Recap: Canned Acoustica (10-W50-3)

When deciding which event to attend Thursday night, I had plenty of choices. I wanted to go to something that would most easily lend itself to an interesting and fun-to-read recap. I had limited funds and didn’t want to spend all of them just getting in the door. I did have extra canned food items at the house we’re moving out of, the route to which did not deviate terribly far from a rather direct route to Warehouse Live. Add all that together, and Canned Acoustica was the clear winner.

(Sidenote: I wanted to get this up sooner. However, I was simply too exhausted after getting home the night of the event and had more pressing things to attend to during the day after. My memory is not perfect, and I’m doing the best I can to recall the highlights of what wound up being a six-hour-long event for me. My apologies if some sections are light on details, as a good chunk of this was not written until 48+ hours after the fact, and I’m also trying to keep this from being too long.)

I arrived at around 7:15pm (I did not note the exact time) which was partway through the set of Atomic Cat Society. I didn’t want to push myself toward the middle of the room in the middle of an artist’s set, given that this was supposed to be a more intimate setting than most concerts. So I hung out in the entryway and didn’t get that great of a view of the stage for this act; however, I will say Atomic Cat Society has more to them than just a catchy name, and I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future shows by this duo as I liked what I heard. (For those who have never been, the layout of the Green Room has the entrance behind and to the audience’s left of the stage, with the remainder continuing in front of the stage. The audience-walkable portion, save for the restrooms, somewhat resembles the shape of the Tetris “S” piece.)

Shortly after this, I learned something about this event I didn’t know. I did remember receiving a Facebook message about this event earlier in the day from Mark C. Austin, a moderately famous photographer and supporter of the Houston music scene. However, I didn’t know Canned Acoustica was actually Mark’s event until he took the stage to make the announcements about the food trucks on site. Which, shortly afterwards, I did take advantage of, but not before taking a quick look at the display of local artists’ bowls for sale by Houston Food Bank as a fundraiser ($20 each).

We had two mobile kitchens to choose from: H-Town StrEATs (Facebook page; they appear not to have a website), and Taqueria Taconmadre (the latter of which actually operates out of a cargo van, and set up their cooking equipment out front). While I usually lean towards Mexican food, I checked out the menu of H-Town StrEATs first before looking at the menu of Taqueria Taconmadre. Or shall I say, distinct lack thereof. They didn’t really have a set menu, and while I did not doubt Mark’s honesty at all when he said the offerings are “affordable,” I tend to feel uneasy about ordering something on faith that it’s not going to break the budget. (I’m strange like that sometimes.) I had $10 on me, and for some reason, the Korean cheesesteak with kimchi offered by H-Town StrEATs for $5 was particularly alluring. Add $2 for a soda (Mexican Coke in glass bottle, which I think was a 12-ounce bottle), and that makes $7, which for me, that night, came a bit close to boundary between “affordable” and “expensive” but did not cross over into the latter category. To be fair, this was the most expensive offering available (a five-way tie with four other $5 offerings from the same vendor: bacon-wrapped double dog; pair of teriyaki sliders with pineapple and ham, which I am assuming were only available in pairs; grilled chicken on ciabatta with sundried tomato vinaigrette; and grilled cheese with portabello, bacon, and sheep’s milk cheese), or in other words, one really had to try to break the bank. That said, the Korean cheesesteak was great (and I actually got to learn what kimchi was, so I’m slowly but surely expanding my Asian food knowledge).

Anyway, so after I was done eating, it was back to the music. Robert Ellis had already begun his set by the time I got back inside. (I finished eating before going back in, as I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to take our food back inside with us or not; either way, carrying food and drink back in would have been a bit cumbersome). So again, I was stuck in the area to the audience’s left (performer’s right) of stage.

After Robert Ellis, the crowd began to fill up the area. As much as I had hoped “silence is expected during performances” (as posted on the Facebook event page) would be respected, it became more obvious that more and more people either a) didn’t get the memo, or b) flat out didn’t care. I changed position during some of the sets, and noticed that starting from behind the back couch (of three) in the area facing the stage, the noise from conversations started to easily interfere with any attempt to focus on the performance. I shudder to think how bad it must have been for those stuck near the rear wall. At times it got bad enough that the PA announcer urged people to quiet down during the performances. (Surprisingly, though, some of the performers didn’t care.) So not all of my inattention towards the act on stage was by choice. Maybe it is too much to expect a capacity crowd (by my estimate, around 60 people or so) to all remain nearly silent. It’s a catch-22: a larger venue takes away from the intimate nature of the performance, yet a venue too small leaves one with the discomfort of feeling crowded and trying to find a spot where the conversation won’t drown out the music.

We then have another short break, after which Black Queen Speaks takes the stage, a band some wouldn’t expect to go acoustic for a show like this. It was actually my first time seeing the group perform, and their performance was as memorable for the music as for the wild antics of the lead singer who came out off-stage and climbed up on the front row couch at various points, quite possibly pushing the boundaries of the comfort zone for those in the first row. I’m definitely glad I had a comfortable standing spot closer to the bar.

Next up, according to my notes, we had Benjamin Wesley. And it’s the strangest thing, I remember paying fairly close attention to his set. Of course, now that it’s time to write a post about it, I don’t remember a whole lot about his performance, and I feel really bad about this. Usually I take better notes and/or don’t forget quite as easily…

And then it was time for Winter Wallace. Flash back to March, when I got to see Winter’s band performing at Twestival at Caroline Collective (mentioned in the Weekly LOVIEE from that week (10-W12-4) but which I did not recap). That show was a rather chaotic one as the band had to move inside post haste due to noise complaints. However, I was a fan, and was disappointed that I was unable to make it to the CD release party back in August (due to several factors, mainly WordCamp Houston being the following day). It’s really hard to describe Winter’s style of music, besides “eclectic,” “addictive” and “captivating.” Anyway, it was after Winter’s set (if I remember right), I went back out to get another Coke from the H-Town StrEATs truck, which if you’re keeping score, brought my total expenditures for the night to $9.

Then Castle Lights took the stage, who before tonight I had barely heard of, but I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for them again, as I definitely enjoyed what I heard. Castle Lights was soon to be followed by Chase Hamblin performing with Cory Power (just the two of them, not all of Chase’s normal backup band). Chase and Cory delivered their usual excellence, as well as letting us know about a show coming up 2011 January 6 at Fitzgerald’s. And hopefully I’ll get to see you all there. And then we move on to Mason Lankford and Shellee Coley performing together, who were also relatively unknown to me until this performance. (Yes, I’ve been a bit more out of touch with the live music scene than I wanted to be.) I do remember Shellee’s CDs were on sale. I think Mason may have had CDs for sale too, but this is where my memory fails me yet again.

Finally it was time for Tyagaraja, who I had heard a lot about but had never actually seen perform live. His group performed more Christmas-themed music than most of the other artists I remember that evening. Tyagajara also had CDs for sale as well as other group swag (most notably T-shirts). I look forward to seeing him and his band perform again.

The evening concluded with the performances of Sara Van Buskirk (who appears not to have a website of her own, but does have her own Facebook page) and Listen Listen. Sara added a little shtick to her musical talent, jokingly referring to a “Jewish thrift-store” look, shortly after taking off her jacket to the applause of the crowd. Sara’s music is good enough to stand on its own, which is not to say that the shtick took away from it, as it did add some greatness to what otherwise would have been merely a good but not particularly memorable performance. Sara also had CDs for sale, adding to my already lengthy local music shopping list for early 2011.

Listen Listen, as the nominal headlining act, delivered a great show as well. (I say “nominal” because the headlining act is usually the one which performs last. It was well past midnight by the time Listen Listen took the stage, and many of the earlier performers could have been said to draw a larger crowd.) Like many of the other performers, I had heard about Listen Listen prior to tonight, but never actually seen them perform live.

In conclusion, every artist who performed at this show left at least a great impression based solely on this performance, with some of them reaching into “amazing” and “spectacular” territory. I didn’t catch every minute of every act, but I can definitely say based on what I did hear, that this was a show most music fans would have enjoyed regardless of how long they stayed and when they arrived and departed. In addition to that, Mark announced near the end of the show that over 1000 pounds of food had been collected for the Houston Food Bank. So in summary, this was a success all around, and I hope we have more events like this in Houston in the months to come.