B L A C K I E, Summer Blondes, The Tontons, Somosuno Mango's July 29, 2010
Aftermath had an inkling that we'd wind up at Mango's on Thursday as soon as we heard about the so-called "surprise show." For one, our love of music perpetually drags us out of our home, and when the lineup hit our inbox on Tuesday we did a double take.
After a last-minute decision and a whirlwind rush to the corner of Westheimer and Taft, we hopped out of the car, expecting to have missed Somosuno for the umpteenth time. (Seriously, we have had the worst luck when it comes to being present for one of their sets.) But even at 10:30 the show hadn't started, so we said a quick thanks to the powers that be and made our way around the crowd.
At 10:43 p.m., Somosuno finally began their set, and we dreaded the thought of when our head might actually touch the pillow. The five-piece crew onstage rippoed through an opener with so much movement within the music, but save for a few bobbing heads no one was dancing. As if on cue, frontman Fernando Alejandro quipped, "Y'all look confused. Just move. Feel it."
Giving his guitar a break, he headed into the crowd for the second song, quickly picked up and paraded around the support beams. Not three songs into the set, he had jumped into the crowd three times, and was soon dancing with someone. It was either his girlfriend, or he's the return of the mac.
Ten minutes into the set, Aftermath had a revelation: SOMOSUNO = Somos uno = We are one. Duh. We've only seen the band name for at least a year now. Give us a break, we had six years of French in school.
At a scant 19 minutes, the seven-song set came to a close. Fernando, whom we know as one of the most positive forces in this town, is definitely the embodiment of the energy that composes the band, but his mates are no slouches. It's as if they just crushed Santana into two-and-a-half minute bursts of intense "everyone should love each other" cumbia punk.
We ran into Tom Nguyen of The Tontons, who were up next, and he told to expect six songs, with at least one new tune on the list. During the set change we hit up the bar and chat with some of the hipsterati: Jaime reminded us that there's a house party Friday - tonight - where Weird Party, The Mahas and Davey Crockett, his new band with Jonny Patrick of GTRS/The Monocles, will be playing.
The Tontons took the stage and nearly everyone rushed inside, which made Mango's look around half full - a nice sight, given that this was a show announced all of two days prior. It turns out we prefer it when the vocals are audible, but the band pushed through "1816" amid technical difficulties. The problem was fixed and singer Asli Omar announced the next song, "Out Through The In Door": "For those of you that like Star Wars, you might get that."
Someone yelled, and she replied, "Hey, this guy! I don't know if I'd admit that in public."
After "Sea & Stars," the band debuted a brand-new song, called "Golden." It certainly seems to fit the standard Tontons groove - a bunch of rhythmic movement, jangly guitar and pretty darn catchy in general. We noticed some girl in the crowd blowing bubbles - but there were only ever two or three in the air at any given moment.
As the Tontons swung into "Leon," a few people in front begin their own form of drunken hip-shaking. They looked like Rocks Off feels after a bottle of red wine - man, is that a good feeling. Omar introduceed the final song, another new one entitled "Vietnam" - a sultry jam that sounded almost like something Sideshow Tramps would pen, but coated in her generous voice.
When it came time for Oakland's Summer Blondes to take the stage, Aftermath had no idea what to expect. Their opening number provideed a ridiculous amount of fretwork, and the front man was in the crowd, yelling his guts out backed by a pair of guitars, a bass and drums. Can we call it prog-pop? It sounded like Caddywhompus, with extra personnel and some screaming thrown in the mix.
Aside from the vocals, though, Summer Blondes' spastic pop didn't sound like it was accomplishing all that much more than what those former locals have created. After three songs and seriously regretting losing one earplug - how the hell do we only ever lose one, by the way? - we transfered to the back patio, where the tunes were still overwhelmingly loud. The set comes to an abrupt end after five or six songs, much faster than we'd expected.
We spotted Chris Shepherd of Catalan and Bryan Caswell of Reef in the crowd - let's just say that the two chefs are hard to miss amongst all the young hipsters, and we're a little surprised they were still there. Surely they came to catch The Tontons, right? Yes, but both were also pumped about B L A C K I E's set. Aftermath was a little stunned, and more than a bit intrigued to witness their reactions.
It was a quarter to one when Houston's grime-core rap maven launched into his encapsulating set. Most of the hipsters had left, leaving the crowd at half its peak size. B L A C K I E was unfazed, however - his performances have one level of intensity; without fail, he pours himself into the effort as if rocking the main stage of a festival for thousands.
With his singular, all-out velocity, he ripped through track after track: "That's Right," "Lou Dobbs On My Knob" and "Act Like You Know" before pausing to spit some between-song lyrics in exasperation. He was on the floor, repeating, "and they can't slow the Pharaoh, scared hoes, can't stop the rapture."
It feels like everything B L A C K I E says is larger than life, and before his next song he told us, "If you think it's 2010, you're wrong; we've been here tens of thousands of years. If you think it's a Thursday/Friday, whatever, you're wrong; this is the Dark Ages."
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Onstage, his whole persona was epic; his energy simply would not be denied. The crowd had been going ape, which is par for the course. He launched through "Look At You," "Who Protects Us From You," and "B L A C K I E... is Afghanistan." At the end of each track he seemed on the brink of collapse, at one point sprawled on the ground and yelling, "Spread love! I miss you! Spread love! It hurts! Spread love!"
The beat was over; this was just raw emotion.
Next came "Nothing Stopping," then "Dope & Doper" and its stone-cold lines "You ain't gotta like me/ it's alright dog, I don't like Nikes." When he finished up with the crusher "My Window," we turned to hear Shepherd saying, with an air of respect, "Passion is passion. We cook, and he performs."
We asked Caswell for his thoughts "I fucking love it, man. I'd put it in the [Little Big's] jukebox," he said. We said our goodbyes, exhausted, dripping in sweat and ready to put to rest another excellent night of Houston just being Houston.