In a town currently harping on downtown night-life and the importance of art and live music, I shake my head every time a solid touring band makes its way through one of our venues with minimal eye-blinking. Well, now begins the GNARNIA live show reviews in an effort to cast the spotlight on this music (and the music alone)!
This past Wednesday at the Alabama Music Box, a rare oddity occurred: a FREE show (with drink specials no-less) featuring Hattiesburg’s The Narwhals and the Houston-based band The Ton Tons. Desperate for a mid-week pick-me-up, what a surprisingly great night of music it turned out to be.
The Narwhals were beginning their set upon our arrival with singer-songwriter, americana style tunes. With Sarah Bryan Lewis’ vocals harkening that distinctly mid-90’s female lead, I’m quick to compare their sound to something you’d expect to hear at Lilith Fair. All members are strong musicians but this resulted in a very technical, jam band sound for most of the set. At the high points, I heard moments of a more rockin’ version of Eisley, but these were brief. I also would have liked for someone else to have been mic’d, considering there were times when unheard harmonies were being sung loudly by other members of the band.
When the Ton Tons took the stage, it was clear that your focus would be directed to the captivating stage presence of lead singer, Asli Omar. She’s got this perfect mix of old school Billie Holiday confidence, mixed with Shingai Shoniwa’s (lead singer of the Noisettes) swagger and vocal styling. Even an occasional Gwen Stefani inflection could be heard throughout the blues-infused, surf-riff-heavy indie rock set. While a powerfully animated female front can turn some listeners and show attendees off, I’m a true believer that there is nothing worse than a singer who has no idea what to do with his or her hands. Asli clearly does not have this problem.
It was easy for me to draw comparisons to another indie pop/rock Houston band that’s frequented the Music Box’s stage: The Wild Moccasins. Turns out the two bands are friends in the Texas music scene, and their current drummer is the latter’s former. However, the Ton Tons’ new material on their ‘Golden’ EP (which I purchased at the show) is definitely pushing them in different and more dynamic direction. Cabaret jazz tunes such as “Vietnam” and “Charlie” stand perfectly beside the Sounds-esque tune “Golden” and the beautiful jazz/soul ballad “Never Never.”
Playful and entertaining, the Ton Tons’ live set has easily made me a fan. Check out the video in the above post (or follow this VIMEO LINK) to see a performance of their song “Leon” (off of their self-titled album).
All-and-all, it was a gnar-worthy night of music that most of you fools missed out on!
posted by Ryan
Check out both the Narwhals and the Ton Tons for yourself: