To Aftermath, the Mink's Backroom has always seemed more like a house than a music venue - especially inside, with the dark floors, corner bars and abundant, comfortable seating, it's like one of those cozy but spacious multi-resident dwellings where we all went to at least one party in college. Judging by the average age of the crowd at Tuesday night's show, that's pretty much what it was.
Generally, the music Tuesday was much older than either the band members themselves or the 30-odd people who showed up to see them (not bad for a Tuesday). Houston's Springfield Riots opened with a short 35-minute set, culled from the group's brand-new EP Say When and a few newer songs, that was paced by Phil Spector rhythms and defined by the spacey pop of the Flaming Lips - playful and melodic, but almost tribal, with a heavy dose of echo in the vocals. But, especially in the dogged guitar lines and sad-boy melodies, there was quite a bit of '80s British indie a la New Order or the Lightning Seeds as well. And after the singer dedicated a song to his dad (who was there), the Riots unleashed some organ-heavy Abbey Road-style blues that mutated into a pretty serious space jam over the course of its eight to 12 minutes. Seeing any band for the first time is always a rubbernecking collision of influences, but the Riots' sound was full, forceful and more than the sum of its parts.
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The same held true of Atlanta's the Howlies, visiting Houston for the very first time. Much heavier than Springfield Riots, led by a singing drummer, the quartet's acid-spiked garage rock suggested the Kinks gone awry, with occasional bands such as Weezer or Built to Spill stopping by for a beer or two. One song, Aftermath scribbled, was "like Iggy & the Stooges in a happy fun way," another "CBGB + Tom Petty" and the last 10 minutes was total Electric Prunes. The Howlies would pass Little Steven's Underground Garage audition, no doubt.
Closing out were the McKenzies, who, guitarist Miguel told Aftermath on the Mink's patio earlier, have already sold around 700 copies of the quartet's self-titled debut EP. (They're already tracking the next one.) This is an impressive number for any local indie band, let alone one on its first time out of the chute, but it's easy to see why the band usually leaves a show with a few less CDs than they show up with. The songs - brash guitars and charming keyboards duking it out over basic pop melodies - never stop moving and stay with you, and the McKenzies' energy was contagious. After the set, Miguel invited the crowd - most of whom stuck around all night, though many chose to sit out the heavier Howlies on the patio - to stay and drink with the band for a while. Told you it felt more like a party.