Last night was the kind of night that I long for from time to time. I’ve been battling a cold for the past couple of days (nothing life or death… just those awful sniffles and sneezes. But thank you for your concern) and I was in the mood to either stay home and binge on some Netflix or go see a good show that wasn’t too loud or overly complex to get to, park, get in and shoot.
So I did what I always do and started looking through my list of events and found the perfect show to see. Jealous Creatures, Jay Satellite, Sky Acre and Jeremy Carswell would be bangin’ out some musical goodness at another of Houston’s historical haunts for live music, Rudyard’s British Pub at 8:00 pm.
So I packed up my camera and lenses and around 7:15 pm took the short drive (another great thing about this show… not even 10 minutes from where I live) to Rudyard’s. Found parking immediately and ordered some food. Rudyard’s makes some of the best bar food around and has a huge assortment of beers so it was perfect for me.
I finished eating, thanked Aaron at the bar and went upstairs where they feature live bands. Passing through the curtains I was immediately reminded that, at odds from other venues in this town where bands are required to begin their show at the hour advertised, Rudyard’s is more…. lenient… and by lenient I mean if a band advertises 8:00 pm, it will most likely start at 10:00. So, as I walk in, I see that the stage is empty and, other than a few stray people who like myself seemed to have lost their way and ended up somehow upstairs, the place was practically vacant. Oh well… at least I’ll get quick service at the bar.
It didn’t take long though before the bands started showing up and setting up their instruments and amps on the stage. More and more people started coming in and the place came to life. Maybe it was the cold medicine mixed with the beer but I really enjoyed watching that happen. How quickly a place can go from dead to vibrant was unusually fascinating to me so naturally, I decided on another beer.
Time then came for the first act of the night, Jeremy Carswell.
Now, I did mention the cold medicine and the beer, right? Jeremy Carswell’s performance had a kind of multiplying effect on my already swimming head and left me astonished and confused at the same time. It is very difficult to put into words the experience of watching him perform but I will try my best.
Jeremy stands alone on stage with nothing more than a Rickenbacker guitar and a laptop. He projects himself on the stage owning it like a true rock star, swishing his dark locks back and forth and staring down the audience defiantly as he sings. His music is a true time travelling experience to the age of 80’s British new wave. His songs are an interesting (and very well programmed on the laptop) combination of the 80’s New Romantic movement and 80’s goth. I could swear that I heard elements of OMD, Bowie, Bauhaus, The Cure and Sisters of Mercy in all of his songs. Anyone who knows me personally knows that any act that plays this kind of music would have me on my knees begging for more but here is where things got weird…
Jeremy’s live performance is a very strange one that goes from absolutely brilliant to complete and total failure and then back to absolutely brilliant again. At times you don’t exactly know if he is doing a parody of 80’s new wave or if he is really doing it. The best way I can describe it is that moment when Andy Kaufman first stood on the Saturday Night Live stage and did “Foreign Man”. You really didn’t know if you were watching something painfully awful or exceptionally clever. My immediate reaction to Jeremy was, “Is this guy f&%$* with me or is this for real?” For sure, Jeremy needs to practice playing his guitar a lot more. His attempts to solo were seriously distressing to me and caused me to look away out of respect for the beautiful Rickenbacker he was trying to play notes out of. His guitar sound does not mesh well with the sound quality of the laptop tracks, making it sound out of place and invasive. Jeremy’s voice however, is extremely good. Specially for the type of music he plays which requires a deep and powerful chest voice. He can channel Robert Smith and Andy McCluskey like no one else I have ever heard and he most definitely IS an entertainer in every sense of the word. I would love to revisit his performance a year or two from now after he learns his guitar scales, gets some decent guitar pedals to fix his sound and maybe even gets a kick-ass band behind him. If he does that, he will have my full devotion as a fan.
Following Jeremy’s surrealism was a band from Hutto, Texas called Jay Satellite.
By this point we were informed that Austin band Sky Acre would not be performing because their van broke down on the way to Houston. As sad as this made the crowd, Jay Satellite made damn sure that sadness was short lived by immediately taking over everyone’s attention with their amazing sound.
