Friday, April 30, 2010

Reprint Series: Festival at The Mink

As I mentioned a while ago, per the terms of my contract with I can reprint anything I wrote for them two weeks later. This one is two months old so let's give it a go. This was the first one I wrote. As will be the usual, the only difference will be that they'll be presented exactly as I wrote them, with no editing. That could be a good or bad thing. You decide.


While everyone was at the Free Press Houston 7th Anniversary seeing all the local bands they had seen exactly two point three million times, I went to the Festival at The Mink instead. Not that I don't love the bands that were at Mango's that night, but change is always good. Since there were a lot of bands that played, I'll just give a quick rundown of each one.

The Dry Season ( -I arrived slightly late for this first band from Austin. I wish I hadn't because they actually turned out to probably be my favorite of the night. Given that I grew up on Pink Floyd, not the one everybody else did, the Saucerful of Secrets/Atom Heart Mother era, and I'm crazy about the latest Flaming Lips album, that shouldn't be a surprise. This band takes three key elements to make up their sound. That late 60's Pink Floyd spacey, psychedelic, jam rock, 90's alt rock hooks via Garbage, and aught's psych folk like Espers. Though I only caught three songs (each around ten minutes) I was mesmerized by each one.

Covington ( - Born out of the ashes of two previous bands, Covington is a little older and more experienced than your average local band. Slicker, more professional. They don't fuck up. You'd think that would make it better, but it makes it somewhat sterile. Their sound is also heavily dependent on 90's Britrock which automatically dates it. Still they had some enjoyable songs and their singer had a range that reminded me of Pavement so good on them for that. Whether it was the drinks or the accessability, they also commanded far more attention from the audience than the Dry Season.   

Gretchen Schmaltz ( - In fact, the audience was so captivated by Covington (and the bar) that they forgot there was someone playing downstairs. You have to feel bad for the poor girl. Her band was stranded in Austin (and in her words, her French horn player ran away to the opera for a month) so this became a solo acoustic show. Then only a few people turned up downstairs to watch. Those that did, however, were treated to a fun bit of indie folk songstressing. Revolutionary? Hardly. But it's always pleasing to the ear and what really impressed me about her was her exceptional fingerpicking style. While most play in a delicate way, Gretchen Schmaltz attacks the strings, even warning us her fingers might start bleeding. It adds a necessary tension to the otherwise almost too sweet songs.

Flowers to Hide ( - Flowers to Hide are a hard band to place. They've got a foot in post-U2 80's new wave rock and a foot in post-Sonic Youth 90's alt rock. The basslines drove every song while the guitar seemed to follow along but with squeels. Their sound was the sort of familiar thing where you know you've heard it before, but can't place it. The closest I could think of was that they sounded like the sort of band I would hear on the Buzz growing up when that station wasn't almost completely garbage.

Giant Battle Monster ( - This is one of the main bands I wanted to see when I came out. I had heard a lot about them and I for some reason thought I would like them. I didn't. But don't get me wrong, they're very talented at what they do. They're even a good live band, very energetic, lots of audience interaction. But they're LOUD! My ears were ringing even this morning from these guys. In the midst of making so much technical noise, they lose the hooks that I could vaguely hear buried down deep in their songs. In that way they reminded me of Hella. Fast, heavy, technical, but impossible to find the catchy parts. They're there, but you end up too deaf to hear them. This is not the band for me. On the other hand, I know a lot of people that listen to bands like Behold... the Arctopus and Tera Melos that would LOVE this.

The Sour Notes ( - This is another band I really wanted to see but let down by. I've been a fan of theirs for a while but had never had the chance to catch them. Unfortunately this was sort of an off night. Their drummer was "wearing tights in a play in Amarillo, TX" and, rather than take the time off, they decided to go on with a drum machine. This was, in my opinion, a mistake. The bass was already programmed, so it made for an entire electronic rhythm section and completely amputated the power from their more rocking songs. In fact, the simulated rhythms actually ended up having a somewhat comedic "Tim and Eric" sound to them. The songwriting was there but the sound wasn't. I do really enjoy their latest album so I would love to see them with a full band in the future.

dUNETX ( - dUNETX has been around for 12 years. In the ever changing world of music, that's a long time. At least twice as long as these other bands have been together. When they started, I was about to start second grade. Viewed in that context, they're admirable. Like Covington, they're slick, professional, and know how to get an audience going. But with the state of music, their proto-punk riffage mainly works in warming the audience up. There's not much more depth to it. It's good bar atmosphere music. The one unique gimmick they pull out is an occasionally used theremin, which is nice but more just to show off that they have a theremin and can make noise with it. 

Alkari ( - This one I really liked. Their sound reminded me of something I really miss. 90's indie rock, but a little bit punkier. Hmm... what could I describe that as? Oh yeah! Emo! Real emo before Hot Topic ruined it. I got a definite I Hate Myself vibe, which is especially exciting for someone like me that was too young to see bands like that back in the day. Just to switch up and keep it original, they also include the occasional psych interlude and some pre-recorded samples between songs.

The Manichean ( - Possibly the oddest of the entire bunch. Picking up from the emo of Alkari, the Manichean is a lot like mewithoutYou meets the Black Parade. It's as odd and unsettling as it sounds. I couldn't really decide how I felt about this one. Inbetween every other song, their singer, who looked and sounded like he was straight out of a high school drama class, would break into a Shakespearian soliloquy. I could never quite understand what the narrative was about but he sold it with the enthusiasm of a southern preacher. It was just as off-putting as it was enticing. In the end though, all I can remember of his stories were his frantic movement, running, jumping, hanging off the rafters, and the repeated phrase "I love you so much through kisses and cuts." Musically they followed that emo sound but with the inclusion of a fiddle player that gave the entire thing an even odder dynamic. It was crazy and I still don't know how I feel about it.

White Rhino ( - Remember that band Motorhead and how they'd come out and say "We are Motorhead and we're going to kick your ass"? White Rhino is practically the embodiment of that. Their sound is that vintage late 70's/early 80's post-punk hard rock, when some bands went new wave and some bands combined the sounds of Black Sabbath and the Sex Pistols into what ended up being the basis of "metal" in the 80's. White Rhino take their cues from the latter of those two and what more do you need after 1 AM when everybody's drunk and tired?I normally skew towards more progressive music, but fuck it. After the Manichean's take on the future of music, I was ready to get back to basics. White Rhino is driving up to Taco Bell in the middle of the night blasting Back in Black. The perfect way to wrap up the festival.

Overall the Festival at the Mink was sort of disastrous. So many band members didn't show up, at least two bands didn't make it out, and the audience seemed to be there more for the beer than anything else. Even still, it was a fun time with a diverse mix of bands. For me personally, the Dry Season is my new band to watch. Even though it would have been fun to see all my favorites at Mango's, the Mink was a good alternative and a good way to discover some new (and old) bands.

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