Reviews \

Zookeeper’s Emo Heart Won’t Break

AUSTIN: Former Mineral and the Gloria Record frontman Chris Simpson creates an intimate atmosphere with a little help from his friends.

Zookeeper’sChris Simpson and Co. laid into a set full of rambling indie rockstompers and sensitive soothers with a heart quaking howl and thickguitar layers to a scattered audience inside Stubb’s Wednesday night(Dec. 19). A small hometown crowd made up mostly of music critics andmusicians stood stage front under the bright canopy of Christmas lightsintimately watching, some with eyes closed mouthing along to the moodymelodies. Simpson, who became a bit of an emo legend with his groupMineral and later built a formidable fan base with the Gloria Record,has retained much of the emotion of those earlier projects and injectsit into songs that lie between Western indie rock with punchy guitarsand a softer folkier sound.

Simpson and crew played tunes found on their latest LP, Becoming All Things– like “Trumpets,” with its ringing guitars circling an affectivechorus — as well as old fave “I Live In the Mess You Are.” ForZookeeper’s backing band, Simpson draws from a pool of local musiciansthat come and go collaborating now and then from groups like Zykos andOkkervil River. And even though some weren’t playing with Simpson thisparticular night, musicians like Jeff Klein and Brian Hubbard from the Gloria Record were hovering in the crowd. New York’s Rosewood Thievesoffered their own super-sturdy vintage folk rock culminating in theirperformance of “Los Angeles.” Frank Smith, a band which recentlyrelocated to Austin from Boston, opened with some stellar pedal steeland banjo-fueled indie rock.

We asked:Zookeeper is composed of Chris Simpson and many other local musicians.Who are some other local groups or artists that you’d like to see addedto their lineup?