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The Other Night: Buxton, The Wild Moccasins, & Ghost Mountain @ Mango's [7/15/2009 11:11:00 AM]:
Jason from Buxton on the bar at Mango's It was hot. I was hot. Really, really, really fucking hot, the level of hot at which sane adults begin to wonder what the fuck they were thinking in the first place. At least, that's what was going through my head as the two teenaged members of Ghost Mountain ambled onto the stage to start off the show. Even though I'd specifically wanted to see this particular band, getting there relatively early to do just that, I was already having second thoughts.

The crowd was already packed tightly into Mango's (although nowhere near as tightly as they would be during headliners Buxton's set, but I didn't know that yet), sweaty people crammed between the pillars scattered 'round the restaurant, everybody jockeying for somewhere from which they could actually see the show.

I was a bit bummed that the Mango's "stage" is still as low as it was the only other time I visited the place, during the Free Press Block Party, but I can't really fault 'em for it -- the place is a restaurant by day, so they can't really be expected to morph Transformers-like into, say, Walter's when the sun goes down. Sadly, the downside of the place's layout is that I wasn't able to get many decent pics of the show, and the ones I did were with me holding the camera up in the air & pointing it vaguely at the stage. The few pics I did manage to get are here if anybody's interested, and I've stuck a few of the better ones in this post, as well.

Anyway, here goes...

Stephen from Ghost Mountain GHOST MOUNTAIN: While this was Buxton's show, I have to admit that I was seriously, truly looking forward to seeing these two guys do their weird-ass nerdy/psychedelic hip-hop thing. Their self-titled, handmade CD, Siamese Sailboats, is honestly one of the most unique things I've heard in a long while (thanks again to Adam Newton from Dryvetyme Onlyne for the tip; he reviewed 'em first, and we reviewed 'em here). I'd seen both Buxton & The Wild Moccasins before now, but never these guys.

Rapper/sampler-man Daniel and synth/sampler/visuals guy Stephen got on the stage like two gawky teens nervous about performing in front of their friends, but after a brief false start (which served mostly to make the guys seem endearingly goofy), they hit the ground running. While crazy, crazy, crazy-ass visuals unspooled in the background -- some of which looked like they'd almost been sync'ed with the music, which makes sense, given that the duo just released a new VHS tape EP, Summer Tapes (with accompanying CDR of the music, thank God) -- Daniel spit his MC Paul Barman-meets-cLOUDDEAD verses about girls, friends, good hearts, and plant life while Stephen slapped candy-thick, watery/gooey layers of psych noise over the top of it, occasionally throwing in backups on the vocoder.

Daniel & Stephen from Ghost Mountain, plus the ghost of Rita Moreno And frankly, it was pretty mesmerizing. Part of that's because of the footage of ancient commercials and utterly terrifying kids' shows -- I just couldn't look away. Which was okay, because from where I was in the crowd I could barely see Daniel as he bobbed in place and tossed out his lyrics, so I mostly ended up staring open-mouthed both at Stephen as he worked the sampler & synths and at the weird-ass shit going on up on the screen behind him. I nearly cooked myself to see these kids, and yet, it definitely feels like it was worth it. I'm going to need to see 'em again, definitely.

THE WILD MOCCASINS: When Ghost Mountain were done, I had the overwhelming primal urge to get. out. now. I was soaked, dripping sweat, I felt like I couldn't breathe, and my legs already ached (yeah, yeah; I'm an old man now), so I made a break for the door. Chris from Buxton had been kind enough to hand off an ultra-limited-edition orange copy of the new 7" when I came in, and I was afraid my sweaty hands were going to ruin the awesomeness of the sleeve.

So I headed back down Westheimer to the car, somehow feeling cooled and refreshed after being outside in the steamy Houston summer night, dropped off the record, & meandered my way back up to Mango's to catch the Moccasins. Unfortunately, this meant that I'd had to relinquish my spot up front and was stuck in the back, miraculously in a pocket of conditioned air and with a convenient pillar to lean against.

From that vantage point, I couldn't see much, but what I could hear sounded pretty incredible. The Moccasins recently got back from their first(?) tour outside Texas, and I was stunned by how much of a difference it seems to've made. Spending time on the road has made the band way, way tighter and more together, to my ears, and that's a very good thing for all involved, believe me. They blazed through the sunshiny, head-shakingly sweet indie-pop tracks from this spring's EP like they'd been playing those songs all their lives.

