Rock Houston here. The following are my thoughts on the bands I saw at the HPMAS and the festival in general. Before I start, a big big thank you to The Houston Press for putting on this festival! It looks like a LOT of WORK coordinating this thing!
I parked around Fannin and Preston and made my way to Dean's as it was one of the few clubs I actually knew where it was. I kind of forget all these places because they don't usually have local original bands (that's too bad). Some of these places are pretty cool, but I guess they know where their bread is buttered, and it's not with local bands, right? I made my way down to Flying Saucer for Dune.tx, a band which should be nominated for the Houston Rock Hall of Fame (if it existed) for their longevity and rocking prowess.
Dune.tx shouldn't need a description, but in case you don't know them, they are Hendrixesque power-pop. They spend half their time in psychedelia and the other half in the realm of Matthew Sweet/Superdrag/Fountains of Wayne. The mix is just right and Chris, Rusty, and relatively new drummer, Kevin, deserve a lot of credit for rocking all these many years.
I tried to get over to see a little of Born Liars, but they were breaking down as I arrived. There were 4 or 5 acts at 5pm that I had wanted to see, including Benjamin Wesley, Elaine Greer, and Born Liars, but I settled on Dune.tx because they were my favorite act from last year's showcase. I stuck around to see 3 songs from Ryan Scroggins and the Trenchtown Texans. They played The Specials influenced ska/reggae with impeccable harmonies. Not my kind of music, but I have to recommend anyone who likes reggae and ska to see them because their vocal blend was amazingly pitch-perfect. Part of my goal today was to get out and see some bands I have never seen, so I was happy to see these guys. But a few songs of them was all I needed and I wanted to see a little of Ozeal, another artist I've never seen that has been recommended to me by friends.
I walked my way back up to Dean's and caught about 3 songs of Ozeal's set. It was pretty crowded at Dean's. I love this little bar, but not so hot on the way the stage is set up because it's hard to make your way to the bar when the band has a lot of fans. But I managed to make my way to the back. Ozeal does "sexy love you right" soul music. He's got a grooving band behind him and his vocals are smooth. It's interesting to see this style done in a local setting. You get used to hearing this kind of music in clubs or on tv, but it was refreshing to witness it in a small club. My friends were right in recommending Ozeal.
Around this time I looked at my schedule and realized that the HPMAS was 3 separate festivals in one. I could at this point decide to go to House of Blues or Hard Rocbar for the rest of the night or I could stick it out on Main. The festival was way too spread out for me, even with the shuttle service and rickshaw cab drivers. I decided I would just stay on Main street. There were plenty of bands I wanted to see there. But walking past several empty and unused venues I wished all of the festival could have been on Main. Oh well, House of Blues is a great place, but I wasn't going to make it over there.
Instead, I walked around the corner to finally hear a band I've heard about for years and always wanted to see, Free Radicals. They had a really nice crowd at the Red Cat Jazz Café. I ordered a drink, sat down, and enjoyed some jazz. Particularly interesting was their midi-vibrophone. It's a midi controller that you play like a xylophone. I want one! The vibes player was a standout in a group full of standouts.
I made my way back around the corner to Dean's again to see the last 3 songs of The McKenzies. I've seen the power-pop punk quartet several times over the last couple of years. They never have written songs that quite click with me, but they make up for any qualms I have about their songcraft with pure energy and the determination to entertain the crowd with FUN. And their crowd responds in kind!
As 8pm approached I walked down the street to Martell's to see The Tontons. A lot of people had the same idea. It got packed in there pretty quick. The Houston Press had just done an article on The Tontons, so it was hard to understand why they stuck them in this shoebox-sized club. They deserved the main stage at House of Blues. Next year, I guess. Asli and the boys proved (again and again) why they are the best thing going right now in Houston. You will have one more chance to see them at Summerfest before they go on a short hiatus. Make sure you do. I spent my last $8 on their new album on the way out.
I ended the evening seeing Buxton, a band I've only seen once previously, and that was when they performed brilliantly as Björk at Twotennany. They were an amazingly energetic yet drunken (them, not me) way to end the evening. Their singer wailed away like a yelping Bob Dylan. It was one bluesy train shuffle after another, but their fans made the show. The Buxton fans showed that Houston is the place to be for friends, music and camaraderie.
Final thoughts about the festival in general... I would like to see staggered times. Let's say Dean's has a band starting at 6pm, maybe Martell's could start at 6:30pm? Then you could go from place to place and always have music going on. Next, I know it's good to be eclectic, but maybe venues could be more genre specific. I could expect to see several of the nominees of a certain category at a certain place. I could also see it starting at 4 instead of 5 to fit more bands in. I mean, half the nominees were left off the bill? Is that fair to the voting process? If mostly bands that played yesterday end up winning then I think you can tell it's not fair... Finally, of course I would like to see more venues involved on Main St. But all in all, it was a fun time for me and for everyone I talked to, and I already look forward to next year's show!
Labels: H-Town News, HPMAs, Live Reviews, Musical Crap, Random Ramblinggaijin || Link || E-mail || 3 comments
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