Last Night: Buxton & The Tontons at Discovery Green

Buxton, the Tontons Discovery Green May 24, 2012

I was pretty proud of myself Thursday night: I managed to kill three birds with one stone. I'd never seen local darlings Buxton or the Tontons live before, and I'd never been to a concert at Discovery Green, either. Thanks to UH-Downtown's Thursday Concerts series at the park, I was able to scratch all three at once off of the lengthy to-do list that I've been etching into my steering wheel at red lights.

Conveniently, it couldn't have been a more gorgeous evening for free live music outdoors. There was a strong, persistent breeze howling through downtown that seemed to threaten thunderstorms, but the fast-moving clouds overhead didn't do anything but provide some picturesque matting behind the skyscrapers.

The Tontons' set had just begun as I was walking up. They're a tricky band to review because their style is so hard to pin down. It's kind of a jazzy take on acid rock with indie sensibilities. The first song I heard was "Sea and Stars" from the band's 2008 EP of the same name. Adam Martinez's languid guitar line and singer Asli Omar's breathy vocals recalled a lot of good old music, none of which it was possible to put my finger on. It was an intriguing introduction, to say the least.

I wasn't alone in making the Tontons' acquaintance for the first time. The crowd on the hill, mostly young parents with small kids and middle-aged couple on date night, showed few flickers of recognition as the band pleasantly chugged its way through "Bones 1."

Still, everyone appeared to be impressed enough by what they were seeing and hearing. It was a little hard not to be --The Tontons were flanked by tall, gleaming buildings as the sun began to set. It was as if all downtown had become a stage. The wind patterns across the park created strange ripples in the soundwaves coming out of the PA, adding an extra layer of shimmering psychedelia.

The strongest portion of the Tontons' set was a three-song suite from the group's Golden EP. That record's title track was my favorite of the evening, with Justin Martinez's hi-hat powering the song along at a fun, upbeat pace. "So Young" was possibly the Tontons' jazziest selection, and "Never Never" sounded like an oldies ballad infused with a little Motown soul.

As the band played, the crowd continued to fill in. One concert-goer who was tough to miss was a hulking white man with a Morrissey haircut wearing a gigantic green recycling-symbol t-shirt. None of these elements made sense together. Thanks to Twitter, I discovered that this smiling gentleman was Houston Texans linebacker Connor Barwin. Cool.

The Tontons debuted a new song for the rest of us Texans that featured a nice, echoing guitar solo from Adam Martinez and some slithering dance moves from Omar.

"All these girls drive you mad!" she cooed. At least, I think she did.

Before closing with "Leon," Omar promised more new songs at Free Press Summer Fest. Righteous.

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Nathan Smith
Contact: Nathan Smith