I was able to talk to guitarist/singer Cody real briefly beforehand, and he mentioned that the band would be playing some brand-new songs; unless I've been missing some gems the last few times I caught these folks, the new stuff sounds phenomenal. I love the fact that the more recent songs seem to be aiming for more of a back-and-forth boy-girl harmony thing, like a less-distorted 1997 or less-gloomy Anniversary. I could listen to Zahira and Cody trade verses and harmonize all day, I swear...

Chris & Sergio from Buxton BUXTON: The walk back to the car after the show was over really got me thinking. What is it about Buxton that makes me like 'em so damn much? I mean, singer/guitarist Sergio writes some astoundingly good songs, it's true, and I really do love that LaPorte-bred yodel thing he does, the one that sounds like Conor Oberst if he were trying his hand at covering Bob Wills songs. And the band itself is as together as can be, (mostly) functioning like a well-oiled machine.

But really, it's that last area that I appreciate all to hell, because Buxton are one of those bands that're so good and so in tune with one another that they can open things up a bit, playing around and trying to mess with one another while they play. Guitarist Jason was the main culprit this time out, stealing and wearing Sergio's glasses for most of one song and then climbing unexpectedly onto the Mango's bar and rocking out, hunched-over, up there for another. He also forgot how to play one of the encore tracks, but nobody gave a damn; they were just having too much fun.

Of course, there's also That Riff, the one that both anchors and propels the A-side of the band's new 7", "Feathers" -- it's a rambling, roaring freight train of a song, thanks in large part to the under-recognized talents of bassist Chris & drummer Justin, who drive things forward like a relentless engine, and Jason's jaw-droppingly cool, dig-into-your-brain riff dances and twirls over the top. It marries Pavement-esque indie-rock cool with an echoey, high-lonesome sound, and, well, it's fucking awesome.

Buxton at Mango's Oh, and the surprise guests playing horns on "Flint" were nice, too -- although yeah, that horn bit still sounds like the Sesame Street theme to me, sorry... I don't remember entirely how the show ended; it all became a blur of grinning faces and country-rocking guitars, after a while. I remember a two-song encore, then shaking hands with a few folks (hey, Ramon & Joe M.!), and then I was out the door & on my way back to the cool, comfortable near-burbs, my head buzzing with fine, fine noise.


  • The sound was really, really good, which was surprising as hell considering the venue's not really meant for hosting bands. Things started to make more sense in that area when I ran into Dunnock, formerly the the sound guy for The Mink -- he's apparently now the official sound guy for Mango's, instead, and I have to say, he did an awe-inspiring job. All three bands were loud enough to be heard but weren't cover-your-ears deafening (or totally conversation-obliterating), and the sound was clean enough you could make out every word. Some of the "real" venues in town could learn from this, seriously.

  • How badass would it be on hot days to have a giant turbine installed in that weird open "tower" area in the center of the restaurant? Open the windows at the top so the hot air gets sucked up and out, strategically place open coolers full of ice below open windows on the ground floor, and voilá -- instant big-ass air-conditioning unit. (Okay, so it seems a little overblown now, but in the heat-induced delirium, it sounded perfectly reasonable.)

  • Hung out for quite a while with photographer/musician guy Marc of Prairie Cadets, who told me the duo (it's him and Adam from Dryvetyme) are going to be playing more soon and are (if I'm not misremembering the conversation) recording stuff, too. I also asked him what the hell "Please Free Questlove" was about, & he explained that now that Jimmy Fallon has The Roots as his backing band, with Quest as the Paul Shaffer of the crew, The Roots can't just pick up and go out on tour. All of which was news to me, since I run away screaming from anything with the words "Jimmy Fallon" in it. (See? I just threw up a little in my throat right there.)

    Marc's also throwing a housewarming-type party this coming Friday, July 17th, at the new(?) house at 834 Majestic St. -- it'll be a BYOB affair & feature the talents of fine, fine music-makers Joseph LeMay (from Nashville, apparently), Sergio from Buxton's Cedar Boy Bailey deal, Sara Van Buskirk, the ever-awesome Gretchen Schmaltz, & the aforementioned Prairie Cadets. Sounds like it'll be a good, good time...

