Indian Jewelry, Vockah Redu
August 28, 2015
It’s about time that we added “prolific” to the list of words used to describe Indian Jewelry in every review — right up near the top, next to “psychedelic noise” and “hypnotic tribalism.” For the last decade or so, the unsettling local troupe has delivered regular batches of pounding, anxiety-drenched soundscapes that eschew any hint of the good-vibes reassurance of their fellows in the Texas psych-rock scene. Indian Jewelry aims for something slightly more terrifying, and they’ve been pretty dang consistent about it over the years. The band releases its eighth album, Doing Easy, today and then heads off to Europe to promote it. Hope the Old World is ready for that.
Before hitting the road, of course, Indian Jewelry set up a show at Walters to give their loyal hometown pals a chance to sample the new material before it gets shipped overseas. The event was stylized as an advance listening party, replete with festive, black balloons everywhere and an endless DJ mix of pummeling industrial dance tracks. The bar was doing brisk business inside, but the real party was out back on the loading dock, where an intriguing mix of artsy hipsters and Walters regulars drank, smoked and chatted away in the relative quiet of an East Downtown evening.
It was a couple of hours until anyone hopped up onstage and grabbed a microphone. But when they did, holy shit! I don’t know how many in the crowd had heard of Vockah Redu before Friday night, but very few of us were prepared for the musical performance/twerk orgy he was about to conduct.
If you’ve never experienced New Orleans Bounce music in a live setting, your hip-hop education is woefully incomplete. On Friday, Vockah was happy to teach. The sinewy MC, appearing in studs, rags and a fly flannel cape, hit the stage like a bomb, instantly turning Walters into the crunkest spot in the Houston metro area by a number of degrees. It was pure overload: rapid-fire, shouted rhymes, ear-shattering bass assaults, and a more outrageous display of booty-popping than was previously available to my imagination. Slowly but surely, white asses began to move up and down, side to side.
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It was pretty hard to stay still. Sissy Bounce is pure energy, and the balloons were flying around the room as Vockah and his dancers busted out some nifty choreography that couldn’t help but spill off the stage. In the dense mix pouring out of the PA, I caught snatches of Linkin Park, Papa Roach and Beyonce, among others, before the MC slowed things down for an a cappella version of Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Nite.” The too-hip crowd sang along. I think we were a little afraid not to. Hey, these gentlemen were twerking upside down! They seemed capable of anything.
After Vockah and Cru danced right out the door (seriously), there was a sweaty, major-league buzz in the room. He may not be famous, but Vockah Redu is a star, leaving behind a peculiar energy in his wake. It was an energy that Indian Jewelry would take pleasure in subverting.
Far from the warm and virile presence of the Bounce act that preceded them, Indian Jewelry’s onstage act is hardly designed to draw the audience in. Lit only by blinding, oddly-timed strobes, the band’s set seemed built around almost as much visual noise as auditory. Now filled with flickering flashes and titanic slabs of distortion, it felt like a completely different stage had been installed in the club.
As IJ began their suite of new tunes, the crowd quietly filed back in from outside to soak in the music like the soundtrack to a strange dream. As a sequencer clicked and whirred behind the band, drummer Mary Sharpe banged away at her tom-toms, providing a hypnotic backbone on which the group’s guitarist hung great, shimmering sheets of distortion. Some people grooved, some watched silently, and some among us closed their eyes and tripped out as hard as they could to the ruined pop stylings.
Throughout the set, Tex Kerschen and Erika Thrasher traded off on guitar and vocals for spaced-out new tunes like “Turn it On Again” and “Riding Cars Talking Trash.” Everything was swimming in a deep ocean of reverb as the band did their damndest to create an altered state of being without the use of chemicals. There was a great deal of knob-twiddling going on among the group’s dedicated army of guitar pedals, I can assure you.
The effect could be disorienting at times; even off-putting. But it was also pretty fucking cool. Psychedelic noise-pop ain’t for everybody nor for all occasions, but where your third eye needs a good squeegee session, it doesn’t get much better than Indian Jewelry in Houston, Texas. If our buds in France and Germany don’t know that yet, they’re about to.
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Personal Bias: Tuned in and turned on.
The Crowd: Caucasian lovers of strange and wonderful music.
Overheard in the Crowd: “I think I’m gay now.”
Random Notebook Dump: Gotta say, Vockah and Indian Jewelry were a bizarrely inspired pairing. Kudos to whomever came up with that.