Buxton packed them in upstairs at Fitzgerald's on Saturday night, playing the entirety of their brand-new, just-released LP, Nothing Here Seems Strange. Performing before an audience of family, scene mavens, new fans, old fans, people who had seen them playing house parties in the early '00s, and curious outsiders, the band made believers out of many and reaffirmed their might to everyone else.
All in all this past weekend was a great one for Houston music, with the new -- not on Washington -- Walter's, Fitz, Vinyl Junkie, and every venue in between boasting stellar bills. The night before on the same stage at Fitz, the Wild Moccasins and the Tontons made the walls sweat, with close to 700 strong in the building. Vocal Tontons cheerleader Bun B didn't make an appearance this time around.
Locals Featherface opened the night around 9 p.m., wowing people who weren't yet familiar with their scrappy sound, equal parts Lemonheads and Radiohead circa Amnesiac. The grunge-tinged crevices in their work -- plus Steve Wells' vocals -- push them up and away from your standard, hoary indie and into something soothing and different. Check out their cut "Foxing" from last year's It Comes Electric EP for a taste of what I mean.
Elsewhere on Buxton's bill, Austin's Marmalakes, who have mastered the soft-loud folk-rawk dynamic with jazz-wristed drummer Josh Halpern putting on a show himself in back. A lot of bands may be doing what Marmalakes are doing, but their secret weapon seems to be Halpern.
With Buxton playing Strange in it's entirety, it allowed them to unravel the album the way they intended, removing it from the context of a setlist and turning it into a solid chunk of music, with help from Two Star Symphony on the album's latter cuts.
It's not until you take a few solitary listens to the album -- like I did before Saturday's show -- that you begin to develop a personal rhythm with the material. Also, I couldn't help but notice a passing resemblance to the cinescapes of director Tim Burton in Strange. My first spins of the album, back when it was just a promo disc in my inbox, sounded muddy to me. Live, the sound gains clarity.
"Riverbed" may be my favorite cut on Strange, but the drama of album opener "Wolves And Owls" isn't far behind. A swell of happy went over the crowd for "Boy Of Nine" which is the quintessential Buxton song circa 2012. It's like a perfect trailer for their sound. Someone is in the dark about their sound, push play on that one.
After taking a spin through Strange, the band went into the gestating "Tarzan" and sentimental favorite "Feathers." Two covers, one of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down" and Paul McCartney and Wings' "Jet" could be telegraphing a future direction for the band, with unleashed guitarists Jason Willis and Austin Sepulvado doing sweet damage. Seriously, the sorta-towering Willis was doing evil things to his instrument.
This is a band currently playing inside the pocket with one another, with lead singer Sergio Trevino's fragile yelp, Haley Barnes' coo, Chris Wise's bass rumbling, and drummer Justin Terrell's clacking stomp snapping together like a delicate Swiss watch.
Let's see what happens next.
Personal Bias:Local boys.
The Crowd: The usual Houston indie-rock suspects, adventuresome new fans, and a whole lotta audible chit-chat during the quietest songs of the evening.
Overheard in the Crowd:The best quote of the evening came from Pegstar's Jagi Katial, goading the crowd into making more noise for a pre-encore Buxton, yelling from the stage "It doesn't get quiet for the best band from Houston since ZZ Top". Pretty strong words but...
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Random Notebook Dump: The somber tones in Buxton's palette are satisfying and hit the spot, but when these boys crank up the volume, with guitarist Willis putting on a rock clinic up front, they really shine. Just another tool in their repertoire. Buxton Set List
Setlist courtesy of Jay Dryden