Hometown Showdown Warehouse Live October 20th, 2007
Better than: When I was 11 years old and bumped into that black guy from the movie Nerds at the airport. (Which is to say it was pretty boss.)
Download: “Run, Go Get It” (Lower Life Form); “Wasteland” (Sounds Under Radio); “Swimming Stephen” (Without A Face); “Maria” (Cuervo); “El Cielo Cambio” (Yoko Mono); “Se Siente, Se Siente” (All In Your Face); “Move” (Monel)
6:45 p.m.: 15 minutes before the show starts, there are about 60 people here. It’s your typical fan recipe for a show like this; four parts early twentysomething pseudo hipster/ Hollistered local fans, two parts indie purists who’ll stand around in slim-fit jeans and say how mainstream and diluted each band is, and one-eighth late fortysomethings probably out celebrating wacky Karen’s 45th birthday.
7:01: I overhear an older gentlemen (complete in his older-gentleman-at-the-club outfit of light colored blue jeans, braided leather belt, tucked-in white long-sleeve button-up shirt and white Reebok running shoes) talking about his son, who is performing tonight. I butt into the conversation and find out his son is Monel lead singer Dillon Trimm. Papa Monel mentions how Dillon, a music major at Stephen F. Austin, has been working out and plans to ditch his shirt after the third or fourth song. I wish I was cool enough to plan taking my shirt off.
Sounds like: A quicker, more abrupt but less charming Coldplay
7:11: Monel starts their show. Dillon is consistent and rangy on vocals. The band has a solid, high-pitched, garage type of sound.
7:18: They transition nicely between quick, pulse-pounding erratic guitars to a bass- driven, almost hip-hop center, to melancholy raunch. Their fourth track, “Narcissist,” is the smooth, awkwardly sexy ballad that’s become somewhat required of young rock bands. Dillon has not yet performed his shirtless rock-star coup de grace.
7:24: There it is. The shirt is off. Nice work, Mr. Trimm.
7:34: Monel’s sixth song, “Believe,” features some dark repetitive guitar riffs that make for an eerie presence. Brian Ramirez, the bearded guitar naturalist, is starting to take over the show with his emphatic finger work and geeked-up sporadic body movement.
7:38: Monel closes the show with “Move,” a choppy, bluesy track I’d classify as catchy. (My concertmate is somewhat less charitable.) All in all, Monel is good start to the show. The hearty guitars and lurking drums make for a grungy sound that occasionally punches you in the chest.
Sounds Under Radio
Sounds like: A mix of Muse and Deathcab for Cutie.
7:45 p.m.: The Austin based quartet open their show with “Nobody Someone,” which begins with a continuous rising and dropping bell. The lights are dim and nobody is on stage yet, a little like when the WWE’s Undertaker makes his way to the ring.
7:46: Joining the anticipation-building bell, a primitive synthesized guitar signals the band to come out of a back room on onto stage. As soon as I see them come out of the back I know they are going to kick ass. How do I know? Because Lang (lead singer) and Bradley Oliver (guitarist/keys) are both wearing ties. Everyone knows you can judge a band’s awesomeness by how many ties they’re wearing.
7:49: All four of the members have a subtly imposing presence. Lang is meaningful on the vocals, Bradley is abusing his bass guitar in a manner similar to Orgy’s “Blue Monday.” Doug Wilson is the unassuming structure behind the show and Sonny Sanchez is relentlessly tribal on the drums.
7:53: I just realized Lang is also wearing a vest in addition to his tie. That’s like, a double dose of cool.
8:11: They’ve successfully adapted the Cars’ 1984 hit “Drive” into a combination of symphonic digital angst and badassery. Very cool. Bradley Oliver has moved over to the keys and is just as passionate as he was on the bass. I had never seen anybody actually rock their face off until today. Kudos, Mr. Oliver.
8:23: Each song Lang and his troupe of American Brit-rockers bellow out seems like a hit, so it’s easy to see why they’ve received so much positive press. Only about 75 people are here now, but they’re playing like it’s a sold-out show at the Verizon. The enthusiasm is as palpable as their gritty guitars and digital landscape.
Without A Face
Sounds like: Nickelback, Staind and Creed. Except the opposite.
8:40 p.m.: This fresh-faced college-rock band, complete with cheering moms section, has begun, throbbing away at their instruments with a clean, biting sound. It’s like a kick of retro-folk to your face.
8:43: A girl in the crowd is wearing a ridiculous black-and-white rayon dress and swooping hair. She looks like she just came from shooting a music video with Poison.
