The Bright Light Social Hour: Changing The Game in Spite of Tragedy

Many bands start as high school or college hobbies (mine lasted all of five minutes). While the majority fade off into oblivion, others are able to survive. The Bright Light Social Hour definitely falls into the later category. What began as an art-school collective (like most things in art school do), has exploded into a full-flegded, psychedelic dance-punk musical smorgasbord with insane live shows and way too much energy.

Let me qualify my opening a bit: two of the bands original members – bassist Ryan ‘badcock” O’Donoghue and drummer Thomas Choate – are no longer with the group; Choate having moved away early on to study eco-building, and Badcock amicably parting to entertain other interests. But the core of Jack O’Brien, Curtis Roush, and early addition Joseph Mirasole are still together after a decade. So that’s pretty cool. But that’s only the tip of their hipness.

Given that they are from Austin, it should be a given that have played both Austin City Limits and SXSW. But they have also appeared at Lollapalooza,  Hangout Music Festival in Alabama, Wakarusa Festival in Ozark, Arkansas, and the Ottawa BluesFest. In 2011, they won six awards during SXSW including Band of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of The Year. They have also opened for Aerosmith in Quebec City. Speaking of Austin, they were also in attendance during Texas Senator Wendy Davis’ iconic filibuster of Senate Bill 5. They recorded a song in tribute to her by the end of the morning.

Like all bands they have experienced tragedy in their life-cycle. Early in 2015, two months before the release of their brilliant second album Space is Still The Place, Alex O’Brien, Jack’s brother and long-time band manager, committed suicide after a long and protracted battle with Bipolar Disorder.

Having interviewed Jack twice in the past year, it is clear that he has the ability of not only a great song-writer, but also someone who can roll with the punches, is prepared for whatever life throws at him. He remembers his brother lovingly and recognizes the fact that Alex was ready to leave this life. For him, and them, music is still the place where everything comes together.


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