Monday, July 2, 2007

Bad Breath at BoozeHounds....I mean Swampmouth...

As some of you may know, I have been very impressed with a local cover band called Texas Special. So, when they told me that they were working on originals, I couldn’t wait to hear what they came up with.

Well, a while back they informed me of their original band’s name...Swampmouth. Then they put up some recordings on MySpace, and I was duly impressed. Then I went just to hang out with Texas Special and friends, and they gave me a Swampmouth CD. As I understand it, this was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants effort...done in very little time, lyrics written on the way to the studio kind of thing. And yet it sounds damn good. So, when they told me they would be performing at BoozeHounds (as you probably know, my fave neighborhood hangout) on the 30th, I made plans to go.

So, I get there and there is an opening band. Dawn of Stereo. I had no idea what to expect of this band. The name sounded vaguely familiar and that was about it. Now, I’m going to try my best to say this diplomatically...they were bad. But not without hope. I don’t have much of an opinion on the drummer and bass player...they were...well, basic. The singer/guitarist, on the other hand, is the crux of the deal. The boy has talent...but it’s very unpolished.

Band Dawn of Stereo at BoozeHounds

First of all, I can’t say what kind of music they play. At times, it was rock . At times, it was almost country. At one point, he introduced a blues lick, then went right out of it. There was much use of what I think is called a sequencer? That in-and-out kind of guitar noise? If I had to pinpoint it, I’d call them simply Texas rock, I supppose. There was one song with two guitar solos where one reminded me of Bob Seger and the next reminded me of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The singer was pretty good on guitar, but his voice is the focus and the problem. In the lower ranges, he sounds great. In the higher range, with lots of “Woah-woah-ohs” his voice is whiny and often out of key. I hate to say it, but within their first two songs, they managed to clear out half the bar.

And yet, I think that...they are young...and given time and experience and practice...they might be very good. I think they need to focus on a direction, for one thing. What kind of music do they want to play?

Their MySpace page describes them thus: “Mixing 60's garage with the neo psychedellia of the 80's - the power pop fundamentals of "The Jam" and early 90's college radio” And that’s about right. It’s all over the place.

Bobby Aguilar (the singer/guitarist) has talent. But it is as yet unrefined. I want to hear these guys in 5 years.

Anyway, when they were done, Swampmouth took the stage. Their first and second set were mostly Swampmouth originals...bluesy southern rock at its finest. They surprised me a couple times with original songs that were way more rock than what I expected of them. But I suppose I shouldn’t be so surprised. I’ve spoken with these guys about music several times and I know that while singer/guitarist James Ponder is into blues and Southern rock, his brother and bassist Brad is something of a headbanger, and if I remember right, drummer Delrick is a jazz enthusiast. So there are all kinds of interesting influences mixed in there.

Band Swampmouth at BoozeHounds San Antonio

Their third set was the most interesting to me. At this point, after many beers and quite a few shots of Tequila, they focused on providing us with some cover requests. There were a group of people, all in black t-shirts and celebrating a birthday, who were a little rambunctious and wanted to hear some Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent and Slayer. The boys did their best to oblige.

As Texas Special, they already do “War Pigs” so that wasn’t a problem. And evidently, they are used to this group’s requests for Slayer and had worked up, as a joke, a jazz version of a Slayer song (and sorry, but I’m not a big Slayer fan, so I can’t tell you much about this, except that I’m not sure anyone else got the joke). But the funnest and funniest part was in fulfilling the request for “Stranglehold.” When they agreed to play it, Brad blatantly admitted that they had no experience with this song. It started out with the normal Stranglehold beginning, and then they got to the solo. James went wild, slinging his guitar around, playing with one hand, slamming it down on the ground, totally abusing it. And I’m laughing my ass off, because, great as this is, it sounds NOTHING like Stranglehold, but it’s one of the most enthusiastic guitar solos I’ve ever heard!

Finally, when he’s crouching down on the stage, guitar lying on the floor in front of him, he’s pounding it up and down by the strings...I think he’s realized that he’s gone as far as he can without actually playing the song and just stops...mid-solo...none of the “C’mon, c’mon up” part or anything. I was dying laughing.

And then they did something that touched me. Last time I saw them as Texas Special, I mentioned a song that I thought they would like and that I thought they would do an awesome job of covering...”Cottonfields and Crossroads” by Los Lonely Boys. James did his homework, checked out the song and other works by the band, and they learned the song and played it especially for me. They did an awesome job! I was in “Heaven.”

They finished up with a kickass jam of “Moby Dick” by Led Zeppelin. James took over drum duty, with Delrick and Brad on bongos. I love this kind of off-the-wall jam and totally wished I’d brought my bongos with me! Awesome fun night!

Swampmouth Drum Jam

Oh, and one last note: Scotty, I’m sorry I killed your good luck (in the form of a cricket) but dammit, it was ON ME!!!! I just have a serious bugaphobia!!!

I have a video of this night, but I am fighting with my software and will have it up ASAP!