Last Night: Canned Acoustica II At Warehouse Live
Southern Backtones' Hank Schyma
Photos by Marc Brubaker
Canned Acoustica II Warehouse Live March 3, 2011
Check out our photos of Canned Acoustica II: Acoutstic Boogaloo!
It's awfully hard to dog a charity event, especially one donating to a cause as noble as the Houston Food Bank, so Aftermath won't even try. Besides, by the time that Come See My Dead Person finished up their swaggering gyspsy folk set in the wee hours of this morning, the four bins were nearly full with canned goods, and a host of Houstonians had seen a bevy of local acts for next to nothing.
A good time was had by all, and isn't that what matters?
But please, for the love of whomever, Houston - you've really got to shut your mouth at shows. It's not that the noise was unbearable, but the volume of conversation at the rear of Warehouse Live's small Green Room certainly drowned out some wonderful performances, at least in the back.
Yes, Aftermath gets it - it's a show, and you're enjoying it with friends and catching up - but for an event where the poster declares "Silence Is Expected," well, you could be polite enough to move that chatter outside in respect of the musicians and organizers. It's like Houston's very own Never Ending Story sometimes, but it's babble rather than "the nothing" that is swallowing up our concerts.
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Brief rant aside, the night was an overall success. Nine Houston acts turned in performances of five or six songs, apiece, often stripped down significantly from the usual sound, a la Young Girls and The Tontons, but sometimes just the standard acoustic fare, as with Erin Rodgers and Lee Alexander. For the crowd, it offered both introductions to some of the bands as well as intimate performances from the more established groups.
In the midst of all the music, the evening was emceed by local moustache Mills McCoin, who provided introductions and wretched factual inaccuracies while riffing on band names, beards, and instruments. His question posed to a member of Poor Pilate was our favorite: "Do you look more like Jesus so that you look less like Dave Grohl?"
Unfortunately, Aftermath walked in on the tail end of Rodgers' set - some unexpected business had delayed us, and we missed the Kennedy Bakery member's solo numbers. Poor Pilate was one of our pleasant discoveries from the night, turning in a bouncing, ragtag arrangement full of froggy vocals, like a cluster of noisemakers from the Appalachian foothills.
Some numbers reminded us a bit of Iron & Wine, but with more grit than Sam Beam's soft vocals. The quartet pulled out a cover for their fourth number, the unmistakable opening riff of "Wonderful Tonight" drawing chuckles from the crowd and prompting Aftermath's friend to declare, "this better not suck."
Young Girls, the latest endeavor from the Tijerina brothers, trotted out a short set of scaled back versions of their pop-laden garage rock. The minimal arrangements really brought forth the swinging sock-hop roots of the tunes, which were frequently bemoaning relationships and girl problems. The whole thing just worked.
While expecting simplified lineups from several of the acts, we were caught off-guard by Lee Alexander, who trotted out a five-piece lineup. His guitar shellacked in beer and liquor labels, Alexander led the group through five songs, borrowing a bit from Dire Straits to round out his bluesy songwriter style.
The six-headed Finnegan, led by the duo of Taylor Lee and Sara Van Buskirk, was arguably one of the hits of the evening. The band's been steadily gaining ground with their cleverly arranged tunes, which feature an array of instruments including a flute and cello.
People seemed to hush up - at least a bit, to take in the spectacle, and Canned Acoustica founder Mark Austin saw fit to demand an encore number. They rolled out "Sonuvagun," finishing up a six-song set, all of which will be on their debut album What Happened To Jacqueline? next month.
From there, Hank Schyma led his Southern Backtones on stage. Hank clearly had thought his set out well, flowing from number to number backed by a very jazzy drummer and a friend playing "handheld miniature upright bass" - a violin to replace their absentee bassist.
The songs sported a spaghetti-western vibe, draped out in a sultry manner - very apropos, given that Schyma's own comedic slasher Honky Tonk Blood debuted just weeks ago. In the middle of their set, the Backtones drew out a saloon-like version of "Sway With Me" - an excellent choice, if we may say so.
Roky Moon left the band behind, but still managed to muster up a fair amount of rock and roll with just his bodacious personality. Sporting some white-rimmed aviators, the lovable frontman bashed away at his acoustic guitar, cleverly slipping through a selection of Bolt's operatic numbers before closing out with Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust." Aftermath's favorite part came when we saw a few kids freaking out - clearly they were just dipping their toes into the entire psych and glam pool, and their faces beamed with bright smiles.
The crowd hushed once more when The Ton Tons took the stage - well half of them, that is. Guitarist Adam Martinez provided an acoustic backing, but the entire set was very stripped to a bare minimum, relying on Asli Omar's heavy breath vocals. After a couple numbers bassist Tom Nguyen joined them onstage, providing some additional guitar work.
Closing act Come See My Dead Person, provided the nightcap, issuing forth their swampy folk numbers. The band has an almost indefinable sound - no collection of adjectives really seems to capture all the intricacies and twinges found in the songs. What is clear, though, is that the Texas City crew puts a lot of thought - and fun - into pulling each ditty together.
Like its predecessor, the second Canned Acoustica was once again a nice gift for Houston, and Mark Austin has hinted at more to come in the future. After all, the food bank always needs more food, and Houston always has room for more music-heavy events like this.
The Ton Tons
Personal Bias: Well, I played the first Canned Acoustica, and I like local music.
The Crowd: Everyone from high-school kids to 45-year-olds with desk jobs, but mostly Inner-Loopers.
Overheard In the Crowd: "We all need to touch ourselves more onstage, that's what I just learned."
Random Notebook Dump: Hank Schyma is one long tall Sally, towering over the microphone. Those big cowboy boots just make him a giant.
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