Tontons, Wild Moccasins, Young Mammals, Featherface Walters February 2, 2013
You lured me in to Walters, mesmerizing me with your siren song that has drowned many sailors before me, and it seems you've won.
I'm crushin' on ya.
This past Saturday, Walters became home to four of Houston's better-known local bands as the Tontons celebrated the release of their shiny new 7-inch, "Bones," bringing with them Wild Moccasins, Featherface and Young Mammals.
It became apparent what a large following these four bands have as I entered the venue. The crowd multiplied to the point that I wondered if we were testing the limits of fire code. (And yes, I kept my hands to myself, despite being pressed against what felt like the entire audience.)
Featherface opened the show shortly after 9 p.m., catching me off-guard with their dreamy, dance-like number "Never Meant to Fall in Love." It's not what you'd expect on first glance, given the band's miles of metal-kid hair, but the way they entangle psych, funk and hard rock over purposeful melodies leaves you wondering how you'd ever expected otherwise. The random (and totally rad) cover of Third Eye Blind's "Jumper" was hauntingly dark and surprisingly aligned with the rest of their catalog.
The Young Mammals followed, sending the audience into a crash course in their distorted, risky music. Known for experimenting with noise and dissonance, the Mammals have been met with critical acclaim for their distinctive sound. The mix of classical influences with garage rock, drawn-out guitar riffs and noisy bridges does make for an interesting sound, but at points the audience seemed bored or confused with what the hell was going on.
The screeching guitars and schizophrenic drums accentuate lyrics sung with the softness of a lullaby. It's an innovative sound, whether you understand it or not.
As the third band to take the stage, the Wild Moccasins made a clean segue, transitioning the crowd into their rambunctious indie-pop with ease. An abundance of synthesizer streamlines with the wailing vocals, led by Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann. Loaded with cheery enthusiasm, the Moccasins have created a sound that begs you to dance along.
Now, on to the Tontons. If you've seen them onstage, you're well aware of the hypnotic quality of their music.
Described best as "blues-driven indie rock," the Tontons are notoriously difficult to categorize. Their sound borrows from a mix of genres, evolving rapidly from song to song. Asli Omar's velvety rasp dances amidst ripping guitar licks and rock-heavy rhythms, creating a symbiotic relationship dripping with filth and soul. Omar's sinewy vocals captured periodic moments of bliss, followed seamlessly by a more aggressive and assured style.
During their rendition of "Syrup, it became clear to me why this band is so intriguing to their fans. As if she were divulging a secret, Asli spoke to the crowd about the band's distance from the song. It was her disclaimer: forgive the imperfections, but we want to play this, flaws and all. It was genuine and in the moment.
The Tontons leave you feeling like you should trust what they're doing, despite your questions. Their confidence assures you that you're not on the receiving end of some prepackaged bullshit -- that they're making music, flaws and all.
Their strategy carries a risk, but it works. There is nothing manufactured or rehearsed, just raw, transcending sound.
Personal Bias: I'm secretly jealous of guys with jeans skinnier than mine.
The Crowd: A hearty dose of hip twentysomethings and a few of us more seasoned folk.
Overheard in the Crowd: "I've never seen more cans of Lone Star at a bar."
Random Notebook Dump: Houston's music scene deserves more credit.