Long Live the King -- King Tuff, Ex Hex, Young Mammals at Walter's, 01/13

King Tuff Summoning Spirits to Aid Him in His Conquest
King Tuff Summoning Spirits to Aid Him in His Conquest
Susan Wyatt

"Girls and boys come from outer space and so does music too/I learned more workin' at the record store than I ever did in high school."

Many pupils of Marc Bolan understood how to play and perform glam better than their instruments. Siouxie and the Banshees covered "20th Century Boy", but it lacked the Bolan's irony. Sadly, Power Station released "Get It On" and drained from it any potential pleasure of listening to the original version ever again. King Tuff (aka Kyle Thomas) understands Professor Bolan well enough to venture out into this magical galaxy of ours to become master and commander of any planet in any solar system that he desires.

But King Tuff remains here for now, and thankfully Houston was graced with his cosmic presence. Many of Houston's denizens complain that not enough acts come through the U.S.'s fourth largest city. Some artists in response to this complaint claim that the fine people of this city do not show up when significant acts perform in Houston. Yet, in spite of the dismally cold, damp, and rainy weather it has experienced these last few days, large numbers showed up to see Kyle Thomas and his intergalactic voyagers perform on a Tuesday in support of one of his finest albums to date, Black Moon Spell. Consider this myth busted.

Young Mammals Setting the Table for The King Tuff's Feast
Young Mammals Setting the Table for The King Tuff's Feast
Susan Wyatt

With a steady crescendo of energy from the crowd, the night's invocation began with a solid set from veterans of the Houston music scene, Young Mammals. The Brothers Sanchez performed in proximity to each other while Cley Miller played his pedals as virtuosically as his guitar. Tenuous energy emanated from his axe while finely crafted songs from the band filled Walter's with pure joy. To hear "Build a House" live fills in the aural spaces left open on their most recent release, Alto Seco. In the end, the band not only complimented Ex Hex and King Tuff's attitude, but left its impression on King Tuff and Ex Hex fans alike.  

Ex Hex's Garage Days Revisited
Ex Hex's Garage Days Revisited
Susan Wyatt

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The last time I had seen Mary Timony perform was on the second stage at Lollapalooza in 1995. Her monotone, Nico-esque vocal style and droning guitars have been replaced with sharp melodies and a straight-ahead garage rock approach with a slight nod to the guitar sounds of many D.C. bands of yesteryear. Ex Hex stole the audience's heart through their serrating riffs and honeyed harmonies. Timony kicked the air and stomped the ground while Betsy Wright, adorned with a handsome red bass, danced and bobbed her head to Laura Harris's transcendentally uproarious rhythms. The stripped down sounds feel like a fun and anti-intellectual contrast to Helium. "How You Got That Girl," "Waterfall," and "Waste Your Time" beckons to the beginning when the impulse to play music was simple. Whatever magical impulse that drew Timony to the guitar was rediscovered through these songs and revealed through her performance. The theme of waste no time marched through their set. The occasional interruptions from young men professing their love for the three women were finally met with a clever retort from Timony. When someone from the audience shouted "You ladies are hot!" She responded to the unthinking heckler, "Actually we're cats. I'm a cat, Laura's a cat, Betsy's a cat--we're all cats. We just put on a costume to make us look like women."

Our 21st Century Boy, King Tuff, began his homage to grooved circles of sound, vinyl, by launching headfirst into "Black Moon Spell," the title track to his most recent album. Live, his performances possess more space to explore past the recording's limitations. Like another of his mentors, J. Mascis, his guitar playing is kinesthetic, a physical response to the songs' mystical appeal. Stripped down to its marrow, his voice sounds guttural live. The child-like delivery is abandoned and replaced with a sharp intensity to match the live sound.

It didn't take the crowd long to join the King's congregation. "Headbanger," Black Moon Spell's best track (and possibly King Tuff's best song), made many in the crowd embrace the energy and share the good will with each person in the crowd. The enormous wall of sound, Kyle Thomas' guitar virtuosity, and the band's solid rhythm section pushed through the Black Moon Spell-favored material. However, this did not prevent him from unleashing the enchanting "Freak When I'm Dead," and one of the strongest tracks from 2012's self-titled powerhouse, "Bad Thing."

If the King's fans penned last night's set list, non-album standouts "Wild Desire" and "Biggest Hearts" would be scratched into the paper. "Eddie's Song," a template for how to end an album and a set, serenaded the many who came and knew that tomorrow's school and work day will be worth the heavy eyes and tired bodies. King Tuff's willingness to satisfy his fans make this 4th dimension experience worth the exhaustion.


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