8th Wonder Throws a Tasty Birthday Bash, and the Beer Is Delicious, Too

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8th Wonder 3rd Anniversary Celebration
Feat. Black Joe Lewis, Hot 8 Brass Band, Fat Tony, Walker Lukens & the Side Arms
8th Wonder Brewery
March 12, 2016

Good beer, live music and elbow-rubbing with our fellow Houstonians. As Fat Tony reminded the crowd at the 8th Wonder Brewery's 3rd Anniversary Celebration, for some of us, “It ain't a hobby; it’s a way of life.”

A sellout crowd descended upon the eastside brewery Saturday to partake in the best kind of “Hood Party.” Houston’s purveyors of tasty potions, like Dome Faux’m (cream ale) and Rocket Fuel (Vietnamese coffee porter), paired these and other brews with fine music from Say Girl Say (Houston), Hot 8 Brass Band (New Orleans) and Black Joe Lewis (Austin), among others. The suddenly clear skies had Facebookers and StubHubbers scrambling for last-minute tickets.

Hopefully those who nabbed a ticket weren’t too bogged down with spring cleaning and lawn mowing to catch the early sets, like some of us. They may have missed The Waxaholics, fresh off their Thursday-night DJ set in honor of Notorious B.I.G. They might have missed Khruangbin, an intriguing, mostly instrumental outfit with Houston roots that blends soulful rhythms with airy guitars. Now primarily based in Europe, they’ll be touring this year over there with Father John Misty. Give ’em a listen and, if you didn’t see them Saturday, don't miss their next Houston gig. It may be awhile, but it’ll be worth the wait.

They’d played and vacated the stage by the time we first filled our commemorative pint glasses, right at the start of Fat Tony’s set. Somewhere near the end, he mentioned his new EP slated for release today. We all got a taste of a new song his DJ iLLFaded declared to be about Whataburger, followed by his hit “Sushi,” which is about eating too. The provocative lyrics had some of the beer drinkers swiping their heads left and right for potential hookups, while others headed for the gaggle of food trucks. As always, we were nourished with the good stuff, like “BKNY,” “Double Dragon” and “Nigga U Ain’t Fat.” Then, like a skilled chef, Fat Tony packed up to do pop-ups at 35 Denton and SXSW this week.

Walker Lukens brought his band, The Side Arms, from Austin. In spite of the rap set just preceding them, Lukens and Co. were the first act to get someone in the crowd twerking. If this seems like a difficult feat for a band that identifies as indie-rock, consider Lukens’s voice, which is dripping with honey and lends itself well to the programmed loops that make his band something like the Black Keys meets Tune-Yards. Standout offerings were “Jacket on Ya Shoulders,” “Every Night” and the new single “Lifted,” which closed the set by featuring the entire band on backing vocals.

If there’s one thing we know about Houston music fans, it’s that they can never get enough of a good brass band, so we weren’t surprised when Hot 8 Brass Band drew the largest of the day’s audiences. From the foot of the stage to the far reaches, we had one mission, which was to show love to the band that “came down I-10, parked right over there, mingled a little bit and now we’re ready to play for you,” per trumpeter/vocalist “B.I.G. AL” Huntley. Houston made it worth their while, singing to every call and response on songs like “Let Me Do My Thing” and “Get Up.”

The band’s history is fraught with tragedy; it has lost members to gun violence and displacement after Hurricane Katrina. Whether in spite of or because of those events, Hot 8's exuberance is genuine and contagious. When the band advised the audience to shake some asses, they shook in the audience. Hands waved in the air, truly without a care. Near the end of the set, during the band’s nasty take on “Sexual Healing,” Huntley nodded at members of stage left and grinned. That’s the look of musicians who know they got you, Houston. You’re fans for life. And if that’s true, feel free to share the love with the band’s suggested hashtag, #webrasshard.

The taps were still pouring beer around 8:30 p.m., and it had to be cold to counter the hot guitar licks and blazing horn lines laid down by headliner Black Joe Lewis. Following “Young Girls” from 2013’s Electric Slave, Lewis took a deep breath and semi-apologized to the crowd for getting “carried away.” Not one person was looking for such an apology. We took in some new tunes (“Blue Leather,” “Rolling”) that showcased Lewis’s playing more than a song like “Sugarfoot,” which is still the most wicked, wicked Wilson Pickett song I’ve ever heard not sung by Pickett. Lewis has been playing these new tunes in Austin spots like Nomad Bar, and they sounded great in the open air of a downtown Houston hood party. We left before Hot 8 returned to second-line everyone out of the brewery, needing to reserve some energy for Sunday. After all, this ain't a hobby, it’s a way of life.

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