Vast Majority, MyDolls Bring Houston Punk History to Life
Vast Majority's blast from the past was more just a blast at Walters Friday.
Photos by Nathan Smith
Vast Majority, Pleasure 2, Killer Hearts, MyDolls Walter's Downtown February 20, 2015
Nowadays, thanks to the Internet, we're all more or less used to the idea that our wacky teenage hijinks can be recorded for posterity and live on forever. But back in 1979, when Scott Telles and his Bellaire High School buds formed first-wave Houston punk act Vast Majority, analog immortality was probably the furthest thing from their minds. They were just trying to jam out like their safety-pinned heroes and get in on the political and cultural outrage of the day.
More than 35 years later, though, folks from around the world are still getting off to their teenaged outbursts. Case in point: Italian label Rave Up Records recently reissued the bulk of Vast Majority's recorded output, all of which fits on a single LP. To celebrate, Telles put the band back together -- or something like it, anyway -- and booked a gig at Walters on Friday to revel in the auditory nostalgia with some old pals and maybe sell a couple of records.
The MyDolls were a long way from any church bake sale.
Opening the show were one of Houston's best blasts from the past, the mighty MyDolls. Now gracefully middle-aged, Trish Herrera, Linda Younger and Dianna Ray look like the coolest, sweetest ladies at the church bake sale until the guitars crank up and the F-bombs begin dropping. Semi-reformed punks with more than a touch of gray bopped around to old chestnuts like "Soldiers of a Pure War" from the '83 comp Cottage Cheese From the Lips of Death.
A newer tune, "Resurrection," demanded that those battling cancer and other afflictions "don't fucking die." It sounded great, and was dedicated to late Walters matriarch Pam Robinson. It's good to know that the MyDolls -- having now been semi-active again since 2008 -- seem to be taking their own advice.
The crowd got noticeably younger next for Pleasure 2, the Strat-and-sequencers act featuring a couple of familiar faces from Indian Jewelry. While it's not likely that their distorted dance tracks will ever be mistaken for punk rock, it was interesting to see the legacy of bands like the MyDolls at work as Pleasure 2 pumped out free-flowing jams that do not fit neatly into any of the music industry's commercial categories. The hipper elements in the crowd were gettin' down but good.
Vast Majority was up next. With former guitarist Henry "Wild Dog" Weissborn now sadly deceased and other ex-members scattered to the winds or otherwise indisposed, Telles enlisted the help of a couple of Austin pals on guitar and drums, while he and latter-day VM member Caroline Caustic busted out dueling basses for the set.
Though scarcely resembling teenage punks at this point, Vast Majority 2015 still managed to retain the band's rough-around-the-edges charm and weirdo performance aesthetic. The songs were slowed down a bit, better suiting the band's twin-bass attack.
"The motto of Vast Majority 2015 is 'slower but better,'" Telles cracked.
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Clearly enjoying himself, the front man couldn't help howling and rolling around on the ground during the group's seminal single, "I Wanna Be a Number." With the aid of a music stand, he led the group through modern renditions of "Poor Sid/Duke is Dead" and "God's Groin," to the delight of the older faces in the crowd.
Some elements of the show, such as taking quick breaks to re-tune their instruments, would have never occurred to the teenage Vast Majority. Lord knows the guitar tone blasting out of Matt Turner's amp was a lot sweeter than anything heard at Paradise Island in 1980. But the material held up pretty damn well 35 years later, especially the band's rap on police brutality that proved sadly all too relevant to the present day.
After Vast Majority took their bows, the Killer Hearts took the stage last. Once again, it was hard to escape the realization that Vast Majority and their teen ilk had unwittingly paved the way for interesting and experimental underground rock in this city. Will some boutique European record label be clamoring to reissue Killer Hearts material 35 years from now? Only the relentless march of time can say for certain. But as Vast Majority has proved, it's certainly fucking possible.
Personal Bias: Born in the '80s.
The Crowd: Small and devoted. Mainly too old to pogo.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Where's Walter!"
Random Notebook Dump: The MyDolls' "Too Hot for Revolution" sums up Houston better than I'm comfortable with.
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