Whip Him Good

Managing to alienate both bikers and PTA members really isn't as tough as it seems. Just wear a pink tutu, stand on a stage with your band, bang out garage punk and rant about any little thing that comes to mind. That's the modus operandi of Whipping Boy. He's the one in the tutu, moonlighting from his day job (which is actually a night shift) on a local commercial radio station to lead the band Gestapo Pussy Ranch. And believe it or not, the show has actually evolved from its beginnings as a performance art piece in San Francisco, when it was enough simply to stand up and rail about nothing and everything a la Karen Finley. When audiences in Denver, which was where Whipping Boy once landed post-San Fran, proved less welcoming to the Boy's Bay Area angst, however, he started toning it down. And now in Houston, we get Whipping Boy's just-for-fun version. It is, according to Whipping Boy himself, "like playing basketball in the park." Actually his show is, like, great music to drink and fall over laughing to.

Serious types need not show up. It's not that Jared (drums and on-air cohort), Brad (bass) and Jerry (guitar) can't point their instruments in the right directions, it's just that cheap entertainment is the stock-in-trade here. Whatever feels good goes. (Lex Mixer)

Whipping Boy opens for Faceplant on Saturday, December 18, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. For more information, call (713)862-7580.

Port Vale -- Port Vale is in motion. For starters, its lineup has changed. The two guitars and drums setup, a la the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, featured on the debut EP, Western Winds, has turned into a traditional three-piece ensemble, with bassist (Brett Shirley) and drummer (John Adams). Lance Walker remains the original lineup's constant as guitarist-vocalist.

For a band that has been together only about two months, its performances are amazingly solid. The live act seems to convey an excitement that's lacking on Western Winds. The pace is quicker and the bass warmer. Also, Walker's out-of-tune vocals, which get distracting on EP, take a backseat to the musicianship live.

Usually such whiny-guy vocals are completely forgivable when the music rocks, and on that point Port Vale delivers. The songs from Western Winds are full of punchy rhythms and catchy hooks. The bouncy "All the Able Postmen," "Pacific Palisades" and "North By North" are well-crafted indie pop, the kind that gets stuck in one's head for days and gives an audience a rise. "North By North" even offers a chorus chant any hardcore rapper would envy: "But the South Side sucks, yeah, the South Side sucks." Other tracks, such as "Over Broadway Commons" and "Those with Hands," are pensive. Overall, the EP reveals some pretty good stuff; how the band translates that material live should be worth a listen. Port Vale performs Saturday, December 18, at the Mausoleum, 411 Westheimer. For more information, call (713)526-4648. (Sande Chen)

Clay Farmer Band -- This young, hip country cat has developed quite a following round these parts, especially at the SideCar Pub and The Ale House, where he's a consistent draw. With a skilled band behind him, Farmer proves that solid country music can be both intelligent and fun without having to resort to selling its face to Revlon or its heart to Nashville radio execs. While his melodies are catchy and serious, it's his lyricism that's most appealing. It is sincere and hardly as self-referential as the stuff that dominates country radio today. His live shows are a hoot, too. (Anthony Mariani)

Clay Farmer Band performs Friday, December 17, at the SideCar Pub, 11202 Huffmeister. For more information, call (713)807-4040.

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