Live: The Bright Light Social Hour/Ishi
FITZGERALD’S — 12/7/12: I have Houston promoter Hector Del Valle to thank for my first exposure to The Bright Light Social Hour; he brought them from Austin to Houston for the Daniel Johnston 50th birthday party concert. I was actually there to see my friends, the always-entertaining Britrock-meets-American funk band Electric Attitude, but then I stuck around to see the legendary Daniel Johnston.
Then I saw that The Bright Light Social Hour were going to play downstairs after Johnston. “Should I stick around and check out this last band?,” I thought to myself. “Why not?” was the answer, and soon I was so glad I did.
They blew me away with their musicianship and skills, and sang some catchy songs (about fucking, in particular) that I knew I wanted to hear again. I bought their CD (this was before I realized hipsters are supposed to be into vinyl!), and it stayed in my CD player for weeks. It just so happened they had done some recording at the studio where my band was looking to record; listening to the sound quality of their album helped seal the deal.
Soon after that I was planning my big event, the Spring Forward show (it was legendary to all 50 people who went), and was able to get the band to come to Houston again and have my band open for them. The next week after that, I saw them at SXSW in Austin and realized they were quickly becoming the biggest new band in their hometown — and Austin is a tough town, to say the least. They were getting some deserved respect.
I’ve been following them ever since, and they’ve been criss-crossing the states and Canada relentlessly, even going through the tragic rite of passage of having their gear stolen out of their tour van. They last played Houston in April, headlining Warehouse Live‘s studio stage to about a hundred fans. And this past December, they were back at Fitzgerald’s to wish us a happy holiday season.
So far, I haven’t even tried to describe their sound. That’s because, well, it’s difficult for me — and other reviewers, too — to describe. It seems very 1970s classic rock (think The Allman Brothers’ debut album), but there’s a touch of today’s indie-rock peeking through, as well. Some reviewers say it’s like they came out of a time machine, but I can hear that mid-2000s Franz Ferdinand “four on the floor” style in there, especially on their best-known song, “Bare Hands Bare Feet”.
That said, it’s more important to emphasize the fun of their live show than to try to dissect the band’s sound. They are infectious. Three of them sing and rip up their respective instruments — Jack O’Brien is a monster bassist, in particular, and drummer Jo Mirasole makes me think Animal from The Muppets came to life and moved to Austin. On top of all that, they are good-looking young men with a future in music. They’re the kind of band you’ll want to claim as your own.
OK, so I wrote all that on my lunch break before the show. Now a day has passed since the show, and I must admit that I am such a clueless dude. I live in my own little world, not realizing a favorite band of mine is blowing up. It’s happened to me before, and it happened to me with The Bright Light Social Hour.
I wanted my wife to see them, so I made a date night of it. We went to Tacos A Go-Go for dinner (their veggie tamales are out of this world!) and stopped by to check out the dollar bin at Heights Vinyl, nabbing some Peter and Gordon and The Carpenters albums, and by the time we got to Fitzgerald’s, it was perfect timing for Dallas’s Ishi, the opening band, to start.
I don’t really know how to explain them. There’s a guy with a biker beard singing kind of soul-dance-pop. He’s got a good guitarist and drummer, but the main beat and bassline comes from the computer next to the drummer. They’re pretty catchy, reminding me of the far more eyecatching band, Friends.
By the time they were finishing up, the place was starting to fill up a lot more than I’d expected. Like I mentioned earlier, I had booked the Social Hour for my “diamond in the rough” fest called Spring Forward back in March 2011 — let’s just say that there were about as many people at this Fitzgerald’s show (at least 200) to see one band as there were in six hours at that festival.
My first thought was, “boy, can I pick ’em?,” feeling like I was two years ahead of the times, picking bands like them and Ume to play my little festival. But then I realized it may be that Houston is behind the times, because in Austin they were already playing bigger venues and getting named “Best Indie Band.” “These guys don’t really need my help — my review”, I thought.
The fans were not what I expected, either (meaning they were not like me)… They were much more “frat-boy with hot girlfriend” than “owns a copy of The Mojo Collection and subscribes to Under the Radar (reminder to self: time to re-up).” In fact, my wife told me she overheard some of the ladies in the crowd debating whether the bathroom would be clean enough. Hello, we’re at Fitz, not Oxheart. Of course the bathrooms are unacceptable, especially for hot girlfriends and, in my case, extra-hot wives.
Well that’s not what I was there to comment on, so back to the music. TBLSH did bring some new tunes with them. Earlier in the day I was thinking what fun [SARCASM] it must be to play the same eight songs every day for two years, so I’m glad they’re writing new songs. But I can’t say any of them caught me as bonafide hits on the first listen. Even if you’d never seen the band before, you knew what songs must’ve been on the album, because everyone erupted when they played one. Fans were shouting along to every word. There was a visible lull when they strayed from the album, but that’s okay. I was glad to get in on the sneak preview of what’s to come. END
(Photos [top to bottom]: A.J. Vincent (The Bright Light Social Hour); John Mudd (Ishi); The Bright Light Social Hour; Jack O’Brien (The Bright Light Social Hour). All photos by Jason Smith.)