Madness on Main Street 2015 Rundown, Pt. 2: George West + Black Kite + A.J. Vincent + The Brunson Theater + Robert Kuhn + Nathan Quick + Stevie Menjivar + Craig Kinsey

And here we are, people, with the second bunch of writeups for this Saturday‘s (May 2nd, to be precise) Madness on Main Street Music Festival over in the Mid-Main ‘hood.

Before I dive headlong into that, though, I wanted to quickly point out that you can (and probably should) get your tickets in advance, because this festival gets bigger and bigger every year, and one of these damn days, y’all, they’re gonna do an FPSF and sell the fuck out. Seriously, it’s only a matter of time. So get your tickets now; $12 gets you into all venues for the whole night, and $27 gets you admission and a sweet t-shirt.

Oh, and if you want more info than I’ve got on the whole MoM thing, check out David Garrick‘s insane writeup over at the Free Press Houston. You’ll have to scroll down a ways, mind you, because it’s stuck onto the end of his massive list of alllll the shows going on this week. And holy crap, that guy can write, both in terms of volume and encyclopedic musical knowledge; his writeups put mine to shame.

With that out of the way, allons-y:

georgewest1George West
Psyched to be starting out with George West, because he’s honestly somebody I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while now but never seemed to have the time, sadly. The “band” (there is no actual “George West,” by the by; the name apparently comes from a teeny-tiny town down on the Texas/Mexico border) is actually the one-man project of Vik Montemayor, who you might recognize as the drummer for dark electro-pop group Bang Bangz but who these days hangs out in his bedroom — and occasionally on stage — making mellow, beautiful ambient-electronic music to sit back and nod your head to.

Unlike a lot of ambient, cooldown-type music, mind you, George West is less interested in knocking you unconscious than he is in doing something actually interesting inside your head — think Snooze or Four Tet, in particular — as you sit there on your couch, listening with your headphones on. Actually, scratch the couch; what I think of when I hear West’s music is a warm-but-not-hot spring day with clear skies, when the best damn thing in the universe to do is to lay down on your back in the soft grass and stare up at that light, perfect Texas blue sky until it expands and envelops you, until you, the sky, the grass, and the music are all that remains of the universe.

And as that happens, you’ll listen/watch as the music shifts and builds, almost like an organic (despite its electronic nature), natural symphony of sound that matches the world around you. It never stops moving but never becomes intrusive, like watching a hive of busy, friendly insects. If Montemayor’s “other” band, Bang Bangz, is nighttime music (and yes, it is), George West is its sunny-day counterpart, and it makes me just want to go lay in a field somewhere and bliss out.
[George West plays at 6:30PM at The Alley Kat.]

George West – You Know from Marcelo Quiñones on Vimeo.


blackkite1Black Kite
And now here’s one that somehow completely flew under my Houston-music radar. Here I thought I was keeping on top of all the projects those ex-By the End of Tonight dudes have been involved with, but then I see that James Templeton (LIMB) has been involved in Black Kite since, oh, 2013 or so. Dang… Of course, it’s not strictly “his” project, but rather appears to be the brainchild of Vicky Tippt, formerly of the late, great .belville, with Templeton and Ed Gardiner as her cohorts.

Templeton and Gardiner provide an excellently dark, murky, glitchy, clicky backdrop of layered, oftentimes menacing sound, bringing to mind a starker version of Templeton’s LIMB. Tippit is absolutely the star of the show, though; her serene, crystalline vocals take the music and drag it into the stratosphere, making the whole thing reminiscent of White Sea or maybe Tori Amos doing some kind of darkwave side project. As a whole, it’s bleak and mysterious and gloomy and gorgeous, all at the same time, and I’ve got high, high hopes for the trio live.
[Black Kite plays at 8:45PM at The Big Top.]


ajvincent1A.J. Vincent
There’s only a handful of non-Houstonian acts playing Madness on Main this year, and I’m damn glad to see Austin-dweller A.J. Vincent is among them. He played last year’s Yes, Indeed! Fest, as well, and back then I was intrigued but a little skeptical that one shaggy-haired guy and a keyboard/keytar would be all that good to watch live.

