Flipnotics, Sat. February 5

Fans, friends, and family of Darin Murphy huddled together in the cramped indoor space of Flipnotics last Saturday night as the multi-talented musician presented an Austin career retrospective. In contrast to the chaotic Mardi Gras goings-on downtown, the cozy gathering of 50 or so felt something like what one would imagine an impromptu after-meal Thanksgiving Day performance at the Murphy homestead might approximate. Murphy managed to further enhance the intimacy of the confined gathering by peppering his set with personal reflections and between-song annotations, conveying an obvious nostalgia for the town that he has made his base of operations since 1994. “This may be our biggest audience ever; where have you all been?” the easygoing Murphy joked to the packed room before his set began. “Oh well, it’s never too late,” he said before launching into “Blackberry Plain” from his 2001 release Haunted Gardenias. It may not be too late, but if you’ve never caught this local popsmith’s live act before, it may be awhile before you get another chance. Murphy has “passed the audition” of a lifetime, as it were, and is off to Broadway, albeit as an understudy, to portray John Lennon in a new musical set to debut in July. No surprise. With Murphy taking acoustic guitar duty backed by a proper electric three-piece, most of his material sounds like it came from some alternate-universe version of Help! Later in the set, Murphy certified his anglophile status with “Boxing Day,” his postcard from, and tribute to, London, inspired by his European tour with sis Trish in 1999. While most of the evening’s material came from Murphy’s two locally-produced releases, Solitarium (1999) and Haunted Gardenias, the crowd was treated to some unreleased material, as well as a couple of guest vocal spots. The first came from Benjamin Hotchkiss (vocalist from Darin’s side project the K-Tel Hit Machine, an Austin supergroup that has made a niche of covering 70’s AM radio staples) who joined the band for a couple of Beatle and McCartney covers (natch). “K-Tel is the band I’ll miss playing with the most,” admitted Murphy after the performance. One of the evening’s special highlights came when Murphy brought his father, D.H. Murphy, onstage to perform “Old Sayings,” a song he had written back in ‘68, and one the Murphy children have covered throughout the years (look for the song as a hidden track on Trish’s Crooked Mile CD). Watching the father and son duet to a spare acoustic backing offered an insight into the obvious musical bond that this family shares. Murphy finished his bon voyage show with some harder-edged numbers before receiving a parting standing ovation. It would have been about this time that stomachs in the Murphy household started growling again. You can almost picture ol’ D.H. carving up another serving of turkey. Preferably cold. -Gary Gilliam