Rebirth Brass Band
The words "crunk" and "tuba" don't usually belong in the same sentence, but there's no better adjective for the Rebirth Brass Band's tuba man, Philip Frazier. The man can blast on that fat brass, and when you ladle two each of trumpets, 'bones and saxes over the top, and then sprinkle some syncopated second-line snare and bass drum into the mix, you'd have got some crunk-ass jazz, New Orleans-style. It's future music deeply rooted in the past -- funkalicious oldest-of-old-school jazz played with a beat that's hipper than all but the hippest hop.
Most of the band members are in their early to mid-thirties, but they've been dishing out their greasy Big Easy grooves together for more than 20 years now, playing everywhere from New Orleans dives like the Maple Leaf Bar and the Glass House to a San Francisco festival stage shared with the Grateful Dead in front of 80,000 fans. Their epic party-starting tune "Do Whatcha Wanna" is now as much a Carnival standard as the Hawkettes' "Mardi Gras Mambo" or Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras" and "Mardi Gras in New Orleans." And Rebirth's follow-up, "Take It to the Street," is slowly attaining the same status.
The band has spawned many a successful solo career; founding member Kermit Ruffins left and now serves alongside Wynton Marsalis and Dr. John as an ambassador of New Orleans to the world. Rebirth has cut records with N'Dea Davenport and the late Soulja Slim and toured with Ani DiFranco. And they've gotten infinitely tighter over the years. Where once -- years ago -- the horns were somewhat ragged, they're now crisp as a starched cotton shirt. And while the tuba-drums interplay has always been solid, today it's simply jaw-dropping. If this shit got any funkier, you've have to dump it in a vat of Right Guard.
And now -- in an inspired matching of band and venue that should make for one of the best club shows of the year -- the Rebirth is coming to the intimate confines of the Rhythm Room. Don't be surprised if Frazier's crunk tuba blows that low ceiling right off the joint, or the rumble of his brother Keith's bass drum busts a hole in the floor, or the second-line syncopated ratatat of Derrick Tabb's snare shatters all the glass in the windows. -- John Nova Lomax
Saturday, July 17, the Rhythm Room, 1815 Washington Avenue, 713-863-0943.
Candiria and Twelve Tribes
About a hundred years ago, when Friedrich Nietzsche first published the aphorism "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger," he probably wasn't thinking of Brooklyn metal band Candiria. But there's no indication that Candiria was thinking of him when they borrowed the phrase to title their newest CD, so it seems they're about even. Still, the members of Candiria have reason to apply that hoary Teutonic chestnut literally: The entire band miraculously survived a horrific collision with an 18-wheeler in September 2002. The specter of that accident hangs over the entire disc, from the squashed Dodge Ram on the cover to liner-note shout-outs to surgeons, physical therapists and (twice) the same biblical deity old Friedrich famously filed the obituary on. For five guys who have every excuse to indulge in a little joie de vivre, Candiria still kicks up a rageful racket, serving up enough deep, guttural vocals and high-speed, hairpin rhythmic shifts to please even the most punishment-gluttonous headbanger.
Dayton, Ohio's Twelve Tribes are somewhat slicker and less varied than Candiria, but that doesn't make them Perry Como -- or even the Darkness, for that matter. The phrase "full-tilt aggro" fits their newest CD, The Rebirth of Tragedy, as well as any. To my ears, though, there's something a little disconcerting about the contrast conjured by studio-enhanced harmony vocals soaring behind the all-too-typical Cookie Monster-in-a-trash-compactor pipes of vocalist-lyricist Adam Jackson. Tortured-relationship songs are almost as prevalent here as the requisite "War Pigs"-style doomsaying, but the real shocker comes midway through "Chroma," when Jackson strays far afield from metal orthodoxy, appearing to quote from both America's "Horse with No Name" and the Smiths' "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before." Yikes! -- Scott Faingold
Wednesday, July 21, the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
These Arms Are Snakes and Communiqué, with Paris, Tx and Murder By Death
Some aging punk rockers die. Some fade away. But a lot of 'em just get bored, which is predictable enough, given the reductive strictures of ye olde Loud Fast Rules.
