The only place the easy vibe was barely evident was onstage, where many of the acts we caught tore through energetic sets. Here are a handful that stood out at this year’s festivities:
It’s sometimes difficult to draw audiences to music festivals early, particularly when they’re planning on fest-ing late into the night. And, it’s tough being one of the first bands to play those opening time slots. Booking Mockingbird Brother to help kick off the event was inspired. The indie rock act is fronted by Chris Dunaway, one of Houston’s best-known and busiest musicians (Second Lovers, Devil Killing Moth, Phoebe, Giant Battle Monster, more), so slotting him early ensured many fans, friends and music types would be on hand to catch the set. We arrived late, but in time to see those folks gathered in appreciation of the act, which features Dunaway on vocals with support from Black Lodge’s Phillip Zimmerle and DKM’s Hector Oviedo. Listeners were rewarded with a robust set that left Dunaway drenched in late summer sweat. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
This Atlanta, Georgia trio sandwiched Houston between a Friday set in New Orleans and a Sunday show in Beaumont. This week, they’re zig-zagging back into Texas for gigs in Austin and elsewhere. They might have booked Houston on a more convenient night, but playing a festival with a built-in crowd was the right call, since they easily collected some new fans who happened upon them. The instrumental trio did the shortest sound check ever to keep the fest schedule on pace, then launched into a vibrant psyched-out set. Drummer Sarah Wilson peeled off her shoes and worked the pedals in the kind of knee-high athletic socks Larry Bird and Magic Johnson once favored. And like them, she was an all-star, pounding out a mighty backbeat for Brett Reagan’s guitars and keys and matching bassist Brandon Pittman’s frenetic stage presence. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Yes, indeed, this festival was strong on trios. But, we weren’t expecting JVS Reel to be one of those. Typically, this is a solo act, with gunslinger Jay Sauseda doing all the lifting. He was joined by Ganesha’s Ricky Dee on bass and Zenteno Band’s Miles Zenteno on drums, forming a sort of mini super group, the kind of stuff that makes festivals like this so unpredictable and fun. The guys must have realized they were booked in a coffee shop because they delivered a steamy set of rich, blues-rock goodness. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Houston’s best rapper by way of the West Coast – and just outright best rapper overall, depending on who you ask – did what he does best. He delivered a set of Swarovski-clear raps, culled largely from his new release Gotta Be a Lion, while being personal and engaging with a crowd that was a mix of devoted followers and newbies. Favorites like “Icicles” and “My God” had the crowd chanting along, including members of Jody Seabody and the Whirls, who were also on Yes, Indeed’s schedule. Midway through the set, Black asked the crowd if he could get a sip of water between songs and an impatient fan said, “No!”, which made Black smile and reply, “That’s a Houston crowd for you.” Without hesitation, the fan replied, “So long as you know,” which prompted laughter from all parties. The best part of watching him is hearing the thoughtful lyrics he pens and the perfect sound in Warehouse Live’s Greenroom enhanced that act. But Black’s stage presence and good-natured banter with audiences make him a can’t-miss live act. Don’t think he doesn’t appreciate you listeners, either. Near the end of the set he told the crowd, “This music shit is hard. If you bought a ticket to Yes, Indeed! and you’re in here, I fuck with ya.” JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
There's something inherently mysterious about the band Young Girls, beginning with the misleading name, then followed by the absolute tenderness and ferocity of their sound. The Tijerina brothers, Charlie on bass and Pete on lead guitar, allow their dreamy rock and roll to cascade freely from their instruments and vocal chords, a refreshing drop of life in a desert of uninspired Top 40 and mumble-rap trash. With drummer Nicholas Dudek keeping them in line, this band hits their audience with perfect, quick-strike tracks, sometimes as short as a minute and 30 seconds, as is the case with "By My Side." In response to a few couples and dudes in the crowd who felt it in their hearts to begin dancing, Pete replied "Oh wow, that's awesome, I love that!" He then continued with "I imagine myself at a dance in the 1950s and dancing like that. That's what rock and roll is about!" Amen, brother! Pete also kept asking the sound guy if they had time to do "just one more?", only to be surprised when they were informed that they could actually play for 20 more minutes, which is pretty much an eternity for this band (due to the shortness of their songs that I mentioned before). They played my favorite track, "Animals," before I had to head over to the next stage, although I left wishing I could keep Young Girls on repeat all night. MARCO TORRES
Since late last year, Muddy Belle vocalist and drummer Jerry Gonzales has been inviting me to sit in while his band recorded a new album, as well as reminding me of the band's shows around town. My response was always a sincere "I will try..." although life, work, and other factors have kept me from fulfilling that promise. Which is why, even though a long week of early mornings, sleepless nights, and a mountain of work, I joyfully accepted the assignment to cover the Yes, Indeed! music festival, primarily because I saw that Muddy Belle was on the bill. Walking into Ahh, Coffee! that night was like walking into a swamp — hot, humid, and foggy, in other words a perfect setting for Muddy Belle's brand of blues. They began with "Better Not Lie," a rolling, tough, and heartfelt track that instantly shook the crowd awake and hooked them into their steamy blues world of love, lust and heartbreak. The sound of the alto sax and trumpet complemented the rhythm section perfectly, highlighting the vocals and adding sweetness to the guttural soundtrack. When the heat became too much, I rolled outside and watched through the window, possibly the best "seat" in the house. As the lights of the nearby stadiums were reflected in the glass, I was able to capture the magic of Muddy Belle with my camera, and carry their sound through my eardrums and into my heart. It may have taken me a while, but I'm now firmly a fan of this amazingly talent called Muddy Belle. Thanks again, Jerry! MARCO TORRES
Night Drive may call their genre "Future Wave," but there's a lot of retro in their sound. I can easily hear the tracks as part of an 80's dance movie montage, or as the soundtrack to the Miami cocaine cowboys lifestyle. Whatever it may be, its easy to hear why the band was invited to perform at the second annual Day For Night festival coming up in December. With lights, fog, and a projector as their bandmates, the duo made fast, fun, and ferociously synthy dance music, moving the crowd to shake their tush and move a shoulder to the beat. The lead singer's voice was haunting, like hearing an echo in a cave, if that cave was also hosting a rave. What was even more mysterious was the seemingly telepathic communication between the two bandmates, as if they felt each other's thoughts without words or even eye contact. The night ranged cyclically from moody to fun, then back to mysterious. It was mesmerizing and amazing, and just what I needed to end my night. MARCO TORRES