I expected some respite from the Austin heat as I stepped into Hotel Vegas. I was greeted instead by a blast of hot air, akin to opening an oven. Inside the oven were low ceilings, a hundred plus people dressed in mostly black, and a small stage. My pores immediately filled with sweat. Had I made a mistake coming here? I squeezed, maneuvered and wiggled my way through the crowd until I reached a destination I was content with, the lights went down, the fog machine started. With the first note of the synthesizer, I was transported. Where was I? Was I in a NYC basement in the 1970s watching the New York Dolls? Was I in a London club in the 80s hearing Depeche Mode for the first time? Maybe this was an underground bar in the future… Wherever this was, it was just the right place. I could feel I was about to witness something original yet distantly familiar and suddenly I knew I hadn’t made a mistake.
To describe what Urban Heat sounds like isn’t entirely easy. Synth pop, post punk, dark dance, have all been used to describe this band. They are all these things but with something fresh, a contemporary sensibility. Their lyrics vary from traditional subject matters of love and longing to more modern fears of collapsing society and an imperiled environment. Although they have been around the Austin music scene for a few years now and gained accolades along the way, they may have underestimated their following and subsequent turnout when they choose this venue to celebrate the release of their Wellness EP. They are just arriving but have already outgrown this space. Singer and guitarist Jonathan Horstmann’s presence consumed the stage as he bounced around like a goth Freddie Mercury. He is accompanied by Paxel Foley on bass and Kevin Naquin on synth, both of whom command their own space and provide the majority of sound that further propels Horstmann’s antics. The songs are dark but make you want to dance and that is what the crowd did in addition to singing along to every song. As if the room wasn’t already electric, their congregation of followers managed to become even more spirited as the band covered “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus. After an hour, the audience was basically a pool of adrenaline and sweat. A one-song encore and the show was abruptly over and I was back in 2022. Thrust into the night, somewhere on 6th street, the cool 80 something degree air chilled me. It turns out the band Urban Heat really is hotter than the actual thing.
Urban Heat is currently touring North America and will return to Austin this October to perform at ACL Fest.