The Houston Music Blog section of the Free Press Houston.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Music with Jameson & Lone Star: Part II - Sharks and Sailors, Ume, & The Jonx @ Walter's 01 August 2008

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:02 AM

My pulling up to Walter's couldn't have been less graceful. Upon exiting my car, my cellphone fell out of my pocket and right into the gutter. Thankfully, Team Science mastermind Aaron Danger and Amy's Ice Cream slinger Peter Lee were able to rescue my cell phone with a tire wrench and a discarded fountain drink cup. Coolness! If I loved the Team Science label before now I really really love it! Thanks Guys.

Inside, The Jonx were just about to launch into their set which was par for the course of a Jonx set. For those of you not familiar with this band, it's a trio that combines sharp proggy skills with a punk energy and droll melodic lines. It's a great combination and one that always kills. Much like everyone playing on Friday, what you had was sharp players employing their skills to deadly efficiency. I suffered a worse mix by being at the front of the stage than a few feet back where I could hear the room mix but it's too much of a kick to see Trey's bass runs, Stuart's guitar work, and Danny's drum assault up-close. Closing with Highway at Night was particularly smart as you got a full helping of the fat bass, the post punk guitars and the unrelenting drums pulsing around one groove to great effect. Right afterwards some joe I'd never seen before at the bar was commenting to his friend, "Hey you having a good time? Yeah, I guess I picked a good night. That was pretty good not like that band the Guilloteens I saw at Christmas. They just broke their instruments. That was their talent breaking shit. What kind of kiddie crap is that?" This discussion was hilarious as across the way on the other side of the bar was the FFG's own Roy Mata. Ha Ha Roy, you suck!*

Ume also falls into the category of bands whom I've seen doing what they do so well and without equal for so long now that it's easy to take their brilliance for granted. Lauren and Eric told me that the finishing touches are being put on their new album which is great to hear. The newer material they play live has some lovely pop hooks without sacrificing the elements that made this band so mind blowing on their first release so bring it on. So what did you get if you saw them Friday? On the drums, a straight and powerful beat from Jeff and, on the bass, Eric swaying away as he held down the melodic bottom and then there was Lauren. I think every time I see this band I have to go on about Lauren's incomparable marriage of impeccable technique and jaw dropping performance. It's really easy to mock performance as a distraction from the music but Lauren's thrashing and posturing never feels put-on and act as a focal point for the music's energy. Let's face it - it looks cool as shit but it also never detracts from her guitar playing which is as impressive for its skill and ingenuity as it is for running the gamut of melodic hooks and pure wild-abandon noise. I put her up there as one of my favorite guitarists. Cody Swann of the Wild Moccasins, someone who'd never seen Ume before, said that it made him want to reevaluate what he does. Yeah, that was my initial reaction too.

Last but not least, closing the trio of trios, was Sharks and Sailors who were celebrating their new album Builds Brand New. Like everyone else here, Sharks and Sailors are a band whose skills I think are top-notch as musicians and writers who can deliver the goods with seeming ease. The nice thing about Sharks and Sailors is how they've evolved over the years and brought along a lot more space into their songs and incorporated a fresh melodic sense with the addition of Melissa on lead vocals. The new album doesn't pull any punches when they get brutal on the show-stopping heavy Rickshaw but it also takes time to get a little spacey with a song like Condor. Friday's performance ran that gamut with grace and skill by taking a mathematical aesthetic and backing it up with power and emotion. Mike's guitar playing is sonic goodness, Melissa's bass always has this wonderful fat tone that fills the room, and Phil's drumming can be powerful and brutal but he knows how to hold back and not overplay when the song calls for it. With each person bringing their unique talents to the whole, they are the A-Team band. Hmm, lemme see, that would make Mike Hannibal, Melissa would be Face, which leaves Phil to be BA Baracus and Murdock rolled up into one. That may be about right as, during the set, one person shouted out "Your drummer scares me!" As one whose seen his expert skills outside the drum kit (e.g. his awesome dance moves and rapping) I will second that.

Team Science cell phone rescue Squad!
Peter Lee (l) and Aaron Danger (r)

The Jonx at battle stations

Drummer Face #1 - Danny Mee

DJ Under Warranty shows off his wares.

Ume
The Three Amigos of ass whoopin'

Lauren makes even
Jimmy Page's guitar moves look lame!


