Deep Cuts, Ratboys, Dollie Barnes, Michael Parallax
Houston House of Creeps
July 18, 2015
On Saturday, House of Creeps hosted what was arguably one of the best lineups in the venue's recent history, proving yet again why it has become one of the longest-standing DIY venues in Houston.
The sweltering evening started off around 10 p.m. with Florida-based artist Michael Parallax, who immediately struck me as the last act I would expect to see at House of Creeps. Because most of my experience at the venue has been spent listening to bands perform at ear-busting volumes in a dark room illuminated only by movies projected on the wall, it was strange to see this self-described "immersive pop explosion" act light up the room — both figuratively and literally.
Parallax began his set standing between two light boxes amid all of his keyboards and pads, bouncing up and down in a suit and tie as he performed tracks off of his most recent releases, Who We Are and How We Were, which were both released in February. It didn't take long, however, before he began undressing to reveal an orange astronaut jumpsuit he was wearing underneath.
At times it was hard for me to shake the smile plastered on my face, mostly from how floored I was at how endearingly talented Parallax was. In any other setting, the disrobing might have seemed a bit superfluous, but because my only knowledge of Parallax prior to the show is that he was from Florida, I found that his wardrobe choice not only made it hard for the audience to forget him, but it connected his geographical location to our own Space City, making the world feel a little smaller, even if only momentarily.
I'm still not sure if his choices were simply convenient or some of the best self-marketing I've seen in a while, but his approach to live performances seem to work wonderfully for him. Because of his high energy and engaging banner, he commanded the room as it began to slowly fill up with a transfixed audience. With a sound that is reminiscent to Say Hi, Parallax's music could be the soundtrack for a nostalgic short film of all of your favorite memories. Luckily for us, he mentioned that he was in the process of relocating to Texas, so we might get to see more of him in the near future.
Dollie Barnes took the stage next, slowing things down a bit for a more introspective glance at what some Houston acts have to offer.
Featuring the lead vocals from Haley Barnes (formerly of Buxton), it was hard not to take in the big voice coming from such a little lady. Because the women in Houston's local music scene have come to be represented by more theatrical, soulful voices as of late, Barnes' folk-inspired vocal style was endearingly different.
Because it was my first time seeing her live, I was pleasantly surprised at how taken I was, especially given the fact that I've never been too keen on folk music. That said, the richness in the songwriting matched perfectly with her songbird call on tracks like "Doesn't It Matter" and "How Can I Help You." So preferences be damned, I have to admit Dollie Barnes is a piece of the local puzzle that perhaps I've been missing.
The Chicago-based Ratboys followed next, a band that I'd been anxious to see all summer.
The four-piece's debut album AOID, released in early June, is already climbing its way to the top of my list for favorite albums of the year. Lead by singer Julia Steiner, the group won over the crowd when they sang "Tixis," a song about their love for the Lone Star State. Of course, it can't hurt that the band's sound has been labeled as "post-country indie rock."
In a live setting, Ratboys are a little louder than they are on record, yet still maintain an almost impeccable delivery that gets the hips moving. Because their sound that feels like the comforting hug of grass when you lay in a field on a warm summer day, Ratboys have an undeniably charming quality in their songwriting and execution, and it's hard not to fall under their spell and root for their success. Personally, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be back, as well as Philadelphia's Hop Along.
The evening closed out with a killer set from Houston's own Deep Cuts, and though I've seen the group a few times before, there was something magical about experiencing their sound in such an intimate setting. The five-piece group began their set with "Cigarette Boat" and "Causeway," the opening tracks from their Love Grows EP, before they performed "While The House Fills Up," a track off of the upcoming 7-inch that will be released August 7 at Fitzerald's.
Though some may try and cast them off as just another indie band, their sound is too complex to be defined by a single word. Instead, the group showcased their playful song structures that feature clashing timing and a Latin influence. And as indicated by the amount of dancing and laughter that filled the room on Saturday evening, Deep Cuts are the kind of band you'd want to add to your summer playlist — especially if you're planning on spending time on a tropical island.
But despite how much I enjoyed the out-of-town talent on Saturday, I left House of Creeps reflecting more on the pride I felt from how far Houston's music scene has come in the last ten years, in both talent and spirit.