Friday, June 5, 2009

Atlanta Music Heads Up: Arc Angels

Austin's Arc Angels were one of those great bands that "should have been." Originally formed as a pick-up band in late 1990, the Angels were composed of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan's rhythm section (drummer Chris Layton and bassist Tommy Shannon, together better known as Double Trouble), plus singer/guitarist/songwriters Charlie Sexton and Doyle Bramhall II. The combination hit it off quickly, grabbed their name from the initials of the Austin Rehearsal Complex, and snagged a major-label record deal back in the days when that still meant something. Their debut (and to date, only) album was well-reviewed, the lead-off single "Living In A Dream" got a lot of airplay, and the band was a top-flight live act.

And then, just as the album was poised to go gold, everything fell apart. Bramhall discovered heroin, and quickly deteriorated as a performer and a bandmate. The band was forced as a result to decline the opening spot on the Black Crowes' blockbuster High As The Moon Tour, and after a disastrous summer 1993 performance at Austin's Auditorium Shores, they broke up, reconveining briefly that October for a set of local shows to pay off their outstanding debts.

Bramhall eventually cleaned up his act, and has been a top session and concert sideman for most of the 2000's, playing with Eric Clapton and Roger Waters. Sexton has also been an in-demand player, gigging with Bob Dylan and other mega-names, and Double Trouble has never had any, er, trouble getting work. Nearly a decade after the 1993 collapse, the band reformed for occasional shows in Austin, then expanded to short tours in Texas.

Finally, early this year, the Arc Angels announced that they (minus Shannon, who's missing for thus-far unexplained reasons) would tour internationally as a band--they're opening for Clapton in Europe--as well as record a new album and release a live DVD.

Their stateside headlining tour stops at Atlanta's Variety Playhouse tonight, so catch them if you can. Speaking for myself, having caught the Arc Angels' farewell show (and unlike a lot of bands, they really meant it at the time) in Austin sixteen years back, I'm pretty jazzed about getting to see them again.


  1. Wow, I had totally forgotten about them. I lived in Austin from about '95 to '05. Thanks for the update on everything! I'm sure it'll be a great show, hope you blog about it!

  2. The show was worth the admission price, but it wasn't what you'd call an inspired performance. A bit disappointing; it was great to hear those songs again, but everybody on stage looked like they were just there for the check. They all played well (particularly Bramhall), but I doubt I'd pay to see them again, which is too bad.

  3. Sorry to hear it wasn't that great.