Houston has many wonders and great things to offer to its residents and visitors. There is, of course, The Johnson Space Center (NASA), the Kemah Boardwalk, the beautiful Museum District with the adjacent Hermann Park and the impressive and ever so classy Theater District in downtown. The one place that people don’t talk much about is the Warehouse District. Of course, this makes sense, right? I mean, who wants to make a big deal about a bunch of square aluminium and concrete buildings filled with God knows what? Well, today, I do.
One of these wonders of Houston is the aptly named craft beer brewery, 8th Wonder. Its building resides in the middle of the Houston Warehouse District and looks just like any other matchbox style building in the area, complete with the sliding cargo doors and the windowless walls. However, in one corner of the brewery you will suddenly see the building come to life with a grand entrance that is filled with people sipping on their glorious nectar of wheat and barley out of designer glasses and plastic cups. Music spills out from multiple speakers, filling every corner of the area with the sound of fun and revelry. This is not a bar, this is a brewery, but the tasting room is visited by hundreds of people each day to partake in 8th Wonder’s magnificent brew and to enjoy a show.
That’s right. A show. Not only does 8th Wonder offer its patrons an awesome cold one, it also provides a space for local acts to perform for the thirsty crowd. Good deal, all around. On top of all that, there is an Eatsie Boys food truck parked in the back yard that provides nourishment to those of us dumb enough to arrive to places without having eaten. Needless to say, I got myself an amazing boudin po’ boy and scarfed it down like there was no tomorrow… but more about that later.
Produced by local event and record producers, Wonky Power, the show started on time at 7 pm with a band I had heard about but had not had the chance to see yet, The Lories.
I am so happy I finally got to see this band. Their musical style is clean sounding guitar (really full sounding with that clean Fender amp vibe) with soft, melodious vocals. During their set, I got impressions of acts like The Cranberries, Lisa Loeb, The Sundays and even some Paula Cole when singer, Mandy Clinton would reach into her bag of anger and belt out a few well-chosen lyrics with a snarl on her lips. Mandy is an unassuming performer with a beautiful, soothing voice that makes you think of birds tweeting in the lovely shade of an oak tree on a beautiful spring day… and then suddenly, without warning and completely out of nowhere she can break out into a forceful storm of emotion that commands your attention in the most compelling way. She strums out full chords on a beautiful Rickenbacker that fits her like a glove. Lead guitarist, Alex Segura plays a Fender Jazzmaster through which he succinctly produces fantastic highlights with power chords and single notes laden with reverb and delay effects. Jessica F is motionless behind the ever-present Roland keyboard. Rarely looking up, she keeps her attention focused entirely on her instrument through which she produces harmonious sounds and the occasional effect that makes you wonder if you just imagined that unforseen whooping sound. Drummer Kirke Campbell and Bassist Jose Sanchez complete the 5 piece providing a steady bed of rhythm in which the whole band can lie in comfortably.
After speaking with a few of the members I learned that they are not exactly a new band. According to the drummer they have been around for two years which made me think, where the hell have I been during this time? Either way, I am delighted to finally be able to say I saw them play. This is a band that would have been right at home at Lilith Fair and listening to them will take you into that groove. Do yourself a huge favor and check them out whenever you hear of them playing near you. A song you want to watch them perform is “Tiger Pride”. In my opinion it showcases their strengths quite accurately.
Sadly, The Lories have not recorded yet. There are some rather decent sounding demos at their bandcamp site (accessible here) that you can hear for free, but I feel they NEED to get into a recording studio as soon as possible and put out a professional product. I know that once they do, I will be one of the first in a long line to get it and it will burn a hole in my car stereo speakers from listening to it over and over. It was recommended to me that I had to experience The Lories and after hearing them I have to say… I LOVE this band.
The Lories finished their set with a very faithful cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries (very apt and fitting to them) and the stage was cleared for the next act of the evening, George West.
George West is actually Vik Montemayor, a Houston native who excels at producing a wall of sound through electronic means while occasionally turning around and keeping the beat with organic drums. His performance started without any fanfare or prior speech. He just started. The 8th Wonder backyard was immediately transformed from an open field in the Warehouse District to a mysterious and evocative night club in Brussels or Munich. He performed alone on the stage, surrounded by his instruments through which he created an ambiance of thrilling mystique. A projector illuminated him and the wall behind him showing various psychedelic imagery that further helped give that atmosphere of seeing something deep and otherworldly.
Now, allow me to be forthcoming… I am not much of a connoisseur of electronic music. I skipped the whole rave scene, having lived on a small island in the Caribbean where dance music was more in line with the afro-caribbean sounds that characterize the culture. Of course, I’d heard of what was going on in the US and Europe; and the trippy sounds being produced, but I truly have no experience to go on when talking about these particular styles of electronic music.
What I can say though, is that what I heard sounded really good. On George West’s Facebook page, his genre is described as futurewave. I have no idea if that is an actual music genre or not (Google says it is, by the way) but to me, futurewave describes very well what I saw and heard. Dreamy sequences, both visual and auditory, that enveloped the audience and took them somewhere far away from where their butts were sitting. Where exactly? Who knows? But definitely someplace cool.
If I may give a suggestion to Wonky Power Productions, please provide a better sound system for live bands. The electronic stuff and the mp3’s between bands sound great but a live band needs limiters and compressors to avoid overheating the speakers. I understand that you don’t want anything too loud or invasive but at least something that won’t distort when the singers get passionate. We don’t want to limit them from doing their thing. (wink, wink).
So… about that po’ boy. Dear God and all that is holy and good…
For those of you who don’t know what a po’ boy is (I get a lot of European readers who are not entirely familiar with southern U.S. culture) it is a type of sandwich that hails from the heavily French influenced state of Louisiana. Generally it is a French bread bun filled with spicy catfish or sausage. Its name comes from “poor boy” and it was called this because it was inexpensive and the poor Cajun dock workers would bring one with them for lunch while unloading the barges in New Orleans. Other than that, all you need to know about them is that they are DELICIOUS!
I was starving when I got to 8th Wonder Brewery and apparently, so were many other people, judging by the long line along the side of the food truck. I patiently waited in line for almost 30 minutes to place my order and was seriously wondering if it was worth the effort. Lo’ and behold, when it finally came, my po boy was gigantic and stuffed to the point of overflow with spicy boudin sausage, red onions, cheese and lettuce. Now, I don’t know if it was the hunger in me, but that po’ boy was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten from a food truck in my life. Imagine how good it was that I am actually writing about it in a music blog! When you go visit 8th Wonder Brewery (which if you haven’t done so yet, you must) be sure to bring an appetite and try out something from that Eatsie Boys food truck in the backyard. You will thank me for it.
I didn’t stay to see the end of George West’s performance because I had to run to another show at another club that I wanted to cover (more about that show in the next blog post), but I can say that my evening was kicked off to a very good start with this early performance by one of my newly-made-favorite-Houston-bands, The Lories and George West.
Expect great things from them both.
Oh…and one more thing I found stuck to a taco truck:
Yes sir, it most certainly is… and it has a great sense of humor too.
See you out and about, dear reader.