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Last Night: Plump, and more, at Laylastock

Plump, Monk Swing Trio, Steven Reed, And What Army?, Not Left Alone, Groove Merchants August 25, 2007 Last Concert Café

Better Than: Your best hippie stereotype.

Download: Anything from here.

Two words: hula hoops. Amidst a lineup of local blues, funk and jam bands at the Last Concert Café, there was also a multi-ring circus of hula-hoopers displaying a wide range of skill. More on that later.

But first, an introduction to Laylastock. One year ago, a charming young woman named Layla Alfadel-Reed was tragically killed in a car accident, and to celebrate what would have been her 33rd birthday, friends Jennifer Vickers and Jennifer Vacca organized Saturday night’s concert, a scholarship at the University of St. Thomas and the ongoing New Year’s resolution type effort One for One Thousand. Laylastock became the concert’s umbrella title, both homage to and celebration of her life.

Kicking off the evening was the 1940s-inspired Monk Swing Trio. Widower Steven Reed followed with covers of his late wife’s favorite songs. And What Army?, featuring guest lead singer Meghan House, contributed an impressive (albeit slightly out of sync) “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Not Left Alone, a threesome of self-proclaimed “good ol’ church boys” came third with styles ranging from heavy-bass funk to up-tempo reggae. The guitarist and drummer then switched roles and became the Groove Merchants, aptly named in light of their ‘70s “wocka-wocka” guitar sound. Don’t act like you don’t know what that means.

And then…

Photos by Linda Leseman

Enter Hardcore Hula Girl. Midway through the Merchants’ set, an adventurous woman joined the audience hoopers and bested them all. Dancing while hooping and smoking a cigarette, never faltering or losing the beat, HHG gyrated with body parts that should have been unhoopable. It was mesmerizing.

Finally, around 12:30 a.m., headliners Plump took the stage and proved that, despite perhaps the longest sound check in recent history, they were worth waiting for. A jam band in the best sense of the word, these guys deserve every ounce of momentum that their reputation is steadily amassing.

Charismatic vocalist James Yarbrough’s stage posture was an odd, entertaining cross between Mick Jagger, the chicken dance and rejected moves from the Jackson 5. Every member of Plump is top-notch, and saxophonist Jason Jackson gets extra kudos for his astonishing solos. If he’s not the best sax player in Houston, the person who is must be on steroids.

Toward the end of the night, Vickers estimated Laylastock had raised approximately $3,000 for the UST scholarship, a total that didn’t reflect online contributions. It also did not include the bonus value of the free vegan cupcakes or the tribute “That’s Amore,” sung by the audience under the influence of helium balloons. -- Linda Leseman

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Critic’s Notebook

Personal Bias: Plump drummer Doug Payne was kind enough to grant me an interview for an upcoming Press article.

Random Detail: A lady in the audience had some nifty glow-ball yo-yo things.

By the Way: Plump’s upcoming album goes to print today, and they play Dan Electro’s Guitar Bar Friday.

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