Lauren belting it out!

Sharks and Sailors before the show
Note that Phil is already sweating

from just the soundcheck.

Bassist Melissa in mid-flight.
Drummer Face #2
Phil "Your Drummer Scares Me" Woodward


Mike dodging yet another
blast from the paparazzi

(OK actually it was his very proud dad.)

The crowd "Oh here here! Jolly Good that!"
LINKS:
More pictures on my Flickr (Link)

The Jonx on Myspace (Link)
Ume on Mypsace (Link)
Sharks and Sailors (Link)



* I kid of course.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Exodus: Movement of Jah People!

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 11:50 AM

Is it me or is this a year of exodus for great musicians from Houston? Earlier Danny Mee of the Jonx moved to Austin and Jenny Westbury also announced her imminent departure to Seattle. Now word comes down the line of a continued talent drain.

First Iram Guerrero of Young Mammals (aka The Dimes) is down to his last three shows before he leaves Houston. That's a huge blow given that he's one of the premier drummers in Houston and a defining part of the band's sound. Then, Papermoons announced that after their upcoming tour, they too will also be leaving Houston. Oh wait, but it gets worse because Sabra Laval has also announced her departure from Houston. Man, that's a rough year and we're just past the halfway mark.

So, just so you know, here may be the last few times for you to see these artists in the near future as they will be seen a lot less frequently 'round these parts.


Papermoons

Friday July 11
CD Release/Tour Kick-off w/ B./The Sour Notes /Phillip Forshee
@ The Backroom (behind the Mink)

Young Mammals


Saturday July 12
W/ Wicked Poseur, News On The March& Hard Place
@ Artstorm/Caroline Collective

Sunday July 13
W/ Hard Place & Wicked Poseur!!!
@ The Backroom (behind the Mink)

Sunday July 27
The Houston Press Music Awards

Sabra Laval

Monday July 28
w/ Warren Jackson Hearne & Admiral David
@ Notsuoh

The Jonx

Friday August 1
w/ Sharks and Sailors (CD Release Party) & UME
@ Walters

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Music with Jameson & Lone Star: Artstorm Jeremy Jay @ Artstorm and 500 Megatons of Boogie, The Jonx, and Together we Are Instruments at Rudyards

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Well, by now you already know that the whole Keene St. Party imploded between my Friday preview and Saturday. It went from full steam ahead to dead to an unexpected resurrection at Notsuh. Refunds went from none to some to all. Bands and DJs dropped like flies but in the end five bands held-on and, by the looks of it, the smaller scale version at Notsuoh seems to have been (albeit under much humbler goals) a success. Jeremy Hart at Space City Rock did a nice job of reviewing the whole thing (link). Me? Well, trying to figure out what was going on eventually wore me out - Keene Street burn-out. So, I decided to roll through two shows of a little lower profile.

The first was a pass by Caroline Collective where Artist Patrick Turk's exhibit was coming to a close with K records' Jeremy Jay. It was a pretty low-key affair with Jeremy Jay playing his poppy songs on a small stage on a hot and humid Houston night. It was pleasant and I preferred the more jangly numbers but the audience seemed to sway more towards the songs powered by the more vintage Korg sounds. Sure the crowd wasn't what you'd call a throng but have you ever had one of those crowds where it seems every time you turn your head you find yourself wrapped in a conversation? Yeah, this was one of those crowds - a good peeps crowd - and that's always a pleasant enough way to start an evening.

From there it was off to Rudyard's. I was pretty interested in seeing Together We Are Instruments and they delivered the electronics and textures. The only issue I had was the vocals which were somewhat distracting from what was going on underneath. This was their first time with vocals so I'll let that go. Their strength lay in the electronically generated textures and the ability of the players to feed off each other's improvisations to build into an engaging whole. It's classic Houston Noise/Experimental - the kind of stuff that Super Happy Fun Land hosted often. That's not everyone's bag of tea but their use of beats under the textures was particularly nicely done. All in all pretty nice stuff and worth showing up early for.

