HPMA Aftermath: MELOVINE, the Snake Charmers, LL Cooper, Peekaboo Theory and Buxton

It was hot as hell when the Houston Press music staff met up at the Flying Saucer ordering different shades of exotic beers and several different kinds of cheese. Bands were divided up between writers, and pretty much everyone got to go see the Tontons but us.

Aftermath has never seen metal in the afternoon before, so it was nice to have MELOVINE start the evening off with a first. After being sorely disappointed at the bar - is it legal to operate inside of Texas and not sell either Lone Star or Shiner? - we settled in with a plain, plebian Budweiser to watch MELOVINE. The Galveston band was aware of its handicap, starting so early on before the sun set, before anyone had had more than one drink, but they certainly gave it their all.

The band's energy was high as they tore into their set of alterna-metal, falling somewhere between Tool and He Is Legend... pretty radio-friendly, if radio still played metal. (No, screamo doesn't count. Stop it.) The audience grew throughout the set, many of them nodding along and cheering enthusiastically, which is about all you can expect at 5 in the afternoon. Overall, Melovine really made the best of an iffy situation.

With the audience as warmed up as they were going to get, the Snakecharmers started their set at nearly 6 p.m. on the dot, which is respectably professional. So, too, were the expert blues-rock riffs pouring effortlessly from the hands of the guitarist, who made it look so easy he might have been playing Guitar Hero. The singer's sultry alto and Hammond organ mixed into a harmony of good-natured sex appeal, and the rhythm section was tight and capable. The Snakecharmers were probably the most giving of the bands we saw, handing out a smoking Gladys Knight and the Pips cover as well as free temporary tattoos.

Maybe it's burnout from listening to so much of Sirius/XM's Outlaw Country station, but after a while, all the bands that label themselves "roots-rock" or "Americana" start blending together to us. LL Cooper was no exception. They weren't bad at all, strictly speaking. The songwriting was decent, the vocals were good and every player was more than capable. Even so, Aftermath couldn't stop thinking we were listening to Uncle Tupelo by way of Steve Earle by way of Reckless Kelly. Three degrees removed from originality, things get pretty bland.

Luckily, the next act satisfied our craving for originality. Peekaboo Theory took the stage in facepaint, launching into their set with confidence, even excitement. A beguiling indie musical style that seemed one minute a little TV On the Radio, the next minute a little Big Black, the next minute a little Living Colour, Peekaboo Theory are definitely their own singular entity, and helped improve our mood greatly from finding out the Foundation Room's open bar had shut down at 8 p.m. Lame. But Peekaboo Theory were great.

Catching the shuttle with six other revelers and heading over to Isis, Aftermath managed to arrive in time for Buxton's set. They were pretty much everything I would have been hoping to find in an act like LL Cooper; a fresh, innovative take on an often-stale genre.

Falling somewhere between Two Gallants and the Old 97's on the alt-country spectrum, Buxton held the attention of the crowd and encouraged audience participation better than any act we saw save perhaps Peekaboo Theory. Maybe it was just that time of night when everyone was finally starting to come alive, but we'd think it would have at least something to do with the band's appealing sincerity and unpretentious intelligence. It was a pleasure to end the night listening to them... while sipping an honest-to-God Shiner.

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John Seaborn Gray