If you know me, you know my disdain for StubHub. I will admit, there is probably no logic reason for me to hold such ill-will towards the ticketing giant, but alas, I never said I was perfectly logical. With that said, when I saw the line-up StubHub had set up for their second night at Banger’s, I couldn’t help but get excited. The Frights. Cuco. Wavves. Action Bronson. Two of my all-time favorite indie-rock bands, my favorite VICELAND personality, and my favorite new find. This truly was the event that I was most looking forward to when making my SXSW schedule, and it did not disappoint in the least.
This was my fifth attempt, yes, fifth, at trying to see the San Diego-based, surf-garage-rock, mixed with 50’s Doo-Wop melodies, band. One time, their set got rained out at Sound on Sound Fest, another, I had bought tickets to, only to come down with food poisoning the night of the show. Yet another time, I was in a different city covering a festival when they came through to Houston. Each time I missed them, it was like another dagger to my heart. But finally, after weeks of anticipation I was going to see the Frights, live. The first thing you know about the Frights live show is this: they don’t take themselves too seriously. That is by no means a negative statement, actually, it’s to their benefit. The band just goes up there and has fun, not caring whether or not you’re staring at them through your iPhone which is blocking the view of everyone behind you. The majority of their set relied on tracks from 2016’s You’re Going to Hate This, including “All I Need,” “Kids,” “Afraid of the Dark,” the titular track and personal favorite “Tungs.” The aforementioned track was given a SoCal spin as lead singer, Mikey Carnevale sang about things that popular culture has appropriated from the region, including Sublime. Another odd departure from their studio music was when the band went through a 90’s kids medley, starting off with My Chemical Romance’s “Welcome to the Black Parade,” weaving in the smash-hit by Smash Mouth “All Star,” and the classic 90’s kid introduction to infidelity, Shaggy’s “Wasn’t Me.” Other tracks performed included “Cold,” and “Crust Bucket,” from their self-titled 2013 debut full-length. Their set was everything I had ever imagined it to be, it was funny, it was exciting, it was surprising. I immediately regretted all of those missed opportunities I had let slip by in the past, and started to reevaluate my life decisions. Sorry about the Smash Mouth pun, I just had to do it to ’em. Okay I’ll stop now.
If you haven’t heard of Cuco, don’t feel like you’ve been living under a rock, which you have. Take solace in the fact that, I too, was living under a rock until I heard this 19-year-old’s immaculate music. When I first saw the line-up for this showcase, the only name I didn’t recognize was his. Obviously, I wanted to see what I was going to have to listen to in between two of my favorite bands. What I found changed me, deep, deep inside. “Lo Que Siento” was the track that did this to me. Beautiful, sappy guitar chords, that feel like they are straining under the weight of psilocybin-infused jelly. A calm, almost emotionally-stunted, talk-sing voice telling a long-distance love not to worry, reassuring them that their love is still there. Not only that, but the lyrics switch, on what seems like a whim, from English to Spanish, making the already sensual track downright sexy. Cuco brought his unique form of lo-fi bedroom-pop to a huge crowd at Banger’s, leaving an impression on everyone in attendance. Performing songs from across his discography, including “Lover is a Day,” and “Amor de Siempre,” both from his 2016 Wannabewithu, as well as “One and Only,” and “Lava Lamp,” from 2017’s Songs4u. Some of the highlights included when early in the set Cuco performed “Lo Que Siento,” or when he stopped the set to plug in his iPhone, or when Cuco broke out the trombone and began to blow minds with his brass. I’m a sucker for any sort of brass instrument in contemporary music, so I really enjoyed this. However, I think the funniest/weirdest highlight was when one of his keyboardists took center-stage for a song, and reached into the crowd and took a hit from an audience member’s vape pen. Was there THC in that? I don’t know, but my guess would be yes. Cuco’s stage banter was more akin to hip-hop artists, telling the crowd to “get lit,” and other things of that nature. It was sort of off-putting for someone who makes such heart-felt music, but I guess I should’ve known that was his attitude when he and his band came decked out in various designer brands, such as Supreme, BAPE, and Champion. Hey, I’m not knocking it, when I was 19, I still wore Supreme and thought I was the s***t, so I can’t rag on them too hard. At heart these are just some kids having fun for themselves, and if the fans enjoy it, then that’s a bonus.
