March 20, 2012

Ambassadors Sessions – #Road2SXSW – Houston and Austin

As Lonely Paul has lauded, the Ambassadors are amazing in the studio, but what he didn’t dive fully into is how they sound live. We had the pleasure of covering their shows in Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston and Austin during SXSW, and they killed it, every time. Thanks primarily to Lights ever growing fan base, Ambassadors have been opening shows to hundreds of young, impressionable ears and leaving with dozens of new fans. Every day, their Facebook and Twitter pages get fans posting and tweeting about their performance, and the response is only positive. Since recording on the Mobile Studio commenced we were able to cover their remaining shows while also being able to sit back, and enjoy them as a fan.

To give an idea of what to expect, Sam is the front man who switches between a floor tom and bass while singing. Casey, his brother, plays on a Nord Lead 2 and Nord Electro, providing back up vocals every once in a while. On lead guitar and back up vocals is Noah, who also uses a Nord Electro during certain tracks. Finally, Adam is on the drums keeping everyone in sync. During their tour with Lights, their shows have been selling out and the guys have benefited from the stage lights used during the tour. Every night before they go on, there are lines out of the venue with young kids itching to get a good spot. Few of them know who Ambassadors are, but from what we have seen while traveling they sure as hell know afterwards.

In Houston at the Warehouse Live, Ambassadors played to their largest crowd to date. In front of screaming teenagers waiting for Lights to come on, Ambassadors blew them away with their big sound and catchy tracks. It’s hard to truly describe their shows and how they make you feel but if I were to try, I would describe their set as a emotional journey, with every song leading to the next without losing energy. I would say they have a very primal, raw sound that makes the hair on your skin rise. The lyrics really reach into your chest and pluck at your heart strings. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. It’s one thing to hear “Unconsolable” played through your computer, and another thing to see it performed live. Sam really gets into playing the floor tom and the guys put everything into every performance. Long story short, go see these guys live if you can.

Their show in Houston was the last one opening for Lights before they pick up the tour again in Dallas post SXSW, so we were excited to see the guys out on their own. While in South By, Ambassadors were performing Thursday, Friday, and had two showcases on Saturday, so there were multiple opportunities for us to see their set and capture more video content. The first of their shows was held at the Red Eyed Fly on Red River St. The venue featured an indoor and larger outdoor stage out back, as most SXSW venues do. Ambassadors performed in the back in front of a large crowd during the middle of the day, with everyone there to see them. There were a number of people who we ran into looking for the Ambassadors showcase. While filming at the venue, it was nice to see people sing along to their songs, bobbing their heads, and moving their feet. After the set, the guys were mobbed as they broke down their gear. Zack, our videographer, and I were able to hang out with them for a little bit after the show as they settled into the SXSW scene and arranged to meet up again so we could wrap up the documentary feature.

The guys had friends and family in town and wanted to spend quality time with them before the height of their schedule hit. The plan was to film the remaining interviews and their Friday set at Bandpage HQ. The meeting spot was one of their girlfriend’s apartment, which has a rooftop balcony. That morning, Zack and I traveled out toward’s UT’s campus to find the apartment complex. Upon arriving, we were greeted with high-fives and got straight to work since their day-time set was in two hours and they had to be able to park, unload, set-up, and soundcheck. We were able to knock out all of the interviews that day minus their Tour Manager, Alex Barnett or “Barnett” as everyone calls him.

The last show we were able to see was at the Whiskey Room during the day on Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day. We met up with the guys as they slowly trickled in, and helped them get their gear unloaded. We took Barnett aside and conducted his interview in their tour van as the sun and SXSW crowd heated up. After a few mic problems were fixed during soundcheck, the guys quickly dove into their set. Throughout the entire performance, I kept glancing back and noticed the crowd growing and growing. The Whiskey Room is a smaller venue, but it’s located right on 6th and Trinity, so the sound floods into the street. People walking by were immediately drawn in by the Ambassadors set, and the venue quickly filled. As their set came to a close, the room filled with cheers then quickly dissipated to go find the next spot.

Zack and I stuck around again after the show, and arranged to gather some last minute photos and autographs. By now we had become more than just a film crew and band, we’d become friends and family. It was tough to say goodbye to the guys as we parted ways. The whole experience was a dream of mine since planning our SXSW trip and we couldn’t have lucked out any more by finding Ambassadors. The stars were aligned and they were hitting the same cities we were on our way to Austin. I have no doubt that they will be headlining their own tour soon, and hopefully they pass through Atlanta so we can all meet up again. Until then, I look forward to hearing Lonely Paul’s mixdown of the track “Habits” and the release of Zack’s feature, “The Road to SXSW.”