Madness on Main 2016 Rundown, Pt. 3: Us. + Camera Cult + SaND DUNES + Quintron & Miss Pussycat + Dollie Barnes + Say Girl Say + Dead To The World + Glass the Sky + Linus Pauling Quartet

us1Alright, back with Part 3 of this rundown thing for Madness on Main Street 2016, which may well be the last, since this thing starts in less than 24 hours — see Part 1 and Part 2, over here.

First, the relevant info, for those who haven’t read it somewhere already. The festival’s happening tomorrow, Saturday, May 7th, over on the Mid-Main stretch of Main Street just north of Richmomd, and it’s gonna be a fun one. A whole slew of musicians and bands will be playing across four stages, The Continental Club, The Big Top, The Pachinko Hut, & The Mid-Main Art Garden, for a measly $25 (that’s at the door; you can get ’em for $15 from one of the bands playing or $17.50 online through Stubwire.com.

And with that, away we go:

Us.
Astute observers of past Madness on Main/Yes, Indeed! Fests will note that there’re definitely some familiar names in the lineup — not that that’s a bad thing, mind you, but rather that, y’know, organizers Jason Smith and Phil Peterson really, really like these folks. Case in point: one-man-band Us., aka Avery Davis, who also played at MoM this time last year.

I was pretty impressed then, and I’m even more impressed now that I’ve had a bit more time to listen to the guy’s music. It’s gentle and sweet and gorgeous, with a fragility to it that’s impossible to not love, and it dances across the line between electro-pop and folk-pop like it’s made of rainbows or something. Sometimes Us. comes across like a hazier, sleepier Freelance Whales, and at other times it’s far more rootsy (like on the track below, which gets extra bonus points for the Big Bend reference in the title), like a more delicate Lord Huron or maybe Austin band The Eastern Sea.

So, which Us. are we going to get to see this Saturday? No clue, but I’m kind of hoping it’s both at the same time…
[Us. plays at 5:15PM at the Art Garden.]


 

cameracult1Camera Cult
Whoa. Y’know, I mostly cringe when I see stuff from the ’80s coming back around, both because I hate the whole ironic-nostalgia thing (if you’re going to like something, actually fucking like it, goddammit) and because there was a lot of it that really, truly deserved to stay dead. Listening to Camera Cult, though, I feel like I’ve been thrown into a timewarp back to 7th grade…and hey, I’m good with that.

I mean, seriously — that popping bass sound, those primary-colored synths, the straight-up dance beats…these guys basically play an amalgamation of every chunk of dance-pop from the whole dang decade of skinny ties and terrible hairstyles, all mashed together into one big ball of joyous, freakishly addictive retro-pop goodness. Think Chromeo, think Prince (R.I.P., Purple Funky One), think recent Daft Punk, think DeBarge (yeah, I went there), think Chic, think Duran Duran’s poppier side, think all of that, and what you get is Camera Cult.

And to their credit, I don’t think there’s an ironic bone in band members David Gonzalez, Nicco Martinez, and Ricky Vasquez‘s bodies; I think they honestly just love this stuff, and they’re playing it with all their collective heart and soul. That’s a pretty beautiful thing.
[Camera Cult plays at 9:30PM at The Big Top.]


 

sanddunes2SAnD DUNES
I’ll admit that the first time I ran across SaND DUNES, it took me a little while to figure out why the singer/guitarist standing up there at the mic looked so damn familiar. It didn’t hit me ’til after that, holy crap, that was Kitty from the gone-too-soon New York City Queens — a realization that made me both bummed and excited at the same time, in that while I’m sad NYCQ has broken up, I’m happy as hell to see/hear NYCQ band members moving on to other cool things.

And cool is exactly what SaND DUNES is, if the handful of songs currently available online are any indication. Beebe seems to have headed off in much more of a bedroom-electro-pop direction than anything her old band ever did, with her hazy, heavy-lidded vocals (and yeah, those harmony vocals are excellent), some Trembling Blue Stars-esque ’80s drum tracks, and layers of ethereal guitar noises washing over everything.

