Live Shots

Silkworm with aMiniature
Sunday, March 20

One of the surest symptoms that your alternative rock is bloating is the emergence of the rock-star ego. That, as much as anything, is what punk rock set out to destroy 20 years ago, and the bands on this double bill have learned punk's lesson well. Silkworm, a well-regarded raw-pop trio from Seattle, and aMiniature, the latest signee out of alt hotbed San Diego, spent the night switch-hitting two-song mini-sets for the only 50 people in Houston who weren't trying to squeeze into Goat's Head Soup for a glimpse of "he's-a-loser-so-why-doesn't-somebody-kill-him?" Beck. Silkworm's singer explained that the bands would trade off "so nobody gets bored ... by us."

Boredom wasn't an issue. Silkworm's brand of dirtified pop steers clear of geographically motivated grunge comparisons using smart songs touched up by rough guitar treatments, off-kilter chords and non-pop time changes. Alternating vocals hit sweet and sour. The four-piece aMiniature seemed more interested in sonics, volume and repetition. Sonic Youth is the jumping-off point for their best noise, and the worst is no worse than generic.

Only a publicist would call either band a Next Big Thing, but that wasn't bothering anyone. While one band churned out a set, the other waited by the side of the stage, instruments strapped on, chomping for another go at the small crowd. With everyone acting so damned egalitarian it almost seems pissy to pick a fave, but Silkworm's the act that'll draw me back.

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-- Brad Tyer

Monday, March 28
Bayou City Theatre

The Who's farewell tour stop at the Astrodome in '82 was one of the first big rock extravaganzas I ever pleaded to go see. Mom's answer was no, and I've been just a little bitter about it ever since. Until now. Now I know what a has-been rock band plodding through an uninspired greatest-hits set sounds like, and though I'm pretty sure Mom wasn't thinking in critical terms when she put her foot down, I can finally thank her for saving me the disappointment.

I couldn't care less that the Ramones are now too old for most people's idea of punk rock -- as far as I'm concerned, if they can deliver, they're doing their job -- but Monday's show smacked of T-shirt-selling opportunism. Acid Eaters, the new album and ostensible excuse for a tour, is a stop-gap collection of covers in the first place, and the loud-but-lame renderings of Ramones chestnuts like "I Wanna Be Sedated" had the feel of something that's long since graduated from rock-and-roll high school to the rock-and-roll Love Boat.

Not that the packed room of 13-to-30-year-old fans cared. They roared like cannons every time C.J. yelped another staccato 1-2-3-4 intro -- the same way I probably would've cheered at that final Who show. And why not? I wouldn't have known any better.

-- Brad Tyer

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