    Jason from Buxton on the bar at Mango's

  • It's been a while since I strolled down the stretch of Westheimer just west of Mango's, but holy shit -- it felt like I was walking on another planet. It doesn't seem like that long ago that that particular walk would've been a badly-lit, nerve-wracking steeplechase of bums, panhandlers, and druggie kids, but nowadays it's all swanky bars and restaurants, valets, and nicely-paved parking lots. I felt a bit nerve-wracked, still, but only because I was terrified my car'd get towed. (Hedging my bets, I parked on the street behind an idling limo with a license plate that said "D ABLO". Which felt, y'know, really odd, but I figured a tow truck's not going to mess with getting a limo moved to tow my ass.)

    It's definitely a different neighborhood now, that's for sure. I basked in a bit of schadenfreude, though, when I realized that all the NIMBY assholes who moved into Montrose to be hip & cool and then complained about the handful of kids parking by their house to go to the loud rock shows now have to deal with even more parking and noise from the busy-as-hell upscale eateries & bars. Enjoy your wonderfully "gentrified" Montrose, asshats.

  • Speaking (sort of) of the bars & whatnot, what's with the irritating winebar ("So Vino," I think?) that seemed to be playing only classic songs with generic dance beats tacked onto 'em? I know I heard "remixed" versions of Blondie & Van Morrison songs, and I'd swear that every time I walked past on the way to & from the car, a different "dance" version was playing. For a crowd that was definitely not dancing. C'mon people -- "Brown-Eyed Girl" with lame, canned dance beats sounds good in a wine bar, but the original, classic, excellent tune somehow doesn't? Y'all need a new DJ.

  • Said "hey" to Anthony from The Western Civilization -- I'm ashamed to admit that he recognized me before I recognized him, and all I can say in my defense is that A) it's been a while and B) it's the beard, man. I just can't look past beards, for some reason. I'm like the inept slapstick cop who suddenly doesn't recognize the master criminal when he glues on an obviously fake beard & mustache. It's weird, I know.

    Anyway, Anthony did his best to reassure me that yes, Western Civ co-frontperson Reggie is definitely going to be coming back from his brief sabbatical up in Seattle. He said the band's first thought was the same as mine -- "oh, fuck; he's never coming back, is he?" -- but that Reg will be back in a few weeks. In the meantime, it turns out Anthony now plays drums for Hollywood Black, too, which is a very cool thing, and just started working with Sergio as part of Cedar Boy Bailey. Damn. Sometimes I don't get how/when these people sleep.

    Anthony also mentioned, btw, that Hollywood Black would be playing a festival this coming weekend down in LaPorte (Saturday, July 18th, to be exact), one I'd never heard about 'til now called the Pure Water Music Festival. The idea is to raise money to build water wells for people in Africa who desperately need safe-to-drink water, and the organizers have enlisted a bunch of folks like HB, The Eastern Sea, Papermoons, B L A C K I E, & listenlisten, among others. The Myspace is a bit sketchy on who all's playing, but the flyer I saw makes it look pretty good, and a good cause, besides. I'll try to do a full post on that later on.

  • Speaking of listenlisten, I also got to talk a bit with Ben from that band (and finally met Geoffrey from Sideshow Tramps & I am Mesmer, who seemed like a very nice guy), and he delivered the bad news that the band's utterly mind-blowing new album, Hymns From Rhodesia (review up here, naturally), had been pushed waaaaaay back by their record label, all the way to September. Gah!

    On the positive side, the world will not long be listenlisten-less -- they're packing up & heading out on tour, adding to that thankfully-increasing trend of local folks touring outside of the Greater Houston Area. They leave town in mid-August with the also-excellent Robert Ellis and head east & then up the coast before coming back via the Midwest. Check their Myspace for tour dates. Ben promised they would indeed return and not defect, Papermoons-like, to any of the trendier towns in which they happen to play.

  • It occurred to me way, way too late that I need to start doing like Ramon does & taking pics of the folks I run into at shows. Hell, at least they would've turned out better this time than most of my actual band photos. The only problem is that I'm a total chickenshit when it comes to taking pictures of people...

  • And finally, The Best Moment of the Night, overheard as I headed for the door...

    Random guy, staring in confusion at his just-purchased copy of the Buxton 7-inch: "Why's it so big?"
    Clued-in friend: "It's a record; it's not a CD."
    Guy: "A record? Then how am I supposed to play it?"
    Friend: "With a record player."

    Ah, kids these days...

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