Thursday Night: Umbrella Man at the Big Top
The Big Top
Better Than: Jambalaya con carne with a side order of salty buttered grits.
Last week, after a three-week hiatus, Umbrella Man returned to their steadily more popular Thursday night residency at the Big Top. Fronted by former Los Skarnales upright bassist Nick Gaitan, the band sports a shifting line-up, on this night consisting of Geoffrey â€œUncle Tickâ€ Muller on banjo and guitar, a second guitarist, accordionist Robert Rodriguez, drummer Beans Wheeler and Gaitan.
Gaitan, who also tours backing Billy Joe Shaver, turns out to have a better than serviceable baritone voice on numbers like the swamp pop anthem â€œMatilda.â€ The band flips effortlessly through H-Townâ€™s indigenous traditional sounds; Gaitanâ€™s swamp pop was followed up by a Rodriguez mini-set of conjunto that took me straight to San Antonio in my mind. (One of the songs sounded like but wasnâ€™t Santiago Jimenez Srâ€™s â€œAy te Dejo en San Antonio.â€) The band then shifted into blues mode with â€œRock Me Baby,â€ punctuated by a killer banjo solo from Muller, and then moved on to a selection of rollinâ€™ bluegrass thunder and then to the bluesy honky-tonk of Hank Srâ€™s â€œMind Your Own Business.â€
The crowd, light at first, picked up as the night wore on, and by the end of the first set, a little knot of dancers was cutting a rug stage right.
Umbrella Man are an iPod band for an iPod world, a mÃ©lange of everything that makes the Gulf Coast different from everywhere else.
As if to make up for their time away, Umbrella Man plays three shows this week: tonight at nine at the Continental, Thursday at the Big Top, and Friday night after Alejandro Escovedo over at the Continental. â€“ John Nova Lomax