Grateful Dead’s old adage ‘never miss a Sunday show’ holds true with Magic City Hippies

Magic City Hippies and opener Sego rocked out on the Southern stage Sunday night

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Magic City Hippies entered the music scene in the 90s as a rock and hip-hop cover band in Miami.

Courtesy Fro Rojas

The Magic City Hippies show at the Southern Cafe and Music Hall Sunday night, opened by Sego, is best described as “effortlessly cool.” The venue, the bands and the crowd coalesced into a vibrant and energetic night, filled with hoots and hollers and high-fives. The first introduction the crowd had to Sego, a Los Angeles-based four-piece group, was their merchandise at the front door — “SegoSucks” enblazened t-shirts and hats. It’s consequential to say that their logo doesn’t at all describe their talents. 

Sego, led by frontman Spencer Peterson, had a lo-fi setup, evocative of a high-school garage band that came through with a food takeaway box resting on one of their speakers filled with fries. Their band name shone on a guitar pick-shaped collage board with LEDs synched to their music. The set started out a little rough around the edges, maybe due to nerves or just a consequence of the relatively recent start to their tour. The band forged a light-hearted relationship with the crowd, joked around and gave high fives to the particularly enthusiastic front-rowers.

Spencer Petersen, who wore a vertical striped button down and white flat brim hat, drew the crowd in through mumble-like singing. Alyssa Davey on bass brought a tough-as-nails feel to the show, and played a beat-up and well-loved instrument in between working the synth for songs like “Ruckus” — which is as cacophonous as the name suggests, but incredibly fun and participatory. Perhaps the most enrapturing part of the show was Thomas Carroll, inexplicably dressed in a JCPenny employee t-shirt to play the cowbell, guitar and tambourine. Overall, Sego developed a lot of energy through their performance and did best when they relied on Carroll and Davey to push the envelope through their unique instruments and talent. 

Both Sego and Magic City Hippies played at Bonnaroo Music Festival this summer, where the Magic City Hippies played to thousands and filled the tent with energy. Led by Robbie Hunter, Magic City Hippies could’ve easily played the Jefferson, a venue with a capacity of 640 to the Southern’s 300, but on Sunday they played to a fraction of the crowd they’ve entertained in the past. They still rocked out hard — they successfully convinced the entire audience that they didn’t have work or school the next day. Their indie sound is infused with funk and beachy influences, relying on the contributions of Hunter’s flexible voice, guitarist John Coughlin’s magnificently impassioned guitar riffs, and Guillermo Belisario’s bass. The crowd couldn’t help but dance for hours, left wondering where the time had gone by the end of the set. 

The set started off with “Spice” and lead into “Indiana,” Magic City Hippie’s distinct sound is at first repetitive, but eventually comes together to sound like one unending song in the best way possible. “Heart Wants” is young, fresh and exciting song with Hunter’s looping. Belisario’s bass riffs kept the band on the same track while Hunter and Coughlin frequently jammed out, going on insane musical tirades and then always rejoining Pat Howard on drums and Ferny Belisario on keys after they finished an escapade. Each member of the band stands out for their talent separately, but as a group form a formidable cohesion of passion for their music and elation for their performance. 

Halfway through their set, Magic City Hippies played their cover of “Caroline” by Aminé as homage to their start as a 90s rock and hip-hop cover band in a bar in Miami. For those who frequent University parties, consider playing this version of the song to switch up the tedium of those Spotify playlists. Hunter perhaps gets his quick flow, typically reserved for quirky bridges in his songs, from those performances in Miami. That, combined with Ferny Belisario’s masterful handling of loops and synths from the background, create Magic City Hippie’s signature sound. “Modern Animal,” a song that delves into open relationships and promiscuity of sexual freedom, samples a Tame Impala rhythm but morphs it into a perfect example of how Magic City Hippies is inspired by many but unlike anyone — “standing on the shoulders of giants.”   

The band closed out their 18-song set with “Fanfare,” their most famous piece that along with “Bullride,” has been on a lot of Discover Indie Spotify playlists. Hunter and Coughlin spent the last couple minutes laughing with the crowd and playing their hearts out, culminating in a “I’m in love with you, Charlottesville” shout-out and a quick exit. The crowd dispersed, chattering about how great the show was and how much they loved Hunter’s charisma and enthusiasm. 

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