Madness on Main 2017, This Sunday (Rundown, Pt. 1): Lyric Michelle + Something Fierce + Lloronas + LIMB + Flower Graves

Oh, wow. The Season of Music Festivals rolls on and on, and now we’re rapidly approaching the two I’ve truly been looking forward to, albeit for very different reasons: Madness on Main Street and FPSF.

The latter I’m interested in seeing mostly because I want to see if my hopes for a turnaround are warranted, but right now, it’s the former I’m really psyched about, not least of all because it’s happening this coming Sunday, May 28th.

See, while FPSF and Something Wicked and Middlelands and Warped and Rock the Ranch and Houston Open Air and End Hip End It and Houston Whatever Fest and Day for Night and 99% of the other music fests in town are cool (and yeah, Day for Night is currently the top of that heap, for me; I’ve got my fingers crossed I can talk more about that soon), there’s just something, well, kinda impersonal about a lot of ’em, y’know?

Granted, that’s true of some more than others — DFN didn’t feel nearly as much that way, for one, and End Hip End It seems pretty chilled-out — but generally speaking, big music festivals are You + A Gigantic, Sweaty Crowd of People You Don’t Know, All Just Trying to Survive & Have Fun at the Same Time. And it’s partly because I’m fucking old, yes, but goddamn, that shit gets exhausting.

That, to me, is the subtle magic of Madness on Main and its sister, fall-time fest, Yes, Indeed!: they feel less like a “Music Festival,” with all the trappings thereof, and more like You + A Whole Bunch of Friends You Haven’t Seen in a While All Hanging Out & Having a Blast for Cheap.

That’s been my experience, at least, most recently at last fall’s Yes, Indeed! Fest — I caught excellent sets by bands/musicians I love, like Arthur Yoria, Jealous Creatures, & The Wheel Workers, finally got to see some others I’d wanted to see for a while, like Only Beast, Jon Black, & Young Girls, found new folks I liked, like Bernie Pink, and was completely bowled over by a band I hadn’t seen live in years, Jody Seabody & The Whirls.

The best part, though, wasn’t the music, great though it was. It was just the hanging-out in-between; I wandered around with the Jealous Creatures crew and their friends, some of whom are also teacher-friends of my wife’s, met some other friends along the way who happened to be there, chatted with a whole bunch of people old & new, and reconnected with people I hadn’t seen in far too long. It was like the best house party you can imagine, only spread across an EaDo city street and with awesome music all over the damn place.

It was just, well, fun. Rather than feeling like I was fighting to survive the heat and the crowds and the stupidity and the mess, I was hanging out with friends, relaxed and just going with the flow. And that’s been the case for every damn Madness on Main/Yes, Indeed! I’ve been to since organizers Phil “Bassman Pep” Peterson and Jason Smith started putting ’em on, what, five years ago?

Now, with that said…okay, I’m a little nervous about this time around. It’s the venue change that’s doing it to me, I’m afraid — back in Ye Olden Days, “Madness on Main” was called that because it took place down in the Mid-Main area of Midtown, right around The Continental Club and its satellite venues.

This year, though, while “Madness on Main” is still on Main, technically, it’s on N. Main, which — as most any inner-Loop Houstonian can tell you — is a completely different part of town. In Midtown no longer, now the festival will be doing its thing up around the shiny-new (and perenially-sued) White Oak Music Hall, up north of Downtown proper and on the edges of The Heights.

Not that I mind the venue, of course; I’ve yet to get up there, so that’s kind of a cool bonus for me. But I kind of liked the whole traipsing-around-in-Mid-Main thing, y’know? Watch a band at this bar, then stroll down to the Continental for another, then into the back yard for a third, then stop off for tacos at Tacos A-Go-Go. I kind of had my routine down, and yes, change is hard.

Misgivings about the venue/neighborhood shift notwithstanding, I’m still happy as hell to see the festival roll around once more. The people who put it on are good folks with their collective hearts in the right place, and they’ve got a nice, nice lineup that melds out-of-towners with locals.

You can see the full lineup over there in the flyer (no idea what the actual schedule is, sorry), but we’re going to do our now-standard SCR rundowns of as many of the people playing this Sunday as we can, starting right now.

Here goes:

Lyric Michelle
Right out of the gate, we’ve got an artist who I’ve been wanting to give a better listen to for quite a long time now, and one who’s already garnered some impressive attention outside the H-town city limits. And yeah, it’s pretty damn well due. Lyric Michelle is one of the most talented MCs I’ve heard, of either genre, with an effortless, nimble flow that’s fast enough it makes me want to skip backwards and make sure I heard it right.

