Last Night: The Gourds at Discovery Green

The Gourds Discovery Green June 14, 2012

I have lost count of how many Gourds shows I have seen over the years. I doubt I have seen any other band live more times than this one. But I never realized how much children loved the Gourds until Thursday at Discovery Green.

Man, these kids loved the Gourds. There must have been dozens of the little munchkins out there, dancing, sitting on the stage drumming, jumping up and down, and running back and forth just because they could. Catch them in the wrong light, and the gnarly-looking group might actually frighten children, but the Gourds won a lot of new fans among the Thomas the Tank Engine crowd Thursday. (Is that show still on the air?)

It's easy to see why: The Gourds' songs are fun, and almost never depressing. Their music is a crazy quilt of Cajun, Celtic, bluegrass, classic rock, country, and R&B (just to name some of the big ones) and every last one of the five of them is a skilled musician. They may look casual -- various members showed up to the gig Thursday in bare feet, shorts, beards, khakis and sneakers -- but there's nothing casual about the way they play.

Really they're a jam band, but some of them are friends of mine, so I won't call them that. But my buddy Lonesome Onry and Mean likened them to the Grateful Dead Thursday. Hippies with killer chops. Sounds about right.

Thursday the Gourds played a good long set, starting around 7:30 and ending just after 9 p.m. There was some new stuff from last year's Old Mad Joy, jaunty opener "You Must Not Know" and bassist Jimmy Smith doing his best Mick Jagger pout on "Drop What I'm Doing." They hit the Beatles, Stones and Bob Dylan circa "Like a Rolling Stone" by my watch, without explicitly covering them.

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They also played Gourds songs I hadn't heard in years, like "Jesus Christ (With Signs Following)," "El Paso" and "Pine Island Bayou," which ended up as a picking contest between singer and guitarist Kevin Russell on mandolin and Max Johnston on banjo. Several songs I have been hearing for years without ever bothering to learn their exact names showed up. The set list at right is no help (click the photo to enlarge), only full of bizarre code words like "Missin'," "TXMX" and "Suckle." (I got that one, "Burn the Honeyusuckle," another favorite.)

They can also be little cantankerous sometimes. One person was ready to hear the Gourds' famous Snoop Dogg cover, "Gin & Juice," a little sooner than the band wanted to play it. (Aggressive crowds are relatively rare in Houston, LOM pointed out.)

Russell shut that guy down, saying, "you gotta sit through these other songs first." He also engaged in some meaningful dialogue with the UH-Downtown gator mascot ("shake that gator booty"), and picked his teeth at one point.

They did finally get around to "Gin and Juice," after another one of my old favorites, "El Paso," and a "Werewolves of London" cover that gave the Warren Zevon howler even more of a bourbon Skynyrd kick than Kid Rock did. No offense to the Rock and Roll Jesus.

If that weren't enough, after they gave Snoop Dogg his due, the Gourds went into Waylon Jennings' "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" - it would have been the original Lonesome Onry and Mean's 75th birthday this week - ZZ Top's "Tush" and a little bit of "Cotton Eyed Joe" before they were done.

Nobody on all of Discovery Green yelled out "bull shit!" There was no reason to.

Personal Bias: I can't stand these guys. Jokes.

The Crowd: Besides all the kids, a few adults too. Big, big crowd.

Random Notebook Dump: I wish Discovery Green would do these shows all year round.

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