Monday, June 9, 2008

Music with Jameson & Lone Star: French Kicks, Young Mammals, & Hearts of Animals @ Walter's 06 June 2008

posted by Ramon Medina - LP4 @ 12:01 AM

Well, that's quite the news to get in the afternoon. Hands Up Houston announced that Frightened Rabbit had canceled their performance due to their van breaking down. That was a shame as I really love this Scottish band's droll and energetic Sing The Grays album and it sounded like they might translate pretty well live and possibly give the Dimes a run for their money. The upside though was that the always solid Hearts of Animals was called-in to pinch-hit at the last minute - you couldn't have ask for a better resolution.

Now, I don't know about you but when I drove up I was immediately overwhelmed by a swarm of headlights ahead of me and behind me! I thought, "What the fuck is with the traffic on Washington Avenue?" Then, when I turned the corner, I saw the unspeakable. A sight as frightening and improbable as turning that same corner and seeing Big Foot and Fulad-zereh fucking on the street while Abraham Lincoln stood watching and smoking a fattie. There, running back towards Washington Avenue with slicked hair and a pristine white shirt, was a valet! Yes, you got that - a fucking valet on Washington Avenue! I then rounded the block and it turned out everyone was just as confused as I because the carpark in front of Walters had open spots. Incredible! Then as I got out of my car some dude on his cellphone asked, "Is this valet parking here?" Somehow, between thinking "Are you fucking with me?!!" and "If you have to ask...", I mustered a cranky "If you're looking for valet parking you want douche-central across the street." I'm sure the bouge motherfuckers who constantly harass Walters with noise complaints are more than happy with the new desirable clientèle at the Pearl but, for the rest of us, all we can do is shake our heads and think poor poor Washington Avenue.

Thankfully, inside the doors, Hearts of Animals had already taken the stage. Over the PA, beats and backing tracks from Mlee's Powerbook pumped while her guitar layered lovely finger-picked notes above them and suddenly the gentrification convention outside didn't matter anymore. The familiar melodies of her older songs (as well as that new one that I love with Cley of the Young Mammals) are always welcome sounds and the performance was exactly what you'd expect - inspiring. The excited voices of some new-to-HOA women standing in line to the bathroom seemed to confirm that summation. The Superunison folks couldn't have been smarter in picking her to fill-in.

The Dimes followed and after a few "Let's go team!" hand slapping they proceeded to slash and hack through their set in that fashion we're so used to seeing and likely take for granted here in Houston. It's the Dimes: Iram pounding the drums while stealing the spotlight from behind the kit with his charming impish performance, Cley dancing with his guitar in a manner suggesting he'd do a good job of wrestling a giant rubber snake in some crazy B movie, and Carlos (all smiles) leading the charge with his voice while his rhythm guitar, along with Jose's bass, keep it all from sprawling into chaos. They are a world-class live band and the new songs just show great and unique they are as a band. This is one Houston band that - high gas prices or not - needs to get on the road, take it to the people, and show them how it's done.

Closing it all was Brooklyn's French Kicks. The performance was sharp, the sound was crisp, and the harmonies and instrumentation were gorgeous. And while some songs are wonderful and will make you break-out in an uncontrolled admiring smile, the simple fact remains that the French Kicks are a very good band. I have been spinning their new album and enjoying some of its songs quite a bit but, here is the rub, both the Young Mammals and Hearts of Animals are better and more consistent songwriters and, when it comes to a live show, the electrifying Young Mammals energy is unbeatable. The latter may not be particularly fair to French Kicks given what they do but, honestly, as their performance continued, I did get that "OK got it!" feeling by the last third. God, that sounds awful because it makes them sound as if they were bad but they weren't; the bar had simply been raised so high that even a band of their talents simply couldn't overshadow what had preceded. But that was just me as everyone else in the packed crowd clearly loved it from the first note to the last. So, ne vous inquiétez pas French Kicks - it's not about who doesn't salute, it's about who does.


Hearts Of Animals
Pinch-hitting for the Scots
The Young Mammals
Breakin' out in a Cold Sweat The French Kicks
Basculez la maison



Links:
Frightened Rabbit (Link)
Hearts of Animals (Link)
Young Mammals (Link)
French Kicks (Link)


More pictures on my Flickr (Link)

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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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