February 14th, 2012

Loopster Live: Southern Backtones “La Vie En Noir” Release Party

It was an unconventional night for an unconventional sound. With each piece of the night seeming out of place, it was no wonder that they all fit together perfectly. The Capitol at St. Germain hosted the event which would launch Southern Backtones‘ latest album, La Vie En Noir to the world. The new “supper and a show” club in downtown seemed like an unlikely venue, but the pairing of single-malt and “Dive Disco Misfits” worked like a charm.

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The night started off with the combined efforts of Johnny Falstaff, John Evans, Emily Bell and Craig Kinsey on stage. The quartet sat shoulder to shoulder as they traded off songs, each picking one from their arsenal before letting the next try to top the effort. If this isn’t a regular event at The Capitol, it needs to be starting tomorrow.  Each of the song writer’s styles play so well off the other. Plus, the four know their way around a comedy pyramid.

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Even though I could have spent the entire night watching the “super group” (or, for lack of a better term, “Houston music’s version of the blue collar comedy tour”), they gave way to the men of the hour and their supporting ladies. Southern Backtones wasted no time in claiming the stage for themselves. You can tell the new album has been itching to get out of them, to be set free, after a four-year interim since their eponymous, third album.

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The music from the fourth album, La Vie En Noir, was first described to me as “the most ‘Southern Backtones’ album yet.” Hank Schyma and crew have embraced what they do best, a flair for the dark and dramatic. It’s an album that’s tailor made for a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez flick. Imagine the band walking through vamps in Dusk Till Dawn. It works. Lest we forget, Schyma and friends have an eye for cinema all their own. The process that led to Honky Tonk Blood (which would be screened after the party) obviously bled into the creative juices for the Backtones.

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The supporting cast for the night included Jo Bird of Two Star Symphony and the back-up singers from Elvis Night which included Bambi Flickinger. There were also a couple of surprise guest appearances. And honestly it was as much of a “surprise” to the audience as it was the musicians. At one point Geoffry Muller of Sideshow Tramps and miscellaneous guitar-for-hire wandered too close to the stage and found himself with a guitar being thrust in his face by Hank.

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As Muller ripped out a guitar solo, his bandmate, Craig Kinsey found himself with the microphone in his hand as Schyma relinquished all lead duties.

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Like I said, it was an unconventional night. The party for Southern Backtones wasn’t all about them. They were just happy participants in the grand celebration, shifting the spotlight, urging people to dance between the fine dining tables, stopping the show to try to capture a spanking dolled out by Jo Bird…

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… Even the fact that they shared the night with the one year anniversary screening of Honky Tonk Blood, pointed to the fact that the Backtones wanted the night to be as much about their friends, supporters and collaborators as much as themselves.

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As they finished up their live performance of La Vie En Noir, the Southern Backtones tacked on a unrecorded cover of Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds” to finish off the night. This wasn’t enough for at least one fan who called out, “the band should not stop; the movie should not start” as the equipment started to get packed up.

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As I left into the night, one of the coldest this winter, I was warm. Sure, the three tumblers of Oban probably helped, but there was a satisfaction that I got from being there. As much as these Houston bands, mainstays of the scene, keep their concerts consistently available to the local public, they never get tiresome or boring. Each time I’ve seen the Backtones, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for their music and live show. The new album only reinforces that sentiment. Even though I had just heard the entire collection less than ten minutes before, it was the first thing I threw on my stereo as I headed home.

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— Paul

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