Around 9 p.m. Saturday, Rocks Off was walking out of Tacos A Go-Go and ran into Main Street Block Party organizer Eric Dean on the corner in front of the Continental Club, and he told us he had just broken even. This was before any of the evening's real main events, and by about 10 p.m. the wristband line stretched outside the Mink all the way past the entrance of the Big Top.
Besides the inevitable delays and a few instances of scheduling three-card monte, everything seemed to go pretty smoothly Saturday. The only real question was whether or not the indie-heavy lineup could pack the Continental.
Unfortunately for bands like Baton Rouge's teeth-gnashing Twin Killers, it didn't look like it early on, but the club began filling up around the time CC regulars the Small Sounds opened with a lovely Waterboys-esque tune, and was wall to wall for keyboard-heavy Austin New Wavers The Black & White Years and Houston's own Ton Tons.
All in all, Rocks Off would say Dean's little midwinter experiment has to be counted a success, especially for a first-time festival with no clear headliner. Here, in our estimation, are a few simple reasons why.
1. It was indoors. The weather turned out to be perfect Saturday, but it was pretty frigid, so it was nice to not be stuck standing around shivering at an outdoor stage.
2. It was compact. Not only were all the venues mere steps away from each other, so were Tacos A Go-Go and the Continental's two barbecue stands. The fried catfish was especially delicious.
3. It was well-timed. With all due respect to NOFX, Slim Thug & Z-Ro, and the One Mic anniversary party - several of whose performers did double duty at the Block Party - the organizers had the good sense to schedule the Block Party smack in the middle of the winter concert doldrums. Besides (further) brightening up the live-music schedule for Houstonians, this also meant that the several groups from out of town who might not otherwise have been available were good to go.
4. It was low-key and relatively low-risk. From about 4 p.m. on, Rocks Off spent the entire afternoon and evening comfortably floating from venue to venue and came away with a few worthwhile discoveries: The aggressive power-pop of Jim & the Toms, flammable folk-rock of Finnegan and Cheap Trick-y goodness of Austin's the Pons, who more or less made our night with a cover of Wreckless Eric's "The Whole Wide World."
Those three alone would have made Saturday worth 10 bucks, but we also got to see our brother and two of his Rocks Off colleagues killing it in their band Prairie Cadets for a packed Big Top. But don't take our word for it; our Buzzcocks- and Thin Lizzy-loving buddy Jonathan loved it too.
Besides that, there was iLL LiaD - after Saturday and opening for Wu-Tang last month at Numbers, our new favorite Houston rapper - and friends the Killafornianz (Ensane and Jon Black) abuse the mike, and a band whose name we never did catch play a round of cowboys and Indians, feathered headdress and everything. And if you like the Strokes, Pearl Jam and/or Traffic, watch out for The Handshake. Someone told us they're only in high school, but we didn't believe them. (Update: They all graduated from Lamar... last year.)
5. It was fun. If for no other reason, Saturday's Block Party was also worth going for unexpected moments like walking upstairs at the Mink to discover co-organizer (and sound guy) Fat Tony dropping DJ bombs like Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up" and Sisqo's "Thong Song" on a most appreciative crowd, who were grinding on each other like they couldn't decide if they were at Toc Bar or their senior prom, so they put some extra stank on it just for good measure.