By The End Of Tonight, Young Mammals, B L A C K I E, Art Füx, Caddywhompus Fitzgerald's March 5, 2011
By the end of the show on Saturday night, there was no longer any potential energy left in Fitzgerald's upstairs room; it had been entirely converted into kinetic form throughout the evening. A reunited By The End Of Tonight melted the faces of the frenzied crowd, and for a few hours everyone there was 18 again - no cares, just losing themselves in the frenetic yet structured cacophony brought by the music.
Aftermath walked out with a broad smile, a sore neck, and ringing ears - a perfect snapshot of every show we attended whilst in our high-school days. We were far from alone, too. We saw many a high-five traded on the floor, and more grinning teeth than a dental journal.
That's what happens when a beloved local band plays its first show in three years.
The night kicked off with Caddywhompus, the crazed two-piece experimental pop-rock duo originally from Houston but currently calling New Orleans home. The pair whipped out a quick five-song set, bringing their chaotic jams - full of polyrhythms and pep - much to the delight of the crowd. Even guitarist Chris Rehm's finger-tapping segments are rife with pop tones; the music seems to create happiness out of the ether.
The crowd was already moving, with several people all-out dancing, if not merely bopping in place, and Aftermath's mind began to speculate just what sort of explosion would occur during B L A C K I E's upcoming set.
However, with Caddywhompus breaking down gear, more than just Mike LaCour's infamous homemade speaker system came on stage, and a cluster of instruments popped up on stage right. Three kids began an improvisational noise set, which we originally mistook as potential backing band for the dynamic grime rapper from Chemical City. LaCour hovered in the wings, and as everyone focused in awe on the trio, we kept waiting for him to rush the microphone, swooping down to start his sampler, and bursting into his set.
That didn't happen. What we did get, however, was a really fun improv number from Art Füx, whose drummer happens to be LaCour's roommate. Live drums and the squeals of electronic tweaks unfolded, transporting the listener into an alternate dimension.
When B L A C K I E finally did take the stage, it was with a calm approach, but that never lasts long. Taking the microphone and as much cable as he could, LaCour hopped offstage onto the floor, started his sampler, and immediately was everywhere. Stretching the cord to its limits, he took over the room with opening number "Stay Up," before collapsing back to start the next song.
At this point, the house asked Mike to stay on stage, so he invited the crowd to join him, but requesting that they "be real fuckin' careful." Anyone who's seen B L A C K I E perform knows that he's a whirlwind, and that didn't change much, even stage-bound with a crew of white kids cluelessly bopping along behind him.
He tore through five more numbers before ending his appearance. We're not certain if his time ran out, or he cut it short when the kids were kicked offstage following "Window."
Indie-rockers Young Mammals made their way to the stage, and by now the floor was packed full of bodies and the staff opened up the balcony. Our tired legs rejoiced, and we headed upstairs to grab a prime viewing location. The seven songs the Mammals rolled out weren't much different from the last time Aftermath saw them, a mere three weeks ago at the Wild Moccasins' tour kickoff.
The fuzz-wash seemed to have been reined back a tad, allowing singer Carlos Sanchez's vocals to come through a bit clearer. For some reason, though, his vocals don't quite seem to match the music.
Maybe it's the reverb on the vocals, which complicates the matter. One thing is certain, however - and not to detract from BTEOT's Jeff Wilson - but Ryan Chavez is a booming machine behind that drum kit. At this point, it feels like the Mammals' sound is too big for the room, even at Fitz.
Then came By The End Of Tonight. The room's dynamic intensified in anticipation of the frenzied onslaught about to be unleashed, and a hearty cheer arose when the house lights dimmed.
Aftermath paused to reflect, The night before, we'd been to Winnie to see Chuck Berry, and while ol' Chuck's giant hands don't move around the fretboard like they used to, none of this exists without him. The air was thick with remembrance, so much so that we could feel everyone's thinking about the last time they saw By The End Of Tonight. At approximately 11:35 p.m., the first note was struck, and from there time became a blur.
It was impossible for us to determine how many songs the band played. Over the course of the set, which saw them play for 45 minutes straight with a mere handful of pauses, the band probably struck enough notes to fill up six hours of time. Elation abounded, with the entire floor full of people jumping, moshing, fist-pumping, and cheering their little hearts to the bursting point.
These are tiger-blood riffs, Charlie Sheen. By The End Of Tonight is, to put it mildly, riggoddamndiculous. It felt like Houston was saved by the blitz of instrumental fury - our black plague of audiences fouling up concert-going was erased, and not a bad vibe was found in the building. Pure joy (and the music's mind-destroying intensity) abounded, and for the entire duration of their appearance, BTEOT held Fitzgerald's in the palm of their hands.
The band began to break down gear as the crowd called for an encore. After a few minutes of debating, Stefan Mach grabbed an overhead mike from the drum kit. "We're sorry," he said, "we don't know any more songs. We haven't played in three years."
People rushed to buy one of Shelby Hohl's posters for the show, and Aftermath spotted several flying around the room as fans tracked down band members for autographs. The whole night was blissful and carefree, the way all of our favorite shows have always been, the way concerts should be.
It's going to be really fun watching these four fellows take over the stage at Summer Fest this year. Hopefully they get a good slot and aren't stuck playing early in the afternoon. One thing is certain - no matter how many people are in front of them watching, most of those people will either be slack-jawed in wonder or dancing like fools.
We wouldn't have it any other way.
Personal Bias: I had seen this band once. I own two of their split releases. I love most everything that shreds like lettuce.
The Crowd: A lot of people that a) seemed to be married and/or have children; b) don't come out to (or don't get to come to) shows anymore; c) parents? and/or d) kids excited to finally see, or see again, By The End Of Tonight.
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Overheard In The Crowd: "Play faster!"
Random Notebook Dump: Sorry, was too busy having my brain torn apart to make any more notes.