Choosing the first local band you fall for is a lot like choosing a starter Pokemon. In some cases, they ultimately choose you. The first time I realized I was a Westbound Departure fan was watching two of their original members’ perform for their Independent Study Mentorship project for Communications Arts High School. Having already been familiar with their previous band, The Morning After, I became awestruck that a band from my high school could play music this well. It was serendipity really, I wanted to listen to this band and I wanted to see them do big things. It was like serendipity.
Around this same time, other teens my age were falling for another local band in the metropolitan area: Hydra Melody. Formed from previous band, Ready to Fail, Hydra Melody captured audiences across the city with some of the best musicianship in the greater San Antonio area. You can see the different perspectives with the two articles we released earlier this week fromSeanand Alissa. However, instead of looking to each other as rivals, the two bands were more of allies, partners in crime locked in to rock your face off. Constantly booking shows together and supporting each band through thick and thin, the relationship these two bands have had with each other over the past decade and a half has proven how much more we can accomplish when working together instead of against each other.
So it only made sense that for their final show, Hydra Melody enlisted Westbound Departure to reunite and open up for them. Judging by the massive crowd Friday night at Paper Tiger, it was clear the legacy both bands have left on the San Antonio music scene.
The night started off with local vets Casetta blasting their brand of alternative rock. Casetta reminds me a lot of Incubus if they weren’t tripping on mushrooms and had more of a 90s alternative sound than the funk roots that overflow in the earlier albums. The band put on an energetic show that set the mood perfectly. The heads were bopping and as more and more people filtered in, the crowd was responding really well.
Westbound Departure took the stage shortly after and got started with a bang of an introduction jam. There was a raw sense of energy that exploded from the stage like some kind of Mount St. Helen’s, dormant for so long just waiting to erupt. Despite having other projects and performing in the last few years while WBD had been inactive, there was a sense of endearment watching them perform these songs together. Watching the guys beam at each other as they’re playing songs they wrote together was as heartwarming as it was exciting.
The band tore through their discography including a new album that was just released on Spotify, an album three years in the making. They closed out their set with “Whisper” off the Hi EP and while this iteration of the band is such a different band than the one I watched on that Taft High School Auditorium some 15 years ago, it brought as much joy as ever to see where they are now and how far they’ve come playing to the biggest crowd I’ve seen at a locals show ever.
Here’s where I admit I never really got into Hydra Melody. I knew they were amazing musicians and I knew they put on an exciting live show but I never really explored their discography. Within 30 seconds of them coming on stage, I immediately thought to myself man, I’ve been missing out. Like many a pokemon trainers, I thought back to what if this was the starter I chose? So many of my friends are into both bands, but there is always a consistency of one meaning more to them than the other and that’s what was kind of beautiful about this show.
The crowd was amped for Hydra. As soon as the first guitar strum rang, there was an energy I have never seen at a local show before. The band retaliated with even more energy. They’re pros. The band sounds so tight like some kind of well-oiled machine and the cherry on top was the light show. Everything was in its right place to the point that even when there was a microphone malfunction and a few skirmishes in the crowd, the band persisted and played their hearts out. It was awesome to see them invite former band members to play a handful of songs. Unfortunately, I had to leave early due to an emergency, but the handful of songs I watched simultaneously made me feel bummed I never really got into their music and appreciative that I at least got to experience this for the last show.
Washed Up Emo founder Tom Mullen likes to say that bands don’t reallyever break up and while he is coming from a slight cynical perspective regarding there’s always one paycheck that will bring forth a reunion, there’s always the Godfather notion that just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in. The proverbial they being the love of music and the people who love the music you make. While Westbound Departure never formally broke up, this reunion coming at a time when one of their biggest contemporaries is dropping their final curtains is both a sign of what they accomplished together and hopefully what the future may hold in store.