The Jonx followed with another standard Jonx-style ass kicking. I mean that seriously even though I've likely said similar things a million times. I was telling Stuart how, after writing about them for so long, I honestly just don't know what else to add. I mean here you have this amazing drummer, a brutal bassist, and an unstoppable guitarist who dodge and parry their way past most bands with their math rock meets punk rock hybrid. The thing that sets them apart is that they take that and combine it with some great guitar and bass lines that you find yourself humming almost immediately. It's not just aimless chord and time changes but honest to goodness hooky songs that I put up with anything out there nationally or internationally. The show Saturday was more of the same - punch drunk hooks cleverly interspersed with sonic blasts of dissonance. If you missed them, see them on August first with Ume and Sharks & Sailors and then try to tell me you aren't impressed.

The evening closed with 500 Megatons of Boogie whose name was a constant source of amusement for some friends ("That was only 100 megatons! You owe us 400!!!") Now, I have to say that I mixed myself up on Thursday's preview and wrote what in effect was a preview for the Squishees and not 500 Megatons of Boogie. Why the error? Ok look it was late true but basically 500 Megatons is an offshoot of the Squishees but with a different drummer. 500 Megatons eschews the crazy time signatures for more straight-up (if not necessarily less histrionic) rock and roll. So, that cleared up, let me just say that Saturday's show was a riot. Guitarist and singer Eriq Fancypants is one mean guitarist and he moves on the stage and grimaces like someone who stuck something electrical and unpleasant in his ass. The band may take its rockin' seriously (consider the heaviness of It Gets Me Blue) but they clearly are just goofy geeks who are just out to have a blast. And Jesus come on down and make with the wine but they ripped a kick-ass version of James Brown's It's a Man's Man's Man's World. Hallelujah! Now if they could only play that in Fortran!

Jeremy Jay popping it up at Caroline CollectiveThe event was the closing for Patrick Turk's
art exhibit
(that's his sparkly daughter)

Together We Are Instruments - I'd recommend pairing them
with a good wheat beer and spinach quesadillas.


The Jonx ripping through their punishing
12-minute epic Scent of the Earth at Rudyard's


500 Megatons of Boogie gave us 501 Megatons of Boogie
especially when they covered James Brown


Links:
More images at my Flickr (link)

Caroline Collective

Jeremy Jay
Together We Are Instruments
The Jonx
500 Megatons of Boogie

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Music with Jameson & Lone Star: How Metal are you? (Golden Axe, Jonx, Hearts of Animals, Young Mammals, & Wicked Poseur)

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 4:17 PM

Yes Houston Indie kids, this week we will discuss your lack of Metal worthiness but first let's have a recap of this weekend's shows eh?

Friday Evening
Wicked Poseur, Young Mammals, & Hearts of Animals
at the Orange Show
Ahhhh, did you smell that too? The animal may have been an unrecognizable blob of fur but the smell was not - that was the smell of fresh roadkill. So, as I walked my way over to the Orange Show, I kissed away any appetite I might have had earlier. Mercifully, I wasn't really coming down for the loose meat sandwiches or even the fabulous art cars for that matter (don't get me wrong the art cars were a hoot especially the one that shot the flames 30 yards into the air) but I was here for the music - the cool evening and the art cars were simply a bonus.

Hearts of Animals opened with an excellent set - no surprise there. I hadn't heard these songs live since the Casiotone show so Friday it was as welcome as the cool breeze blowing that evening. The big kick was hearing that new song that Mlee performed two shows ago enhanced by Cley Miller's guitar work. The song had previously used that Trio Da Da Da Casio beat but this night Cley took Mlee's pre-written parts and added his unique style that gave the song this additional level of interplay and warmth that wasn't there in the previous performance. Cley may not be a shredder but he has a feel for the instrument that is enviable. His contribution here was a testament to that and a great compliment to Mlee's skills as a writer.

Young Mammals followed with their first set since the Block Party and the band was at its most playful and energetic. They ripped through familiar songs with all the verve you'd expect then, out of nowhere, they threw in two new songs. Both songs were great but the first had an added treat - Mlee Suprean guesting on guitar and lead vocals. The song was great and it was funny how well Mlee and YM meshed. While the music was clearly classic YM, the vocal melody was all Mlee which only highlighted how gifted she is with pulling melodies out of the air. I couldn't make out her lyrics but it didn't matter, her voice and phrasing are always a kick. To hear her writing new material is always thrilling and collaborating with YM shows just how nimble she can be. The other new song was also a blast with Iram leading the charge. If a band is defined by their drummer then Iram certainly sets the tone for the band with a scrappy playfulness that is irresistible. At one point, Carlos leaned over to Iram to say something along the lines of "This feels weird." Iram smiled, leaned over, touched the tip of his drumstick to Carlo's teeth, gave him a quick flick, and laughed. That jovial gesture pretty much summed up their set.