Like Us., above, SaND DUNES are fragile and gorgeously lush, but with a much more downcast, melancholy feel to the whole thing; it’s quiet, late-night music, the kind you listen to when you feel like dancing but you’re alone and don’t have anybody to dance with. If you’ve never been there, well, hell, you just won’t know.
[SAnD DUNES plays at 10:30PM at The Big Top.]


 

quintron1Quintron & Miss Pussycat
And now we get to the Madness on Main headliners, Big Easy-dwellers Quintron & Miss Pussycat, who are…pretty goddamn unique, if nothing else. I’m not going to lie, y’all — Quintron’s music, in my experience, is kind of a love-it-or-hate-it thing, and I know people who definitely fall in the latter camp.

I myself was pretty skeptical until I finally caught the duo live a Summerfest or two back; watching them go absolutely batshit fucking nuts up there on the Buckminster Fuller-dome stage, surrounded by frantic dancers (some with the band, I think, and some from God-knows-where) shaking their asses, while the crowd below went equally berserk boogie-ing down to (if I’m remembering correctly) “Swamp Buggy Badass,” I felt like I was witnessing the obligatory tribal-dance scene from some post-apocalyptic movie set in a drowned metropolis somewhere. Like Beyond Thunderdome if it were set in New Orleans rather than the Australian Outback.

It was primal and raw and did not give a single fuck, probably because it had burned all its fucks long ago in a bonfire. And yeah, it was pretty incredible. Imagine Jerry Lee Lewis if he’d been born a few decades later and gotten heavily into acid rather than booze, and you’ll come close to getting the idea. Now, go rejoice in watching a video of Quintron corrupting some young monster puppets, below.
[Quintron & Miss Pussycat plays at 12AM at The Continental Club.]


 

dolliebarnes1Dollie Barnes
Let’s be clear(-ish): Dollie Barnes is a band, and not a person. But actually, Dollie Barnes is also a person, sort of, and while the band is indeed awesome, that person is who I keep coming back to hear, if I’m being honest about it.

See, while Dollie Barnes the band includes some seriously awesome musicians, namely Austin Sepulvado and Jason Willis from Buxton, super-talented {Sideshow Tramps} member Geoffrey Muller, Tank Lisenbe of defunct rockers The 71’s, and songwriter Tom Lynch, it’s Haley Barnes, the “Dollie” in the band name, that’s the true draw (sorry, you guys!).

She’s got this crystalline, high-pitched voice that brings to mind ballads sung down in the hollows of a deep, shadowed valley somewhere in Appalachia, reminding me at points of Lissie and Ruby Jane at others, with a touch of Joanna Newsom in there for good measure, and the songs she writes are murky and mournful despite the beauty of the arrangements and vocals. There’s an old-timey, dusty-vinyl feel to it all that I really, truly love, and I swear the music wouldn’t have sounded too far out of place nearly a century ago.
[Dollie Barnes plays at 7:45PM at The Pachinko Hut.]


 

saygirlsay1Say Girl Say
We’ve come to another repeat Madness on Main/Yes, Indeed! performer, now, with trio Say Girl Say, who are also “folky,” albeit in a very, very, very different way. You see, where Dollie Barnes is all Appalachian roots and fragile sadness, Say Girl Say is tribal and hypnotic, a face-painted, feather-wearing, ayahuasca-drinking celebration of nature, magic, and native lore…and believe it or not, as kooky as that hippified description sounds when I read it back to myself, it works.

Band members Brigette Yawn, Suzan Zaghmouth, and Luke Odom have crafted something that’s utterly mesmerizing to witness, with perfectly-intertwining vocals, droning/floating melodies, quirky instrumentation, and sincerely South American-/African-influenced rhythms. At times I’m reminded of Damon Albarn’s Mali Music project, and in my book, that’s not a bad thing. I also keep thinking of ’90s jam-folk band Rusted Root (of “Send Me On My Way” fame); they’re probably the last group I’ve heard to make a melding like this truly succeed.

