HPMA Aftermath: Heptic Skeptic, Runaway Sun, the McKenzies, B L A C K I E, the Tontons and Spain Colored Orange
Photos by Shea Serrano
5:08 p.m.: About two weeks ago, vocalist Kammera Franklin broke her ankle. It has not stopped her hustle. Sunday, she sang for Heptic Skeptic, Umbrella Man and every single other band on the HPMA schedule. 5:27 p.m.: The Skeptics, who have always been a little more soulful than the average indie-rock band, are sampling soulful crooner Anthony Hamilton's "Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens." Very cool. With Kam relegated to swaying back and forth in a chair, guitarist Andrew Mayo has picked up the slack; for the moment, he is owning the stage. Certainly an auspicious start to the day. 5:33 p.m.: These guys have a slight Rage Against the Machine funk-line thing going. Guitarist Robbie Van Veghel is barefoot on stage. It seems like a douchey, "Look How Carefree I Am" type of move, but it works because he's thin and good-looking. Thin, good-looking guys get away with everything.
6:10 p.m.: Doesn't take long for blues-rock foursome Runaway Sun to go into full-on rock-star mode. The place is packed right now, and guitarist Daniel de Luna is absolutely killing it. People are literally hooting and hollering. I always thought that was just a figure of speech. 6:17 p.m.: Sitting at a table near the front of the stage is a guy wearing a skirt and a girl wearing pants. Man, they got that shit completely backwards. 6:20 p.m.: Runaway Sun is playing a song from its new album (we believe) called "Bridge." It's fantastic. It feels a lot like Echo and the Bunnymen's Doors cover "People Are Strange." If Keifer Sutherland walks in, we are so bolting. Yes, you just got hit with an obscure Lost Boys reference, baby. That's how well these guys are playing. 6:30 p.m.: On account of the sheen of vocalist/guitarist Andrew Karnavas and lead guitarist de Luna, a lot of people are going to sleep on the drummer, but he just might be the spine of the band. 6:37 p.m.: Karnavas is going into fits on stage. He'd like to stomp a hole in the floor, it seems. Solid, solid stuff. We say this without fear: by this time next year, Runaway Sun will be one of the city's best bands.
7:08 p.m.: The McKenzies are up on stage now. They're quick-paced and frenetic pop-rockers, and as a result their sound occasionally engulfs the vocals, but the charm of Jodie the keyboardist helps keep everything together. But really, when have you ever seen a girl playing a keyboard that wasn't delightful to watch, ironically or otherwise? 7:22 p.m.: They seem to be getting stronger as the set progresses, but the lengthier than necessary breaks between each song are sapping a little of the energy from the room. 7:29 p.m.: They change speeds nicely. It's probably their strongest attribute. Miguel, their lead guitarist/vocalist, is a tiny fellow, but he periodically exhibits a rock-star swagger when he's playing. It's cool. We want to ask him about it after the show. We also want to ask him about his shirt. It has to be the tiniest button-up We've ever seen - we'd bet dollars to doughnuts that he got it off a doll. 7:55 p.m.: We were actually standing outside Dean's waiting to see the Tontons show a few doors down, and B L A C K I E just burst into his set. A bunch of people literally rushed to get inside to see what was going on. We followed along blindly, even though we learned a long time ago that if a bunch of people suddenly start running, the last thing you want to do is try and figure out why everyone is running. That's how people get eaten. 8:00 p.m.: Wow. If you've never seen B L A C K I E perform live, that sucks, because it's almost impossible to describe. It's like the first time you masturbate: you're not exactly sure what's happening, but you definitely know that something is happening. And it's amazing.
8:19 p.m.: Just happened to be walking in right at the heavy part of the Tontons' "Sea and Stars," which remains to be one of the five best indie-rock songs to ever come out of Houston. No hyperbole. 8:30 p.m.: Vocalist Asli Omar is a madwoman. She booms when she sings, but she's all of about 80 pounds. We're not exactly sure what a pixie is, but we're fairly confident she looks just like one. 8:34 p.m.: Their guitarist is superb right now, on a nice little Jimi kick. More than once, he's wandered into the crowd to let everyone know just how awesome he is. 8:39 p.m.: As far as Houston's indie-rock scene goes, it's pretty clear that The Tontons have ascended into Not To Be Fucked With status. Easily one of the best bands in town. Their new album is solid. Pick it up, yo. Fanboy out.
9:16 p.m.: After a little delay, we are up and running at Rocbar. Spain Colored Orange is this sort of jazzy, experimental-rock band. They're dope. People in the crowd are already amped. 9:18 p.m.: SCO trumpeter Eric Jackson is working his horn in a very Dixieland-like manner. It's a nice change of events. But more importantly than that, he's dressed just like an extra from Blood In Blood Out. 9:21 p.m.: Playing in rock band is the same amount of cool that playing the trombone is not. If someone is trying to figure out exactly what level of cool you are, and you tell them that you play trombone in a rock band, it's the same as not telling them anything. They cancel each other out perfectly. It's like jogging to an ice cream parlor. 9:24 p.m.: Electronic pianist Gilberto Alfaro is on point tonight. He's got to be one of the most underrated vocalists in town. He doesn't just blow you away, but he's remarkably becoming. Like Christina Aguilera, except the opposite. 9:29 p.m.: Holy crap. There's a guy in here who has his hair to where his whole head is bald, save for the back of the top, which is sporting a ponytail. We really, really hope that style catches on. It's way more intense faux-hawks. The only two guys we've ever seen wearing it were Tong Po from Kickboxer and Goro from Mortal Kombat. 9:31 p.m.: SCO just slowed down a section of a song, straight DJ Screw style. It is all kinds of funky. They're just as looping and hypnotic in person are they are online, but they're way heavier. It makes for a nice dichotomy. Definitely add these guys to your Bands To SeeLlive list.
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