Holy fuck, was I wrong. Live, Vincent is a beast; he gets up on the stage and dives immediately into the funkiest, ’70s-est, sweatiest groove you’ve heard in years, all built around old-school-sounding synths and snapping, disco-ified beats, and despite the seeming ridiculousness of it all — I mean, c’mon, a dude with his shirt halfway open rocking the hell out on a keytar? — he’s got the swagger and skill to pull it off. By the end of his set, I was into it, enough that I bought a copy of his lone album so far, last year’s Thief of Fire, and I haven’t regretted it for a second.
[A.J. Vincent plays at 9:30PM at The Alley Kat.]


brunsontheater1The Brunson Theater
Fans of Beatlesque music, rejoice, because you’ve found your new favorite band (okay, assuming you hadn’t already, that is). A decade or so ago, frontman Ryan Guidry and his compatriot Andy McWilliams were part of a truly excellent band called The Scattered PAGES, and when they vanished into the ether I was bummed as hell; I’m happy they’re back making music once again, this time as The Brunson Theater (named for a fascinating, now-dilapidated Art Deco theater in Baytown).

Musically, they draw heavily from the aforementioned Beatles, especially when it comes to those lush, intricate, beautiful melodies, but they also bring to mind The Posies, Teenage Fanclub, and under-appreciated fellow Beatles fanatics Cotton Mather, grafting bits and pieces of more modern indie-rock/indie-pop song structures and sounds to the ’60s-ish Brit-pop framework. And with last year’s We Land Soon, that combination works awesomely well, making me grin wide like an idiot as the songs bounce and meander their way through my skull. Listen for yourself, below.
[The Brunson Theater plays at 6PM at The Continental Club.]


robertkuhn1Robert Kuhn
First things first: Robert Kuhn is not your typical folky/bluesy singer/songwriter. For one thing, he’s a heck of a lot younger than I thought he’d be, for having such a road-worn, raspy voice and throwback way of playing guitar. And then there’s the dreads, which is a little unusual for a folksinger around these parts, at the very least. Kuhn’s an interesting guy, seemingly a born rambler who apparently left home at age 18 and didn’t stop roaming for 15 years, and those world-wandering experiences have soaked deep into his music, whether he’s playful or serious.

I haven’t heard all of his debut album, Everybody Knows, yet, but I’m definitely needing to, I think. It’s refreshing to hear a folky singer/songwriter who doesn’t sound like every other countryish singer/songwriter out there, but who instead looks further back, back to the roots of American folk music, to inform their sound.
[Robert Kuhn plays at 6:40PM at The Pachinko Hut.]


nathanquick1Nathan Quick
I wrote a bit about Nathan Quick this time last year, for the previous Madness on Main Street, but after that I was able to actually watch the guy play. And yeah, he does have a bit of that rootsy, country-tinged thing I was just talking about above, but honestly, there’s more blues and rock going on that anything like, say, Robert Ellis. Quick’s at his best when he’s roaring and bellowing with that great, desperate, whiskey(?)-roughened voice of his, while the guitars rumble and scrape beneath and the drums and bass thunder away.

Looking back, I think I did the man a disservice last year, painting him as yet another country troubadour. Rather, he’s a full-on rocker, albeit one that pulls a lot from the blues and country to make his sound. There’re times I’m reminded of Hank Williams, sure, but there’re also times when I’m reminded of Robert Johnson, or Dax Riggs, or even fiery blues-metal guys Grady. And hell, I’m liking it even more now than I did the last time around.
[Nathan Quick plays at 7:40PM at The Pachinko Hut.]


steviemenjivar1Stevie Menjivar
And then there’s Stevie Menjivar, who couldn’t really be much more different from Nathan Quick if he tried, at least in terms of music. Menjivar may be a guitarist and a singer/songwriter, but he’s a far cry from both bluesy rock and your average folksinger, instead playing these ridiculously fluid, prog-influenced guitar lines that bring to mind Scale The Summit or Eric Johnson, with the same “rounded” tone the band and Johnson both have, and marrying those to jazzy, jam-y songs that invite you to just sit back with a drink and listen.

