Sideshow Tramps

by Aaron Sarlo • August 28, 2008

Six-inch stage? PBR loyalists? The rustic cocktail of cigarette smoke and aged wood? A canoe wrapped in Christmas lights? You’re at White Water!

And after all these years it’s still a great place to see a live band. Shows there stride that illusory line between watching your friend and witnessing a demigod. You bask in the immediacy of the moment, up close and personal, and then, because of something inherent to White Water, you drink your beer, laugh with your friends and shrug it all off. And so it was on Thursday when I went to witness the Houston-based Sideshow Tramps. 

They are no sideshow, though they do reasonably resemble tramps. Scruffy and unkempt, the musicians proved that shiny packaging, more often than not, is irrelevant. These dudes make their own instruments and belt out what is best described as klezmery, jug-band, trash-grass with two fingers of Tom Waits poured on top. Drunken and gravelly yet melodious, worn and comfortable yet brilliantly brand-new, they rocked the hizzy, playing multiple instruments, singing four-part harmonies and parading into the crowd like a Baptist preacher searching for a sinner.

Glory be! They have a full-length record, “Medicine Show,” and I can report that it will perfectly season that indecisive jambalaya you call a play list. The band returns to White Water in October. If I don’t see at least a thousand people there I might just lose all faith in the power that good music has over us all.