The Sinseers, The Altons and The Mellows – Soul Revival
Written by Blade Simensky on February 14, 2023
On a cold night in Houston, locals gathered to experience the sounds of modern soul music at The Heights Theater, a 97-year-old venue that was once a cinema. Thee Sinseers, The Altons and The Mellows delivered a swooning performance full of genre-bending singing that enlightened the audience to a soul and blues revival. The venue provided a perfect complement to the bands’ nostalgia with a historic neon sign out front, interior dim lights of ever-changing colorful hues, and rows of rusted iron bars barricading the balcony off. Red brick covered the walls and the velvet backdrop set the foreground for the bands that stepped in front of them.
The Mellows warmed up and welcomed the crowd that was slowly trickling in with a charming sound, including songs like “I’m Coming Home” and “That’s How the Story Goes.” Inspired by The Beatles and the Everly Brothers, you can assume what the ambiance that this group of brothers and childhood friends might’ve felt like. Dressed in 50’s styled clothing and strumming telecaster guitars, their commitment to an aesthetic was remarkable.
After half an hour, the room was full of indie folks and Texas natives all drinking their Lone Stars. Nothing says Houston quite like the aura when The Altons stepped on. The Altons are the embodiment of passion on stage as they serenade the soul through skillful vocals. The journey through their discography of dreamy harmonies was drenched in psychedelia. Playing their latest release “Float” early in the set sparked a surge of energy led by the singer, Adriana Flores, who had an upbeat yet soothing presence. Flores’ harmonizing voice was balanced by the guitarist and lead singer standing next to her, Bryan Ponce. His passion seemed to sail through his microphone into the audience’s eardrums during the tracks “Over and Over” and “Tangled Up in You.” The remarkable chord progression and execution between Ponce and fellow guitarist and singer, Joey Quinones, just bounced rhythm right off each other like a yin and yang style duo. The drummer, Caitlin Moss, is a smiley and experienced pacesetter who got love from the crowd and couldn’t miss a beat all night. The bassist, Chris Manjarrez, is skillful in the background while setting the foundation for the occasional funk wave.
The band consistently interacted with the crowd which heightened their showmanship and provided an immersive experience. Around halfway through the set, Flores said,
“At this part in the shows we like to take a moment for what we’re thankful for, we’re thankful for you and a sold-out show, now if you wanna take a moment to think about what you’re thankful for, we’re gonna sing and serenade while you do that.”
The showmanship continued later on as Flores verbally painted a picture of a setting, from which their music was inspired by:
“Imagine it’s a Sunday, and you’re spending quality time with your family and you see, you guys have the radio on, and you guys are listening to the classics, and some of the songs they sound like this.”
They proceeded to play “When You Go (That’s When You’ll Know).” This was immediately contrasted by the showcasing of their cross-cultural roots while maintaining the same imagery for the hypothetical setting, which Flores continued:
“Then someone gets up and changes the radio, and they put on a station that plays classics too. Now these sound a little different, they sound a little bit like this… see, we grew up listening to songs in English and Spanish and we wanted to write a song that our parents could hear on the radio too, so we did.”
As their musical style changed to play the song “Maldito,” so did the language to Spanish. Performing all sides of themselves in this set was a beautiful blend that represented the new generation emerging from Southeast Los Angeles. The international language of music was spoken in a room full of people who were seeing this band for the first time. Whether they spoke English or Spanish, everyone understood the message.
After a short break, Thee Sinseers stole the stage, who are essentially the same band. They consist of all the same members as The Altons but add brass to the mix and key performers like Francisco Flores on the guitar and Steve Surman on the saxophone. It is a more popular alter ego of The Altons, where Quinones leads the way with Flores and Ponce while alternating and exchanging harmonization through pitch changes. A wardrobe switch backstage led to wearing high heels, pinstripe shirts, Doc Martens and black blazers. This alternate version had gold flavors designed for velvet ears which stemmed from mystic lyrics.
Trumpets, saxophones, electric guitars and drums with sparkles on them captivate your eyes while your ears are surrounded by a silk-like sound. This multi-sensual experience allows every instrument to stab your soul and make you feel the notes. This is one of those hold-your-hand-on-your-chest type of concerts, that listen instead of sing-along type of concert, that put-your-phone-down-and-close-your-eyes type of moment. They played the entirety of their short discography like hit songs “Seems Like,” “It Was Only a Dream,” “It’s Only Love” and “What’s His Name.” To most people it’s just a band or it’s just a show, but for their fans and fellow music enthusiasts it’s a memory, a feeling, an aura and a captivating couple of hours where you can time travel to a place when soul music reigned.
The highlight of the show was during the last few songs when the brass section went into the middle of the crowd and blasted as people danced around them. Then just like it started, the fans slowly trickled out. Some waited around for an autograph, but the curtain had already dropped. Bodies filled the street outside under the neon light, full of revived souls chattering about the set and flashes of light to remember the moment. The Heights Theater, February 2nd, 2023. The Mellows, The Altons and Thee Sinseers, thanks for coming.