.”
The closer, a louder, more urgent version of their song “Again” than the version that appears on Sweet Desire, fittingly included Cardenas asking a question that could be posed to the Bleached Roses’ live audience: “Will you see me again?” Their performance Saturday gave their audience every reason to do so, and to look forward to the new music the group is planning to release this spring.
FULL ARTICLE HERE.
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