UPDATE: Rocks Off incorrectly identified the former By the End of Tonight member now performng as LIMB as Jeff Wilson, not James Templeton. Our apologies to LIMB.
Tera Melos, TTNG, LIMB Fitzgerald's May 16, 2013
It's unusual to walk into a show where majority of the crowd is under legal drinking age, and Thursday's Tera Melos show happened to be one of those times. But despite the fact that most of the people at Fitzgerald's weren't drinking, the crowd was as fun and rambunctious as any.
Fitz's downstairs room was packed, with an attendance that hovered just over 75 percent of their capacity on Houston's first humid evening of the year.
The show kicked off around 9 p.m. with Houston's own LIMB, the solo project of
Jeff Wilson James Templeton. Templeton and Jeff Wilson were once part of By the End of Tonight, a Houston-area experimental post-rock group who released a split EP with Tera Melos in 2007.
In true experimental/noise-rock fashion, Wilson played on a drum kit surrounded by a half-circle of amps, PAs and various instruments used to play pre-recorded loops. But unlike most noise-rock acts, LIMB isn't one you can write off with a simple genre title.
After the first song, someone in the crowd leaned to his friend and said, "I don't know about this guy, he's kind of sloppy." And as if Wilson heard the comment himself, he worked out the kinks, then powered through a set that made that uncertain spectator bounce around like a beach ball.
Though it was sometimes hard to discern when one song ended and the next began, Wilson focused his energy on the emotion radiating from his performance. And truthfully, there's something dark and chaotic about LIMB; an aggression that strikes a chord and proves that words aren't always needed to evoke feeling and depth.
But even though the excited crowd gave LIMB an ovation, it couldn't have prepared TTNG (formerly This Town Needs Guns) for what was in store.
"You guys are so noisy," mused singer and bassist Henry Tremain.
Noisy didn't even describe the half of it. Once TTNG took the stage, arms went up, fans began shouting out song requests, and the entire crowd started moving in every direction possible. It's the kind of excitement you don't see often.
Truthfully, it's not hard to understand why. TTNG might be one of the most melodic math-rock bands out there, with Tremain crooning out lyrics as able-fingered guitarist Tim Collis performs in chaotic harmony alongside drummer and brother Chris Collis.
TTNG announced that the band would be changing its name in January to go with the release of their newest album, 126.96.36.199.0, citing discomfort with how their name and message could be misconstrued in other cultures.
But despite lineup and name changes, the humble trio from Oxford, England was constantly surprised at the reception from the crowd, and it was often hard to tell who was enjoying the show more.
The group played roughly eight songs that covered the span of their career, including favorites such as "Baboon," "I'll Take the Minute Snake," and "Havoc in the Forum," which the band dedicated to the crowd's many young couples.
But the true testament to TTNG's talent came when Tremain played both his guitar and bass at the same time, never missing a note.
"I believe you just lost your shit," Tremain said to a young man in the front row, who erupted with wild abandon after the group announced they'd be back later this year.
As TTNG closed out their set, it was almost painful to have to watch another band walk onstage and try to follow one that can perform complex time changes with such crisp, clean execution.
But even though TTNG proved to be a hard act to follow, Tera Melos took the stage and solidified their spot atop an impeccable lineup.
The Sacramento-based trio, currently touring in support of their fifth and most recent release, X'ed Out, are doing what many bands today aren't - bending music norms and actually having fun while doing it.
Before the band even started, they set up three mascots - a stuffed Bart Simpson atop bassist Nathan Latona's amp, a Freddie Krueger scarecrow on singer and guitarist Nick Reinhart's amp, as well as "Hot Dog Man," who sat in the middle of the stage, directly in front of John Clardy's drum kit.
"We thought Hot Dog Man would get you guys ready to party," explained Reinhart, after the band opened with "Tropic Lame."
Truthfully, Tera Melos didn't need anything to excite the crowd. They were already on board.
The group then jumped straight into "New Chlorine" and "Weird Circles," both from their latest release. And while other bands in the math-rock genre tend to lean more towards prog-rock, Tera Melos seems to take more influence from punk and shoegaze (think Hüsker Dü).
But even though Tera Melos has a different approach to their own genre, there's a reason why they are respected as math-rock's seasoned veterans of sorts.
In about an hour and a half, the group performed an 11-song set, proving time after time that quality matters much more than quantity. Despite the technicality of their songs, Tera Melos flowed through tracks like "Sunburn" and "Bite" with ease, yet they still moved around the stage and enjoyed themselves as much as the crowd.
Truthfully, it's a wonder Reinhart isn't already getting an early onset of arthritis with how fast he can finger-tap, and that was already in question before the group launched into their nearly nine-minute encore, "40 Rods to the Hog's Head."
But while their final song played out like an extended, calculated jam session for the band, the crowd overflowed onto the stage as bodies moved in unison with the music.
For a seemingly regular Thursday evening, TTNG and Tera Melos brought one of those rare concerts to Houston that serves as a reminder as to how much fun live music can be. People weren't talking over the band, there weren't people shuffling in and out, and the crowd was actually watching (and enjoying) the show. Hell, it even looked like Tobin was enjoying himself.
In hindsight, there was no better way to kick off summer than with this lineup. Hopefully they weren't just pulling our leg when they said they'd be back soon.
Personal Bias: I'll listen to anything, but I have a sweet spot for mathcore, noise and experimental acts. On Thursday, I unknowingly walked into a show that featured LIMB/Jeff Wilson, who is affiliated with Brett Taylor, former By The End Of Tonight member, and the man behind my favorite Houston band, sIngs. I think anything those guys touch is gold, but hey, that's just me.
The Crowd: Mostly 18-20 year olds, paired off into couples. A lot of guys looked like they pore over guitar-tech magazines and blogs, and most of the crowd seemed to consider themselves die-hard TTNG fans.
Overheard In the Crowd: "This guy is amazing. He's doing what I've always wanted to do."
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Random Notebook Dump: This is the first show I've been to in years where I actually witnessed someone crowd-surf.