Aftermath: Conspiracies, Prog-Metal, Gypsy-Folk, Hardcore and Remembering a Fallen Friend Sunday at Westheimer Block Party

Day 2 of the Westheimer Block Party started with slightly cooler temperatures and an hour-long caffeine-fueled session speaking with the 9/11 conspiracy booth in the parking lot at Numbers. Did you know that there were three shooters at Columbine, and bombs planted inside the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995? That's another blog for another time and place, where we're not being followed by corporate spies with guns that shoot ice bullets and rayguns and whatnot to stop Aftermath from giving you the facts. We finally got to catch Springfield Riots after close to year of milling around not doing it when we had the chance. We have been missing out on some chill keyboard-plinking indie-rock this whole time, and their quick set outside Numbers was perfectly satisfying. Across the way at Mango's, things got started with Room 101, Roburt Reynolds' punk/video project. Playing to recorded drum tracks and playing live guitar, Reynolds plays Gang of Four-like screeds against all manner of political injustices and slights. The clips shown behind him ranged from old-school bomb-test footage to scenes from propaganda films. Any time you get the chance to see Room 101 is an education. Three-piece Giant Battle Monster was our second revelation Sunday, playing technical and heavy slabs of prog-metal. In between water and Capri-Sun breaks, the band held down a pretty big sound outside of Helios. Inside we briefly saw the new Smoky Mountains with their subdued sweater-folk, sounding like a muted Wilco. The venue upstairs at Helios was perfect for them, with the street scenes below muted and silent with the Smokys soundtracking the goings-on. Around 5 p.m., Future Blondes began to set-up shop inside Mango's next door. Domokos Benczedi and Tyler Morris laid out pedals and mikes in preparation, and let a spoken passage play out before they made their way back to the stage, prompting people who had never seen them before to be make confounding looks at each other. As their set reached lift-off it began to rain outside and this drove most of the parking lot of Mangos into the restaurant. The looks on people's faces as Dom, Tyler and Ralf Armin started making their noise were priceless, with no discernible hooks or publicly palatable songs in sight. For Future Blondes fans like us, it was hilariously delightful. Outside Numbers, Geoffrey Mueller's I Am Mesmer was doing their patented gypsy-folk thing. Each time we have seen them we get a sort of antique vibe, the kind we don't even feel when we are in presence of an older performer. There is something about every piece of that band, from Robert Ellis to Hilary Sloan, that is incredibly intense and beautiful. It's not indie rock, it's not country, but seems to be music from some other alternate dimension. We mean that in a totally non-funky way. It's hard to describe in words because you really just have to feel it. Right before Female Demand went on inside Mango's, they had a quick moment of silence for Free Press Houston family member Lee Powers, who passed away Saturday night. As news of the tragic incident reached around the festival, the mood got decidedly more somber as we saw many younger people in open mourning. It sadly reminded Rocks Off of the days after musician Dave Rask died this past summer. Female Demand is a noisy two-piece that we have been following for about a year now off an on. They brought quite the crowd into Mangos late in the afternoon on Sunday for their effects pedal laden soundscapes that owe much to bands like Lightning Bolt and Death From Above 1979. The symbiosis between Jonathan and Bradley is amazing to see live, like two gamblers playing a tense guard game. Benjamin Wesley's set upstairs at Helios took a totally different tone, with the news of Powers' death running through the crowd. Each time we see Wesley, we are always left wondering why this guy is not known outside of Houston. His music is as beautiful and catchy as anything coursing around Pitchfork and the like, so it's always frustrating that we can't scream to the world in an adequately loud bellow about how great his stuff is. That can also go for Grandfather Child, who played right after I Am Mesmer. Lucas Gorham makes a lap-steel sound positively soulful, and digs deep down for a voice that matches it for every note. Back at Mango's, Fight Pretty made new fans out of us. Hardcore in Houston has been sort of hidden as of late but they are just as ripe as anyone to help bring about resurgence. With a national tour in January looming this set was one in a line of warm-up gigs in the area for the band. It was perfect appetizer for the dish on the menu at the venue, the first appearance of Josh Wolf as lead singer of the death-punk Hell City Kings. He replaced the departing GFN who is concentrating on his tattooing work. Wolf is one of the best frontman we have seen around this town in some time, and he brings a totally full-contact vibe to the HCK that wasn't there before. He's abrasive, scary, and unpredictable live. Anyone who has seen him front the Homopolice can attest to this. The first song we saw him sing with the band was "Never Let Go" from the band's newest album, Road To Damnation, and he completely took ownership of it. With Christian Larson and Bill Fool up front on guitars, the band couldn't be quiet if they tried. It's fun relentless drunk stuff that never fails you. This was a good move on the bands part and we can't wait for their next show when they open up for this new bastardized version of the Misfits in a few weeks. We may just leave after they play seeing that the Danzig-less Misfits suck now.

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