Warpaint Returns to Houston
By Jack Betz
This past Friday night was my first time at Mango’s Cafe in Houston and I must say that it’s a phenomenal venue: the levels were good, the beer was cheap, and their vegetarian pizza was tasty. However, it was my second time seeing Warpaint and I was stoked.
“Buxton” opened last time I saw Warpaint, in February, but I was kind of late so I missed ninety-five percent of their set; this time I came earlier. Buxton had a satisfying country-folk feel but with some indie-rock flourishes like loud, over-driven, guitar. The vocals were delivered in a folksy, yodeling, manner that sometimes went slightly off key and it accented the music perfectly.
I was fortunate enough to talk to Balaclavas outside on the Mango’s patio before the show and they were very friendly guys. One of them even directed me to a website called “Trouser Press” which is a guide to alternative and underground rock music. I just bookmarked it a few minutes ago. Anyway, their live music nothing like I’ve ever experienced before. As soon as they went on, I was immediately entranced by the strange mix of noise and music that ensued. The studio versions of these songs I listened to, before the show on Friday, were good but during a live set, these songs exploded into a fascinating flurry of feedback, drum machine, and dancy bass lines. Obviously, being a very loud band, it was difficult to make out the vocals of Balaclavas but on their studio recordings they sound a little bit like those of Peter Murphy from Bauhaus (as does some of their music). Balaclavas was definitely my favorite new find of the night and they’re from Houston so I hope I can catch them again this summer.
To my surprise, Warpaint, who was headlining the entire show, went on in the penultimate time slot rather than Grandfather Child. Since Warpaint came on early, I rushed through the crowd, pushing, shoving, and issuing apologies for drinks spilled and elbows brushed. It’s surprising how many people will let you through if you’re waving a camera above your head like a lunatic.
Warpaint, for those of you who don’t know, is an all-female, experimental, rock band from LA and they seem to like Texas because they already played Houston once about two months ago and SXSW a few weeks ago. The whole set was excellent but my two favorite songs were “Stars” and “Elephants”. Emily Kokal and Theresa Wayman provided haunting, mournful, vocals that only intensified the power of the somber melodies the rest of the band played. Emily Kokal (guitar and lead vocals) and Stella Mozgawa (on drums) were hands down the best performers in the band. It was hard to take my eyes or camera off of Emily Kokal; she seemed to exude some kind of dark electricity during the performance. It’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t seen her live but she’s an excellent performer. Warpaint definitely brought it.
“Grandfather Child” was the last act and regrettably I didn’t stay for their entire set because I was sort of worried about whether or not my car was gonna get towed but I saw about five songs and thoroughly enjoyed them. They’re a local band and I’ve seen them on a lot of different bills so I don’t think it will be last opportunity to enjoy their music this summer. Grandfather Child’s music contains elements of funk and blues with a generous helping of beautiful lap steel guitar playing. The vocals were bluesy and soulful too which was a huge shift in style from the elegiac crooning of Warpaint. It added an extra dash of variety to the lineup. It was a great show overall (plus my car never got towed). With four bands on one bill, the chances are pretty high that at least one of them is going to suck but to my delight, they were all excellent.