The Moving Sidewalks at Bayou Music Center, 9/28/2013
"We're actually remembering this shit," Billy F. Gibbons said after the Moving Sidewalks had played two choppy, fuzz-clouded songs Saturday night at Bayou Music Center. By all accounts, it was his pre-ZZ Top engagement's first public performance on a Houston stage since the LBJ administration, not to mention a glimpse of an alternate timeline any Bayou City music-history buff would find irresistible.
The occasion was the Deacons of Deadwood's 12th annual charity gala, a fundraiser thrown by the large Houston motorcycle club/nonprofit whose annual donations to Houston-area children's charities number in the six figures. According to current Deacons president Steve Lamb, the Sidewalks got involved because "some friends of the band contacted us." He went on to tell me his non-Deacon position is an assets manager for Morgan Stanley, both Jimi Hendrix's and Sharon Stone's sisters were at the gala, and that the Deacons have raised some $1.4 million for some very fortunate local kids in the club's 11-year history. Kudos.
So Saturday, many of the Deacons -- recognizable by their custom white suit jackets, many sleeveless and some with patches bearing names like "Hoss" or "Coonass" or "Roadhouse" -- plus their dressed-to-the-nines dates and about 800 more friends of the band, all gathered to eat (catering by Demaris), drink (top-shelf open bar), and pose on the Harley-Davidson ice sculpture near the restrooms or bid on a guitar autographed by AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young (minimum bid: $3,950) in the silent auction. Rocks Off definitely needs to review charity galas more often, but only if they're this bananas.
After a good, long opening set by Houston's Fab 5 that spanned '60s rock from "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" to "In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida," the Sidewalks strolled onstage about 10:50 p.m. to some Hammond B-3 swells courtesy of organist Tom Moore, who looks a little like homespun Houston Chronicle lifestyle columnist Leon Hale. Those licks smelled a lot like "Green Onions," if you catch my drift.
Along with drummer Dan Mitchell, Moore's draft into the U.S. armed forces is the event that sent the Sidewalks' career to the sidelines until Rock Beat Records' 2012 reissue of the band's lone album Flash, plus assorted singles and demos -- including their, er, reworking of the Beatles' "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" that first got them noticed amid Houston's thriving "teen scene" -- released under the simple-enough name The Complete Collection.
All night long Moore made a fantastic foil for Gibbons, whose master-of-ceremonies banter was dominated by the recurring line, "Are we having a good time now?" The series of "rock faces" Moore made whenever he would hit just the right chord on his B-3 seemed to answer in the affirmative, even as they upstaged the stone-faced, shades-wearing singer every time.
Some 45 years may have gone by, but the the Sidewalks' songs were written by teenage boys, and so sometimes they can be (like teenage boys) a little gawky, a little awkward, and oversaturated with hormones. Saturday, the Who-ish "Flashback," the Nightcaps' rockabilly blast "Wine, Wine, Wine" and Wilson Pickett's eternal "In the Midnight Hour" definitely were. But as men in their sixties, the Sidewalks have also earned the right to not rush a damn thing if they don't want to, life lessons they put to good use at this particular gig. If bassist Don Summers moved more than three inches from where he stood about two feet in front of Mitchell all night, I didn't notice.
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