10 Can't-Miss Bands at For the Community 11

10,000 Chiefs Under the Sea
10,000 Chiefs Under the Sea
Photo courtesy of 10,000 Chiefs Under the Sea

If you follow what we do here even a little, you know something about For the Community. In a nutshell, it's a huge, semiannual festival featuring dozens of musical acts and an array of performing and visual artists. Presented by Visionary Noise and stationed at Last Concert Cafe and Eastdown Warehouse for its past several installments, the festival returns to those locales this weekend. If you want to delve deeper, read this, or this or any of this.

That gives us more time to spotlight the best of the acts slated for this weekend's event. Here are some we advocate not missing:

These days, 10,000 Chiefs are three busy guys. Guitarist/vocalist Grayson Paul Creely, bassist Alan Garcia and drummer Eddie Garcia recently released the band’s debut album, I, and the FTC date is right in the midst of its spring tour to support the record. Standout tracks from the album include “Stairway to the Stars” and “Catapult.” Both are uptempo jazz-rock offerings, the former all instrumental and the latter featuring Houston music vet Grayson’s assured vocals.

B L A C K I E is the obvious choice for a list like this, so much so that it’s almost a wasted opportunity to include him here in what might have proved more useful in touting someone else; but, not listing the act would have resulted in a torrent of insults against the list assembler, who is a self-preservationist above all else. Seriously, if you’ve planned to go to FTC this weekend, you’re already geared to see Houston’s “pioneer of DIY American Trash/Noise Rap,” right? His unpredictability is sure to be goosed by his performing a headlining slot for a room full of fellow free thinkers.

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We met Carpet and the Drapes one night at Last Concert Café when we saw them convening before a Potroast set and asked just who the hell they were. At that time, they handed us a cigarette lighter with the band’s name emblazoned across it. And since then, we’ve learned just who the hell they are, thanks to their recent EP. In a word, it’s fire. The tracks drip with funky rock that shows they’re serious musicians but include the sort of wry lyrics that let you know they don’t take themselves too seriously. If you have time to listen to only one track, check out “C and the D.” If that doesn’t grab you by the balls, just go back to your Kenny G albums and never mind.

Called a “motivator,” “inspiration” and the female, down-south version of Tupac, Cl’ Che’ deserves to be considered part of Houston’s rap royalty. She’s loaned her vocal talents to projects by some of the city’s most notable rap artists over 20 years, going back to Big Mello and on to acts like Lil Keke and Z-Ro. But this Clasyfyd Lady has skills of her own. Female rappers in Houston can be hard to come by – you won’t want to miss an intimate set by one of the city’s best.

Over the years, FTC has excelled at assembling an array of acts that clearly fall into a specific genre. That’s cool and all, especially if one rarely gets to hear a folk-punk band or spoken-word artist outside of these confines. Three-piece outfit Ganesha has been and remains one of the best examples of a something-for-everyone act. Their blend of blues, rock, psychedelic sludge and punk roughly covers the musical spectrum from Blind Faith to Blind Melon. Ricky Dee is the wild-tressed HPMA-winning vocalist up front, but his cohorts Noe Kimes and Sammy Reyna are like master home builders. Whatever style is getting erected from one song to the next, Kimes and Reyna set the sturdy  foundation.

Advocating for Jon Black may seem a little like listening to the Houston Texans’ play-by-play guy talk about how great the team is. As much as I’d like to maintain some objectivity, I have to admit I’m a “homer.” I don’t know him that well, but I do know him a little and he’s the kind of man who never lets the bullshit get him down, quite an accomplishment when you’re on the grind, creating something like West-Coast/Gulf-Coast rap fusion in a chopped and screwed metropolis. I’ve seen him play to full rooms and to a scant few, and Black gives it his all either way, with precise delivery and inspirational rhymes. But if you think I’m just Vandermeering the whole thing, check his set for yourself and tell me I’m wrong.

Muddy Belle
Muddy Belle
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

When I last saw Muddy Belle, it was at last year’s East End Street Fest, where they delivered a set meaner and tighter than Cruella de Vil’s Botoxed face. Since then, the Belle’s been playing gigs at high-tone spots like Nightingale Room and at SXSW gigs in Austin. It’s also added one of the city’s best and busiest trumpet players to its ranks, Rochelle Sloan. Watching the blues rock group get down with a horn section is high on my list of all music things to do this weekend.

What makes a band special? Good songs, for sure. Skilled musicianship is a plus. Being idiosyncratic sometimes helps. Japan’s OTONANA Trio has these attributes, but also possesses something that many bands, even some Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-dwellers, lack. The simplest way to put it is they’re joyful. Watching them perform is like witnessing a contagion in action. It may take a second to understand exactly what’s happening, but once the delight hits patient zero, it’s a sudden outbreak from there. We know because we’ve seen this unfold at a prior O-Trio For the Community set. If you’re looking for music at For The Community, there’s lots to choose from; but, if you’re looking for fun, this is the act to catch above all.

In the past FTC has helped Houstonians learn about some exciting talent from outside the city’s limits, bands like Austin’s Wonderbitch or Beaumont’s Purple. This installment, Paper Bison fills that niche nicely. Hailing from New Orleans, the band’s alt-rock offerings are hope for music lovers looking for more than second lines and jazz from I-10 east. Along with brothers in arms like Bantam Foxes, Paper Bison is proving the Big Easy has a viable rock scene. To get a taste, we recommend “Keep In Mind” from the band’s 2015 album, Anyone Else.

Houston rap has long had a purple tint to it, but Positive Disturbance has trained its eye on things red, white and blue. Hip-hop with a full live band and lyrics that delve into pressing social issues is such an uncommon variant in the City of Syrup that PD qualifies as a possible, welcomed trendsetter. Vocalist Chris Martinez has the skilled cadence and thought-provoking rhymes of our favorite spoken-word artists turned rappers, people like Sage Francis, Saul Williams or George Watsky, and the band has chops. Also, when did Baytown become the area’s hub for socially progressive musicians? Baytown bands like PD and punks The Drafted are taking on important topics with an admirable ethos. 

For The Community 11 kicks off 4 p.m. Friday, March 18 and runs through Sunday, March 20 at Last Concert Cafe, 1403 Nance and Eastdown Warehouse, 850 McKee. Free.

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