[Ed. Note: Posting this one, without edits as always, in remembrance of KTRU, which today it was announced has been sold and will be gutted and turned into a goddamn news/classical station (isn't that what NPR is for?). Go to these websites for more about that.
For nineteen years now, KTRU Rice radio has held their annual Outdoor Show, a free festival of bands, local and otherwise, food, and free St. Arnold's beer. Given that I will never be smart (or rich) enough to go to Rice University, the Outdoor Show is a perfect opportunity to lounge around campus and pretend like I'm a student while enjoying all of the aforementioned amenities. In other words, I can have my cake and eat it too.
This year it rained so things were running a bit off-schedule. The first band made it to the stage at around 2:00 PM starting a rapid fire succession with a semi-tangible theme running between each band.
The first one, the Homemade Band, led by Rachel Buchman, was apparently for the kids. Playing a sort of classic rock 'n' roll throwback style, Buchman herself reminded me of one of my elementary school teachers and led the children attendees in renditions of mind-numbing kiddie songs. If only there was something on the level of "Bananaphone," recent Apples in Stereo, or, hell, Yo Gabba Gabba, here. Instead, these songs drilled phrases like literally just "cockadoodledoo" over and over again. I'm not sure I would've liked this as a kid.
Next up was the grown up parallel of the Homemade Band I suppose, Office Party. They lived their name, jamming on stage with full suits on like they really just left the office. It reminded me of the old Drew Carey Show episodes where the guys (and Joe Walsh for some reason) formed a bar band after work. They do sound a little bit like that with their classic rock influences, but with a somewhat new wave twist and a singer whose vocal melodies reminded me of Gerard Way. Sound weird? Well there's always the wild card at these sorts of things and that was Office Party, closing out their set with a cover of the classic "Poker Face," yet somehow it was less charming than when Faith No More did it last year.
After that, Wasp and Pear reminded me why I usually don't listen to KTRU non-stop. Much as I love the station, I can't take the droning electronic bands. Wasp and Pear might appeal to some, but I just can't take this sort of thing. Their entire set was one long noise epic which I mostly couldn't handle.
Continuing the experimental tilt of Wasp and Pear, Space City Gamelan did something a little more to my liking. Like their name suggests, they're a gamelan band. But beyond that, they make some very interesting, forward looking music, combining the tradition of the gamelon with beats that I could honestly hear in an electronic/hip-hop song. It's something old that feels new which fascinates me on the level of a musician and as a listener it's just pleasing to the ear.
As if in combination of the electronic and prototypical beats of the last two bands, next up was one of my personal favorites, Ghost Mountain. I actually discovered them through KTRU and that pretty much started everything in my listening to Houston's local scene. A typically awesome show, they ran through songs from the Summer Tapes EP and their full length Siamese Sailboats. They also played a new song that gave some insight into what they've been working on lately. No idea when that will come out, but it seems they're forging a great path ahead.
Ghost Mountain's bizarre form of hip hop infused electronic music gave way to a more traditional form of hip hop when Fat Tony stormed the stage. He performed a short but firey set that for a moment turned a weird music festival into a straight up party.
Finally there was the headliner, Rafter. KTRU has gotten a great deal of criticism over their choice here, but hear me out. Rafter's blend of indie pop isn't anything revolutionary, but it is fun and they actually proved their worth, at least to me. Yes, it's mainstream and the sort of the thing you'd hear in a soundtrack along with the Shins and the Freelance Whales, but I personally have no qualms enjoying that for what it is. It's fluffy, but the choruses are undeniable.
For all the blogger clamor lately, you'd have thought this year's Outdoor Show would be a massive failure, but I say they still pulled it off. While I wasn't a fan of everything and I was initially disappointed there wasn't a more exciting headliner, there were still some great performances by local artists and Rafter, while not quite as great as some of the headliners, was still a solid band with the potential for a bright future. Basically if you didn't have fun at the Outdoor Show this year, you probably weren't doing it right.