[Ed. Note: Presented, as always, without edits in the original form I wrote it. Better, worse? You decide.]
Yesterday I woke up and looked at my calendar to see what day it was. March 21st, 2010? Perfect! Having hibernated through SXSW, I was right on schedule to stop being bitter about not being able to get to Austin and meet the return of music to Houston. At Mango's, News on the March was just back from SXSW and what better time to kick off their upcoming tour? But first up were some of their friends (and other projects).
Drummer Ryan Odom's other band, Smoky Mountain started things off with some country infused indie rock, fairly typical of the bands playing that night. They had some good hooks that left me wanting to hear more, but unfortunately I'm not sure they have anything out yet. Still, continuing the current trend toward this sort of Americana indie rock could be a formula for success.
The Candeliers from Milwaukee, WI, took the stage second. With a seven member line-up adding horns and a banjo to the usual band configuration, their sound was that of upbeat jangle pop. The interplay between the guitar, the banjo, and the trombone and trumpet gave me a somewhat unsettling ska country feel that I didn't much appreciate. I did enjoy the male/female duo vocals between their two singers however, something that reminded me (in a positive way) of one of my local favorites, the Wild Moccasins. They also did an excellent cover of "Don't Worry Baby" by the Beach Boys, which not many could do so capably. They did mention that their side-projects, which were also on sale at the merch table, were more psych rock in nature, which I honestly would probably enjoy more, knowing me.
Right in the middle was Buxton, who turned in an awesome set as usual. The recent addition of Austin Sepulvado (from, you guessed it, News on the March) on accordion and guitar sounds really nice over the new songs. I must admit, I'm somewhat disappointed they no longer play anything from A Family Light, but if the new songs they've been playing lately are any indication, they're working on topping that album.
In all the way from Albany, NY, Sgt. Dunbar and the Hobo Banned are News on the March's tourmates so they played second to last. Even bigger than the Candeliers, the Hobo Banned really does give you the impression that they're a junkyard band of hobos that picked up every instrument they could get their hands on. Mixing in a full horn section, an accordion, a violin, musical spoons and sawing, a banjo, and two percussionists, they go above and beyond just adding new layers to a typical rock band. Every instrument is fully integrated and completely necessary to complete their sound. That sound being something almost completely unique, the kind of rock you could only imagine being made by a band of drifters really. All those instruments together in one place, played completely straight, not in a gimmicky way at all. Whatever that conglomeration could be, that's what they were. But not just content with that, they also pulled off another trick: every band member seemed to know how to play every instrument and did at some point in their set. It was damn impressive.
News on the March finally came on at about 12:15 and I was pretty tired again by that point. I was determined, however, to see their set. It was worth it. Though they ran through mostly the same set of their classic heartland music last weekend at their Cactus Music instore performance, they seemed to be having a lot more fun last night. Enthusiastic even after a week of Austin shows, they played their hearts out for about forty-five minutes. News on the March, to me, is something like what I had hoped Monsters of Folk would sound like before I heard them. While that project, in my opinion, came off a bit boring and plasticy, the hearts they played out are what set News on the March apart. The feel-good music could even come off as hollow despite the dark lyrics of suicide and death if not for their intense dedication to it, playing on even in the face of a broken bass amp in the middle of their set. I have to hand it to them for that and wish them good luck on their tour. I'm pretty excited also for their upcoming album, even though there is as yet no release date. Just judging by the songs they played last night though, it's gonna be a brawler.