This year's Bamboozle Roadshow, which passed through Houston Thursday night, fused together a variety of musical flavors among up-and-coming bands Mercy Mercedes, NeverShoutNever!, The Cab We the Kings and Forever the Sickest Kids. (The tour is sponsored by the Wonka candy company, which allowed concertgoers a preview of its new fruit-punch licorice candy, "Kazoozles," due on shelves in June and almost as sugary as many of Thursday's songs.) Techno-poppy Mercy Mercedes, the tour's self-proclaimed 'baby band,' set the scene with "The Perfect Scene," helping get the swarm of teenage girls riled up as the long line of kids continued to trickle into the packed venue. "This is our first big tour, so we have definitely learned that as the openers, we have a responsibility to set the mood for the night," said guitarist Matt Lovell. "Since people don't know our songs just yet, we have to have even extra energy to make them really connect with the music." Afterwards, the North Carolina quintet certainly connected with their audience, mingling with fans in the crowd until the end of the night.
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Christofer Drew, the brainchild behind MySpace breakthrough sensation NeverShoutNever!, made everyone in the audience bounce along to his upbeat yet mellow songs of high-school crushes and "BigCityDreams." His songs, reminiscent of a Jack Johnson/Jason Mraz hybrid, sounded fuller than on his albums, and the powerful drums made it nearly impossible to resist the urge to jump along. Drew himself is only a senior in high school, so his quirky and vulnerable demeanor onstage gave him instant credibility with the crowd. After playing "Trouble," about being infatuated with a girl, he sheepishly admitted to the audience, "I'm Christofer Drew, and I have a crush on you." NeverShoutNever!'s first full-length album is due next month. Nevada natives The Cab gave the evening a surprise R&B twist with an unlikely combination of Justin Timberlake and rock. Singer Alex Deleon, who turned 20 the day before, swore he doesn't use the same lines over and over on every crowd. "Every show is wild and crazy but different," he said. "I only say things to the audience that I mean." By that reasoning, the Houston crowd really was sexy, and got rewarded with The Cab's hit song, "Bounce." We The Kings delivered a royal performance, chatting with the crowd between songs, and even busting out a rap song for a mosh-pit effect - but lead singer Travis Clark asked the audience if they would help him tie his shoe, because "safety comes first." When he sat down at the edge of the stage, a hoard of anxious girls grabbed the shoe and it was swallowed in the sea of fans, never to be seen again. Clark later admitted that the shoe was a necessity, as he had stepped on a stapler that morning, but decided the show must go on. In honor of his hurt foot and missing shoe, Clark dedicated the next song, "Secret Valentine," to "all you people who have ever stepped on a staple." We the Kings' last song, "Check Yes Juliet," had everyone singing along - but they probably didn't know it may have been the creative inspiration behind Taylor Swift's wildly successful "Love Story." "When I was at an event once," said Clark, "Taylor Swift came up to me and told me it was her favorite song of the year. A few months later "Love Story" [with the same Romeo-Juliet theme] came out. I congratulated her on the song, and she thanked me for providing the creative inspiration for helping her come up with the idea." Although the audience had been pogoing and crowd-surfing all night, they saved the necessary energy required to spur on Forever The Sickest Kids' closing set. "How it works," explained drummer Kyle Burns, "is we come to the show hungry, and the audience feeds us." The Kids started with a western-style skit in which all of the band members faced off in an intense duel armed with toy guns. After only one band member was left standing from the heated showdown, they all miraculously sprang up for a set full of jumping, head-swinging and mic-lassoing. Even though the band had a crazy hometown show in Dallas the night before, the Houston crowd almost convinced lead singer Jonathan Cook to invite the whole audience to the afterparty. "You guys wanna hang out or do you have a curfew?" he asked the hundreds of sweaty faces before "The Way She Moves." He directed the audience to do any crazy thing they ever wanted to but never had the nerve. They wanted to hear one more song, and chanted until until the band returned to play "She's a Lady." With their crazy performance and playful demeanor, it was clear the group's name could not have been more fitting. After the concert, the bands took pictures with fans outside and many girls, hoping to get some one-on-one time, lingered around the tour buses for a good hour until the police finally asked them to leave at 1 a.m. so the bands could head to Oklahoma. Judging by all of the hoarse voices, sweaty bodies and smiling faces, everyone finally left feeling bamboozled in the truest sense of the word.