The sequel to January’s wildly successful “Hootenanny” cover night, “Twotenanny” is likewise a magnificent concept, but its execution Saturday night revealed a few minor flaws. If you were one of the five people in Houston who didn’t make the sweaty foray, it was ten of the city’s best bands posing as some of history’s favorite bands: Flowers to Hide as The Cure, Tody Castillo as Tom Petty, Paris Falls as Rush, American Sharks as The Cars, The Kimonos as Blondie, Welfare Mothers as Johnny Cash, Custom Drinker as Rod Stewart, Wild Moccasins as the B-52s, Sharks and Sailors as The Police and Buxton as Bjork.
My companion and I arrived with our favorites in mind: I wanted to see Blondie and the Police; she wanted to see Bjork and Johnny Cash. The Skyline Network, whose keeper Ryan “adr” Clark co-organized Twotenanny with Bright Men of Learning guitarist Ben Murphy, had been virtually freaking out about this show for a while, so I heeded its warnings and got there early. Thankfully, it wasn’t sold out and we arrived at the Mink’s Backroom to the breathy sounds of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass.”
The Kimonos as Blondie/photos by Alex Begley
Imitating Blondie is no small feat; attempting Debbie Harry’s high-pitched, octave-spanning, nearly-impossible-to-replicate voice takes balls. Upstairs, you couldn’t see where the voice was coming from, but it didn’t matter, because it was beautiful and almost a perfect substitute for Harry. The Kimonos’ Gina Miller was too tiny to be seen from the back of the crowd but she would be damned if that voice wasn’t going to hit everyone. Miller struggled a bit with “Atomic,” but really, who doesn’t?
Two things bothered me about the set. First, nobody was dancing. Movement at the front was minimal at best, and in the back, people were sitting down. There was no relief from the heat, either; even a spilled drink down the back of my shirt was welcome. Dancing at least makes a Bikram-style show like this bearable, because at least you're sweating for a reason.
We then dutifully filed downstairs to the closet-sized space for Custom Drinker’s take on Rod Stewart. I don’t believe in guilty-pleasure music, so I embrace Stewart and all his unfortunate hair choices with pride. I’ve heard Rod the Bod done several different ways - including an alt-country version in the basement of a college party - but never with the bluesy sadness Custom Drinker brought; it was “Maggie May” on barbiturates.
“Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” came with harmony plinked out on a keyboard by someone bashfully honest about not knowing how to play it. As we made our way back upstairs for Buxton’s Bjork set, I heard someone say that they’d never enjoyed Stewart so much - I guess there’s a little Rod for everyone.
If the previous set swallowed a handful of downers, then Buxton was Bjork on uppers. Usually, I’m not a fan of the Icelandic siren’s ambient sounds and screechy vocals, but Buxton sold me. Their version of “Pagan Poetry” was beautiful and ended with a trance-like “she loves him,” which takes on a totally different meaning when men are singing it to you.
Paris Falls as Rush
The downstairs room was too crowded to watch the next set, so we listened from the bar. The only problem was we couldn’t tell who it was or who they were trying to emulate. Despite being familiar with almost all of the featured music we couldn’t place the sound or the lyrics. Was it new wave? Was it punk rock? The Cars? We were later told it was Johnny Cash. Oh well.
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The band I was most excited to see was Wild Moccasins’ take on the B-52s. Fred Schneider’s affected vocals were toned down, the tempo was pumped up and the music was precise. It was the B-52’s like I’d never heard them before, and it was brilliant. The Moccasins took 20-year-old songs and made them fresh and new enough to be casually slipped into the spunky local indie-rock band’s normal set, with few people realizing the switch.
Wild Moccasins as the B-52's
The problem: the crowd’s low energy. There was some movement up near the stage, but the band was killing it and people were just standing there. You don’t go to a cover show to contemplate the sound, you go to hear the music you love at a price you can afford.
Not so, apparently. You can only blame the oppressive heat for so much. The bands were all so good at stepping out of their comfort zones it was bewildering to see so little crowd involvement. Can someone please explain this to me? – Alex Begley