Jukebox the Ghost takes the stage. (Photo by Josh Olalde)
Jukebox the Ghost delights the audience. (Photo by Caitlin Hsu)
The vibrant vibes at Love Street Music Fest (Photo by Josh Olalde)
Mind Shrine at Love Street Music Fest. (Photo by Josh Olalde)
Spoon performs at Love Street Music Fest. (Photo by Josh Olalde)
Karbach Brewing Company presented Love Street Music Fest. (Photo by Josh Olalde)
Caitlin Hsu (middle) with Jesse Kristin, Ben Thornewill of Jukebox the Ghost (Photo by Caitlin Hsu)
This year’s Love Street Music Fest happened to fall on a print magazine going-to-press weekend at PaperCity, so I had all but given up hope of attending. However, through a stroke of luck (and some negotiating with my editors), I found myself at Karbach Brewing Company on a sunny Saturday, ready for an evening of live music and free beer.
A seven-year old tradition, this festival gets its name from the late-1960s-era Love Street Light Circus Feel Good Machine, a psychedelic music venue opened by Houston sculptor David Adickes. Chuck Robertson, a Karbach founder, had fond memories of attending concerts at Love Street in his youth, and thus was born Karbach’s Love Street Blonde, the Kӧlsch-style hoppy beer that fueled the evening.
I admit, I had only known a bit of this history prior to attending, and I was unfamiliar with the festival’s headliner, the Austin-based Spoon. The reason why this Love Street Music Fest was a can’t-miss event for me came down to a certain piano-rock three-piece act from Washington, D.C. — Jukebox the Ghost.
I had seen JTG in concert about a year prior, on the tail end of their “Cheers! To A Tour,” a promotional run ahead of their May 2022 release Cheers. This time, the band’s appearance at Karbach concluded their 2023 spring tour, “I Got A Tour,” which followed the 2023 release of Cheers (Deluxe Version).
Needless to say, I’m a bit of a fan.
The Love Street concerts kicked off with Mind Shrine, a Houston-based four-piece, which recently played a show at Discovery Green (and will be at Antone’s in Austin on June 17). The group serenaded early arrivers with a half-hour set of jazzy tunes inspired by ’60s/’70s rock, bossa nova and pop.
Then, it was time. Jukebox the Ghost’s keyboardist/vocalist Ben Thornewill, guitarist/New Yorker comic artist Tommy Siegel and drummer Jesse Kristin took the stage, opening with the tongue-in-cheek pop number “Million Dollar Bills,” followed by “Ramona,” an apocalypse-inspired single by Siegel.
The next hour was full of JTG classics and new releases, including the appropriately-danceable “Fred Astaire”; the Queen-esque “Jumpstarted”; “Everybody Panic,” another post-apocalyptic Siegel number; “Colorful,” complete with audience call-and-response; and — to my elation — my favorite Jukebox The Ghost tune “Under My Skin,” which I’d been wanting to see live for years.
JTG are famously Queen fans — the band’s annual Halloween bash HalloQueen includes a full set of classics from the 1970s rock band, performed in costume. So it was no surprise when they broke into a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Thornewill channeled his best Freddie Mercury while the crowd rocked along.
The set finished with “Cheers,” the eponymous single off Jukebox the Ghost’s new album, complete with audience members raising their glasses — or rather, their Love Street Blondes.
The sun had nearly set by the time Spoon, the night’s headliner, took the stage. Against the backdrop of experimental rock tunes, I took a moment to explore the shops. Karbach collaborated with Shop Local Market, an organization that works with local makers and artists, to bring vintage and homemade products to the festival. All the vendors at Love Street Music Fest were Houston-based, including Cargo Vintage, Pop Soap, Artboy 76, Love 1127 Jewelry, PopLife Popcorn, Texas Pie Guy and Gimme Gomas. Starting next Saturday June 3, Shop Local Market will host a weekly indoor market at Ironworks in The Heights on every Saturday.
For me, the most special moment of the night was when, on my way out of the biergarten, I ran into none other than Jukebox the Ghost’s Thornewill and Kristin. After introductions and a lot of excited squealing on my part, I snapped a photo with them and got their autographs on the Post-Its where I had been taking my notes. Take it from this writer — always have a pen and paper handy in case you meet one of your favorite bands.