Austra at Fitzgerald's, 9/14/2013

Austra Fitzgerald's September 14, 2012

With the joint easily packed out, Canadian synth-pop group Austra played to a crowd of about 150 sweaty souls downstairs at Fitzgerald's Saturday night. Having caught the band once before, a standout set to a decent-sized crowd a few years ago at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest, I was excited to see them perform in this much more intimate environment.

I figured the show would be in Fitz's larger, less sweaty upstairs venue, but that stage featured another performance from Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights. Walking in during the last song of opener Diana, I was impressed by what I heard; friends also mentioned how great of a set they had, so I'm bummed I didn't catch more.

Austra took the stage about half an hour after said opener finished up, surrounded by illuminated umbrellas that shifted colors to the beat throughout the entire performance. Front woman Katie Stelmanis worked the stage like she'd been doing it her whole life, all while a supporting cast of musicians -- drummer Maya Postepski, bassist Dorian Wolf and synth player Ryan Wonsiak -- rustled up a pretty lively dance party.

The performance was fun and kept everyone glued to the stage from front to back, but Stelmanis' voice was the true highlight of the night. It was effortless yet boisterous during the more upbeat tracks, and seductive and sultry when she sang with a breathless whisper on the slower songs.

Stelmanis would also take to her own synthesizer for about half of the show to add to the wall of sound already created by the other folks onstage. Just with her stage presence alone, Stelmanis brought a huge amount of energy to the room - a talent that should come in handy on Austra's eventual rise to pop-music stardom.

Dance music has made a serious comeback as of late, both in the world of EDM as well as indie artists that bring an instrumental feel to dance. With the opening of local venues like Barbarella and events like next month's Something Wicked festival, there seems to be a serious need for and following of all forms of dance music.

The synthesizer, which many moons ago was frowned upon in the pop-music world, is now a predominant sound with Billboard's best. It's the secret ingredient in current dance and pop music -- from Daft Punk to Justin Timberlake to "insert said popular band here," it's starting to show up so much more everywhere you look.

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Jim Bricker