January 24th, 2011

Loopster Live: Main Street Block Party

There is only one problem with something like the Main Street Block Party: No matter how hard you try, you’re going to miss out on bands that deserve your attention. It’s good to go into such an event with a plan. Preparedness is always tantamount. That being said, I was quite unprepared on Saturday to take on Main Street.

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You see, readers, I have a problem when it comes to leaving my house without essentials. Usually it’s my phone that gets thrown on the counter of my kitchen or my sunglasses or mini-notebook that I’ve forgotten to push into my back pocket… those things I usually double-back for before I get to the bottom of my stairs. But the worst is when I forget the memory card for my camera. This happens a lot. I didn’t realize until I raised up my camera for the first shot of The Prairie Cadets at Big Top that I was a fool again on Saturday.

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After catching a couple of acts, I ended up going home to right my wrong. Precious time was wasted, but at least I wouldn’t have to rely on the spotty success of my camera phone. By the time I re-arrived at the scene my friend had found a spot at the Continental Club for Motel Aviv’s set [the two above photos]. They come straight from the throes of the new new wave. Think of White Lies with a bit of an Austin twist. As my friend put it, “they even have the chick bassist with bangs that has those prototypical chick bassist dance moves.”

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I had made a decision early on in the night that I would open my bar tab at Big Top. It seemed like the most logical choice. Nestled between the other two venues. The bartenders kind of know me there. The most seating. Plus, when it comes down to it, it’s one of my top five bars in town. So, after Motel Aviv’s mohawked singer let out his last 80s-inspired whine, we took back through the courtyard of Pachinko Hut to grab a couple of PBRs.

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We ran directly into the musical stylings of qanda (which is nearly impossible to google for research).  Qanda, which is obviously pronounced “cue-and-A”, provided a change of pace from the other bands of the night. At first glance, they didn’t even look like they belonged. The lead singer, Jordi Baizan, sports wisps of gray at his temples and his bandmates show the signs of being a few years older. Enough of these 20-somethings experimenting with sounds; qanda is a celebration of guitar-driven rock and roll with a dash of harmonica.

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A couple of PBRs later, it’s time for Empress Hotel to take the tiny stage of Big Top. When I first arrived at the Main Street Block Party, it was a clusterfuck of instrument cases. As the night winds down, the heavy plastic capsules have been replaced with more and more people. It didn’t seem like there was much rhyme or reason to the line-ups for each of the venues, but the organizers certainly knew who to schedule for the big finale. With that in mind, my friend and I leave after only a song by New Orleans’ Empress Hotel to check out Continental Club once again.

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We walk into another new wave band having taken the stage: The Black & White Years. It’s not that any of the other bands that I’ve seen tonight looked lost on stage, but The Black & White Years know how to command it. That kind of characteristic makes a live music set more enjoyable than any other. It’s the embrace of identity, more than anything else. With many of the other bands you often wonder what maturation process they will go through, who will hear them and if they’ll ever make it big. Austin’s The Black & White Years only leave you wondering why you haven’t heard them before and when will be the next time you can see them live.

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The band that I was most excited about seeing was The Tontons, whom I’d never seen live before. Don’t ask me why. There isn’t a good reason. And considering the number of “final show” shows they’ve put on, I thought that I had missed my chance to see them altogether. Armed with a couple new songs and the energy of just finishing up some recording sessions in the studio, The Tontons took the stage at midnight to the most packed house I’d seen all night.

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As I mentioned above, the band that embraces their identity and takes over the stage is the one that’s the most enjoyable to watch. Another factor in that “enjoyment index” is an audience that has adopted you and thrusts you up on the pedestal. That’s exactly what you get when The Tontons take over the sound system at a Houston show. It’s one hundred people grasping hold of coat (or skirt) tails knowing that this is the band that’s going to make it big out of H-town. That will make them look like geniuses for knowing who they were before nobody else in particular.

Count me as one of those people.

[PS - I know I missed a lot, especially all the bands that played at The Mink. Let me know what I missed out on in the comments if you happened to be at the Block Party. I enjoy nothing more than surfing through new bands during my workday.]

— Paul

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