Aftermath: A Weekend With the Magically Reappearing Ralf Armin (and Some Really Gross Portapotties) at Westheimer Block Party

You know how sometimes you'll learn a new word, and in the weeks that follow you'll realize you're hearing that word everywhere, eavesdropping it in conversations and reading it in the newspaper. Call it the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon, or call it confirmation of bias, but whatever you call it, it was the theme for Aftermath this weekend. A few weeks ago, we met Ralf Armin while eating lunch at Rudyard's. That same night, we ran into him at the Surfer Blood show at Mango's. This weekend at the Westheimer Block Party, he was everywhere: On the balcony of La Strada Beatles-style with Dead Roses Saturday afternoon; freaking people out inside Mango's during Sunday's brief rain with Future Blondes. We even ran into him at the Cinema Arts Festival after-party Saturday night in the old Alabama Theater. In the midst of a hectic and entirely too long weekend, knowing we'd be running into Armin wherever we looked was the one thing that gave us a sense of consistency. We live close to the block party's epicenter, so our usual M.O. is to head down the street when we hear a band that sounds interesting. Whoever played first at Numbers was good enough to rouse us out of our Saturday morning stupor, and we walked to Mango's to see Block Party mastermind Omar Afra holding court on the patio. Supposedly, this is the last Block Party (for now), so this may be a moot point, but Aftermath has a few tips. For bands: in order to save you the hassle of announcing who you are after ever song, consider investing in a identifying banner, or a custom bass drum head, so that if Aftermath likes you we can remember your name. For parents: if your child was still in the womb during the previous year's Block Party, you probably should not expose them to four venues' worth of loud music. For pet owners: leave your dogs at home. All the sounds, smells, people and distractions will only traumatize them. The crowd seemed thinner this year, at least early in the day, but the addition of a second day of shows (and the use of Mango's as a venue) may have contributed to that. In all, it seemed less crammed, which in Aftermath eyes as a good thing. We were happy to see more vendors than usual, especially local businesses and veggie food stands, though we could have done without the dude who tried to sell a one-hitter to our little sister. Our favorite performances from Saturday were Hollywood Floss and Shina Rae sexing it up outside Numbers, Dead Roses playing to a group of out-of-place brunchers on the balcony of La Strada and Young Mammals outside Numbers. Three great bands in a row, and we didn't even have to leave our perch until we decided to follow the cops chasing a suspect through the alley behind Numbers. Our favorite moment was watching a writhing young kid dance spastically at the front of the KTRU stage. Sunday was a decidedly darker day, what with Block Party organizers waking to sad news and rain. For the most part, we hung out at Mango's, which had the most eclectic stages and the best drink (frozen grapefruit margarita). Bands there ranged from the nü-metal of Cavernous inside to the bizarre performance art of Poopy Lungstuffing outside. Around 4 p.m. the rain started, and people crammed into Mangos to be greeted with Future Blondes' art-noise. We walked next door to Avant Garden and hung out for a long while in the empty downstairs bar listening to Ceeplus Bad Knives spin the B-52's, Fela Kuti and everything in between. The award for best bathrooms goes to Avant Garden - no way were we using the Porta-potties outside Mangos. Around 5 p.m., I Am Mesmer was playing outside Numbers and the mist was letting up, when we glance behind us to see a huge rainbow arching over the venue. Later in the night, the cops would shut down Sideshow Tramps (and everything else), but that rainbow seemed like the best way to end a long and exhausting weekend. We finished our drink, walked home and listened to the rest of the party from the comfort of our living room.

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