WALTER'S ON WASHINGTON -- 1/20/2008: To say that Walter's on Washington is the best venue in Houston in which the possibility exists to interact with the performing artists would not only be an oversimplification; it would not be doing the place justice. Walter's is important to Houston because artists are almost literally forced to coexist with their (sometimes overbearingly obsessed -- good for you, Houston) fans, be it at the merch booth (or more precisely, side wall) or on the walk from the tour van through the pregnant-with-skinny-jeans smokers' lounge (ahem, parking lot), and even more so when the artists are actually performing. There is little stage hierarchy here, and it seems natural (as opposed to somewhere like Emo's in Austin) -- the musicians come face-to-face (okay, maybe face-to-knee) with their audience, and that kind of dichotomy is perfect for the size of the venue as well as for the types of acts that frequent Walter's.
It was no different tonight, as dual (well, sort of "dual") headliners Yeasayer and MGMT took to the stage in front of a very good-sized MLK Day-eve Sunday night crowd. On this particular night, MGMT "headlined" -- which basically meant that we got an extra 30 minutes worth of songs; Yeasayer would "headline" the following night -- so Yeasayer opened and mesmerized the audience with material from their debut album, All Hour Cymbals (released October 23, 2007, on We Are Free) for roughly 45 minutes. Lead singer Chris Keating took charge with seemingly innocuous comments about Houston, the venue, and the audience -- which is what proper rock stars are supposed to do, I imagine.
The power of Yeasayer lies with their energy, though. All the pieces are in place for these guys to rule the indie underground, and they seem to be ready to take the torch. You have the shirtless and indifferent drummer (Luke Fasano), the angrily jolly bassist (Ira Wolf Tuton), the dreamy, long-locked guitarist (Anand Wilder), and the ultra-skinny and cavalierly well-dressed lead vocalist (Chris Keating). Oh, and the music is quite nice, too. Yeasayer has described their music as "Middle-Eastern-psych-snap-gospel," and that about says it all. It goes from Animal Collectively primal to Sebadoh-ly understated, and it couldn't be any better. Yeasayer was allowed to play almost a complete set, and the crowd seemed to eat it up and want more.
By the time MGMT took the stage, the audience seemed all danced out. It was clear that this was Yeasayer's night, and there was nothing the boys from MGMT could do about it. The band played a full set of songs from their critically drooled-upon debut album Oracular Spectacular (released January 22, 2008, on Sony) for just under an hour and a half, but it seemed anti-climactic, like we already heard the best band of the night, so why bother shakin' it to these neo-Pixies-niks that sounded better when we first heard them two years ago when they went by the name Tapes n' Tapes? There is nothing new about MGMT; not even their jingly single "Time to Pretend" could catch the audience's ear. This night was owned by Yeasayer, and I couldn't have been happier. And I say Yea! to that (get it, GET it?). END