Houston's 10 Best Dance Clubs

Photos by Marco Torres
Note: this article originally appeared on July 24, 2014. Happy Black Friday!

Grooving to the beat is all well and good and all, but sometimes when the music burrows deep into your veins, there's only one way to unleash that energy...and that is to get down on it, shake your bombon and boogie. Houston is filled with a plethora of dance meccas, where our fellow citizens go to forget the stress of life and get sweaty on the dance floor, one club anthem at a time.

In order to create this list, we pulled from our own experience of covering the nightlife scene in the H, and also surveyed our social-media friends for their input in order to create a more well rounded selection. Thus, we present to you Houston's Top 10 Dance Clubs 2014.

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The Top 10 Country Stars Who Live In Texas

Photo courtesy of EB Media
Note: this article originally appeared on September 19, 2014

Thus far mainstream success has eluded Sunny Sweeney, but not for lack of either talent or trying. According to her Facebook page, Sweeney (a former standup comic) has now played the Grand Ole Opry 41 times but continues to reside in Austin, where she did an acoustic set at Waterloo Records last month to celebrate the release of her third LP, Provoked. Both Country Weekly and NPR have come calling since then, so Sweeney -- also a 2013 nominee for the CMA's New Female Vocalist -- can't possibly stay under the radar much longer.

Facebook fans: 106K

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Outdoor Texas Music Festivals: What Not to Do

Photo by Anna Hanks via Flickr
The Great ACL Fest Washout of 2013
Note: this article originally appeared on June 4, 2014.

Free Press Summer Fest dodged a pretty serious bullet this year. When festival officials announced that the grounds around Eleanor Tinsley Park needed to be evacuated around 2 p.m. on the Saturday of the festival, some of us who were there had visions of pandemonium at the exits and the kind of heavy rains that would have had leftover props from Russell Crowe's Noah floating down Buffalo Bayou. But we were spared a direct hit from the weather and while the evacuation spawned a ton of predictable social-media carping, all in all everything worked out OK once everyone (finally) got back into the park.

Indeed, FPSF went on to have a pretty successful weekend, eventually drawing hordes of people, especially Sunday, and officially selling out for the second year in a row. No doubt the FPSF folks in the golf carts and production trailers could have done without the close call, but all the same, this near-miss couldn't help but remind us of a few other outdoor Texas festivals some people would probably rather forget. (Note: why are we re-running it in November? Haven't you already started to feel that familiar FPSF itch yet?)

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The 10 Best Concerts In Houston This Weekend: Randy Rogers Band, Supersuckers, etc.

Photo by David McLister/Courtesy of HBPR
The Randy Rogers Band is also playing New Year's Eve in Beeville, if you're up for a road trip.
Randy Rogers Band
House of Blues, November 28 & 29

About at a year ago, the Randy Rogers Band and a tribe of their soon-to-be-hoarse Hill Country fans gathered at the legendary John T. Floore's Country Store outside San Antonio for two nights of sawing fiddle, steamrolling drums and overdrive guitars. The weekend was captured on Homemade Tamales: Live at Floore's, two discs and nearly two hours of choice RRB cuts like "Better Off Wrong," "Buy Myself a Chance," "This Time Around" and a generous portion of tracks from 2013 studio album Trouble. As a gift for the Red Dirt fan in your life, it almost beats actual tamales.

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The 25 Best Songs About Houston

Ron Riering via Flickr
Lots of songs down here...
Note: this article originally appeared on October 24, 2014. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bobby Bare, "I Can Almost See Houston From Here"
One of the great homesick songs, Bobby Bare infuses this one with downtrodden ennui as he pines for the warmness of his old hometown. Usually veteran Houstonians are forced to deal with some newbie from Portland telling us all the things that are wrong with the Bayou City, so this one is a refreshing twist; Bare pines to get back to his old hometown and leave the Denver cold behind. It also contains the drop-dead perfect honky-tonk realization: "Funny how much better I can see without my pride." WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

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Doomstress Alexis's Top Five Desert Island Discs

Photo by Helene McCarron
Project Armageddon anchors the third annual "Doomsgiving" at Rudyard's on Saturday.
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Today we're starting a new column on Rocks Off, where we ask local heroes for their top five absolute desert island discs, the records that made them the musicians they are today. This week; Doomstress Alexis, vocalist and bassist of Project Armageddon.

Iron Maiden, Live After Death
While this isn't a studio album, it is a live collection of five great albums Iron Maiden put out and it captured such energy from their show and from the audience. Steve Harris' bass playing and Bruce Dickinson's vocals are probably the two biggest influences on me musically, both as a singer and a bassist, as well as being a performer onstage.

