The date is Jan. 20, and I have no clue where I am. Sure the address, 1609 Agnes, is clear in my mind, but that doesn’t mean I know where my destination is. I’m looking for the newly christened Studio B, which many of you may remember as The NASA.
The famed local venue recently changed owners. Jan. 20 marked the venue’s first show after ownership changed, and after stumbling my way around the building, I finally made my way inside to catch the show right before it started.
The first band of the night was Clearview, which described themselves as “Gulf Coast emo” on their Instagram. A four-piece band hailing from Corpus Christi, they currently have a four-song EP, “The Strangest Things,” available on Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes.
Everything went according to plan. The band played their songs, and the audience responded in kind. As I looked around the venue, I became very familiar with the sight of bobbing heads and hands in pockets. I soon realized just how fitting the name “Gulf Coast emo” was for the band, as the audience and band had all the makings of an emo revival act.
If I had to put Clearview’s performance into one word, it would have to be “moody.” The instruments glistened and sparkled brightly, but the vocals did not match that chime. The singing, which lacked the potential atonality and distortion factor of similar emo acts, had a downtrodden quality to it. The harmonies were on point as well.
The night’s second band was an area act named Stalefish, hailing from Austin. This performance was their penultimate show of a promotional tour, as the band has just released their debut album, “Stalefish Does America.” According to their record label, Happen Twice Records, their sound can be described as a “slacker rock” act that is a “celebration of musical autonomy.”
Their stage was packed, and the songs were bouncy and lively. The members matched the energy of the music, especially towards the end of their set. Given how crammed the six-member band was, it’s surprising how the band kept themselves on their toes the whole time. Whatever spurred that on, it resulted in a cacophony of swapping hands and moving people. The show was better off because of it.
In a conversation with the band following their set, I was told that their active night was uncharacteristic. Given their style, I would have expected people standing around and playing their instruments. I’m happy I got more than that.
Stalefish’s set acted as a catalyst for the night’s intensity. The music ramped up and so did the audience, as they took their hands off their sides and got on to the floor. The moshing was kept at a minimum, but the movement had begun.
The third band of the night was another area act from San Antonio called Honeybunny. Their Instagram describes their sound as “party punk,” and I would say that the term is fitting but not encapsulating.
The party really came through during their set, that’s for sure. Singer Bridgette Norris-Sanchez thrashed and danced about, keeping the audience on her finger throughout. I got many reminders of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to give you an idea of the stage presence on display.
As for punk, I would say that Honeybunny veered outside of punk standards for their show. Their set had an air of technicality at the forefront that, while not entirely absent from punk music, isn’t generally at the forefront quite like it was for them.
The songs moved outside of the punk sphere eventually, leading to a more dance-filled sound. Or at least, that’s what the room of 50 people pogo-ing to ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” suggested to me.
The final band, a four-piece garage/indie rock band from Corpus, had their set built on a foundation of anxiety, as evidenced by the band’s chatter about being nervous right before they went on stage. Honeybunny set a high bar in their minds, and now that they were done, Animal Mood was feeling the pressure. But as their set went on, it was clear that Animal Mood had trumped the energy that the previous three acts had built up.
How did they do that? Through sheer, unbridled chaos. If you recall my EP review in the last issue, I had mentioned a need for more dynamics in their music. The recordings lacked a transition from quiet to loud, and I can say now that I’ve found the missing energy in their live performance. The show had revved the suggested energy in the recording up to 11.
Their set started innocently enough, playing some unreleased original songs with a noticeable amount of movement. Front man Jose Del Toro couldn’t stand still while guitarist Ryan Rodriguez pranced about onstage. Bassist Joshua De Leon held the fort on his side of the stage, while drummer Joshua Hurtado bobbed and swayed from his riser to the beat of the song. This part of the performance had the sweat falling off people’s brows, but that wasn’t anything compared to what happened next.
By the middle of their set, all hell broke loose. After a flurry of metal covers, including various Black Sabbath tracks and a rendition of Slayer’s “Raining Blood,” the crowd was never the same. The mosh pit had opened and it would stay open. The crowd-killing surged to the front, sending various people to floor, hugging the stage for protection.
By the end of their set, I finally had a chance to breathe. The energy had died down, the floor was a mess, and my clothes were sufficiently tainted with beer cans and vape sticks. It was midnight, and I was ready to head home.
The Jan. 20 show had a natural build-up over the course of hours that ultimately paid off by the time the final band had made their presence known. Studio B was in a raucous daze by the end of it, and so was I. Each artist was a wonderful act that used different tactics to reach the same applause at the end of each song, and the venue was lively and active the whole time. If the Jan. 20 show is indicative of how the Studio B will operate from this point onwards, then I think the venue is in good hands.