Appleseed Cast Houston House of Creeps February 6, 2013
UPDATED: Due to a glitch in our publishing software, the second half of the review was not posted originally. The full review has now been restored -- ed.
We'll excuse you if you haven't heard of House of Creeps just yet. Despite heading into its third year holding shows, the DIY warehouse venue on the sleepy north end of downtown isn't quite on the city wide musical radar. Tucked off a side street in the same block that houses both Last Concert Cafe and Oxheart, the facade of the sprawling warehouse compound at 807 William is painted to mimic Van Gogh's Starry Night.
Much like the neighborhood around it, now home to a reloacted, re-invigorated and thriving Walters, House of Creeps' profile continues to rise. Building on success of large-scale events like the four-stage, 50-band Creeperfest event in November -- not to mention ongoing weekend parties featuring Houston bands like Wild Moccasins and Featherface as well as touring acts -- the venue has slowly built a steady, loyal fan base that packs the house by the hundreds at shows week in and week out.
House of Creeps has recently partnered with local promoters Treaty Oak Collective in an effort to bring in even more ambitious shows. The first such high-profile event came to town last night in the form of Kansas post-rock outfit Appleseed Cast. The intimate living room show was limited to just 50 tickets -- far smaller than a typical show -- and promptly sold out.
Houston was the halfway mark for Christopher Crisci and his bandmates' seven-stop living room tour. "After 13 plus years, this is the only way I can go out and do this," he said of the carefully planned micro-tour "I have a life, two kids at home, I got sports, all that stuff."
All the better for fans, as a small handful of dedicated followers got to see nearly 75 minutes of the band up close and personal. While most in attendance were clearly longtime fans, one girl I spoke with afterwards was new to Appleseed Cast.
"I liked that a lot. It was very dreamy even though it was so loud," she said
"They sounded to me a little like My Bloody Valentine or even Explosions in the Sky... is that right?" she questioned. "Like Rock-Gaze...Cocteau Twins if they had balls."
I think she hit the nail on the head in her musings. Crisci's processed and droned guitars are a study in controlling the moment. All at once crushing yet somber, a controlled anger was ever-present.
With "On Reflection" from 2001's Low Level Owls -- the band's atmospheric double-album opus -- jangly arrangements and chasing guitars called to mind that My Bloody Valentine reference despite the song's strong pop sensibility. I got the feeling that at some point the band would overpower the small room with their swelling sound,but that never happened.
They continued pulling from Owls with the softer, sweeping "Doors Lead to Questions" and "Steps and Numbers," both songs clocking in at nearly ten minutes of pushing-and-pulling guitar and bass. This was the band I'm most familiar with, and they seemed comfortable in these songs, Appleseed Cast at its height.
Reaching back to even earlier work, "Fishing the Sky" was less layered sound and more straightforward post-hardcore, and the small crowd was pushed forward, giving the band just inches of room past their rigs and assorted 12-packs of beer at their feet -- this was a BYOB venue, after all.
As I wandered through the kitchen and past the hot tub -- yes, there is a full-size hot tub tucked in the back corner of House of Creeps' massive, open kitchen -- and through the laundry room to find the bathroom, the band's sound carried through the entire house. It's as if the whole house was buzzing and heaving with the sounds, and felt almost like a 90's-era music video as I wandered through the long, low-slung hallway, shooting my own personal version of "1979."
When I returned, I parked myself off to the right, in front of Cresci, an imposing guy in his focused attention, sporting a full beard of black and gray; his dark eyes were pinned to his guitar. It was interesting to hear these songs filled with raw insecurity and brimming with yearning from someone so solemn-looking.
The band has brought newer material as well, as an album is forthcoming in 2013 and this tour may very well be functioning as a tune-up. Part of the reason for this nature of tour is "technical," said Crisci.
"We are taking too long between songs," he said after the show. "And a lot of that keyboard sounds different on the album, it's a full-size church organ sound." The mini-KORG keyboard he's brought functions just fine in this setting, but he wants a bigger setup for stage shows.
The band wrapped up the show after nearly 80 minutes, and the crowd milled through the house and around the porch, talking with the band here and there and asking for autographs. Out front, members of one Houston band asked bass player Nathan Whitman gear questions. The casual, intimate vibe with a band of this caliber is almost a bygone novelty; after all, living-room tours -- once seemingly a prerequisite for playing in a Midwestern post-hardcore outfit -- are a rarity these days.
After the crowd thinned out, the guys from Appleseed Cast wandered down Nance Street, where another crowd was spilling over. As luck would have it, there is another house just a block away -- taking cues from House of Creeps' success -- that was throwing its first show in the shadows of Walters, bringing in bands from as far away as Maine. Welcome to Houston's new music neighborhood.
Personal Bias: I found Appleseed Cast during my Texas is the Reason kick, but didn't re-discover Low Level Owls until criminally late.
The Crowd: Everyone here has at some point owned a cardigan.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Holy shit, are all those kegs full?" They weren't.
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Random Notebook Dump: I wish I had a gear geek to walk me through the 265 pedals and delays in this setup.