Aftermath: Balaclavas and Black Congress, Lacquering the Walls of Mango's

Categories: Live Shots
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Photos by Craig Hlavaty
All my friends know the Low Rider: Black Congress
It's getting harder and harder every day here in Houston to find bands who know how to rock the ever-loving fuck out. Sure some of you do a good job at riding straight grooves and crafting shit-hot slabs of indie swoon. We appreciate the hell out of that smack, but some nights we want liberation, pain, and torture to soundtrack those hours of darkness. We dig love, but sometimes we have a bloodlust that needs an overture.

Say hello again to Balaclavas and Black Congress, two bands who couldn't sound and look any different but yet share the same genre-smashing intent and disregard for musical normalcy. It's the rare bill like this that also makes up for Aftermath being a poor disheveled rock journo, when two disparate tribes of heathens can team up to confound and astound him and his brethren for nearly three hours on a Friday night.

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Boys keep swinging: three-man army Balaclavas.

It's always amazed us how the screaming and swirling post-punk trio Balaclavas can somehow sound like 17 people onstage. Remember this is the same band that Aftermath has muscled past a freshly broken elbow to see, so maybe we aren't the most ideal person to review this band. That all aside, Balaclavas came out proverbially swinging with new material from their long gestating follow-up to 2008's lauded Inferno.

Each new song seemed to lacquer the walls of Mango's as lead singer Tyler Morris alternated between keys and guitar, skronking out his drony vocals at a narcotic clip. The secret strength behind Balaclavas has been the agile drumming of Chaz Patranella, who does way more live than their recorded sound could ever belie.

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Bryan Jackson of Black Congress, pre-shower
Somewhere along the way Friday night, Aftermath jumped on Twitter to remark that seeing Balaclavas open for Black Congress was like The Fall opening for AC/DC. That utterance was quickly deflected like so many Matt Schaub passes, but we still see a lot of that band in Black Congress, especially in lead singer Bryan Jackson. But that is a disservice to the rest of the band, who seem to bring the rock as if they have a gun to each of their heads.

Jackson's live persona is more Eli Sunday from There Will Be Blood than Bon Scott to be honest, but it's that beer-drenched strut that reminds us of Scott for the most part. Bassist Dann Miller continuously and mercilessly lays to waste each of his instrument's parts as both guitarists Roy Mata and Bret Shirley create a massive swarm of noise that helps scene-ubiquitous drummer Chris Ryan make an unholy heaven-fucking clamor behind his kit.

They swing way too much to be metal and don't posture for hardcore, which makes them a homegrown Houston anomaly. With Black Congress, you are banging your head one minute and ducking for fear of getting hit with shards of glass from a bottle Jackson threw down in disgust the next. That's right - this is the very kind of shit that makes Aftermath get up every morning by the crack of late mid-morning to cover music in Houston, and - funnily enough - why GMAC wishes he was a little bit quicker on making his car note.

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