Thursday Night: Umbrella Man at the Big Top

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Umbrella Man The Big Top April 3

Better Than: Jambalaya con carne with a side order of salty buttered grits.

Last week, after a three-week hiatus, Umbrella Man returned to their steadily more popular Thursday night residency at the Big Top. Fronted by former Los Skarnales upright bassist Nick Gaitan, the band sports a shifting line-up, on this night consisting of Geoffrey “Uncle Tick” Muller on banjo and guitar, a second guitarist, accordionist Robert Rodriguez, drummer Beans Wheeler and Gaitan.

Gaitan, who also tours backing Billy Joe Shaver, turns out to have a better than serviceable baritone voice on numbers like the swamp pop anthem “Matilda.” The band flips effortlessly through H-Town’s indigenous traditional sounds; Gaitan’s swamp pop was followed up by a Rodriguez mini-set of conjunto that took me straight to San Antonio in my mind. (One of the songs sounded like but wasn’t Santiago Jimenez Sr’s “Ay te Dejo en San Antonio.”) The band then shifted into blues mode with “Rock Me Baby,” punctuated by a killer banjo solo from Muller, and then moved on to a selection of rollin’ bluegrass thunder and then to the bluesy honky-tonk of Hank Sr’s “Mind Your Own Business.”

The crowd, light at first, picked up as the night wore on, and by the end of the first set, a little knot of dancers was cutting a rug stage right.

Umbrella Man are an iPod band for an iPod world, a mélange of everything that makes the Gulf Coast different from everywhere else.

As if to make up for their time away, Umbrella Man plays three shows this week: tonight at nine at the Continental, Thursday at the Big Top, and Friday night after Alejandro Escovedo over at the Continental. – John Nova Lomax

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