Lonesome Onry and Mean: A Five-Day Musical Marathon
I never thought I'd be so glad to see a Monday. I've been in the midst of a musical onslaught since 7 p.m. Wednesday night. The week went something like this: Miss Leslie and Heather Myles at Under the Volcano; ditto for Thursday, only the venue was Blanco's. Friday evening I traveled with my son to Austin for his midnight gig with The Gougers. Beforehand, I witnessed a fine set by the Belleville Outfit. We got in bed around 2:30 a.m., got up at 8:30 and drove to Conroe for the Texas Independence Festival. So I saw The Gougers again, Randy Weeks, Jesse Dayton, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. It was a long drive to 59 and Greenbriar after that one! Sunday, I was at the Continental at 4 p.m. sharp and caught a full set by El Orbits, and then Little Joe Washington plugged in for a blistering 45 minute set that was as convincing as the blues will ever get. When Little Joe tired, he was relieved by none other than Sherman Robertson, who showed why he is the darling of blues audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.
Music Editor Chris Gray and I then drove to Under the Volcano for the Russian Spring Festival. I don't know what I was expecting, but what we walked into was the Flying Balalaika Brothers, a monster band in full wail. We were of course inebriated by this point, so all of our spy novel reading was kicking in overtime. I immediately began to look for the KGB agents in the crowd - I know they aren't called KGB anymore, that's not politically correct, but you deal with this hangover if you want to call them something else. The drummer played with military precision and had the requisite dark sunglasses. And he was a bulldog, a stocky guy who looked like he could break your neck in a dark alley. Whatever his moonlighting job was, he was crashing and banging like a jackhammer, and the rest of the band was laying down some electrified and electrifying Russian folk music that was the equivalent of the best of the Grand Ole Opry. It was literally jaw-dropping do-you-believe-this good.
Before I had time to think of something clever from John Le Carre, the band broke into a rocker that had Eastern tinges around the edges. I was magnetized: this was what makes music critics go see music on Sunday afternoon; yes, this was devil music. Every girl in the place had found a dance partner and as the band kept accelerating the rhythm, the dancers were working themselves into a frenzy that, knowing Russians, was either going to end in caviar and vodka or a game of Russian roulette. Gray leaned over and whispered, "I love dancing when people actually know how to dance."
We gave each other that deep, meaningful look guys give each other when Russian women dance. We also finally decided to quit trying to figure out who the KGB guys were; hell, if the KGB can play this good, they can't be all bad. At this point, the weekend's alcohol consumption finally caught up with your fact-scrounger and I don't have much memory beyond meeting the music editor of the local Russian-language paper. She was a nice young lady who chose to move to Houston. Now that's what I call a testimonial. Anyway, if the Flying Balalaika Brothers play anywhere within 100 miles of you, be there. And if you hear of some Russians having a party, I'd make that too. To have such a reputation as a people that dwell on sadness and existentialism, they sure know how to have fun.