It was a cold and blustery night Tuesday. The walk to the Fonda Theatre was fraught with falling palm fronds and dust getting blown in your eyes and clumps of straggler Amoeba Music customers blocking the sidewalk. Then you arrived at the venue only to have your face melted off by Lars Ulrich’s kids, 5 Houstonians, and the World’s Best American band.
The Fonda Theatre stage has hosted a bunch of duo bands over the years like Japandroids, Black Pistol Fire, and The Ting Tings. Myles and Layne Ulrichs’ Taipei Houston fits in stylistically somewhere between the first two. Layne sings and thrashes a Fender bass throughout the set as Myles gives the drums a beating the likes of which you’ve probably never seen. Have you ever wondered what a song would sound like with a bass and a singer playing along with a drum solo the whole way through? This is your band! They can groove, and things do settle down to what you might think of as a drum beat here and there, but don’t get used to it because we’re off to 93 other things shortly. It sounds great, and the kinetic energy flowing off the stage into the crowd was undeniable as they blasted through songs from their 2022 debut album “Once Bit Never Bored”. Young but already vets of Reading Fest and Lollapalooza and tours with the Melvins and The Sword, this is a band heading in the right direction.
Texans Narrow Head next brought out their great balance of Grunge/Gaze/Sludge with some super heavy moments interspersed with the more reflective stretches while always sounding absolutely massive. Three guitars! Every band should have three guitars! Singer Jacob Duarte laments/rages through the band’s latest release “12th House Rock” and he was the same on stage this night as the songs rode the dynamic waves, drawn out and moody at times, jumping and kicking at others.
White Reaper tore into their headlining spot with “Asking for a Ride” from their latest release, “Asking for a Ride” (Elektra 2023), channeling the spirit of Lemmy and Motorhead, and maybe a bit of early Metallica, into the theatre in a raucous explosion of heavy riffs and galloping rhythms. The new album featured throughout the setlist with highlights including “Bozo” at song #2, instant classic head-banger “Fog Machine” midway through the set and the first single from that release, the pop-rock gem “Pages”, a bit later. The biggest crowd reactions and singalong accompanied the single that was the band’s highest charting song before “Pages”, “Might Be Right” from 2019’s “You Deserve Love” with its hook filled melody and guitar parts.
As Nick Wilkerson pounded out the beats and keyboardist Ryan Hater tickled the ivories AND performed some impressive gymnastics, singer/guitarist Tony Esposito hit his traditional wide-legged stance for solos almost hinting at the extremes he reached in the hilarious music video for 2014 garage rock classic, and for some reason song-they-never-play in LA, “Cool”. At some point you’re all “What Genre is this band?”. They’re a hard rock band with dual lead guitar melodies/solos. Then they’re also a straight up pop-rock band that gets poppier every album, in a good way. And they’re also that garage rock band. And you can’t miss the speed metal creeping in, also in a good way. Maybe genre doesn’t apply to them, or they are their own genre, or who even really cares about an artificial construct like genre? So many bands find a singular formula and stick to it ad nauseum (Usually somewhere round album 3 or 4) and become a shadow of their former selves, but not White Reaper, who might be the greatest, non-conforming, non-repetitive, do whatever the hell they want, mix it up, be really melodic, be real aggro, band in the land. The World’s Best American band indeed.
White Reaper doesn’t play an encore. Great idea since the break between set end and encore is a waste of time and, for the most part, Gen Z doesn’t seem to really play along with the encore charade. The band wrapped up the night with 2017’s “Judy French” and then the audience was off to the merch table (Which had some great LA-show shirts) and back out into the windy evening.
The band’s tour continued up the coast to Vancouver. After a brief break they’re back out from Denver to the Midwest and East Coast. Find everything White Reaper here.
Words and photos by Tim Aarons