Furor To Frenzy: HPMAers Plump, Two Star, Tramps, Runaway Sun

[When last we left Nick Hall, he was dodging "mandannas" after some surprise Louvin Brothers from Robert Ellis and friends.]

Stepping out into the heat just long enough to see that Runaway Sun hasn't started up at the main stage, Aftermath dashes across Washington, dodging jitneys, for a funk bath courtesy of Plump. The air is electrified, and the packed house is clearly impressed.

It's no wonder. Like one long, bluesy rave-up, guitar and sax trade scorching licks while bass and drums lock it down. It's so tight, all the air seems squeezed out of the room. The resulting vacuum seems to have sucked Fedora over from The Drake; he's now shuffle- stepping appreciatively as the band lays it on thick. If this set is any indication of Plump's M.O., count us in.

Keeping with the one-and-done theme that tends to dominate Aftermath's HPMA Showcase experience, we head, yet again, out into the heat, intent on catching a few from Runaway Sun. The band is in full swing as we arrive, sounding great.

If the outdoor stage, sans shade, was a bad idea in general, the lineup so far is about as brilliant as you could get. Runaway Sun's gritty stomp matches the blistering sun in intensity, and has drawn a scattered but appreciative crowd. Some huddle under umbrellas, others cluster around the scattering of café tables, Budweiser beverages clasped in sweaty hands.

Sun front man Andrew Karnavas sweats right along with them, stomping across the stage and thrashing his guitar as the band churns. Lead guitarist Daniel de Luna is an absolute demon.

Into The Drake again for Two Star Symphony, whose show really makes us wish The Drake would do us a solid, and give these guys a weekly residency. Two Star sounds fantastic. The acoustics are perfect, taking the band's already full sound and allowing it to resonate into every corner of the cavernous space.

The group's darkly romantic style is a perfect fit for the bar's vaguely gothic styling. The two seem almost made for each-other. We're not the only one feeling it; this is one of the most obviously attentive crowds we've seen.

We stand transfixed through one original composition, then violist Debra Brown (we think) knocked our socks off with the announcement that the group would play a rare cover. Ministry's "Just One Fix." A Christmas present for Al Jourgensen, commissioned by his wife, naturally.

Sinewy, slinky, jarringly percussive, and totally perfect; when the song charges in like a stringed stampede, it makes you wonder if Jourgensen didn't actually write the song after hearing a time-traveling Two Star play it in defiance of all the spatial-temporal paradoxes you'll raise in objection to that notion. Also, that must be the most sinister damn marimba ever. Hands down, the best thing we've heard all day.

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Nicholas L. Hall is a husband and father who earns his keep playing a video game that controls the U.S. power grid. He also writes for the Houston Press about food, booze and music, in an attempt to keep the demons at bay. When he's not busy keeping your lights on, he can usually be found making various messes in the kitchen, with apologies to his wife.
Contact: Nicholas L. Hall