He has just turned 18, but no one who meets him on the street would be surprised that he was still studying ESO. And although he is British by birth and physiognomy (rubiejo, with snowy skin, clear eyes and unequivocal aspect of not having broken a plate), he takes with great pride his condition as an adopted Murcian, the land that welcomes him since he was four years old. We speak of Austin Slack, a boy who, as modest as he seems, becomes a fiery innovator of the teachings of classic rock, funk and commercial black music as soon as he steps on stage. Something as if Eric Clapton, Wham! and Prince (who usually offers a fierce reading of Kiss, as if that) had conspired in the geography huertana.
We all marveled at the precocity in the same way that we were afraid that everything would be truncated too soon
Slack was one of the surprises, perhaps the biggest one, that this Saturday offered the sixth edition of the Big Up !, a contest with Murcian epicenter that exhibits at street level, and in very little plugged formats, the best that comes from among the hosts more loons of popular music. Austin (from a mother from Murcia and a British father, who has extensive experience as an assistant on major international rock tours) does not even reside in the provincial capital, but in the beautiful and remote little town of Caravaca de la Cruz. But the figures of his curriculum begin to produce vertigo: more than a thousand concerts behind his back and many points accumulated on his flight card.
He has been enrolled for two seasons on The Symphonic of Pink Floyd tour and ended up sharing guitar duels in front of the audience with Javier Vargas, Neuman, the Mexicans Maná or, even more amazing, Steve Vai at the San Javier jazz festival. "I have grown up with the guitar in my hands", certifies with that confluence of shyness and self-confidence that gives the precocious experience. "Among people of my age it is not very usual to listen to the things I hear, but that is how it is from a very young age". In addition to their devotion to Prince, names like those of John Mayer or Steven Wilson, the last great genius of progressive rock, have preferential space in their particular sanctuary.
Austin was already known at the circuit, when he barely raised a few feet, with the nickname of El Niño Magnetic. "It was a kind of guitar Joselito, a child prodigy that caused amazement and surprise, we all marveled at the precocity in the same way that we were afraid that everything would be truncated too soon," describes a local observer. None of that has happened for now, even remotely. In 2011, when he was only 11 years old, the cherub decided with absolute solvency a couple of invitations from Love of Lesbian to appear next to them on stage. Two years later, a famous Yankee hamburger chain hired him to play for his dozens of establishments. And the last great artistic leap has come in this 2018, when he has recorded two epés, Act 1 Y Act 2, which add eight songs written and sung by himself. We no longer only have a virtuoso with the face of a child; Now we are talking about a vocalist and authentic seducer of younger rock.
The uniqueness of Austin Slack, with its profile so radically different from what it is styled, left many mid-afternoon glances in the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, just below the centenary Baccalaureate Institute Lic. Francisco Cascales: the scene seemed out of some sequel to School of rock. But the early charms of the pipiolo should not eclipse other discoveries of this Big Up! In particular that of Álex Juárez, a 31-year-old from Murcia, who would not be difficult to begin to consider as the closest thing to a Sufjan Stevens in Spanish that we know about in the Iberian geography.
At the age of 11, she solved with absolute solvency a couple of invitations from Love of Lesbian to appear next to them on stage
Alejandro is the big brother (he's five years old) of another very interesting guy that appeared in the Big Up! of 2017, Víctor Miguel Hernández, subscriber to the folktrónica and that develops his musical career under the alias of Rey Lobo. As such he has exercised this year, without going any further, opening act for Xoel López in Barcelona's Razzmatazz and La Riviera in Madrid. And both, Víctor and Álex, are in turn children of such a peculiar character that perhaps it would serve us for a documentary on Searching for sugar man with a Spanish return address. Like Rodríguez, the character claimed for that feature film that ended up in Óscar, almost nobody had the remotest idea of the vicissitudes of Gabriel Hernández, a singer-songwriter in the orbit of Pablo Guerrero but with a privileged vocal range of three octaves.
Hernandez could have made a career in the song, almost certainly, but ended up skirting the guitar to professionally develop his other great passion, psychoanalysis, from the small Murcian town of Librilla. For more than thirty years, only the closest relatives have enjoyed the privilege of listening to their voice, exclusively on very specific dates. But his two offspring have managed to rescue and restore some fascinating home recordings that can be heard for a few weeks on Spotify. Its title, so as not to divert attention from the relevant, corresponds to the date of the films dusted: May 1982. And its charm, for anyone who looks at them, is very evident. Librilla's psychoanalyst retires next year and has promised the children, at his insistence, that he will celebrate by offering his first and only concert in almost four decades. We will see.
In addition to the commotions of Álex Juárez and Austin Slack, this sixth Big Up! Murcia left some other very curious brushstrokes. There is the case of Tribu29, some rumba musicians, with a lot of drawer and metal section, who this week will go on to record in the Mallorcan studio of Juanito Makandé. Or the locals Tangerine Flavor, good rock in English with great vocal harmonies and country scent. The ethereal and absorbed indie of Incredibles Ful also attracted attention, as the female duo of violins, mandolin, percussion and electronics that calls itself Komorebi, not far from Enya or Loreena McKennit. Let's add the rock with the female voice of BOUS and the self-confident, hooligan and shirtless WAW and we will have completed a surprising menu. Above all, for that apparently unlimited capacity Murcia to continue to act as a quarry of popular music in the peninsula. And they are only 3 percent of the Spanish population.
In any of the cases, Álex Juárez and Rey Lobo make good that of the wood and the splinter, of the trunk and the branch. As regards the first-born, settled in Barcelona for three years (where he alternates music and his work in a Parc Güell café: a classic), because his shyness and observation skills are translated into very sensitive and very singular songs by structure, harmony and theme: from the chronicle of a move to the symbolic value of the cactus or evocations of the fourth year of Primary.
"Thank you for listening to me and not having left, despite my appearance as leader of a religious sect," he joked before the hundred fans and onlookers who discovered him at the foot of the remains of the Veronicas Wall. He was referring to his curious attire, of integral white inspired by the work suit of the painters, to which we must add his half straight hair. The costume, as a curiosity, is the work of his girlfriend, Belén, who develops an original fashionable line under the name of Mundaka Estudio. "Dressing like a painter seemed like a way to symbolize that I am a songwriter, that this is my job, and white wants to color some stories that, being very personal, make it possible for many people to feel reflected in them", summarizes.