8:53: The lead singer is extremely entertaining. At one point he removes his shirt to expose his frail white body and angrily hollers into the mic, “Are you ready to rock, Chicago?!”
9:10: When Without a Face first started, I thought I was going to hate them. Remember that guy in high school that was real ugly but everybody liked him and you couldn’t figure out why until you hung out with him? That’s what this band is like.
9:15: Unfortunately, this is actually their last show together. That’s too bad, but it might work out. Their combination of indie-folk-grass, lighthearted, sweet guitars and bluesy bass lines is sneakily charismatic, but the vocalist is engaging enough to carry an acoustic show.
Sounds like: Kings of Leon wrapped around Alice in Chains
10:05 p.m.: The six-piece Spanish rock band, including trumpet and keys, has a coarse, urban feel and starts their night off strongly with the aggressive and unrefined (in a good way) “Talisman.”
10:09: They’re now blaring “El Jardin,” Spanish for “A Slippery Ninja.” Juan Campos’ trumpet adds a kick of culture to an otherwise assimilated sound. Cuervo’s progressive and experimental advertising is dead on as Diego (guitarist) and others persistently churn out rhythmically spirited chords and conga guided beats.
10:26: Old white lady + too much alcohol + Cuervo’s “Red Roses” = hilarious and awkward hip shaking. I love math.
Sounds like: Not quite metal and not quite “not quite metal.”
10:46 p.m.: Another primarily progressive Spanish band; very rhythmic and passionate. The congas work well with the singer’s easy delivery.
10:53: They’ve transformed into a darker version of their earlier selves. (Very Spanish ska at the moment.) Someone said they haven’t been playing together very long, but it doesn’t seem like it.
11:00: The bass has flowed smoothly throughout, which solidifies that fact that there’s nothing cooler than a goateed fat guy (in this case, Rozz Zamorano) playing the hell out of a bass. I wish I played the bass, but more importantly, I wish I was a goateed fat guy.
11:16: The guitars are much higher now, giving them a thin, piercing sound. They’ve fluidly continued their transformation and sound like a completely different band than they did 20 minutes ago.
All In Your Head
Sounds like: An equally entertaining, less versatile Yoko Mono.
11:35 p.m.: This eclectic Spanish rock group represents Houston’s population nicely: Their sound is a little bit of everything, pulled together by vocalist Hectoro Roel DelValle. The rhythm section is tangy and aggressive, complemented by an urban percussive sound.
11:47: My concertmate just told me some girls at the bar asked him why I was writing stuff down. He told them I said the music inspired me to write “mysterious, brooding poetry,” and they all had a great big laugh. Worst wingman ever.
11:59: A wide range of influences are evident, as the band sounds like country, pop, hip-hop, jazz and rock all at the same time. Lead guitarist Nelson Vanegas is particularly effective, traversing each different genre with ease.
Lower Life Form
Sounds like: A more impressive, Houston version of the Pharcyde
12:23 a.m.: The only hip-hop band of the night features a live band with sax, trumpet, drums and a keyboard that looks to have been made in 1943. This should be fun.
12:29: Eggy, the drummer, is killing it. Ish, like any talented DJ, guides the show impeccably.
12:35: Brew, a daytime cable man and nighttime MC, is a gifted lyricist. The cognitive dissonance of hating his daytime job but loving his nighttime job is evident in his flow, giving it a harsh, aggressive, confrontational delivery. PhD, Brew’s partner MC, offers a nice dichotomy with his extremely laid-back style. His complicated flow and layered rhyme scheme is littered with multis and punchlines that catch you off guard.
12:43: You know what would be dope? If there was some poor kid who always got picked on in school that just happened to call the cable company to finally get cable in his room the week before prom, and Brew showed up and took pity on him and taught him how to rap and then the kid ended up destroying the arrogant homecoming king Johnny McPerfect in a freestyle rap battle in the middle of the gymnasium at prom.
12:50: “Run, Go Get It,” a track about hustling, is dripping with funk like a Dolemite movie. This is the livest the crowd has been all night. Lower Life Form has obviously prepared hard for this show. They have segues from song to song and are extremely engaging.
Personal Bias: Several of the bands gave me things for free including, but not limited to, alcohol, t-shirts, CDs, and very thoughtful compliments about my perfectly tattered jeans.
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Random Detail: I had the following conversation with a female at the bar:
Me: Hey, how are ya?
Hot woman: [looks at me, then ignores me]
Me: Yeah, me neither. Um, I’m writing a review for the Houston Press.
Hot woman: [grabs her drink and walks away].
-- Shea Serrano