At a recent gig at House of J, the upstart band Critical Condition had to begin its set without one of its members. The bedevilment of unexpected Houston traffic struck while this musician was en route to the house show. As he fretted in a sea of cars, his bandmates kept cool, which is no small feat at House of J, where Houston’s most rabid music fans cram into close quarters to sweat out their beers while moshing to local and touring acts.
The band stalled a bit. Passing the time with a crowd which had already lathered up to other bands on the bill might have been daunting for some new acts. But “new” doesn’t mean inexperienced. In Critical Condition’s case, the hardcore/fastcore act boasts some Houston music scene veterans, musicians who are very practiced at all the things that can go exceedingly well or frustratingly wrong at any gig.
Instead of losing the audience during the wait, we watched more people trickle in from the house’s outdoor patio for the set. Lead vocalist Kevin Feagins II paced the room on the mike, amping the crowd up like a motivational speaker, luring them in with his excitement for the set. The band launched into a few songs and its missing member arrived in time to join the manic fun. Critical Condition gained some new fans that night, mostly because of its musicianship, but also because it knew what to do when conditions got, (wait for it), critical.
The band is taking that savvy and its rapid-fire music on the road this week for the first time. The tour kicks off tonight at The White Swan Live and will hit Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans before all is said and done.
Guitarist Dave Tama and drummer Daniel Rideaux started the band together a year ago this month.
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“Daniel and I decided to start jamming last October after being in past musical projects together. We wanted to get back to our punk roots and eventually decided to start leaning more towards hardcore/fastcore because I love the intensity and quick changes of the fastcore subgenre,” Tama explained. “We were in the powerviolence/grind band DDA in the early stages of it, and he also had a run on drums with the now-defunct punk band The Drafted. Then we decided to recruit Kevin as a front man because of his passion for the local music scene, his natural charisma and the energy he brings to the table. Josh from The Real McCoys, Pajama Party, Atom Assassin and others was the last to join and he does all the recordings for the band.
“The band name came after we had been jamming for a few months and Pedro from H-town's own El Desmadre was at a practice and came up with Critical Condition and we decided to use it 'cause it suits the sound.”
The sound – which can be found on DEMO ’19 and a new split with Houston hardcore act Social Static – is thrashcore, a mix of quick-punching punk with a grind-it-out metal ethos. Feagins has taken the lead on networking with similar acts.
“Well, Critical Condition really tries to intermingle with all varieties of fans and music styles, so usually we either book the shows ourselves through either my personal booking name, ‘The Reverend Presents,...' or through plenty of our other promoting friends, as Dave also books shows as well. On lineups I specifically book, I make every show free, no question, the little extra money I have to pay out of my pocket is worth the experience of an extra ten or so people to come out and experience something they may have never experienced before, or in 30 years, as some elders have told me.
“We have booked a lot of acts I would call great,” he continued. “(San Antonio’s) Nothing Lost was my first band to bring to Houston and they did it with great anticipation! Great sets, great people! Also shout out to God Shell, Earth Again and Reinforce, just to name some of the touring acts who came and played, without me paying I might add!”
If Feagins sounds excited, that appears to be his natural state. His energy in the live show seems boundless. It’s all part of his enthusiasm for the project, which includes a split which dropped just days ago.
“Our recent split was a collaboration with young Houston hard-hitters Social Static, and I couldn't say anything more than I love each of the members personally and musically. I forgot how we found them, but I stayed in contact and made sure to pursue a friendship with them and now we have a split EP out together. Magic is really the only way I can explain that. Shout out to Joey Boonum for being the main connection line for that band, please go look them up, super young talent on the rise!”
All that enthusiasm and band love can really get tested on the road, where audiences and venues are unfamiliar and logged miles can get tiring. Bassist Josh Raught said there’s a very simple and important remedy to these potential snags.
“The best part of a multi-state tour is the food. I think the food we're most looking forward to is some deep dish pizza because we are simple folk,” said Raught, whose various projects over the years have earned him a slice or two in some far-off places. “We are all in one van, yes, and we take turns driving, but probably a lot of the time Josh and Dave will drive. I'd have to say Kevin is technically the least prepared because it’s his first tour.”
Rideaux said if something unexpected arises, they’ll pull together the way they did that night at House of J. He said they’ve been able to stay the course they charted when Critical Condition kicked off a year ago.
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“I’m very happy with all of the progress we’ve made in this short amount of time. We have some new songs we’ve been working on and plan to record after tour for a possible split coming up with the Houston legends UYUS,” Rideaux said. “Also, we would like to shoot a music video to send to SoulTone Cymbals as they have become a new sponsor and after this tour hopefully a full endorsement deal will be in the works. After the tour our next Houston show will be the first Feagins Fest on Nov. 9 at The White Swan Live, then the next show we have will be on December 6 at House of J with Your Disorder, Social Static, Boarder Patrol and Strays.”
No matter where the band plays, it has one goal, a single objective.
“What we wanna accomplish is to play so damn well people shoot poop noodles out of their ears at the very vibrations we emit in between songs and also solve homelessness and world hunger with our amps and loud screams, but also maybe make some cool jokes about sweet pickles and cats because they don't deserve to be offended,” Raught said. “All we wanna say about tour is, if you ever wanna fart but you aren't totally sure, do it anyway because it's better to shart than hold it in and get colon cancer and just wish you sharted later when you regret it.”
Critical Condition kicks off its first ever tour Friday at The White Swan Live, 4419 Navigation. With Teh Failz, Toxic Origin and Pigeye. The Live and Loud Productions show begins at 8 p.m.$8.