Except that they're all from Austin, Tex., and record for the same label, the four bands that performed at the Bayou Thursday night have little in common. Indeed, like a rock sampler from just about any city, the concert ranged from the amateurish to the inspired.
Three or four songs by Bouffant Jellyfish was all it took to realize that the band's punk-metal-country assault on the ears was about as self-indulgent and tuneless as Texas is wide. Energy may be a substitute for songs and talent in some club settings, but the Jellyfish's earsplitting melange seemed far more studied than spontaneous. By contrast, Big Car followed with a crafty, if hardly innovative, set of pop-rock, buoyed by a lot of catchy melodies and a crisp '60s blend of acoustic and electric guitars.
Far and away the most animated, exuberant and appealing show, however, was delivered by the Neptunes, a quartet with strong ties to the Washington area. Despite a poor sound mix, the combination of the band's infectious spirit and roots-rock influences often brought more seasoned barroom favorites like NRBQ to mind, especially when Pete Gordon cut loose on the keyboards.
The closing set by State of Mind was mostly cerebral and tedious, though female lead singer Ren occasionally contributed a stirring voice and some dizzying footwork to the show.