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Wild Moccasins, New Groups Shine at Walters' Third Anniversary

Walters Downtown's Third Anniversary Feat. Wild Moccasins, Rose Ette, Black Kite, DJ Flash Gordon Parks Walters Downtown December 26, 2014

Friday night at Walters was a festive occasion, as the venue celebrated its third birthday at its downtown location after moving away from its spot on Washington. The venue has had a rough year after losing founder Pam Robinson in October, but it was still a real treat to see three of Houston's more exciting bands play to a packed crowd.

Filled with three great Houston acts as well as birthday cake and lots of dancing, the evening had enough that most cynical hearts couldn't help but have a good time. Opening up and filling in between sets, local DJ Flash Gordon Parks kept the night funky, playing disco remixes of new singles by Pharrell and D'Angelo, while also throwing in hits from Santigold and MGMT to appeal to the predominately indie-leaning crowd.

First up was the stunning Black Kite, the fairly new collaborative project between LIMB's James Templeton and singer Vicki Lynn. Instantly commanding as she took the stage in a flowing white gown, Lynn hypnotized the crowd with her uneasy stare and powerful vocals. Over an electronic backing track filled with vocal loops, she sang with a force that recalled goth-leaning contemporaries such as Chelsea Wolfe or Zola Jesus. The duo's songs were grand, filled with dramatic flourishes and brought to life by Templeton's live drumming.

Whether by choice or necessity, electronic bands that are just starting off often have to rely mostly on pre-recorded instrumentation, so it was refreshing to see how Templeton's forceful drumming gave an already-good live set that extra push. Anchored by Lynn's performance, a master class of tension and release, Black Kite nearly stole the night. It should be exciting to see them grow as they evolve and work out a few of the kinks and timing issues.

Next up were delightfully catchy indie-poppers Rose Ette, a new group featuring members of hometown favorites Young Mammals. Although the group, who played their first show in August, had to deal with some unfortunate sound issues that sidelined the synths for the majority of their set, they handled it with poise and resiliency.

Led by the twin guitars/vocals of Terese Vicinaza and Mandy Clinton, Rose Ette powered through a brief set of punchy songs that captured the spirit of the twee-influenced power-pop that has experienced a resurgence in recent years in bands like the Dum Dum Girls or The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. While sounding familiar, though, the set was nonetheless fresh and exciting, and the crowd was having a good time.

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While the two opening bands were equally stellar, albeit with opposing styles, Wild Moccasins really brought things home with an energetic set that got the whole room dancing. The local favorites had a big year with the release of their acclaimed album 88 92, and headlining a packed Walters the night after Christmas felt like a bit of a victory lap -- capping out a great 2014 with one last dance party.

Singer Zahira Gutierrez took full command of the crowd, a diverse group that ranged from high-school kids accompanied by their parents to those in their thirties and forties. Even the room's psychedelic lighting added to the groovy celebration.

For the first half of the set, which drew heavily on 88 92, the band's disco-influenced dance-pop kept things lively as the crowd happily responded to Gutierrez's repeated commands to dance. Midway through, things really got going when the band brought out Aidan Kennedy of local dance-rockers Wrestlers to add percussion. That opened up the Moccasins' sound, as they extended their songs into dance jams reminiscent of '80s-inspired modern acts like Cut Copy or Hot Chip. Having more happening onstage added to the party as well, as the band's electrifying demeanor was entirely winning.

By the time the night began to wind down, not a single still person was left in the house. The final song interpolated some Donna Summer as Gutierrez jumped into the crowd for one final dance party, the band showing how making infectious dance-pop with an impressive set of live chops has made them Houston favorites.

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