UPDATED (Monday, 11:50 a.m.) to reflect proper Wicked Poseur personnel.
The Wiggins, Wicked Poseur, Fiskadoro, Hearts of Animals Walters Houston September 28, 2012
Four local acts, zero drummers. That was the promise of Friday night's show at Walters headlined by the Wiggins. If that sounds like a tough sell in Houston's peculiar rock landscape, take it from me: Once those guitars and sequencers get cranked up to 11, the live kick drums and crash cymbals aren't missed much.
Despite the billowing waves of distortion and a dash of techno pumped out on Friday, the musicians on display didn't fit neatly into any of the recognizable rock or dance genres that allow us fans to dismiss a bunch of music without ever hearing it.
All the night's performers might best be described as Art Rock. -- each was propelled by musical expression unbound by pop conventions or commercial concerns. It's just that, well, most art-rock isn't this loud, I don't think.
Notably, the show started off on a comparatively quieter note as Hearts of Animals' Mlee Marie Suprean took the stage. I'd seen her perform this spring for the record release show for Linus Pauling Quartet's excellent new album, Bag of Hammers, and once again I was struck by how Suprean's music sounded to me like the gentlest and most feminine grunge ever written.
Her voice drifted atop the electric currents of her guitar and backing tracks like a daisy tossed into the creek. A small crowd of early birds gathered around her campfire-style, soaking up the sweetly sung folk songs of a people and place that only exist inside of Suprean.
Things took a darker turn next as Fiskadoro plugged in. From bandleader Richard Kimball's all-black attire to the band's strange synth lines and upsetting news samples describing the American Nazi Party, the more unsettling aspects of the group's sound and image stood out in sharp relief after Hearts of Animals' set.
Kimball moaned repeated lyrics over grim techno beats as the band cranked up. The weird keys and guitar sounds coming out of the group's amps melded with the ultra-wet vocals in the first half of the performance to produce a rather unpleasant, dystopian racket that bounced madly off the brick walls of the old building.
The heavy fog of doom did lift a bit at the end of the set, as Fiskadoro intro'd their final song with some warm island riddims that segued nicely into a distressed dance-pop beat that reminded me of a well-loved, worn-out old Madonna cassette. It was highly tantalizing, especially after the more agonized beginning of their set.
It was the perfect lead-in to local New Wavers Wicked Poseur. Energy was high as the guitar duo of Arthur Bates and
Christopher Cascio Cley Miller riffed out danceable guitar lines over sequenced, Thriller-esque beats. All of a sudden, my toes were tapping, and as I looked around, I realized that the crowd had quietly tripled in size.
The two guitarists seemed to share a deep musical bond onstage. They played much of the set facing one another. Maybe they were just afraid of getting lost in the oceans of reverb they were pumping out, but they sure were smiling a lot. It was fun to watch them cooperate and compete with each other simultaneously. Lots of nice wailing underpinned by Joy Division-like vocals.
I can't say I knew much about the Wiggins, Friday's headliner, going into the show, but it's hard not to be intrigued by a performer who declares that "rock and roll is castrated." Clearly, Jon Read is a man with a knack for visual imagery.
Indeed, the singer/guitarist did cut a striking figure onstage, veiled behind a big pair of shades and a contemptuous sneer. A shifting, psychotropic light show bathed him in strange patterns of colored light as he deployed apocalyptic batteries of distortion.
Loud, punishing garage guitar lines were rained down upon hard 'n nasty dance beats that sounded as if they'd been sampled from Lars Ulrich's St. Anger drum kit. It was a caustic, destroyed version of rock and roll that sounded psychedelic and psychotic in equal measure. It got loud in there.
A couple of enthusiastic fans broke out some deathrock dance moves I'd never previously seen outside of Numbers. As I began bobbing my head a little, too, I realized I was glad I'd come. The Wiggins blasted the rest of the crowd with his auditory discontent, and it felt pretty good.
Read seemed almost to croon at times as he spat out vocals vaguely reminiscent of Liam Gallagher at his most megalomaniacal.
The set was a celebration of the release of the Wiggins' new record, The Myth of Man. If you're in the market for some quality weird local stuff, make a point to pick it up. It takes a special vision to produce sounds that make you enjoy scowling while you dance.
Personal Bias: The Wiggins drove me to whiskey, and I wasn't upset about it.
The Crowd: Pretty sparse.
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Overheard In the Crowd: "Go to the flashing monkey."
Random Notebook Dump: The new Walters bathrooms are so clean, I actually saw a couple guys wash their hands in there Friday night.