Jay Satellite is a guitar band and by that I mean, “Oh my God, look and listen to those BEAUTIFUL guitars!” Each song introduced a new guitar that went from Fender to Gibson (with a Bigsby tremolo, man!!!) to an Epiphone Emperor to Rickenbacker. The lead singer’s pedal board has to be the most extravagant piece of hardware that I have ever seen. I mean, you could fly the Starship Enterprise with that thing! And he knew how to use it. The guitar sound for this band has to be the best I have ever heard from a band playing in a small venue. It was full, with many layers of depth and when it came time to play single notes, the guitar would cut through the rest of the band’s sound like a hot knife. As a guitar enthusiast myself, I was drooling.
The band’s sound is straight up 90’s guitar pop, influenced by bands like Oasis, Live and Collective Soul. The songs are filled with razor sharp edges that will make you want to dust off your old collection of REM and Smashing Pumpkins CD’s while wearing your favorite black button down shirt, sleeves rolled up to the elbows with black jeans. Song after song pumped up the audience who was captivated by the lead singer’s piercing voice and perfect chord progressions. I will admit to being thrown off a time or two by the drummer’s occasional loss of timing but the enthusiasm and energy of the band as a whole compensated for it quite adequately.
If you like guitar rock with great lyrics and dark undertones, you will love Jay Satellite. Definitely check them out when they next roll by your town. You can also get one of their many recordings from their Bandcamp website. A hard working band that will revive your love for music.
The final act of the night was Houston’s own, Jealous Creatures. This is another hard working band that has already put out 3 recordings including their latest, “The Night Goes on for Days” which has been hailed by many to have a definitive Houston sound. Well… I don’t know about that, considering that Houston has so many sounds to it, but I will say this: They sound amazing!
Lead singer, Sarah Hirsch’s voice reminds me a lot of the vocal stylings of K.D. Lang, Patsy Cline and even a bit of Roy Orbison. If this sounds a bit too country western for you, dear reader, hang on… I’m not done. Now… imagine putting those three voices together in a blender, throw in some Pixies, Sonic Youth and a dash of Uncle Tupelo and you have a close approximation of Jealous Creatures. Serious and thoughtful songwriting, great melodies and a very entertaining stage show make this band one of the best Houston has to offer and each member plays their part to make the whole a well rounded spectacle.
Seeing Jealous Creatures perform is like visiting family. Even if it is your first time seeing them, their manner and demeanor on stage draws you in as if they are old friends you grew up with your entire life. Lead singer, Sarah barely moves from her center stage. Instead, it’s her eyes which travel from side to side behind her signature glasses, glancing at each audience member and inviting them into her performance with a sly sideways smile. On her right is lead guitarist, Ian who moves around and strikes all the rock and roll poses that are required of a guitarist who knows what he is doing. His style is heavy on single note melodies with thick delay that are reminiscent of guitar greats like Paul Reynolds and The Edge. On Sarah’s left is bassist, Meghan who is splendidly swaying hard, back and forth as she picks out chest-pounding notes on the bass. Her style of playing, in my opinion, is what gives Jealous Creatures their raw energy. She doesn’t just play a note, she punches it out in an authoritative beat which manages to take you by surprise you each time. Drummer, Josh completes the quartet and provides the heartbeat to their sound. Steady and reliable as a clock, he rolls out the beat while on rare occasions looking up from his kit at the audience with a deep and serious stare. Each one of them display very unique and different personalities but somehow make us all feel like we are sitting at a family dinner. Comfortable and among kindred souls.
They played a long and energetic set that had people dancing and singing along with them the whole time. Each song cementing their relationship with the audience more and more. For me, suffice it to say that I forgot all about my cold.
During the evening I had the chance to share some smart conversation with another Houston music scene staple, Tessa Kole from the band Purapharm who had come to show her support for the bands playing. We talked a lot about the state of the Houston music scene and some of the great things happening now and in the near future in this city. The recurring theme in every conversation I have with anyone about the H-Town music scene is the sense of camaraderie that I find very unique to this place. I have experienced many local music scenes in various cities and countries and I can say that I have never seen the kind of support that the bands of this scene give to each other. It’s uncanny. I foresee some really cool things coming up.
Stay tuned ’cause it’s gonna be awesome.