HPMA Aftermath: D.R.U.M., Black Dog, Brian's Johnson, Mighty Orq, Tontons, Southern Backtones and Sharks and Sailors
D.R.U.M./photos by Jim Bricker
D.R.U.M. got things moving at Venue with an explosive world-beat set that steadily drew more people into the stage area; most of those who walked in the doors stuck around for the duration of the show. The group truly took the audience all over the map, layering reggae, Afro-beat, jazz and jam elements with plentiful percussion thrown in for good measure.
The reggae-tinged “Don’t You Know” set many heads, shoulders and hips in motion, though most of these would-be dancers were unwilling to tackle the empty dance floor. D.R.U.M.’s performance even incorporated hip-hop influences, with an impressive MC contribution on “No Good.” The band certainly benefited from Venue’s in-house equipment; the superb sound system and hypnotic lighting helped make this one of the best showings we’ve ever seen from D.R.U.M. One audience member certainly seemed to agree – he tossed three $1 bills on stage, presumably as a tip.
The Hard Rock Cafe was teeming with Led Zeppelin fans eagerly awaiting tribute band Black Dog, and they wouldn’t be disappointed. The Zeppelin tribute band cranked it up and popped off a string of Zep classics with gusto. Appropriately, they played “Black Dog,” which nicely showcased Brad Caudle’s spot-on channeling of Robert Plant’s vocals.
Springing about the stage in an ornate purple tunic, Caudle was believable as a stand-in for Plant. Highlights included “What Is and What Should Never Be,” “Immigrant Song” and “Living Loving Maid,” and a particularly on-point “Rock and Roll.” The lone foible was an initially weak guitar solo in “Heartbreaker,” but guitarist Lance Milton rapidly recollected himself and gained traction. Very few left during the performance.
About 150 people gathered inside Rocbar for AC/DC tribute band Brian’s Johnson's scorchingly loud set. Lead vocalist Jeff Johnson certainly did bring to mind the screaming energy of actual AC/DC singer Brian Johnson - his persistently raw-sounding screeches were enough to make anyone’s throat hurt in sympathy.
Attired uniformly (back) in black, the group cranked classic AC/DC cuts including “TNT” and “For Those About to Rock (We Salute You),” peppering its performance with off-color commentary that apparently didn’t please those in charge at Rocbar. Later, as did the rest of the city, it seems, we heard the band members discussing their ejection from the venue due to their repeated references to "Cock Bar."
Over at Butterfly High, people overflowed out the door for the Mighty Orq, evidently unaware of a back hallway connected to the other side of the room that housed the band and their equipment, where those lucky enough to stumble upon it had plenty of room to move around (albeit no appreciable view of the band).
Frontman/namesake Orq’s soaring Southern guitar riffs and powerful vocals were the set's primary driving force, complemented by Matt Johnson’s drums and vocals and the steady, bluesy grooves of new bassist Mark White (also of the Spin Doctors). The trio's set oozed with a variety of musical influences, providing a sonic parallel to the line of people spilling out the front doors.
Asli Omar of Tontons
Tontons vocalist Asli Omar is a tiny little thing with a big, sultry voice and undeniable stage presence. From the quartet's opening song, “Sea and Stars,” it was impossible to take your eyes off of her; she almost seemed to glow in her bright green mini-dress. Omar has clearly had jazz vocal training in the past, and her sizzling stylings melded nicely with the band’s funk/blues/jazz-based music.
They seemed to be fond of mid-song tempo changes, which helped keep the sound fresh throughout their short set. A definite highlight was “Atlas,” which Omar explained was about her mom (who was in the audience). There were more people stationed on Venue's dance floor during this set than earlier, but aside from a few swaying girls, nobody really seemed to be dancing. Instead, they were staring at Omar with expressions resembling awe.
There’s something Cat Power-esque in the way she moves onstage, and her confident use of jazz hands was certainly hard to miss. It wasn’t a perfect performance – Omar sounded slightly pitchy at times – but Tontons definitely managed to solidify their status as a band to watch. At the very least, they appear to have the Wild Moccasins’ stamp of approval: Zahira Gutierrez and Cody Swann were in attendance, holding hands as always.
The Southern Backtones’ sound is mostly dark, but touches of surf-rock could be heard on some songs of the band's Hard Rock Cafe set. One man recorded the entire performance, and frontman Hank Schyma seemed more than happy to oblige him with camera-friendly poses. Schyma is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the band (and its only remaining original member), and appears quite comfortable in his role – even the feathers in his hair moved along with the beat.
“Forever,” the first track on the Backtones' 2006 eponymous full-length album, was a standout – and if you haven’t yet seen their grocery-store video for the song, YouTube it. Calvin Stanley, of fellow indie-rockers Pale, joined the Backtones briefly to describe his set with Schmya at Beach Bums the previous night – apparently they got kicked out of their own show because they were causing people to “leave in droves,” according to the establishment’s owner.
Sharks and Sailors' Melissa Lonchambon
The girl onstage attempting to introduce Sharks and Sailors at Notsuoh looked slightly annoyed: some guy in the audience kept interrupting her to add an enthusiastic “BUD LIGHT!” to her preamble. She handled herself well, quickly recovering and chirping, with a smile, “I think I love that guy.”
Slow down, cowgirl: the antagonist was none other than Chris Ryan of Black Congress and Dead City Sound – and boyfriend of S&S bassist Melissa Lonchambon. The disrupted intro finally complete, the Sailors began their set by exhibiting a rather soft side, playing two somewhat subdued songs before launching into their more hard-driving, all-out metal material.
The trio's set was colossal and roaring, perhaps a bit too much for some of the audience; the crowd began to thin after a few songs. The show certainly wasn’t the most accessible of the day, and those who don’t care for experimental metal might not have found it palatable. For hard rock fans, however, it was a rollicking, elephantine showing from three talented musicians. - Jenna Harper