Saturday's Westheimer Block Party began on a wobbly note, as most music festivals do with fans and staff still trying to find their bearings, aided by alcohol or otherwise. The scene on the ground seemed chaotic just an hour into the first day of the event. Organizer andFree Press Houston
editor Omar Afra walked from venue making sure everything was going off without a proverbial hitch. The first thing we saw on Saturday was renaissance rapper Nosaprise on the Helios outdoor stage, doing a solo guitar cover of Gorilla Biscuits' "Start Today." His version was slowed down to half speed, but had all the same working-class fire of the 1989 original. Nosa's mix of guitar work and drum machine beats has always made him stand out, and now with Fat Tony picking up the habit and B L A C K I E rumored to working with a live band, Houston indie hip-hop should be taking an interesting turn in 2010. All three artists have been bitten by theAmerican Hardcore
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bug as of late. By this time the crowds were still middling and skewing much younger than we had ever seen before, all pimply-faced and half-clothed like they were at the Warped Tour. The new youth meandering from venue to venue must now think that all of Montrose is made up of faux Rastafarians and freak-folk neo-hippies. Considering the countless vendors selling pipes and jewelry under flags adorned with Bob Marley or Haile Selassie's face, they would make no other assumption. On Saturday, the Super Happy Fun Land stage in Mango's parking lot made clear that the venue is more of a collective of musical oddities and human curiosities than just another outlet for indie rock shows. There was a constant stream of strangeness, from the Tiny Tim-esque stylings of Poopy Lungstuffing to a spare performance-art piece featuring randomly masked people. For the uninitiated folks commuting the intersection of Westheimer and Taft on Saturday, Montrose had seemingly been taken over by puppet shows and paint-covered creatures using hula hoops. Mangos seemed to be ground zero for most of the hardcore and punk-rock goings on, from the aisle of street punks lined up on the side of the venue, some looking no older than 17. Our friends 10th Grade Cutie were seen all over the area with an array of suburban teen girls in tow. Blaine and Rex from the band seemed to be almost perma-drunk with flashes of coherence every few minutes or so. Freddie Gonorrhea & The Gunz put on a quick set of skuzzy garage business on the SHFL stage. They had opened for Surfer Blood a few weeks back; sadly we showed up late and missed them. Inside Mangos, Muhammadali continued their assault on Rocks Off's left eardrum. They have been playing louder and faster for the past month since the induction of Chris Ryan on drums. The two new songs they played seem to be tracking the same high decibel path. Rocks Off went on an unplanned two-hour sabbatical in his car early on Saturday evening before emerging like a phoenix to drink a Red Bull and eat two pieces of beef jerky. He remembers hearing Roky Moon & BOLT followed by Buxton while he was dozing, and was shattered awake by Golden Axe and a few buddies screaming at him to wake the hell up. It was our one and only printable Nick Nolte moment of the weekend, we suppose. The ticketed portion of Block Party started at Numbers around 8 p.m.. Black Congress played inside an eight-foot wide space upstairs at Numbers, with the band squeezed in on top of each other. Lead singer Bryan Jackson went headlong into the crowd whenever possible, and at one point a member of the staff saw the need to intervene awkwardly. Rocks Off has championed the band's all-star lineup before and they keep upping the game with gig to gig. BC is simply putting on one of the most harrowing shows in Houston right now and they are hella fun to photograph. Japanther set-up shop on the big stage inside Numbers, and the two-piece Brooklyn band brought their No Age-styled skronk with them. Every time we have seen them live they have played in a sea of sweaty kids, almost having to fight to hit the snare or guitar strings. With a crowd of Houston kids surrounding them, the band looked perfectly at home. How any of those kids could muster up more sweat after the dehydration Olympics of that afternoon, though, is beyond the realm of Rocks Off's understanding.