There couldn't have been a more a disparate yet completely unifying bill at Mangos on Friday. Grandfather Child headlined, showcasing their new seven-inch release, with Los Angeles' Warpaint and Houston's Balaclavas and Buxton bringing up the rear. The bill pretty much brought almost every inner clique and scene together - or at least emissaries from each - for one night, begrudgingly.
Between Shooter Jennings, Billy Joe Shaver, Yeasayer, the Jonx, My Education, stray dance parties and various crawfish festivals all spread around town, there was no escape from live music on Friday night.
Mangos started getting packed pretty tight by at least 9 p.m., around the time Buxton began a set of new and old songs, which continue to be bolstered by recent addition Austin Sepulvado, who makes the band rockier and weirder as the year goes on. Call Sepulvado Buxton's Jim O'Rourke or Nels Cline: The human addition that makes things a little more twisted than they previously were, or have to be. He fills up the spaces that lay bare before, making Buxton's sound continues to become all the more dense. The band hits Sugarhill Studios this month with a sack full of demos to start tracking album No. 2.
Balaclavas, on the other hand, are preparing to fly off to the East Coast for a quick college tour, going up and down the Eastern Seaboard for a week of gigs behind February's Roman Holiday LP. No one in town is doing what Tyler Morris and the gang throw down at their shows, and their gritty spook stood out against everyone else's Americana-tinged indie on Friday. The opening twinge of Holiday's title track still make us shimmy in place even nearly a year since the first time we heard it. That's why we love Balaclavas. They don't cotton to anyone else, and bring their scene with them wherever they go. It's never hard to pick out the Bala Boys table outside at shows like this. Just look for the leather. Indie darlings Warpaint didn't even headline this show, which seemed odd considering how huge they will be by the end of the year. The L.A.-based band might as well call Texas their second home, seeing that between the tour stops with Akron/Family and SXSW in March, they have already been in the Lone Star State for the better part of 2010. (The band was even spotted Sunday night at Anvil getting drinks together.) Before Warpaint's set started, the crowd swelled almost out the door, front and back and into the patios. The elevated view from the merch table near the front door showed a throng packed in and sweaty, even while Friday night's oddly cool breezes blew in through the entrance. People are split on Warpaint for the most part, with true believers preaching the gospel of the female four-piece and the naysayers gaffing them off as another disposable flash-in-the-pan indie act for the Nylon set. What skews people so drastically between the two camps is that they are still confusing so early on. Their sound is not easily describable, and most descriptions fall just short of the target. They are incredibly feminine and aggressive, but even that may sound too simplistic. There is something massively womanly going on with Warpaint; maybe our chromosomes won't allow us to fully grasp it.
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Grandfather Child, the night's nominal headliners - the band that played last, anyway - came onstage declaring a jihad on your ass and on your ears. The ridiculously energetic four-piece played progressively louder as the evening wore on, leading us to wonder why lead singer Lucas Gorham didn't strap his lap steel on his hip and just play it like the axe it was meant to be. We ran outside for a quick second, only to see bassist Robert Ellis seemingly eating his mane of hair like a honky-tonk Cousin It while he made the room shake. But things just kept getting louder and louder. Almost painfully loud, but not beyond boogie or reason. Gorham would spit out a Billy Preston-inflected line, and the rest of the band would counter with a wall of noise. Anyone who left after Warpaint didn't get their money's worth, but could probably hear their alarm clock on Saturday morning. After the show, a jam session broke out that we hear went on until after 3 a.m., while we were somewhere hastily learning sign language in a mirror. Good times, good times.