This was also my introduction into heavy metal around the time I was five or six years old listening to all my older brother's records, so those early years probably have had the biggest impact on me. I also liked that they could write a short, three-minute, single-worthy song or a 14-minute epic and they would play them both live. This album just has it all.

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Houston's 10 Best Bars For Out-of-Town Guests

If you don't recognize this register, we're glad you're here. How long are you in town?
Note: this article originally appeared on October 3, 2014. Happy Thanksgiving!

So you've got out-of-towners coming in -- old friends, relatives, business prospects from Minneapolis, Titans fans in for a hit-and-run NFL weekend, or whatever. Now the burden is upon you, the local-scene guru, to show them the town. You've told them how great Houston is, how much you enjoy living here, and recently every national publication on the planet has supported you in this assertion.

So it's put up or shut up time. Whether they're sophisticates from Boston, San Francisco or L.A.; denizens of uber-cool bike-friendly enclaves like Seattle, Portland, Santa Fe or Brooklyn; or just your long-lost cousins from farms in Iowa or Kentucky or oilfield burgs like Midland or Tulsa, the pressure is on to show your guests that Houston isn't a swampy version of Sodom and Gomorrah or some sizzling, humid, un-zoned urban hellhole where we drive down Main Street firing semi-automatic assault rifles on the way to our oil wells and cattle ranches.

So here are some tips. First of all, unless they are the straightest, most boring, megachurch-attending Stepford people ever or here with an unlimited expense-account/"business promotion" boondoggle, don't take them to trendy new upscale places where the ice in the drinks costs more than valet parking, and valet is the only kind of parking you'll find. Your money would be better spent drinking a can of cheap Sofia Coppola champagne out of a hooker's high-heel shoe on Irvington Blvd. at 4:30 a.m.

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I Got Invited to a Friend's Divorce Party. Help!

Welcome to Ask Willie D, Rocks Off's advice column where the Geto Boys MC answers reader questions about matters, in his own words, "funny, serious or unpredictable." Something on your mind? Ask Willie D!

Photo by Mario Jaramillo

Dear Willie D:

I'm feeling a little depressed since confessing my love for a friend who shot me down. This is someone I have known for two years, and I never let her know my true feelings because I was afraid she would do exactly what she did -- turn me down. We used to be able to tell each other everything. I still feel the same way, but I can tell she hesitates to tell me about stuff now.

I have been trying to come up with a way to get our platonic relationship back on track since romance figures to be out of the question. I still secretly desire a romantic relationship with her, but as I said that's out of the question. What can I say or do to regain her trust?

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The 10 Best Butt-Rock Bands In Recorded History

Note: this article originally appeared on April 17, 2014. Happy Thanksgiving!

What is butt-rock, you ask? As usual, we've got all your answers, courtesy of Urban Dictionary:

A derogatory term for any hard-rock music.

The term comes from a nationwide advertising campaign on hard-rock radio stations in the 1990s that used the tagline "Rock. Nothing but Rock." Listeners quickly changed that to "Nothing Butt Rock." Though it refers to anything played on hard-rock stations, it commonly is used to refer to 'hair-bands' or used by people to distinguish the 'bad' butt rock from the hard rock that they like.

Example: "He sat around stoned all day listening to butt rock on the 'Wild Hare.'"

Butt-rock is that musical stank on your shoe that you can't get off. It's one part aggro noise, one part self-indulgent and whiny singer, and somehow a whole lot of douche.

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Walters Heir Zack Palmer Counts His Blessings

Photos by Chris Gray (except indicated)
Zack Palmer outside Walters Downtown the afternoon of November 20
Zack Palmer says it wasn't long after he became the proprietor of Walters Downtown that he understood the place was his. It was just a matter of hours, he recalls.

"I had just got the keys to the bar and turned the lights on," Palmer told us one afternoon last week, standing behind the bar as members of Canadian pop-punk trio Courage My Love set up the stage for that night's show. "I had brought my tape player and was playing tapes over the PA. I was just in awe of it. This bar means the world to me."

The bearded, twentysomething Palmer has alert, dark eyes and an easy laugh. Beside him on the bar was a hefty leather-bound organizer stuffed with bar-related paperwork, which he says he's been referring to often. The previous night was the first time Walters had been open since the club's founder, Palmer's mother Pamela Robinson, was laid to rest at age 55. After some legal maneuvering to get the remaining permits transferred to his name, which took about three weeks, Palmer was handed the keys November 18.

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