Cassette Tape at House of Blues, 3/8/2014

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Cassette Tape, Mama Tried, Idiginis, Alvin and the Slickpunks House of Blues Bronze Peacock Room March 8, 2014

The streets of downtown Houston may have been cold and wet on Saturday night, but the Bronze Peacock Room at House of Blues was as warm and pleasant as an island breeze thanks to the irie riddims of Cassette Tape and pals. After honing their improvisational skills in Galveston's surf-side sports bars and emigrating their semi-psychedelic sound to the Mainland, the band has risen to the very top of its own little reggae-rock scene in the area. On Saturday, their growing cult of fans turned out in numbers to hoist Cassette Tape aloft on a lapping tide of good vibes as the band celebrated the release of a new self-titled EP.

It was something of a homecoming for the group, too. Cassette Tape co-founders Matt Cash and Louis Morales did a stint at the house band at the HOB restaurant before assembling the mighty rhythm section that now keeps crowds grooving from the Beltway to the beach. What better place, then, to kick off the group's first tour than at the Houston venue where their sound was assembled, skank by skank?

Of course, it ain't really a party unless your friends show up. To that end, Cassette Tape invited along some of their rasta-fried bredren to help spark things up early. First up were Brazoria County's Alvin and the Slickpunks, who mixed some gnarly, driving skate-punk passages into their sunnier, Sublime-style reggae-rock. Houston's Idiginis followed that up with a richer, gentler and more traditional reggae sound, buoyed by melodic horns and keys. Dredded-out hippies near the front of the stage grooved along happily as a wizened Rastafarian kept time on a small hand drum.

Reggae was only one of a number of musical styles tossed into a blender by the next group to perform, Galveston's Mama Tried. The all-acoustic sextet strummed up a major ruckus on their banjos, dobros and mandolins, fusing together reggae, bluegrass and country with the energy of punk rock. A rowdy contingent of friends and family were soon clappin' and dancin' (and smokin') up a storm in front as the band shredded their collection of hollow-bodies.

"Whoever's smoking weed near the stage, thank you!" exclaimed drummer Steven Redman. "It won't be much longer that you have to hide that."

Though the crowd filling up the Bronze Peacock may have looked (and smelled) a bit like a cannabis legalization rally at times, it was most definitely Cassette Tape that had them fired up. Crucially loose as the clock passed 11, fans began to hoot and holler even as the Tapesters were setting up.

As the band cranked up at last, propelled along by Morales' ska-stroking, bodies started to move from the front of the house to the back. Cash's spacey, soulful guitar competed for space in the increasingly sticky air with big clouds of dopesmoke as cute young ladies were hoisted up and crowd-surfed from the stage to the bar. The atmosphere in the club crackled with energy as Cassette Tape and their fans worked hard to lift one another on to a new, ecstatic wavelength.

Review continues on the next page.

The band's pounding drums and slick skanks were received with an uncommon fervor on Saturday night -- the kind of reaction that points to Cassette Tape heading towards some kind of breakout success in the very near future. A slinky, spliffy cover of Blackstreet's "No Diggity" had the crowded room in a deep, happy groove before a showy djembe solo by percussionist David "4" Rios bowled them over. By the time the audience was blasted with confetti canons during set-closer "World of Shame," fans were literally jumping for joy, and the band appeared to be practically levitating with glee themselves.

There are plenty of hipper groups in Houston, and maybe a few groovier ones, too. But Saturday night's electric record release/tour kickoff show proved conclusively that Cassette Tape has grown too hot to ignore. Their chops are tight and their sound is spreading. Reggae-rock skeptics should be advised to get onboard or get out of the way, because summer is coming -- and the sun always shines brightest down at the beach.

Personal Bias: I and I was just a tourist.

The Crowd: Juiced-up, happy and movin'.

Overheard In the Crowd: "Dang, your hair got long!"

Random Notebook Dump: Brrrap brrap brrap!


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