January 14th, 2010

Walter’s on Washington: The Tontons “Final” Final Show

In 8 Words: Ghost, Moon, Bolt, Ladies, Rabies, Scabies, Babies, Finality

Listed on their facebook page as “Make or Break Show,” I ventured out to Walter’s on Washington Saturday to see one of my Houston favorites The Tontons play with Roky Moon and BOLT and Ghost Mountain. As pathetic as this sounds, I must admit I hadn’t seen a show at Walter’s in almost four years due to graduating college, and working out of town for a while, but I won’t bore you with one of those “the last time I was there” stories.

The show starts around 9:30, but I head up to Washington Avenue around 8:00 to steal a free parking spot before they were all taken by the Affliction-wearing, uh, patrons of the various nearby venues and to wait for the rest of my party. I stop by The Dubliner, next door to Walters, for a couple pints of Guinness and to catch part of the Eagles-Cowboys playoff game while I wait. Paul and his group say they’re going to catch up with us after the Starck Chair Project opening, but I know it’s doubtful. It won’t be the first time he bails on me and it certainly won’t be the last.

We walk in to Walters moments before Ghost Mountain takes the stage. As much as the surroundings had changed over the past 5 years, it hasn’t changed at all. As I decided between Lone Star in a bottle and Lone Star on tap (always go on tap), the trio that is Ghost Mountain began with their psychedelic synthesizer, electric guitar, and rough rhymes.

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People are now starting to fill in the venue as the lead from Ghost Mountain dedicates his last song to “All the ladies, with rabies and scabies… and babies.” I immediately text this exact message with the addendum “that just happened” to friends not at the show. Certain quotes need to be recorded. It’s a rather eclectic crowd ranging from younger hipsters to a small few normal middle-aged types. I even noticed a few people from other local acts such as the rock-a-billy I Am Mesmer whom I recently caught at Warehouse Live opening for What Made Milwaukee Famous. The front man for I Am Mesmer is wearing the an atrocious but completely awesome southwestern, woven, jacket. Yup, this is Walter’s.

I was anxious to see Roky Moon and BOLT play, as I had heard good things about the glam rockers. They were recently named “best new act of 2009” by the Houston Press. They definitely fit the bill with loud guitar and grandiose lyrics. A fellow audience member informed me that Moon is working on a rock opera. To me, this seems like an obvious transition for the new band. I come away impressed by them, and curious to see how they evolve over time because they certainly seem like they are headed in the right direction.

During the second set change we head over to a packed Washington Avenue Drinkery to quickly meet up with some friends, while the rest of the audience stands outside for a cigarette break. After a failed attempt to annex the Drinkery group, we music lovers head back over to Walters to catch our headliner. We get back in time to hit the bar before the band plays their first bar only to find that they are out of Lone Star both draft and bottle (but stocked with every other beer selection!). Yup, this is Walter’s.

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Finally, The Tontons take the stage. Lead singer Asli Omar has a fantastic presence; you can tell even before she opens her mouth that the little girl has some BIG pipes. The show is prefaced with the announcement that “even though we have played our last show a few times already, this time it’s really it.” Such as shame that an act with such potential has to break up, but sometimes life gets in the way, as Omar later points out that she was moving to New York.

Amongst their opening songs are a few of my favorites such as “1816” and “Little Wooden Dragon,” the latter of which Omar passed on the blame of naming the song. Doesn’t she know that awesome random song titles give you more legitimacy as a band? The show is a blast and is highlighted with the eclectic range of their songs from blues/lounge to an almost Jimi Hendrix style, all tied together by the soulful Billie Holliday-esque vocals from Omar. A few new songs not featured on their self-titled album are played before the show ends with some more favorites like “Kaleidoscope” and “ Leon.”

The close of the show seems like a happy ending for the group; no tears are shed and happy families and friends await off stage. They definitely left me wanting more, however at this point they have about as much material left as the bar has beer.

Fare thee well Tontons, count me in on any future “reunion” shows.

— Sean

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