Madness on Main 2017 Rundown, Pt. 3: Traci Lavois Thiebaud + Mantra Love + Hector Ward and the Big Time + Perseph One + Soul Creatures + Bayou City Funk + Sailor Poon + Dem

And here we are, yet again, for Round 3 of our previews of Madness on Main Music Fest, which will be this coming Sunday, May 28th, over at White Oak Music Hall and its surrounding environs (possibly also at Raven Tower, I’m guessing?).

We’ve already done two rounds of this stuff so far, over here and here, so go read those, too, and with this last one we’ve covered nearly every single dang band/musician playing MoM 2017, possibly for the first time ever (for the folks I can actually find any music to listen to, mind you; for a couple of folks on the list, I couldn’t find a damn thing, sorry…). Woo! Yay, us.

Alright, here goes:

Traci Lavois Thiebaud
And today, we start off with somebody who’s not a “musician,” strictly speaking, but a poet and writer and comedian and visual artist. By her own description, Traci Lavois Thiebaud‘s a “noise poet,” but really, that doesn’t begin to cover all the stuff she’s involved in, from doing improv comedy to running Whatever, Mom Publications to collage art to, hell, I don’t even know what else there is. It’s pretty impressive, seeing everything Thiebaud does.

That said, what the heck does a performance by Thiebaud this Sunday look like? She’s done collaborations with folks like Michelle Yue, where she types on a typewriter on stage, hands the typed words to the other performer, and let’s them do their thing. But then, she’s also done plenty of solo poetry readings. Will her Madness on Main set be similar to either of those? No clue, but whatever happens, it’s bound to be interesting.


 

Mantra Love
The last time I tried to get a listen to these guys, it was 2015, and heading straight for that year’s installment of Madness on Main (lookee over here, if you’re bored). Back then, the Pearland-bred band was a trio, and they didn’t have much for me to listen to aside from a handful of rough demos, but even then, I was impressed by their potential, at least. Nowadays, they’ve pared down to just a duo, brothers(?) Derek and Fabian Silva, and in the intervening time they’ve also honed their sound down quite a bit, holding fast to their love of retro-psychedelic rock while turning up the haziness and crafting songs that are nicely alluring and lush and trippy. I’m not the biggest psych-rock fan around, it’s true, but I’m liking it.

Also, the band’s responsible for the creepiest game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” I’ve ever seen, courtesy of their video for “Howlin'”, which takes the children’s game and turns it into something akin to The Wicker Man. Seriously, after watching, kid’s birthday parties will never be the same again.


 

Hector Ward and the Big Time
Oh, yeah. I’ve got to say, I’d never heard a thing about Austin band Hector Ward and the Big Time before seeing their name on the Madness on Main lineup, but damn, I am sold. The band may hail from Austin, but their sound, to me, owes a whole lot more to that state to the east of Texas, with a bluesy, gritty, funky vibe that wouldn’t be at all out of place blasting from some beat-down, locals-only dive on New Orleans’ Frenchmen Street.

It’s got soul and the blues and jazz and rock and funk, all melted down and blended together into a big, steaming gumbo, with frontman Ward’s awesomely powerful voice cutting through the whole thing, flanked by those sparkling, clean horns. This stuff is excellent, and I’d bet Hector Ward and the Big Time are utterly mind-blowing live. Hope I get to test that theory myself…


 

p, to me, the fuck-’em-all mentality that eschews standard labels, mainstream success (or, hell, even just sub-mainstream success), cookie-cutter beats, and predictable, simplistic lyrics. She’s fast as fuck, seemingly angry all the damn time, and gritty and grimy where her cohorts would keep things, and she raps over skittering rhythms that owe more to experimental electronics than they do Dr. Dre or 2 Chainz or whoever else.

Perseph One’s music makes me twitchy, makes me want to go out and break things. It’s paranoid and aggro and confrontational in the best way, seriously sociopolitical without a super-focused message, like Run the Jewels or P.O.S. And it’s so, so, so good. Go, listen, and smash some shit.


 

Soul Creatures
Back to the funk now, although H-town’s own Soul Creatures are in a fairly different groove from Hector Ward and the Big Time, above; where the previously-mentioned band is more New Orleans-style soul-blues funk, the Creatures are straight-up, heavily ’70s-influenced funk that sounds like it belongs on some comp of obscure Stax/Fantasy artists. There’s a heavy Kool & the Gang thing going on, with a touch of P-Funk along the side — although the band’s much more grounded than George Clinton and company ever were, without a hint of psychedelic weirdness in sight.

What’s nice about these folks, too, is that the music’s not just about getting down and having a good time; there’s sincere thought behind the songs, especially tracks like “Donnie G,” which traces the title character’s (person’s?) struggle to reclaim their life and get themselves together. And unlike a lot of similar stories, this one ends in success, which feels like a pretty damn good signifier for the band, too.


 

Bayou City Funk
And from Soul Creatures, we move on to more funk, believe it or not — folks, I picked the order of these previews completely randomly, I swear, and this is just how it worked out, y’know? On the plus side, so far it’s all been damn good, and Bayou City Funk is no exception. While these guys look more like a bunch of grad students who also happen to play instruments, they’re a hell of a band, tight as hell and full of fire, especially on tracks like “Fencewalk”.

The horns are a particular highlight, for me; they’re honestly some of the best I’ve heard in years, and that’s something I tend to be seriously picky about. Weak, anemic horn sections turn me off immediately — BCF doesn’t have that problem. Unlike Soul Creatures, which seems to be a bit more focused on the vocal side, these guys are more into letting the instruments do the talking. I’m totally good with that when they sound like this.


 

Sailor Poon
Now for something completely different… Austin band Sailor Poon does also feature a horn section of sorts, but they’re about as far from funk as you can get; rather, they’re a blast of raw, unfiltered, noisy, unapologetically crude, unapologetically feminist rawk that melds together old-school, organ-heavy ’60s garage rock and ’90s-vintage riot grrrl punk menace and throws a heavy helping of raunch on top. It’s like The Sonics, Bikini Kill, and Guttermouth all accidentally fell into some mad scientist’s lab and were merged into one weird beast in his experiments.

From what little I’ve seen of their live shows, mind you, it appears to be even stranger than that, with the band dressed in cult-like outfits up on stage and trippy films projected over the whole damn thing while they rock out and howl about bad smells, having a period, butts, and I don’t know what the fuck else. Seriously, I can’t even really explain this band properly. You should just ignore me and watch the video below for “On The Rag,” then go see then play this weekend to get the full experience, alright?


 

Dem
Last but not least, we finish out with Houston/Galveston crew Dem, who are another switch-up in the funk-heavy pile this time out, playing a loose, heavy-lidded brand of reggae that’s thankfully not reggae-rock but actually fairly traditional-sounding, with nods back to Desmond Dekker and to more contemporary folks like The Slackers or Venice Shoreline Chris. This right here is the kind of reggae I love dearly, and it makes me happy as hell to hear/see it.

I hadn’t realized, by the by, that Dem’s fronted by Louis Morales, who used to be in the more rock-influenced reggae band Cassette Tape, which I also like quite a bit. This is mellower stuff, though, and I’m glad for that, because after this week, I desperately need to just chill a while.


 

Annnnnnnd that’s it, friends, for our little preview-type things for Madness on Main. I’m hoping to make it out there myself this Sunday, so if you see me, say “hi,” and I promise I’ll attempt to not act like a complete weirdo about it. (Okay, maybe. You never know…)

(Photos: Traci Lavois Thiebaud photo by Trey Perry.)


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