4:16 is the official time that people are finally drunk enough to start dancing. I’m back outside Numbers for the American Sharks show. Two passionate fans are head-banging and moshing with each other. The Sharks can rock. The lead singer looks like a jolly, pudgy Charles Manson in brown polyester. The kids inside the moonbounce have stopped jumping and are clinging to the protective netting, watching the band. I ask them what they think of The American Sharks. “They’re good, but they’re crazy,” Maureen, age 8, tells me.
“I think they rock!” her younger nephew shouts, and he resumes jumping.
“I like the one in the red,” offers a shy, pale girl. She’s referring to the lead guitar. With long, stringy hair and torn cutoffs, I can’t tell if he’s actually from West Virginia or just that hillbilly style of hipster. Either way, I agree with the kid. His solos are riveting, and he leans into them with that certain rock n’ roll je ne sais quoi.
4:42 Walking between bars, I overhear a girl in a green tutu shouting, “Where’s my fucking ukelele?” In front of me, a real live python is eyeing me hungrily from where he is draped over some guy’s shoulders. Bobbing above the crowded sidewalks are tall, wooden signs painted with bizarre slogans like, “Oh Wait, That’s Just Alchemy,” and, “Gimme Shoe.” These “Signs of Our Times” are the work of Sean Carroll. Squatting outside of Numbers, Carroll asks passers-by to carry one of his signs on a loop of the festival. Along with the “Nickel Cra—I mean ‘Artwork’ Auction,” happening between sets at Mango’s, Carroll’s signs are one of the few reminders that the Block Party began as a local arts festival back in the 70’s.
5:00- Neat rows of small, wooden desk chairs give the upstairs venue at Avant Garden an old-time schoolhouse vibe. Waiting for Alkari to start playing, I meet Betty and Dwight—a middle-aged couple from the heights who fill me in on the history of the festival. They lament the good old days of the 90’s, when the Westheimer Street Festival encompassed twenty blocks of spring-break-style revelry. This pissed off the steadily gentrifying Montrose community, so for several years the festival was exiled to Eleanor Tinsley Park. “That was no good,” Betty said, “I’m glad it’s back on Westheimer. But still—only three blocks.” Betty shakes her head in dismay. Most Block-Party-goers are younger than Betty, however, and have shorter memories. The consensus among them seems to be that the Block Party is getting better and better. I, for one, am having a blast.
Alkari starts playing mellow, trance-like, instrumental jams. Heavily distorted riffs are repeated fifty times and passed from one musician to another, slowly building in volume and energy. That’s awesome if you’re into it. I head back to Mangoes to catch the Riff Tiffs.
More pictures at below link