One of my favorite bands of all-time. I first heard these guys when I got my first iPod at 12, listening to their self-titled debut. I fell in love with it, despite it being extremely under-produced. It was different, it was new to my ears. Everything I listened to up to that point was the Steve Miller Band CD in my mom’s car and Top 40 radio. It blew my mind. Eventually, I started to find other new sounds that I became obsessed with, like Houston hip-hop and early Dubstep mixes. Yes, this was a dark time for me. So eventually, I put away the Wavves, up until I first heard “King of the Beach,” from the 2010 album of the same name. Then I drove right back in, and I have been stuck there ever since. Nathan Williams, the front man of the group, announced once the band had made it to the stage that all of their electronic equipment had not made it with them to the show, so they’d be playing mostly older music. This didn’t hurt my feelings at all, the group’s latest album, You’re Welcome utilized far too many samples and just felt sort of rushed compared to his prior work. Opening with “Way Too Much,” from the band’s aptly-titled fifth full-length, V, the energy of the crowd was instantly turned to 11 as a pair of mosh pits had already formed in the crowd. Other tracks performed included “My Head Hurts,” from V, as well as “Animal,” from their latest album. Highlights for me included the trio of tracks from my personal favorite album, Afraid of Heights, which included the title track, “Demon to Lean On,” and “Sail to Sun.” The rest of the setlist came from King of the Beach, arguably the bands biggest success and included tracks such as “Idiot,” the title track, and the final two songs: “Post Acid,” and “Green Eyes.” The latter was an odd choice for a closer because it’s easily one of the more mushy-gushy songs in Williams’ extensive discography, but the crowd didn’t seem to mind. For the first time during their 40-minute set, bodies came flying over the railing, something that is usual par for a Wavves show. I was just surprised it took so long. If I didn’t have my camera with me, I probably would’ve been crowd surfing as well.
Bam Bam Baklava himself was probably the biggest draw for many of the people that made their way to Banger’s on this night. I mean, the guy is literally everywhere, he’s got a handful of shows on the VICELAND network, he’s got a best-selling cookbook, F*ck, That’s Delicious, on top of all of that he makes some dope music. You could smell what Action was smoking on before he made his way to the stage, as the beat to “Wolfpack,” the opening track of his latest release, Blue Chips 7000, began to shake the stage. Once Bronson made it to the stage, it was evident why we could all smell what he was smoking on; the joint he carried between his lips on stage was more comprable to a mummy’s finger than anything I had ever seen before. Between verses of “Wolfpack,” Bronson would puff heavily on it, blowing smoke out as he recited his intricate lyrics. Once the song ended, Action spotted some fans who were holding their cookbooks in the air, without a second though Bronson started reaching for the books, signing them, joint in mouth, before handing them back to the clearly ecstatic fans. Bronson would go on to perform “La Luna,” and “The Chairman’s Intent,” both from Blue Chips 7000. At this point I began to worry that Bronson was just going to perform the whole album in order, as he did with the first three tracks. I’m a fan of his music, but have to be honest I didn’t know the project that well. I was introduced to his music through “Strictly 4 My Jeeps,” and fell in love his absurdist approach to a genre that is sometimes too serious. Luckily, my worries washed away as the beautiful production behind Mr. Wonderful‘s “Terry” began and instantly transported me to a bright, sunshine-y beach with a mimosa in hand. Next was “Actin Crazy,” another personal favorite from Mr. Wonderful, then the extremely jazzy, stream-of-conciousness flow track “Bonzai.” The next tracks were “Mr. 2 Face,” which really elevated the faded crowd into a frenzy. Throwing it all the way back to Blue Chips and Blue Chips 2, Bronson dug deep and performed “9-24-11,” and “9-24-13.” As the set neared an end, Bronson performed my favorite track of his, the Chance the Rapper supported “Baby Blue,” but alas Chance did not make an appearance. Next was “Easy Rider,” a psychedelic-hip-hop masterpiece that seemed to be Bronson’s goodbye to the crowd as he abruptly left the stage before returning to perform “Amadu Diablo,” as his encore. Despite not getting to hear “Let Me Breathe,” I found the set as satisfactory. Bronson is an extremely complex lyricist, and it showed throughout the set. At more than one point we lost his flow and could only brush it off by looking angry at himself and yelling some four-letter expletives. You can’t really fault him for that, because he’s still extremely entertaining to watch. He slung water all over himself, spiked a microphone like Gronk does the pigskin, and was an overall personality on-stage. Honestly, any rapper that performs their music without having their hooks and verses playing under them is a solid performer in my opinion. Most rappers aren’t even close to being as lyrical as Action is, so the fact that he was able to nail 90% of his verses is no small feat.