Yr. Weekend, Pt. 1: Toadies + Helmet + Ume + The Ex-Optimists + Rock Baby Rock It + Art Institute + More

Gotta keep this quick, quick, quick folks, which sucks somewhat, because tonight — Friday, July 20th — is looking extremely damn full. Apologies for giving anybody short shrift in this little writeup, but I’m barely able to stay afloat at the moment… Anyway, here goes:

The Toadies/Helmet/Ume @ House of Blues
Part 1 of ’90s Flashback Night, right here, with alt-rock radio mainstays The Toadies (or just Toadies? I was never real sure) coming back from The Great Beyond. Okay, so they never really went away — they’ve put out an album every few years since 2001, it appears — but they definitely fell off the radar when the ’90s ended and radio moved into different, more craptacular territory.

I’ll be honest: I was not a big Toadies fan in my youth. They weren’t a bad band or anything, but I got so damn sick of “Possum Kingdom” and “I Come from the Water,” both of which always seemed to be playing from somewhere on campus when I was in college, that I started transferring my annoyance to the band itself. Not very fair, I know, but that’s how it goes.

Now, however, I’m able to look back with the knowledge of what transpired in the nearly 20(!) years since Rubberneck came out, and holy fuck do I miss this band. I would gladly, gladly listen to “Possum Kingdom” on the lame, tepid excuse for alternarock radio we have these days, and when the song ended, I’d beg for it again. Seriously.

Oh, and themn there’s Part 2, right beforehand: Helmet, aka The Band That Started My Hearing Loss. I’m not bitter about it or anything, don’t worry; it’s just a piece of my musical history now, that night in San Antonio when I went to see ’em on the Meantime tour and got stuck directly in front of a speaker. There was a time when this band could do no wrong by me, I have to say — I’d downtune my guitar and bang away at it for hours on end, pretending I was a badass as Paige Hamilton.

They went the other way in recent years, at least for me, with the new stuff not measuring up to the old and Hamilton & co. seemingly feeling irked that they’re still expected to play “In the Meantime” or “Unsung” at shows, but hell, I still love the band, deep-down.

Making things more awesomely cool is the fact that Austin-by-way-of-Houston band Ume, who happen to be one of my newer absolute-favorite loud/heavy bands, is opening. It’s like multiple generations of ear-meltingly loud, heavy-yet-melodic rock bands playing side-by-side, and that’s fucking amazing.

The Ex-Optimists/The Busy Kids/The Wrong Ones/Mike the Engineer @ Mango’s ($5)
Now for something a bit less epic-scale but still awesome and amazing, there’s this show over at Mango’s. I’d only recently gotten off my ass to finally listen to College Station’s The Ex-Optimists, and oh, shit, I really needed to do it sooner. They combine pretty much all the stuff I love about mid-’90s indie-rock — the noise, the drone, the heavy-lidded vocals, the amps-on-fire guitar sound, the bent song structures, all of it — into a tight-yet-messy ball of shoegazery, Sonic Youth-y greatness.

Check out the full review of their kinda-sorta-recent 7″, “Nitemare City”/”February,” over here, or go snag their newer live album, See the Dirt Gang, for free over here.

Additional goodness: they’re playing with The Busy Kids & The Wrong Ones, both of whom I love in distinctly different, different ways; get there early to see ’em…

Rock Baby Rock It #12, featuring Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, The Umbrella Man, & The Luxurious Panthers @ The Continental Club
Rock Baby Rock It #12, featuring Dykes on Bikes @ The Big Top

Dang. I missed out on the first night of this year’s Rock Baby Rock It fest over in the cool-ass stretch of Main where The Continental Club happens to reside, but dammit, you don’t need to miss the rest of it. Fans of rockabilly, punkabilly, and any other kind of -billy, this is where you should be tonight & tomorrow.

The Boulevard Nights/Grey Hours/Kino Simms/Mellow Riot/Art Institute @ Warehouse Live (Green Room)
Dunno most of these folks, sorry, although I have heard good things about The Boulevard Nights & recall liking the teeny-tiny bit I’ve heard of Grey Hours so far. I do know {Art Institute}, however, and was utterly blown away when I saw ’em a few months ago (a show I still need to write up…argh). Frontman Paul Chavez screams and howls in his shirt and tie, wild-eyed like Michael Douglas at the breaking point in Falling Down, while bassist Tyler very literally wrestles with his bass and drummer Ken attempts to beat his kit into submission. And despite the viscerality of the assault, the music they make is ridiculously smart and sharp-edged. Recommended.

Barenaked Ladies/Blues Traveler/Big Head Todd & The Monsters/Cracker @ Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
I’m really pretty meh about most of the folks playing at this, Part 3 of ’90s Flashback Night — I was a Blues Traveler fan once upon a time, before I heard an interview with John Popper back in the ’00s and decided I couldn’t stand the guy personally. shrug. I’m sure he’s crushed.

At any rate, I do still get a big, goofy grin when I think of Cracker, thinking back to college days when I first fell for the band. I ran across Kerosene Hat not too long ago, and my jaw dropped at how incredible the songs still sound. Not all of these folks have aged well, but these guys definitely have.

Runners-Up:
Only Beast/Panamorous/The Illegal Wiretaps/Devil Killing Moth @ The Mink
Life as Lions/Suns Collide/The Soapbox Revolution/Featherface @ Warehouse Live (Studio)
MNWA/Moths/Old Yeller/Hoffle Stoff Awaffogus @ Notsuoh
Fever Art Festival, featuring Tiziano Dominico & more @ Sarita Ackerman Modern Art (7320 Ashcroft Dr., Suite 209)
Flo Rida/Cee Lo/Kirko Bangz/B.O.B. @ Toyota Center
Arthur Yoria @ Cafe Brasil
We Were Wolves/Purple/The Dead Revolt @ Walter’s (1120 Naylor; $6)
John Evans @ McGonigel’s Mucky Duck
Slave to the Beat, featuring Ceeplus Bad Knives, Mr. Castillo, & Travis Smith @ Boondocks
Hellzapoppin/AGRO Sideshow @ The Scout Bar (Clear Lake)
Champions Kids Camp Benefit, featuring Jimmy Nash @ Dosey Doe Coffee Company (The Woodlands)


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