Thanks to a couple of corporate sponsors, four young rock bands from Texas, Tennessee, Britain and Canada performed a free concert Tuesday night at the Bayou, part of an extensive nationwide tour. Overall, the quality of the music was impressive but not so high that several local bands couldn't have duplicated it.
Setting the bar band tone for the evening was Austin's Will & the Kill, a twin lead guitar band fronted by 17-year-old Will Sexton (Charlie's brother). Despite some stock songs that could have been composed by any number of Texas blues bands, the group forged a tightly focused sound, centered on Sexton's gruff vocals and Billy White's searing guitar lines.
Try as they might, Nashville's Royal Court of China failed to arouse much interest. Vocalist Joe Blanton didn't help matters with remarks like "Listen up!" and "I hate to interrupt your conversation." The group adhered to a brash roots-rock sound, but its songs were far more developed, contemporary and, on occasion, original. Plus Blanton, for all his peevishness, was a whirling dervish on stage.
Britain's Hurrah! was the first band to display any real pop instincts, however. Tuneful and imaginative, its best songs were refreshingly melodic and stretched beyond the usual bar band concerns. If Paul Handyside and David Hughes aren't particularly strong singers, at least they're a cut above average, and their contrasting styles gave the music an added dimension.
An animated closing set by Canada's the Northern Pikes pursued a kinetic dance beat more successfully than the others. "Things I Do for Money," "Love and a Muscle," "Blue Sky" and other songs also revealed a talent for lyrics that reflect a distinct, if sometimes quirky, point of view.