More than anything else, I find myself thinking of surfer-turned-songwriter Jack Johnson when I listen to Menjivar’s stuff; the two share the same laidback, beach-campfire vibe, and Menjivar’s got a way of playing that’s effortless and breezy, even when he’s doing stuff so fast and complex you blink and say, “wait, what did he just do there?” Vocally, he reminds me of Scotsman Paolo Nutini, singing with a voice that’s strong but not demanding and with a style that’s just this side of jazz and puts the emphasis in places you’re not always expecting. Don’t expect frenzied raveups or anything, but just sit back and hang out and let the music and Menjivar’s voice wash over you, instead.
[Stevie Menjivar plays at 5:40PM at The Pachinko Hut.]


craigkinsey1Craig Kinsey
Last in this particular pile, there’s The Reverend himself, Craig Kinsey. Kinsey’s a hard guy to pin down, and an even harder one to fully describe; he wanders across the line between throwback troubadour, Americana musicologist, and modern-day mystic without ever stopping in one of those spots for long enough to get pigeonholed. And hey, that’s no bad thing. His music’s similarly hard to define — it’s Americana, to be sure, in that it’s intimately concerned with the history of this country and its people, but it definitely draws on a whole slew of musical traditions.

On 2014’s American Roots and Machines (an aptly-named album if I ever I’ve heard one), Kinsey delves into funereal Appalachian music on one track, sloshed opera on another, gritty, downhome barroom rawk on another, and delicate blues on yet another, and he never feels like he’s messing around with any of it; the man knows what he’s doing. His live shows are famed for that same kitchen-sink mentality, with performances incorporating ridiculous numbers of musicians, burlesque troupes, and even opera singers from the Houston Grand Opera. Oh, and when he tours he tries to do it near parks so he can camp out along the way rather than stay in hotels. And did I mention he lived in a monastic community at one point?

My point is, Kinsey’s a local treasure, and one of the people most responsible for the Houston music scene being what it is today, whether you’re talking him playing solo or with his longtime band, {Sideshow Tramps}. The guy’s a real-live musical hero, and if you get a chance to see him play, dangit, you need to take it.
[Craig Kinsey plays at 12AM at The Continental Club.]


That’s all I have at the moment, folks — keep checking back for more, alright?

(Photos [top to bottom]: George West; Black Kite; A.J. Vincent; The Brunson Theater; Robert Kuhn; Nathan Quick; Stevie Menjivar; Craig Kinsey. A.J. Vincent photo by Roger Ho; Robert Kuhn photo by Ray Galicia.)

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2 Responses to “Madness on Main Street 2015 Rundown, Pt. 2: George West + Black Kite + A.J. Vincent + The Brunson Theater + Robert Kuhn + Nathan Quick + Stevie Menjivar + Craig Kinsey”

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » FPSF 2015 Rundown, Pt. 1 (& Big News!): Diarrhea Planet + George West + The Mountain Goats + Iceage + Dpat + Sturgill Simpson + Sarah Jaffe + Catch Fever + Houndmouth + The Vanity on June 3rd, 2015 at 12:43 am

    […] West I talked up George West not too long ago, it’s true, in the insanity leading up to Madness on Main, but dangit, Vik Montemayor (the man behind the moniker) is well worth a second mention. Seriously, […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Madness on Main Street 2015 Rundown, Pt. 3: FEA + The Beans + The Gold Sounds + Thrill + PuraPharm + Children of Pop + Mantra Love + Race to the Moon on November 13th, 2015 at 11:05 am

    […] feel like reading either of the previous two sets of writeups, you can check ’em out here and here. Then make your plans and get the hell on over there tomorrow evening, right? Right. Here we […]

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