Beyond that, she can also sing without Autotune, which feels like a rare commodity in hip-hop these days, and there’s a seriousness, a down-to-earth sincerity to her music and lyrics that you can’t help but want to pay closer attention. Lyric is halfway between a slam poet and a soul singer, closer to Lauryn Hill or Erykah Badu than any of her peers, and that’s no small thing to be able to say about anybody. I’m not even exaggerating, y’all — see this woman perform now, before you can’t afford the damn tickets.


 

Something Fierce
Oh, damn. It has been too, too freaking long since I last saw this band play. The members of old-school pop-punk trio Something Fierce have been keeping their heads down these past couple of years, it seems like, only sporadically playing shows every once in a while, and their last actual release, a split-10″ with Occult Detective Club on Dirtnap Records, was waaaaaay back in 2012 (which feels like a goddamn lifetime ago, amirite?).

It’s weird to feel like this band are pretty much bona-fide Oldtimers at this point, but hell, they are — they’re also icons, in my book, in large part because they craft music that hits all those vintage power-pop/proto-punk sweet spots somehow without coming off as derivative. They’ve gotten less raw and more poppy over the years, but hey, I don’t mind that, as long as you can do it well, and these folks do.

I’m happier than words can express to see that they’ve been hard at work recording and mixing, albeit for the past three years or so, now; got my fingers crossed that whatever they’ve been working on for so long (last I heard, it’ll be called Auto Icons) is going to one day see the light of day. Please, y’all?


 

Lloronas
And now for something totally new, at least to me. It’s always fun to see who the Madness on Main guys bring in from elsewhere in Texas, particularly when they’re a lot of fun, like San Antonio punk quartet Lloronas.

There’s a bit of a resemblance to fellow San Antonians Fea, but with a far heavier dose of melody to go along with the raw guitars and stomping rhythms; there’s also a surf-y tinge to the music, to my ears, and that’s always something I’m cool with. When they get going, they seriously barrel along like a freight train, which is exactly as it should be. Think vintage Tilt, maybe old-old-old X, or a less-shiny Girl In A Coma, and you’ll be in the ballpark.


 

LIMB
LIMB is one of those bands (“bands,” maybe?) who I swear to God is different every time I run across them; different members, different sound, different presentation, the whole deal. First, there was ex-By the End of Tonight member James Templeton solo, just him and a bunch of gear on a corner on Westheimer, making gradually-evolving loops of sound that seemed to extend off into the infinite. Then came 2010’s The Shape of Punk for Some, which not only subverted a classic Refused reference but saw LIMB morph into a real-live band, making a wild mashup of noise, almost-tribal rhythms, and prog-tinged jazz, all of it merging together into something strange and gorgeous and alluring. It was like Four Tet gone Afrobeat, at points, and way cooler than that sounds.

And then, the most recent time I ran across Templeton/LIMB, at Day for Night, the project had shifted again, this time into an art installation that worked with an even starker kind of slowly-mutating sound than Templeton was dabbling in the first time around, just these bass-y tones (if I recall correctly, anyway) and stuttering lights. I had a harder time getting into it this last time around, I’ll admit, but whatever the guy does, it’s interesting, even mesmerizing, and well worth checking out.


 

Flower Graves
Mikey & The Drags are dead; long live Flower Graves. Yes, Miguel and his crew have changed names, as of this past February, taking their new name from a Human Bienz song, apparently. I’m not totally sure why there was a name change, except that the band says they added “fresh new members and fresh new songs”.

I also haven’t been able to hear a lot by the reincarnated band just yet — only one measly track, in fact, “Be Your Man”. Thankfully, it’s pretty dang cool, and seems to showcase the band’s new direction, which (unless this one song’s a fluke, which I’m kinda doubting) is straight back to vintage ’60s-style psych-rock, complete with lots of sweet, sweet organ sounds, hazy, distant vocals, and ragged-edged guitars. It’s a bit of an evolution from the more garage-y sound Mikey & the Drags were after, but I’m liking it; it feels right, y’know?

Oh, and to make things truly weird, when I googled “flower graves band” to see if I could find a photo of the new lineup (I couldn’t), the very first result that popped up was a picture of the gravestone of Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones. Yeah, Google gets it.


 

Alright, y’all — that’s all I’ve got time for tonight. More soon, so check back…

(Photos: Lyric Michelle photo by @blackgirlmeetsworld; Something Fierce photo by Jason Smith.)


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