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Late night drive home, Deniz Love and sam ray club close Texas tour at Paper Tiger

Cesar Soto, Staff Writer

On Sunday, March 26, while Paper Tiger was in the midst of hosting a cancer treatment benefit show, there was also a hidden gem of a show happening on the side stage. Being one of the venue’s hottest shows this year, both figuratively and literally, late night drive home sold out the room, inviting special guests Deniz Love and sam ray club to close out their Texas tour in San Antonio.

Starting off the night was Deniz Love, a singer and songwriter from the indie scene in Houston. Accompanied by two musicians on bass and drums, they helped transform his indie pop style into a live band feel. The members had distinct appearances, with the singer wearing a sweater vest, the drummer sporting a black tank top with a matching beanie and the bassist having bright green dreadlocks that flew in every direction as he played his instrument. 

Despite the temperature in the room being quite bothersome — their bassist was the first and not the last to comment, saying, “it’s hot as f—k, man” — the band delivered lots of energy to their performance. The lead singer especially displayed it with his vocals, such as during the song “Lost Track,” where he sang about losing track of the time that he and a partner shared. The fans waved from side to side as he jammed out a keyboard solo, after which his vocals grew much more commanding to end the song. Then, after featuring an acoustic performance of their song, “Other Side,” they ended with the track “Talk to Me,” with everyone in the room jumping, from the band members to all the new fans that Deniz Love made. 

The next band up was sam ray club, an alternative group from El Paso. Before starting their first-ever show in San Antonio, the lead singer commented how he was already sweating, but that did not stop him from showcasing a unique stage presence. By moving around on stage and holding his microphone and guitar in unusual ways, he was one part of the unpredictable set that kept all the fans engaged. 

One track of theirs had a gentle melody where its tempo would pick up in moments and slow down in others. The lead singer often followed the song’s tone but then added intensity to his vocals that blended with the music. They experimented with each of their songs this way, playing with different genres of alternative music that never once sounded like a traditional alternative band. At times, the experimentation sounded rough, and it eventually felt like they were overstaying their welcome, but these qualities made the five-piece band a unique addition to the bill.

The audience was finally ready for the indie rock band late night drive home’s headlining set. The energy you would see at a show for a larger indie band such as Wallows was the kind felt inside the sold-out side stage. The El Paso musicians consisting of Andre Portillo on lead vocals, Juan “Ockz” Vargas on guitar, Freddy Baca on bass and Brian Dolan on drums, started with “Awkward Conversations,” an opener that already got the crowd already knowing all the lyrics that dealt with feelings of youthful heartbreak.

The band showed emotion and knew how to build up to it in the right moments through their instrumentals and melodies. “Star Love” had one of the more powerful line deliveries of the night with the lyric, “Now show me to love myself.” Another track of theirs featured a refrain from Portillo singing “I love you” that grew to be more impassioned as he exploded into louder yells of “I love you,” with the band matching him with powerful drums and guitar notes.

The members showed lots of appreciation for the fans that packed out the room for their final Texas tour stop. The heat had not let up at this point — Portillo even noted, “Damn, it’s f—kin’ hot up here” — but they took in all the love the crowd was showing them by asking how they were doing and thanking them for coming out. The show also happened to fall on guitarist Vargas’s birthday, and everyone singing “Happy Birthday” to him was the cherry on top.

Nearing the performance’s end, the band played their most streamed song, “Stress Relief,” which had fans jumping and screaming all the words before they briefly left the stage. Roaring cheers had the band return for an encore as they played “Euphoria.” 

During the song, Portillo asked the crowd to get down low. 

“This is our last show, so I want you guys to go crazy,” Portillo said.

Until this finale, most of the energy of their set stemmed from the fans and their excitement rather than their stage presence. Once they counted the song back in, that absolutely changed.

The fans excitedly bounced up and danced, as did the band members who jumped around on stage with their instruments. They truly felt the power of their music with their fans before they took a bow on stage to not only finish the show but a successful tour.

It is time for us to add late night drive home to the list of Hispanic bands that are making waves in the indie rock scene. Like Inner Wave and The Red Pears that have come to town and played great shows, late night drive home is certain to be another band up next for San Antonio Latinos to identify with.