Wicked Poseur closed the evening and their set also delivered in spades. Arthur Bates was in fine form; he's the sweetest drunken smart-ass you'll ever meet. Earlier in the evening, Arthur was rambling and riffing on anything and everything and during the set he was no different causing Chris Cascio to start begging Arthur to "Just Play!" even as he was laughing. All Tom foolery aside, the songs and the two guitar attack was a blast. Earlier this month, Ben Murphy made a point about solid state amps and how tubes may get all the love but anyone with a good ear who knows how to put it to good use can make any amp sing. Even as a devoted fan of tubes, I had to concede his point; he not only won the discussion, he won it decisively. As if to rub my nose in it, Chris, with my most reviled solid state amp (a freaking Peavy), was ripping it up with sounds that couldn't have been more perfect for the material. It's funny but for all the electronic aspects of Wicked Poseur, the guitar work is what makes it rip like Led Zeppelin doing Can. Arthur' vocals were at their brattiest while Chris' danced, swayed, and moved like his life depended on it. Great band, great songs, and a great performance - pretty par for the evening.

Saturday Night
The Jonx, Golden Axe, & Awake
at The Mink Backroom
I have to apologize for missing Awake. Last time I saw them, they played an inspiring set. I wish I could say that I had a damn good reason for shirking my journalistic duties but the truth of the matter is I was drinking whiskey and chilling at a friend's house and time just kind of got away from me. Chris Gray would later comment that I seemed in good spirits. Yeah, after three glasses of whiskey, I'd better be!

When I arrived, Golden Axe had just started and the crowd was eating it up...well eating it up in the way Houston Indie rock kids do. If you were looking for heavy metal parking lot - this wasn't that crowd. [See epilogue for a fuller discussion of what I mean.] But all teasing the crowd aside, my favorite thing about Golden Axe is how they take something that is so riddled with clinches and make it work. If you don't think Metal is capable of intelligence and wit, you clearly have never heard Golden Axe. There is no other band in Houston that can make me laugh out loud without uttering a word. Warren Hatfield and James Love make Metal that's droll without a hint of a nudge nudge or a wink wink - theirs is a metal guitar led assault that makes no apologies. I grew up with so many amazing metal guitarists who could run circles around most mortals but their Achilles heel was that their compositional skills were never on the same level. Warren has such a sharp sense of composition atop of his fretwork skills that it should make people like Yngwie Malmsteen and their followers hand their heads in shame. Long live the The Axe!

The Jonx closed the night and reminded me just how wonderful a trio they are. The trio plays music like a drunken mathematician raving about a favorite theorem. Yet, for all its mathrock qualities, the Jonx music is never cold - it drips with feeling. Stuart Smith's guitar is as capable of crunching out dissonance as it is capable of throwing out a lovely melody, Trey Levigne's bass work is always aggressive and muscular, while Danny Mee's drumming is ever nimble and powerful. Together they interact in the same manner as one of those Japanese animae robots where various robots combine their powers into one super-robot. Appropriately, all before them were crushed into submission. I'm so glad that Danny Mee's move to Austin didn't mean the end of the Jonx.

EPILOGUE
(Due to the limits of our template's layout - please, click on image)




PICTURES


Hearts of Animals' Mlee Suprean
Miss coolness herself

The Dimes
They is On Fire!!

Wicked Poseur's Chris Cascio
gets his Jimmy Page on.

Golden Axe's Warren Hatfield
Wow! Tough crowd!

The Jonx's Trey Levigne
as the Hulk



LINKS & CREDITS:

Bloodstock photo by John Ashby
(Check out his flickr page - amazing stuff)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/johnashby/

More pictures on my Flickr Page:
Hearts Of Animals, Young Mammals, and Wicked Poseur (Link)
The Jonx and Golden Axe (Link)

Band Links
Hearts of Animals

Young Mammals

Wicked Poseur

Awake

Golden Axe

The Jonx


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