The Flamin' Hellcats w/ Brad "Scarface" Jordan Worhals October 31, 2013
The great thing about Halloween is that it gives people license to do things they otherwise wouldn't. For a lot of people on Thursday night, that means slipping into an alternate identity for the evening, like the Incredible Hulk or a slutty bumblebee. For me, it meant attending a college football game.
For Brad "Scarface" Jordan, the legendary Geto Boy and local hip-hop illuminatus, it meant getting onstage downtown with the Flamin' Hellcats and busting out a set of loud guitar rock. At least, was the strangeness that was promised by Worhals, the new nightspot at 2016 Main where Sammy's used to be.
Was it some kind of trick? Or was this the kind of Halloween treat that only a true Houstonian could appreciate? There was only one way to find out. After U of H dodged South Florida, I headed toward the skyscrapers.
Worhals turned out to be a cool little space, with a small stage set up in the middle of the club facing the dance floor. I was immediately drawn to the gigantic bar, and when I asked the bartender if he had anything good on tap, he just gave me a look and pointed to the wall of 99 craft beer taps to my left. Oh. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.
Just as I was adjusting to the weirdness of being one of the only people in the club who didn't bother with a costume (so last weekend), the Flamin' Hellcats appeared a few minutes after 10 p.m. and started plugging in. With them was, unmistakably, Mr. Scarface himself, who dropped off his guitar onstage and took a seat at the bar. Have to admit I was pleased to see that he wasn't wearing a costume, either.
From their interactions, it was easy to see that the Hellcats and Scarface go way back. Apparently they've performed together in the past, but not nearly so often for the fantastic novelty of the idea to wear off.
While their big homie from the Third Ward looked on, the jumpsuited Hellcats launched into their familiar brand of loud, early rock and roll: "vato-billy," they call it. Many of the masked revelers didn't seem entirely sure what to do with punked-up versions of '50s rockabilly tunes, but as the liquor flowed, the swingin', stone-age rock riffs proved they can still get the job done in the right hands. Before too long, the floor was taken over by dancing Heisenbergs and Green Men who appeared to be enjoying themselves thoroughly.
After about an hour of pounding drums and walking basslines, it was time to introduce Brad Jordan into the mix. Trouble was, he was nowhere to be found. The Hellcats pulled out a few more tunes while they tried to figure out where 'Face had gone and when he might be back. After 15 minutes of some small anxiety, he suddenly reappeared with printed lyric sheets.
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Looking back now, those printouts were the only warning that I was about to hear Scarface of the Geto Boys belt out a cover of "Little Red Riding Hood" by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs. I can't emphasize enough how much that actually occurred right in front of me. Great song, great choice for Halloween, and just flat-out great that it afforded Scarface the opportunity to repeatedly howl like the Big Bad Wolf.
He took up his axe next, a gleaming flame-top, and began plucking out the opening notes to Jimi Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary." With the Hellcats backing him, Jordan tackled the guitar god's lead parts and vocals, strumming his guitar left-handed with no pick. I'm not going to say his singing and playing conjured Jimi back from the dead or anything, but he wasn't rolling over in his grave, either. 'Face sounded good, and he was clearly having himself a ball. The partygoers responded to that.
After jamming together on another dusty old blues-rock tune that I didn't immediately recognize, Scarface packed up his stuff, bid his friends adieu and hit the streets. The Flamin' Hellcats finished up with a riotous new banger called "15-Year-Old Woman" that I enjoyed a lot, but that's not what I'm going to remember when I look back on Halloween 2013. I'm going to remember Scarface howling with glee on "Little Red Riding Hood" and jamming out on "Hey Joe."
It wasn't a pillowcase full of candy, exactly, but it sure was sweet.
Personal Bias: I don't even know, man. I just wanted to see this happen.
The Crowd: Pretty well-behaved for midnight on Halloween right across the street from the Greyhound bus station.
Overheard in the Crowd: "What is that guy supposed to be? A baked potato?"
Random Notebook Dump: Hope to enjoy more music bookings at Worhals. It's the rare spot that manages to feel both sleek and cozy at the same time.
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