Aftermath: Fastball at House of Blues

It hasn't been that long since the '90s ended, but it sure seems like it sometimes. Like going to a concert sponsored by a radio station, in Saturday's case Mix 96.5. It doesn't matter what the station is, or who is playing, you're immediately struck by two things: "People still listen to the radio?" and "People still listen to these bands?"

In Fastball's case, that's a plus. The rest of the country may know them from their string of radio hits starting with 1998's "The Way," but besides being one of the relatively few groups from around here to receive significant airplay, Fastball was one of the best bands to come out of Austin (and therefore Texas) in the '90s. But there was always more to Miles Zuniga and Tony Scalzo's musical partnership than a catchy tune or two - and still is.

Most of Fastball's half-hour set consisted of its bread-and-butter singles, but even those were a little unrulier than they had to be, as was the Elvis Costello-like title track to the band's latest album, Little White Lies. The quartet teased and prodded "You're An Ocean" until it turned into Thin Lizzy's "Cowboy Song," and took the new "Always Never" into places radio rarely goes anymore - heavy, psychedelic corners not heard on the FM airwaves since the heyday of Cream, with Zuniga testing the crowd's oldies savvy by singing snippets of the Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" and the Beatles' "Got to Get You Into My Life."

One song the audience needed minimal prompting for was "The Way." They knew it so well, even nailing the rising inflection on the line "they want-ed the highway, they're happier there today," all Zuniga had to do was conduct. It was an odd, anachronistic reminder of how the radio could lodge a song in your cerebral cortex after only one listen and that, although its power as a medium has been much diminished in the decade since "The Way" was a hit, the source material is still out there and ripe for the picking.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray