SAN ANTONIO—It’s an hour before show time on a warm, summer evening in San Antonio and tonight’s opening band, The Offbeats, are running on nervous energy and excitement. “This is kind of a big thing for us tonight,” says Bryan Foster, lead vocalist and guitar player, as the guys hang out backstage preparing to open for The Stills and Kings of Leon.
Even though Foster admits he’s “anxious” for the show tonight, his band is certainly accustomed to playing live. They’ve been together for more than three years, playing mostly Texas venues. Foster describes their music as “garage rock” and it literally is—the band’s recordings have all been made in his garage, bringing a raw edginess to Foster’s impassioned vocals.
Tonight, in their hometown, just blocks from the Alamo and famed Riverwalk, the four band members are sticking close together before the show. There’s a visible chemistry between all of them and understandably so. Two brothers actually make up one half of the band—Bryan’s brother, Colin, is the bass player. But drummer Mike Griffin says, they all feel a brotherly connection because they spend so much time together and “get on each other’s nerves a lot. It’s kinda like a really bad messed up family,” he says.
It’s not just music keeping this “family” together. It’s also the “embarrassing day jobs” Griffin says they have. “We’re all tennis instructors,” he says. And tennis is in fact the way they all met in high school. “That’s kind of how most rock bands form,” says guitarist Eric Romasanto with a laugh.
Tennis playing garage rockers may not be the norm but nothing about this band or this night is the norm either. The hot Texas afternoon is continuing into the night with an intermittent breeze coming through the outdoor stage area, which is just one part of the sprawling Sunset Station, a railroad station dating back to 1902. The space also incorporates a slew of tables on a large patio behind the stage area. People are already hanging out there while the hardcore music fans are staking out prime space near the stage.
At 8:00, in the shadow of the Alamodome and the Tower of the Americas, The Offbeats take the stage and any evidence of their pre-game jitters is gone. They kick things off with the professionalism and high energy of veteran rock stars. And the crowd knows it, singing along to the catchy song “Carolina Caroline.” Fans shout out requests and the band eventually delivers a crowd favorite, “Switchblade,” which features a rockin’ guitar part and Bryan singing with a pseudo English accent. Griffin’s strong, steady drumming comes through on every song, making “The Offbeats” an ironic name for a band that is anything but offbeat.
As the band closes out their quick 30-minute set, fans cheer for an encore. But the only encore tonight will be in the form of sets from headliners Kings of Leon and The Stills.
Hailing from Montreal, the five members of The Stills are on next and immediately remark on the Texas weather when they take the stage. “We’re Canadians. What are you trying to do to us?” shouts singer Tim Fletcher. The guys from up North cope with the heat, delivering a set packed full of favorites, such as “Helicopters” and “Still In Love.”
After catching upbeat performances from The Offbeats and The Stills, the crowd is pumped up, desperately waiting for its next dose of indie music. Kings of Leon hit the stage to fists pumping in the air and bodies moving to the beat on what’s clearly a very special night for music in San Antonio.
Backstage, The Offbeats are digging the show. “There’s not much of a music scene here. We always have to drive to Austin when we go to a concert,” Bryan Foster says. The other members of The Offbeats agree the music scene in San Antonio is often overshadowed. But tonight, on the eve of Austin City Limits, the biggest thing going on in this part of Texas is right here in San Antonio.