The burden of continued artistic progression and expression seems to rest heavily on today’s artists, but San Antonio’s young newcomers Kites are ready take up that mantle. Well, perhaps ready is a bit of a stretch, but they certainly seem on the right path. Playing in GIG’s cozy, intimate, living-room environment, Kites find a home in front of a crowd that appears to be composed almost entirely of high-school classmates: The show feels closer to a small school assembly than a proper concert. The atmosphere works well for the band, as it does for the cadre of countless aspiring local singer-songwriters who come through GIG’s front door.
The opener, “Tall Talk,” makes it apparent Kites is structured around singer-guitarist Jesus Pizana, whose monotone baritone is backed elegantly by multi-instrumentalist Walter Stubb’s sustained guitar melodies and the soothing voice of Adriana Salinas. The song ends softly, followed by a brief pause for banter and an inside joke or two. “Pretty Things,” which features sublime cello and violin accompaniment by Nate Kallick and Stubbs, follows. Kallick’s staccato blends with Stubb’s legato to punctuate Pizana’s impression of Ryan Adams imitating the Kinks’ Ray Davies. The song would be a standout with a larger, more capable sound system, but bits and pieces are lost in the mix, and what comes through is overwhelmed by Salinas’s keyboard.
By their third and fourth songs, “Honestly” and “Wait,” it’s become increasingly evident that the band has erred in relegating Salinas’s vocal duties to the background. The highlights of each song are the all-too-rare moments when she does get to sing, and Kallick’s performance on cello. Salinas does finally get to shine on their cover of “Black Hole” by She and Him. Salinas seems timid in a leading role, but the applause following her performance seemed to indicate that I’m not alone in my assessment of her potential.
On “Heart to Heart,” Stubbs moves to his third instrument of the evening, a mini keyboard, and glockenspielist Anna Whitney makes her first significant appearance. Kites close with a cover of the Moldy Peaches “Who’s Got the Crack.” Their delivery is just as adorable as the original, if not a bit more upbeat. Stubbs sits behind the drums, his fourth and final instrument, while Kallick’s gyrating Will Ferrel impression behind the cowbell leaves a lasting, immensely entertaining impression. They have some rough edges to refine, but with time and experience, Kites could soar.
— Steven Gilmore