Texas Music Needs Cedric and Omar To Be OK
Mike Brooks Cedric Bixler-Zavala at Trees last night
We've all had friends who got married to each other. It's strange when these friends fight with each other. It's even stranger when these friends get divorced. What side do we take? Who do we support? Who do we boo?
When it comes to Texas alt-rock, we've got Cedric and Omar. Since 1993 Cedric and Omar have been making music together. Exactly 20 years on from a marriage that defined alt-rock in Texas, there was a divorce. Now, a year on, the warring factions have gotten back together. And it's wonderful.
Antemasque was the reconciliation, and it swept through Dallas last night. While the Mars Volta grew ever more bloated and opaque in their later days, Cedric and Omar's deeper background is one of post-punk, of ATD-I destroying venues with the force of tracks like "One Armed Scissor" and "Enfilade." With Antemasque, it's like the last 21 years never occurred. Much as the latest trend in cinema is the franchise reboot, what we have here is an honest-to-goodness rebooted At the Drive-In, and that's something we all need.
This new band is still very much a work in progress. I saw them in Austin on Sunday night, and Cedric struggled with the highs while Omar worked out the riffs. It wasn't great. Last night in Dallas the two clicked, and with a rhythm section of Dave Elitch and Marfed Rodriguez-Lopez (of Zechs Marquise, and not Flea like on the new Antemasque record) the result was explosive. I'm not old enough, nor have I lived in Texas long enough to have experienced ATD-I the first time round, but I would imagine the experience here was at least comparable.
The highlights, like Antemasque singles "Hanging In The Lurch" and "People Forget," were just extraordinary live, tight and focused and not sounding like much else in music. It felt like being at the birth of a genuinely new phenomenon, a privilege to witness and a logical conclusion of Omar and Cedric's careers so far. We need these musicians to be OK with each other.
On a different note, it's possible that support act Le Butcherettes are one of the most vital bands touring America right now. If you're not familiar with the Guadalajara post-punks, they're somewhere between PJ Harvey and Sparks, a perfect post-rock positioning that makes them vital and engaging. Singer and main melodist Teri Gender Bender is an extraordinary personality, oscillating between cute and terrifying, and drummer Lia Braswell is simply one of the best in the business.
Gender Bender is the essential frontwoman, not a created or put-on personality but a strong self-expression that beguiles and intrigues, and music is all the better for her mildly terrifying dance moves. Both wear bloodied butcher's aprons, and both create an exceptionally necessary highway in modern indie music. We can only hope they bring a headline tour through very soon.
In summary, if you weren't part of the sold-out Trees crowd last night, you should be prepared to pay a lot more to see either of these bands come through in the near future. Both Le Butcherettes and Antemasque are the future, even if one is an oblique return to Texas' past.