Screamo in Odessa
It turns out that from the Marfa area to El Paso you don't have much other than inflated gas prices (3.92 a gallon wtf?) and more baked earth. I drove past the literally-scorched stretch of land outside Ft. Davis that suffered wildfires earlier this year, and though I meant to extend my trip west to take up about two weeks, I found myself in El Paso before I knew it. With my friend Lauren's guidance I tried a few new spots and walked a bit around town, but since I'm coming back to El Paso at the first of this month (girlfriend visit) I decided to make the most of the interim and took I-20 east to Odessa. “Make the most of” and “Odessa” usually don't end up in the same sentence, but I've had a good time here. I did see this onerous bit of (admittedly old) news on Wikipedia though, courtesy of author James Michener – apparently in this town “[y]ou are more likely to be murdered ... than in any other city in the nation.”
So after what felt like a long drive I rolled into Odessa not entirely sure what was what. The guy my mom is dating – name of Milton - is actually from here (side note: he hasn't been murdered) and while I was trying what they call Chinese cuisine in town Milton steered me to a place called Dos Amigos. It turns out the venue/eatery/bar was having a show that very evening, and since it was a Tuesday I felt like I had lucked out and almost didn't blanche at $18 cover charge. Noting that my post-hardcore/screamo credentials were really lacking for this trip, I was even more freakin' pumped.
This is what was billed: Dance Gavin Dance, Sleepwalking to Texas, End, Ocean, Lights Along the Skyline, Faith In Ghosts!. So five bands I've never heard before doing a kind of music I basically know nothing about. LET'S DO THIS. Keep in mind that End, Ocean is just one band, not too bands called End and Ocean.
What we have here is a little bit of homegrown screamo and some farmed-out from elsewhere. This is a sort of music that's punctuated by very heavy, almost death metal shredding and screaming that then gives way to the kind of more melodic and desperate kind of wail/sing – to pull this off you usually need two singers, though a couple of the bands last night had vocalists who could yell and scream with equal gusto. To further confuse things, it's not rare for this type of music to also include keyboards and almost dance-based beats and synth noodles thrown in, which makes the whole thing kind of akin to putting on Slayer and Beyonce and Sunny Day Real Estate and waiting for cohesion.
I arrived to catch Lights Along the Skyline from Odessa rip it up, followed by (I think) End, Ocean and Sleepwalking to Texas. I can't give you too many specifics, but Lights Along the Skyline were more prone to stick to metal while End, Ocean (and their six members!) used a variety of loops, keyboards, and made the most of both vocalists to create a weird din that speaks to a bunch of sounds as simultaneously as possible. “On My Own” struck me as the stand-out, with keys player Sean Silagy creating a nice blanket of ambient sounds for the screaming/singing to stomp all over. As is typical, the song sounds like fifteen songs crammed into one.
Claiming “Midessa” as their home base, Sleepwalking to Texas also mined the loud/softer formula, with lead singer Dakota Bramblette (I think?) mouthing the softer vocal parts when he wasn't yelling. “I want to tell all of you why we do what we do,” he said mid-set, and proceeded to say something about how universal music is and how “it doesn't matter what you believe, but you have to believe in something.” Damn, when/how did this generation get so sincere? Meanwhile, here's what I believe:
The final act was California's Dance Gavin Dance. I was tired after being post-blasted with post-hardcore all night, and stayed for about half of the set.
Still, I think the most interesting facets of the band actually occur around the music and not in it. Here's one tidbit from Wikipedia:
“Will Swan confirmed in an interview that Mingus urinated on O'Sullivan during a cross-country trip in 2007 which resulted in an altercation between the two and a broken nose for Mingus.”
Ah, The Urination Incident. And here's what some of their songs are called:
"And I Told Them I Invented Times New Roman"
"The Backwards Pumpkin Song"
"I'm Down with Brown Town"
"Powder to the People"
And here's how their last album, Downtown Battle Mountain did on the charts:
“The album debuted at number 82 on the Billboard 200 while the Hot Topic deluxe version debuted at 190 on the Billboard 200 in the same week.”
This band, though unknown to most of my (so old!) peer group, is selling records and serenading Odessa teens to the tune of nearly $20 a pop on a weeknight. I can't explain how the music came to be, or why bros are pissing on bros, or what a “backwards pumpkin” could even refer to, but I know this – money talks and bullshit walks. These dudes look to be walking for a long time.