The sensation those exiting the Countdown Club in London circa 1964 after an early era Pink Floyd show had or the way the Ramones' fans stumbling out of CBGBs in Manhattan around 1974 felt would be analogous to my experience at last night's the Bright Light Social Hour show.
My mixed bag of sonically instigated elation and rising-star-struck stupefaction arose from a full-frontal assault by the Bright Light Social Hour. It was a strategic blend of clean bass bombs, machine-gun guitar shredding, rapid-fire drum fills, and maniacal organ mortar belting from a Leslie rotating speaker. Austin's award-winning rising stars took the hype in stride, rose to the occasion like a band of veterans, and rocked the hell out of the the Funky Buddha's Bamboo Stage.
The room was full enough for a Tuesday night when Miami's Ketchy Shuby warmed up the room with its charismatic, high-energy, downtown soul. Reworked covers ranging from Nirvana's "Come as Your Are" to the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb" kept things interesting, setting a tone for nods to prolific rock icons. A wild off-stage dance by front man Jason Hernandez-Rodriguez capped off the appetizer that would hold off the eager audience during a set break.
Once instruments were in place, the roadie-less quartet of long haired, bearded Austinites wasted no time with semantics. They simply just started playing.
Things got moving at the first synthetic organ notes of "Shanty," the opening track off of their self-titled debut album. The easily danceable cut combines a subtle slide guitar before dropping into the multidimensional lyrics, "Got to keep moving, broke downing and grooving, now tell me what are we gonna do?" Without the assistance of much more than their amps, the ultra-clean Southern rock tone belting from the stage commanded attention and captivated a willing crowd.
Those who knew what they were in for were happy to see it delivered, and anyone that went into this one blind will have a story of how they randomly caught that band from Texas before they started selling out amphitheaters.
Keeping in line with their skillfully flowing album, the set list followed the tracking with a thunderous "Bare Hands Bare Feet" that segued into "La Piedra De La Iguana." Coming up for air, the foursome tuned up to yells and clapping. Judging by the looks on their faces, they had not expected that kind of response on a Tuesday night.
When the vocal harmonization showcase "Detroit" came next, I wondered if they would simply play the record in its entirety, an idea with which I was perfectly content. Instead, bass guru Jack O'Brien introduced the the next song with a dryly humored, "This one is about fucking," before cueing up "Garden Of The Gods." Impeccable execution was a constant, but the band's tightness really came through when they broke down into a bridge that incorporated flubless start-stops filled by snaps from the crowd.
Departing from their heavy roots, the guys decided to test out some new material with the approval of the audience. If the fresh song, "Maybe I Do" is a thermometer of their auditory evolution, they will be jumping borders that house the likes of LCD Soundsystem's live electronic undertones. Yet somehow, the subliminal wash of The Allman Brothers was still embedded deep in the tone. Following the makeshift instrumental dance party, O'Brien remarked through a sly grin, "We came all the way from the future to tell you everything is going to be alright tonight."
The crowd roared and whistled in agreement while the soulful intro of Muddy Water's "Mannish Boy" gave the guys an chance to show off their smooth blues side. Both Waters and Hendrix would have approved, especially when six-string maverick Curtis Roush stood over the crowd on the edge of the stage for an earth shattering series of bliss licks. Somehow fitting into the fabric of the rhythm, the blues take ended with a sing-a-long of 2 Live Crew's "Face Down Ass Up," punctuated by a high reaching response of "That's the way we like to fuck."
Feeling comfortable with the room, the band again debuted a new song, and then returned to their amusing hip-hop mash up during "Back and Forth" with a tribute to YoungBloodz via "Damn!" The reckless abandon of their stage presence was perfectly illustrated by the Lil Jon rap philosophy "if you don't give a damn, we don't give a fuck."
Rounding out the live eulogy to bands now fallen to the wayside, Bright Light channeled their most brilliant moment of the night with Mose Allison's "The Young Man Blues." Besides being just as lyrically relevant as when The Who famously covered it in 1970, the song was a vehicle for a series of unreal solo trading. The crowd stood slack-jawed when Joseph Mirasole exploded in a fury on his drum kit. A blur of hands, sticks and hair concealed a very John Bonham-like demonstration of percussion prowess. That is not said lightly.
Feeling the afterglow, the crowd begged the guys to throw down one more before packing it up. The high energy instrumental "Rhubarb Jam," which also closes out their album, was a perfect parting gift from these rock demigods. Next time we see these guys, they will be giants slaying historic theaters and coliseums.
The Crowd: Young rock fans, hipsters, old heads, and a surprisingly large number of females.
Overhead: "Yeah, these guys are going to blow up."
Final Thought: Arguably one of the best shows to every happen at The Funky Buddha, but I predict the next time they are in town, the venue will need to be bigger.
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