by April 5k
Festival promoter Liz Molina returns to Houston with a scaled back version of last year’s successful Noise & Smoke festival, this time around joining forces with local magic makers Rosa Guerrero and Anna Garza. Paring down to one evening at two adjoining spaces the efficiency of pure face-rockage has been brought to levels unseen in the slowly-awakening giant that is Houston’s music scene.
not pictured Liz Molina, pictured Chris Ryan
So, to start things off, let’s meet our DJ’s. On deck at Dean’s we’ve got local standby CeePlus and self-proclaimed catlover PRKL8R spinning dance jams. Over at Notsuoh Coach Springer is showing good hustle with his solid line-up of rock & roll crushers.
Kicking off the night? Appropriately, it’s Teenage Kicks on stage at Dean’s. These sharp dressed young men have been delivering their tight power-pop/punk tunes to Houston audiences over the past year. With an obvious nod to power-pop godfathers The Undertones, these boys lead the charge locally (along side fellow popsters Something Fierce) in the return to the pop-punk heyday of the Houston scene, albeit in a more sophisticated and stylish manner than their predecessors of a decade prior. Drummer, John Baldwin expressed his gratitude to the early crowd whose number was merely an indication of the frenzied mass that would be swarming these two venues by night’s end.
Heading next door to the Notsuoh stage we find the battle of the century, the rumble in the former department store! It’s U.S. Grime pioneer B L A C K I E taking on Chemical City pot-stirrers Cop Warmth in a full-on aural assault. These fellas have been having a knock-down, drag-out all over town recently and deliver a KO by decision to any audience that happens upon their path of destruction, and tonight was no different. Cop Warmth vocalist Bryan Jackson swapped the mic with B L A C K I E over the course of their physically provoking set, though it wouldn’t be his only work out of the night…
It’s been a little over a year since The Takes took to Houston clubs, injecting their hardcore-tinged pop-punk into the simmering garage rock scene, opening for much-hyped touring acts like Jay Reatard and The Points. Many a local band has been stoked to share the stage with these up-and-comers, just as many an audience has been equally as stoked to see them. Delivering an explosive set of their quick-hitting jams, The Takes melted faces all over Dean’s in one of the most rocking sets of the night, even being joined by the drummer from Cop Warmth who dealt out some shouts of his own.
San Antonio’s proudly lo-fi, low-life experimental trash punks Patsy take the stage next at Notsuoh, and their parents are out of town and they have cigarettes. Going into this set all I knew was that they had gotten kicked off the stage in Austin of all places for keeping it a little too weird. I also gleaned from their myspace that they are fiercely DIY, which may be a result of no one else wanting to lend these ear-splitters a hand. But hey, no one liked Sonic Youth in the beginning, either, right? I might claim this set to be the most thoroughly enjoyable surprise of the night. You never know what you’re going to get when it comes to experimental noise rock, and Jake and Matt went above and beyond my expectations. They even threw in a cover of “Where Eagles Dare”, which caused me to wonder for the rest of the night if it was an homage to Liz’s stints in Lizifuge and Lizfits.
Removing your ears soundly from the vice-like grip of the preceding noise, Vincent Trails lulls the crowd into a false sense of security with his profane brand of country-folk. His songs go down like a sugar-coated razorblade, sweet to the taste yet filled with barbs sure to upset your tummy…if your brain is the digestive system of the ear, that is. Keeping with Patsy’s thing, Trails also gave a musical shout out to a certain Mr. Danzig. I also learned that is very hard to take pictures of a band when you are standing directly behind them.
After a short break due to a timeslot swap, Gulfcoast Hardcore stalwarts El Desmadre brought their down-home thrash to Dean’s, pledging to “rip [the] face off” of the tough guys with their jock bullshit and “throw it in the middle of the circle pit”. And rip off faces, they did. Their set was cut short when a cop got HOT and as a result the final Dean’s set of the night, Homopolice, was moved over to Notsuoh. EL DESMADRE! H-TOWN POR VIDA!
