Pour One Out, Y’all: Bright Men of Learning & Sharks and Sailors Have Their Last Hurrah

sigh. The music scene in this city, as anybody who observes it for longer than six months or so knows, has a lifecycle all its own. Bands pop up, bands mutate into other bands, bands leave town, bands come to town (and yes, that one’s as much a mystery to me as it is to you, and I like it here), and unfortunately, bands sometimes just call it a day.

And yep, as you can probably infer, the bands in question this time around are none other than venerable scene stalwarts Bright Men of Learning and Sharks and Sailors, both of whom I freaking love. It’s time to wave goodbye to both bands, because they’re really-and-truly done, headed off to that band graveyard in the sky.

Sharks and Sailors apparently called it quits a while ago, now, but just didn’t tell anybody about it ’til early this year, when they released what they declared would be their last-ever bit of recorded ouput, a split-7″ with newish track “All Static” on one side and Austinites Honey and Salt‘s “Cohere” on the other. I’ve only recently been fortunate to grab a copy, so I haven’t heard it just yet, but I’ve got pretty high hopes. S&S were always badasses; they were one of those annoying bands that could seemingly do no wrong, musically.

I have to admit, I’d had my fears for quite some time — the band members were all drifting off in different directions, for one thing, with frontman Mike now doing new project Datums (plus playing drums in former S&S member Al‘s band Side Arms) and bassist Melissa stomping and crushing with both Omotai and, more recently, Peloton. And they only played sporadically, once in a blue moon. Honestly, it felt like the end was on its way, although it still bums me out, especially since there was never a farewell show for the band. They just shut the door and walked away, and that was that.

On the other hand, there’s the Bright Men; that one I most definitely did not see coming. I’ve known frontman/songwriter Marshall Preddy for a long damn time now, watching and listening to bands of his since the late ’90s, and after more than a decade with BMOL, the band finally, finally seemed to have hit its stride, at least to me, in just the past couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong: they’ve always been a darn good band, sure, and one of my favorites in town. But it wasn’t ’til 2010’s vinyl-only Fired where I sat up and said, “holy fucking crap, this is incredible.” With that release — one of the best I heard all year, hands down (#2 on my list, actually) — they managed to take all those little bits and pieces from over the years, mash them together, and come out sounding like nobody but themselves. It just worked. Hell, it still does; the CD-R still lives in my car, two years on. This, I figured, is it, at last, the one that puts this band over and lets them break out of Houston.

Of course, maybe not everybody agreed with me (although I’m going to unequivocally declare that anybody who thinks/thought the album wasn’t great is an idiot). Maybe there wasn’t enough of a response to keep the band psyched after the album came out; I wasn’t in the room with ’em, so I really have no idea. And rock stardom was never really these guys’ motivating factor to begin with — they’ve always been up-front about having good day jobs and families, the two things that stop bands from hitting the road for months at a time.

In the end, BMOL are breaking out of Houston, just not in the way I’d expected. Marshall’s moving up to Austin with his family, and he’s doing it for personal reasons, not because he hates the band or anything, although it sounds like it’s been a long enough road for him by this point, too. Can’t fault him for wanting/needing a change. I honestly don’t know a single person who lives here who doesn’t talk about getting out at some point.

Unlike with S&S, happily, the Bright Men have decided to go out kicking, with one final show tomorrow night, Saturday, March 10th, over at Vinyl Junkie, on the eastern edge of Downtown. And hey, if they’re gonna go, they’re definitely doing it right, with a lineup that includes three of the coolest newer bands in town right now: psych-pop people A Sundae Drive, spooky/murky out-West rockers Jealous Creatures, and sarcastic-yet-sincere throwback punks {Art Institute}. Cheeseball as it sounds, it’s almost like The Old Stalwarts passing the torch to the newcomers.

Also playing are two touring bands, Flying Cars and Ornery Little Darlings, both from Chicago, but I haven’t ever heard of ’em, sorry — the draw for me is the other bands, no question…

Now, with that many bands playing and at that venue, things will kick off early for once, with doors at 3PM and bands playing ’til 10PM or so. Here’s the most recent schedule I’ve seen:

    4:00 – Flying Cars (Chicago)
    5:00 – Ornery Little Darlings (Chicago)
    6:00 – A Sundae Drive
    7:00 – Jealous Creatures
    8:00 – Bright Men of Learning
    9:00 – Art Institute

So, there it is. Two of Houston’s best and brightest, now fading quietly away. And sure, I know full well that these folks aren’t just going to quit making music, but still…damn. Raise a glass, y’all.

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2 Responses to “Pour One Out, Y’all: Bright Men of Learning & Sharks and Sailors Have Their Last Hurrah”

  1. Bright Men Of Learning plays final show tonight at Vinyl Junkie on March 10th, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    […] news that long-time Houston band Bright Men Of Learning is calling it quits. You can read the details from Jeremy Hart at Space City Rock, but do yourself a favor and go to Vinyl Junkie (4202 Canal) today to catch the band’s final […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Yr. Weekend, Pt. 2: Bright Men of Learning + listenlisten + The Business + Holy Fiction + D.R.I. + More on March 10th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    […] Little Darlings/Flying Cars @ Vinyl Junkie (4202 Canal; 3-10PM, $5) Yes, yes, yes, yes. Already mentioned this one, but honestly, it’s my top pick for the day/evening — I’m going to try to make it […]

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