Gritty Local Bands Plug In For Superstorm Sandy Relief
It's only been since October, but Hurricane Sandy already kind of feels like it happened forever ago. Hell, we've weathered a fiscal cliff, a school shooting and a Texans playoff loss since then. The news crews are long gone. For those of us blessed not to have been directly affected by the "superstorm," it's mostly been consigned to history at this point.
In the Northeast, of course, Sandy's effects linger on. The storm was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history behind Katrina, and the rebuilding has only just begun. The American Red Cross has already spent more than $100 million on emergency relief in the region, with millions more to come.
That's a lot of dough, folks -- here's hoping it's all replaced by the time our fair city has to call upon the Red Cross once again. Luckily, not everybody in Houston has forgotten about Hurricane Sandy just yet. This weekend, an eclectic collection of Houston bands united for the cause, bum-rushing Notsuoh and Dean's downtown for an all-night Red Cross benefit.
Live local music is my kind of fundraiser, so I decided to drop in. I arrived right after dinner, but the show had already been going on for hours by then. The first band I caught was the Boulevard Nights onstage at Notsuoh. The group's rhythm section packed a nice punch, and the '60s psych organ gave their tunes a pleasant, spacey flair. When the whole band cranked up, its sound reminded me a bit of the White Stripes covering Radiohead songs.
With the stages at both bars staggered pretty effectively, it was a cinch to hear everything. When the Nights went dark, I crossed over to the adjoining Dean's, where Tim Qualls was setting up. The pop/soul singer-songwriter apologized for his lack of a backup band -- only the drummer showed. Apparently the flu epidemic had spread to the rest of his compadres.
Sounds like a job for the Red Cross! Qualls did his bit to help them out, deploying well-crafted, R&B-tinged pop-rock that had some toes tappin.' His sultry voice recalled Justin Timberlake and Adam Levine by turns, and his songs' diminished instrumentation seemed to work out nicely for him in a few spots. One of the verses in "Vain" became a pretty decent rap, thanks to the tight beat his drummer was laying down.
Next door, A Sundae Drive entertained rock fans with pop of the power variety while the Tyburn Jig set up at Dean's. Those in the know at the venue praised the Jiggers for their hard work in making the fundraiser happen, so if you see 'em around town, stop and shake their hands.
On Saturday night, of course, the band was aiming to shake a few asses; hands be damned. The group's jangly surf guitar rang out onto Main Street as Dean's began to grow crowded. A catchy mix of surf, punk, rockabilly and Texas honky-tonk music drew the people in, squeezing in front of the bar's tiny stage area.
The Tyburn Jig
To avoid the crunch, I sipped outside at watched the band through the venue's storefront windows. As I enjoyed some quality live music downtown, in one of the oldest parts of the city, only a few feet from a train whizzing by, I couldn't help but think how altogether appropriate it was to hold a Hurricane Sandy fundraiser in one of Houston's most Manhattan-esque locales.
The music, though, was pure H-Town. Back at Notsuoh, Black Queen Speaks drew a nice crowd for its set, which seemed to up the volume of the evening considerably. The band's rhythm section locked into deep grooves as they pumped out dirty Southern hard rock. Heavy as they were, the tunes were still danceable, as singer Mike Blas proved with his strange, serpentine moves on stage. It was pretty fun to watch.
Black Queen Speaks really opened up their Gibsons for the band's finale, an enthusiastic cover of Danzig's "Mother" that had quite a number of fists pumping in the audience. No one doesn't love that song. When it was over, I realized my ears were beginning to ring.