It helps, too, that there’s an innocent joy to it all that makes everything sound just right despite the fact that all the pieces shouldn’t by rights fit together at all successfully. The same goes for the flat-out stellar musicianship and vocal talent of the three people involved — those aforementioned intertwining vocals are amazing, like “Go To Sleep You Little Baby” if it were set in a hippie camp rather than in the American South.
[Say Girl Say plays at 8:45PM at The Pachinko Hut.]


 

deadtotheworld1Dead To The World
And now, a nice change of pace… Don’t like folk music? Want to throw every mandolin or ukulele you see into a mosh pit and stomp the shit out of ’em all? (Or, okay, maybe you just have varied musical tastes; work with me, here.)

Well, you’re in luck, because Dead To The World play some damn fine straight-up Bay Area-style punk rawk — they’re fast but not quite hardcore, they have a ton of great yell-along moments, and the guitars sound nicely raw and heavy without being too freaking noisy. More than anything else, DTTW make me think of excellent Fat Wreck/Lookout! band American Steel; the vocals are similarly scuffed-up while still holding tight to a semblance of melody, and that’s something I can always get behind.

I saw these guys live once several years ago, now, and while they were a little shaky at the time — I think they’d just replaced a couple of band members — they were still really promising, even with that. From the sound of things, they’ve long since worked out the kinks. Fans of Street Dogs, early Rancid, or American Steel, take note, alright?
[Dead To The World plays at 11:30PM at The Big Top.]


 

glassthesky1Glass the Sky
This band. You — yes, you, the one at your laptop when you really should be doing something else — need to see this band. I know, I know; they may not seem like your particular cup of tea at first, it’s true. They’re fairly quiet and chilled-out, even for a pop band, maybe even Adult Alternative-level low-key, but don’t let that fool you: they’re a hell of a band.

Watch them live, and you’ll get it, trust me. The songs will unfold, carefully and deliberately, one after another, drawing you along as the band crafts what seem to be simple little pop tunes but are actually far more complex and interesting. Glass the Sky will be up on the stage, nonchalantly just rolling along, barely even cracking a smile, like music is Serious Business, and suddenly, as those harmony vocals mesh and build, you realize that holy crap, this is Serious Business, and beyond that, it’s goddamn important. Every little turn and change takes on a greater significance, and you find yourself listening more and more carefully to try to tease out all the little nuances.

Maybe that’s what will happen to you, anyway. It’s sure as hell what happened to when I first saw this band; maybe you’ll be as lucky as I was.
[Glass the Sky plays at 7:30PM at The Big Top.]


 

linuspaulingquartet1Linus Pauling Quartet
And last — but in no way least, not by a long shot — we come to the Linus Pauling Quartet. Weirdly, it feels like it’s about damn time to see these guys playing Madness on Main; they’re a band that’s hung out on the fringes of the Houston scene for decades, never really fitting in and not giving a shit, and that goes pretty well with the overall mindset of MoM, at least to me.

Besides, they’re fucking badasses. How can you not love heavy, loud, stoner-ish, metal/rock with three damn guitars where the subject matter is Dungeons & Dragons, Cthulhu, beer, quantum physics, forbidden knowledge, aliens, meat, and (derr) porn? Plus, they’re a great, great bunch of dudes, the most down-to-earth, chilled-out, unpretentious gang of rockers you’re liable to ever meet. Oh, and did I mention they did a video based on H.P. Lovecraft a year or two back, filmed partly at the Galveston Seawall and partly on the Rice University campus and starring the band members and their friends (most of whom are also in bands)? Enjoy.
[Linus Pauling Quartet plays at 8PM at The Continental Club.]


 

Okay, people — that’s all I’ve got in me, I’m afraid. I’ll be doing my damnedest tomorrow to get on over to Mid-Main; you should do the same.

(Photos: Us.; Camera Cult; SaND DUNES; Quintron; Dollie Barnes; Say Girl Say; Dead To The World; Glass the Sky; Linus Pauling Quartet. Dollie Barnes photo by Daniel Jackson. Dead To The World photo by Paige Maxwell. Glass the Sky photo by Scot Overholser.)


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