It’s hot. Like “Do the Right Thing” by Spike Lee hot. Pizza ovens and ghetto blasters serenading children in a wrenched open fire hydrant hot. Half of the street is boiling, the other half tolerable in the glorious shade of newly cemented condo towers. Every step reminds me of “Lawrence of Arabia.”

A construction worker passes me on the sidewalk holding a lunch box and a bag of peanuts. His white hard hat casts down on his greasy, sweat soaked orange shirt. Drywall and curry linger in the air. An unfinished monument of a condo tower soars over the scantily populated patio of the Garaj Mahal.

I step in for a Montucky Cold Snack Lager as I wait for the show to begin. It’s lights nearly as dim as an afternoon matinee. Cuban music gets me grooving as a fedora wearing bartender measures out a fancy cocktail. “Come and Take it” a flag proclaims as it dances in the warm breeze above the wooden patio. They already did on Rainey Street, and they built a condo tower in its place. They didn’t need the cannon and gunpowder though, only a permit.

Water misting fans rain down on my roasting flesh, like a defibrillator keeping my conscious state for a few moments as the band tunes up. The grassless backyard of Craft Pride has a relaxed feel. Dark rocks cover the main yard, a large deck elevates patreons around the sides. A sporadic picket fence lets the passing cars creep into view behind the low wooden stage.

The band has a sound that floats with ease, the lead guitar drifting along with a fretboard slide. His long blonde hair rests on his shoulders, hiding the arms of his black Wayfarer sunglasses. He dances in worn, laced boots, screaming a smooth solo on his black Collings hollow body guitar. Nick Boettcher knows every note, and every right moment to play it. He usually criss crosses the country on seldom ending tours, performing with Paige DeChausse in a duo.

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Nick Boettcher performing at Craft Pride in Austin, Texas. Photo by Andrew Blanton

A hip older couple nods along to the song “Down on my Knees.” His purple haired date has a short cut that matches her sleeveless top. The man in a flamingo littered button up pours a lemonade cocktail from a cork topped bottle into his half filled glass, begging the little ice that remains to oblige.  

The doghouse bass player looks twice as hot as I am, leaning back in a fatigued manner like he just met the rest of the platoon after a week in the jungle. His beard and sideburns drip onto the tan, warn in wood. His fingers poke around, bumping the number through a couple of blazing solos. He pulls out a bow for the next song written by “a couple of my friends,” adding a bit of extra emotion.


Eric Bettencourt performing at Craft Pride in Austin, Texas. Photo by Andrew Blanton

A woman in an orange dress tosses a few dollars into the tip jar as he sings “I can’t live on a dollar a day.” Gravel crunches under her sandals as she turns back to see if he noticed. “I’m gonna watch you walk away,” he timely sings.

Eric Bettencourt fingerpicks furiously as he sings a reinvented version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.” His voice can be so smooth, like a warm buttermilk pancake on a Sunday morning, its sweet batter gracing the walls of your stomach just enough send endorphins scrambling in your brain, flowing through your arms and legs to the tips of your fingers and toes. His range can also sound gritty, like Guy Clark scolding a heckler. He has an amazing ability to adjust for what the song calls for. Bettencourt leaves the stage antics for the other bands, worn in jeans and a dark button up, brown laceless shoes and a black Fender. His music speaks for itself.


Eric Bettencourt performing at Craft Pride in Austin, Texas. Photo by Andrew Blanton

A glassy eyed couple looks on from behind a few evaporating beers, a small grin on both of their faces. His foot nods along to the music. They briefly kiss and ponder weather to order a full one. Bettencourt’s music makes you feel like your lounging at an outdoor festival.

The drums are nice and tight, unassuming as they bop along. Nothing to prove and everything to add, just like his purple v-neck and shorts, Adidas Sambas stomping the pedals.

A woman sits alone in a black dress. She finally looks away from her smart phone after 40 minutes, a big grin on her face as she peers toward the stage. “Don’t think I wasn’t listening,” her expression confirms.

Bettencourt grits his teeth as he makes his way through a solo on  Boettcher’s cover of Bob Dylan’s “I Shall be Released.” It’s still hot, and the band is hot, like speakers blaring Spotify from a ski boat on the lake. Eric Bettencourt could please anyone, and he usually does.



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