Case in point: Communiqué. These guys used to be proud San Francisco-area punk standard-bearers American Steel, but you wouldn't know it from their new Poison Arrows CD. The former moshmeisters now prefer to evoke poppy, keyboard-laden early-'80s MTV fare like ABC (see CD title) and Tears for Fears ("Scream and shout / Let it all out," guitarist-songwriter Rory Henderson unashamedly chants on the chorus of "Death Rattle Dance"). Fair enough, and not really a bad deal when the songs are as legitimately hooky and well played as this.
Of course, increased accessibility and OMD-style keyboard figures aren't the only options open for fidgety punkers looking to branch out. There's always good old-fashioned sonic and lyrical malice. The musical assassins in the evocatively monikered These Arms Are Snakes are no strangers to this area of endeavor. Featuring former members of semi- legendary hardcore purveyors Kill Sadie, TAAS specializes in snarling, glass-gargling vocals and swirling, volcanic textures on their unsubtle debut EP, This Is Meant to Hurt You. The sense of furious dislocation rarely lets up over the disc's 23 minutes, but when it does, as on the extended Godspeed-esque instrumental coda "Run It Through the Dog," a band with more than one poison-tipped dart up its serpentine sleeve is revealed. Viva nausea.
Note: While Paris, Tx and Murder By Death are also slated to appear on tonight's bill, Harry Dean Stanton and Peter Falk have not been confirmed. -- Scott Faingold
Wednesday, July 21, Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.
Davin James and Larry Joe Taylor
Say you're a nimble-fingered hot-licks hotshot and you're invited to an all-Houston guitar shoot-out. Quick, name the one guy you hope has a broken hand that night. Of course there's a whole passel of fine pickers in H-town, but if you want the prize, you'd better choose Davin James to boot to the sidelines, or even better, to a gig in Wisconsin. Whether he's tearing the strings off his acoustic in a duo with his guitar brother Jesse Dayton (they usually play until one or the other runs out of strings) or laying on the Southern-fried boogie licks with Les Paul in front of his ace country-rock band, James is one bad guitar hombre. The bearded Kingwoodian served a long apprenticeship backing up Larry Joe Taylor, known as the Texas Jimmy Buffett, and they continue to play shows together. The intimate setting of Wrecks Bell's Old Quarter Cafe in downtown Galveston is perfect for a warm, humid evening filled with hot licks and broken strings. -- William Michael Smith
Thursday, July 15, the Old Quarter Cafe, 413 20th Street, Galveston, 409-762-9199.
The Red Light Sting, Gerling and By the End of Tonight
Punk rock is most certainly not the first thing that comes to mind when someone mentions Vancouver, British Columbia. However, the Red Light Sting, Canada's best answer to the void left by At the Drive-In, might just change all that. Both aggressive and loud without overloading on noise and feedback, the band knocks down genre barriers with a fusion of raw power, onstage antics and a smart-ass sense of humor.
Another band defying genres is Gerling, an Australian trio with a snotty distorted-vocal, spiky-guitar dance-punk sound that would seem more likely to have originated in a grotty corner of New York than in sunny Sydney. If you think Australia's all about retro-rockers like Jet or Nirvana wannabes like the Vines, Gerling will prove a big surprise.
Indie instrumental noisemongers By the End of Tonight open the show. And as anyone who's witnessed the drummer's Fisher Price-style drum kit can testify, size obviously doesn't matter -- this Alvin foursome packs more punch into their collective pinkies than most bands dare dream about. Fireworks On Ice -- their debut EP -- should be released in August, with a full-length album in the spring. -- David A. Cobb and John Nova Lomax
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Thursday, July 15, Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.
Jason Allen has been anointed by more than a few hyperventilating music scribes as the heir apparent to George Strait. That's a huge burden to lay on any artist, but the Montgomery County native who now calls Austin home seems to have kept his head squarely on his shoulders, taking the hype in stride and sticking to his music. It doesn't hurt that he has a twangier, folksier voice than Strait or that his latest album, Wouldn't It Be Nice, has already spawned a No. 6 hit on the Texas music charts, the catchy, Buck Owens-like "Your Heart Turned Left and I Was on the Right." Since the release of his first album, which appealed primarily to the younger Texas music set but also found supporters among older traditionalists, Allen has been a regular on the Texas charts with such tunes as "Body and Fender Man," "Something I Dreamed," "Being Loved Like This" and "Lucky Arms," which topped out at No. 1. No doubt boots will scoot across the wooden dance floor when Allen hits the stage. -- William Michael Smith
Saturday, July 17, the Bill Mraz Dance Hall, 835 West 34th, 713-864-HALL.