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HPMA Aftermath: Two Star Symphony, Literary Greats, Fat Tony, Black Math Experiment, Spain Colored Orange and Sideshow Tramps

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Two Star Symphony/photos by Brandon K. Hernsberger

Apparently Notsuoh was only expecting large women at Two Star Symphony's set, because strangely, that was the only size T-shirt available. But all was not lost for the other sized patrons who got to see this hugely symphonic string quartet's showcase-opening set.

Notsuoh is not a place typically kind to those who actually want to see a band play; it’s more a place to see and be seen - look at my new outfit, did you see the wicked parking space I got, etc - but Two Star Symphony had every person there transfixed. In what was at times operatically sullen (picture the end credits of a Kubrick movie) and other times honky-tonk and danceable, the four-piece mixed two violins, a viola and cello with unforgettable results.

Literary Greats

You’ve got to admire the courage of a band that a) flat out calls itself great (and presumably literary; does that mean smart?); and b) sings about itself in one song, telling us that they are, in fact, the Literary Greats. But that’s what the fairly good-sized crowd - who were, for the most part, pretty apathetic about the whole thing - got at Havana.

In what I suppose should be called something like ‘Texas indie,’ (kind of countrified, kind of folky, kind of alternativey), this four-piece with very well-groomed beards did about half its show acoustic, half more electric, but what stood out the entire time was the drumming. It was loud, on-point, and by the end, it got at least a few people dancing. The only thing missing was some kind of interaction with the crowd something I can only hope the Greats will pick up along the way.

Fat Tony (right) and friend

Houston is nothing if not a hip-hop-loving town, and that fact was entirely evident at Dean’s when Fat Tony took the stage. The jam-packed clothing store (?) was full of dancers and drinkers with a purpose: fun. I imagine it’s somewhat difficult to succeed in this town as an “underground” hip-hop artist, what with the litany of “mainstream” acts popping up seemingly every other day, but Fat Tony has carved out a niche that will keep audiences coming for years.

He's amazingly interactive with his fans - it seems as if he can carry on a conversation with the crowd while at the same time never missing a beat. And he's in complete control of the show, dictating how and when the audience should dance, which songs are to be played at precisely what time (he stopped the sound guy midstream at one point to take a sip of water), and where exactly on stage his crew would look best standing. His set was definitely a highlight of the day for everyone there.

Black Math Experiment

The Press sure got it right with Black Math Experiment. How in the world does one go about classifying this band? (The best classification I heard was “cheese rock.”). Is it a joke band, or are they for real? I’m not sure, and this show gave me no answers.

The group sang, “This is a square, it’s a four sided shape, in the middle of the square is a circle; in the middle of the circle is a triangle, and in the middle of that is the power of God.” I have no idea what that means, but I guess they’re singing about geometry. The very good-sized crowd was, while having what looked to be a good time - tons of dancing and some lighters in the air a la a Gn'R concert when that band finally plays “November Rain” - looked a little confused about what exactly they were witnessing.

Black Math covered “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails, but sounded like Primus. Then we got some kind of spoken-word-poetry song that talked a lot about Jesus. It was good. And bizarre.

Spain Colored Orange

Spain Colored Orange has entrenched itself as one of the staples on the local indie scene; the crowds it draws, regardless of the venue, seem to be devoted to helping SCO grow into more than just a Houston band. It was no different at Havana on Sunday as scores of fans packed themselves right up to the front of the (I guess you could call it a) stage, many of them equipped with knowledge of every single word to every single song.

And as it always is with Spain Colored Orange, the trumpet was the thing. Those beeps and those honks reel you in and make you feel like you have to dance. It was a great show, full of genre-crossing songs - you could just as easily classify these guys as best crossover jazz band or best part-time jam band as best indie rock - that had one girl in the crowd uttering, “Man, I’m glad these guys are from Houston.”

Sideshow Tramps

What can you say about Sideshow Tramps? It's an amazing live band with a huge following, and gets nominated for scores of awards every single year. And deserves it. Note to the nominating committee: next year, maybe we can give the group an award for “Band most likely to get dozens of people to dance on chairs and/or the bar.” These guys would win it going away.

The Tramps are a testament to why the Houston music scene is getting bigger and bigger, and never seem to get tired of doing what they do. But what do they do, you ask? Straight bring the funk, man. In what was I can only assume a deliberate attempt by the schedulers to leave all showcase-goers happy, the Tramps entertained the huge, raucous Flying Saucer crowd with their one-of-a-kind mixture of honky-tonk, country, rock, hillbilly and blues. Prediction: they win it all. - Brandon K. Hernsberger

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