Marking a legendary moment in recent Houston music history, the reunited Mydolls take the stage at Notsuoh. Formed in 1978, Mydolls are the quintessential Houston indie band. Nevermind The Judy’s whose hype overshadows their collective catalog, and nevermind The Hates, whose longevity has carved their niche as a local institution. Mydolls blazed the trail that many a Houston band has tread. Prolific in their recording and ambitious in their touring, even appearing in the Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas, Mydolls could not avoid the all too familiar fate of sinking into the Houston swamps of musical obscurity, disappearing from the radar of even the most knowing of indie music enthusiasts. The recent release of the career retrospective A World Of Her Own has found Mydolls back in the local spotlight for a new generation of initiates to dive head first into their still-relevant political post-punk. And if anything, their set reinforced that relevance. The band absolutely beaming, gave it their all as they were showered with enthusiastic love from the adoring crowd. At one point the band was joined by the wife of the bassist, Dianna, who has been recently rehearsing with the reformed band, and singer, Trish, gave a quick call to action on the reversal of everyone’s least favorite ballot item Prop 8. All four members brought it hard and kept bringing it as the audience pleaded for multiple encores. I can only hope that this marks just the beginning of the Mydolls return to the live music limelight.
As we leave the midnight hour behind us, the slinking and sensuous Balaclavas mount the stage at Notsuoh, filling the air with anticipation and dread. Inflicting the crowd with their vicious death-dirge of post-punk nihilism, the band is perfect for this witching hour set. Unfortunately, my camera was not doing me much good from my outside vantage point as the audience overflowed onto the sidewalk, but rest assured it was nauseatingly beautiful.
Winding down (up?) the evening are the new Beau Beasley/Josh Wolf/Chris Ryan/Tom of Montrose sensory-rape-team, Homopolice steaming hot out of a backalley Lola’s hatefuck. I’m almost thankful that this set was moved to Notsuoh, as I don’t know that Dean’s would have survived the assault. I first noticed that Beau had traded his bass for a trash can and a stick and then just as the set was about to begin, traded spit with frontman Josh Wolf. Sex and violence hung (heh heh) heavy in the air. In a second physically involved set of the fest, Homopolice literally assaulted the audience with dives and kicks and punches and the oft-hurled metal trash can. From my vantage in the DJ booth the boys looked and sounded FANTASTIC. I am always thrilled by the officers performances and I can’t get enough. However, my husband told me that the scene was very different for those actually in the audience, most people were terrified for their lives and simply wanted to survive. Um…sounds like a good show to me.
Closing out the second annual Noise & Smoke Fest are the best looking band to come off the streets of Montorse, Born Liars. The Liars are the sure thing. If you are ever in doubt about the funness-factor of any given bill, the presence of this down and dirty foursome is the satisfaction guarantee. The addition of the busiest man in Houston this side of Beau Beasley, Josh Vaughn (aka The Wolf) on drums only cranks the good times meter to astronomical heights. With a threat (or a promise) to do all of your coke, and to rock straight to the top of the Houston music scene, the Liars ignited the crowd into a rock & roll orgy that’s seen more often upstairs at Notsuoh than on the actual stage. It was at this point in the night that things became a blur. Now I was safely in the DJ booth trading flasks with a faceless stranger (how did I not see his face?), I looked out upon the ocean of bodies as the waves of sweat crushed the shores of the stage. I saw a camera being held aloft as a certain little lady struggled not to be sacrificed to this Noise & Smoke Carousel (bonus Logan’s Run reference). Tonight wasn’t a good night. It was a legendary night, one that few in attendance will ever forget, certainly not me. As the Liars wound down their set, I saw Coach who was now at the bar he gave me a nod and I knew what I had to do. I followed the cables from the back of the decks, not finding the right knobs to crank “White Light/White Heat”, I relented, hoping for the best and pushed play on the CD player and said goodnight.
A thank you to Ramon for asking me to cover this (and for the beer), Meg for letting me borrow your camera when mine was being a jerk, Pope Jon for bringing me my camera charger, and an extra special thanks to Liz, Anna, and Rosa who made this all happen.