Austin's OBN IIIs Are No Retro-Rock Chumps

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Photos by Renate Winter
With unlimited sweat, furious finesse and hook-heavy musical manners, Austin's OBN IIIs are the bastard child of Flamin' Groovies and Radio Birdman, just as their latest slab Live in San Francisco documents. Their closest allies in Texas are likely the equally forceful, cunning and haunting Sons of Hercules, so be prepared for a pent-up cataclysm.

Pitchfork has claimed them as retro-"townies" reinventing the anti-college rock of the 1970s, even likening them to floppy-haired heroes Van Halen and Blue Oyster Cult. Think again, and take off the revisionist glasses. OBN III's kind of grit and determination seems a lot less like the black-light poster crowd of rusted Mustangs and stinky hashish and a lot more like Budweiser slamming, take-no-prisoners garage-rock rioters from vintage MC5 to the Cynics, the Greenhornes and Zen Guerrilla. This would never have been heard on FM airwaves alongside REO Speedwagon and Asia.


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Raw Power's Screams From the Gutter Still Ring Out Today

Categories: 1-2-3-4!, Playbill

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If punk mythology truly existed, the tale of Raw Power might unfurl like this: as the reign of Ronald Reagan swept through the Western world "... the gods of punk-metal rose from Italy to fight back with megatons of warp-speed power!"

Held together thick as thieves for years by the Codeluppi brothers -- throat-scorched Mauro and walloping guitarist Giuseppe (the latter died in 2002) -- the band set off from Reggio Emilia in the early 1980s and carved out a hard, compact, compelling basement-punk sound alternating between catapulting heavy-metal drum mania (clang goes the cowbell!) and anything-goes guitar attacks, as documented on You Are the Victim, an album not far removed from fellow scenesters like Negazione and Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers.


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7 Seconds at Walters, 8/9/2014

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Photos by David Ensminger
7 Seconds, the Copyrights, the Turnaways, Some Nerve
Walters Downtown
August 12, 2014

"Give the people what they want," seems to be the populist modus operandi of touring veteran punk and hardcore bands, from Youth Brigade to DOA and 7 Seconds, who belted out a stew of contagious hits from the early-mid 1980s at Walters on Saturday night. Sure, that meant a steady flow of lean hardcore, but it also meant a Stalinist purge of their pop-minded fare.

To be sure, the crowd, which swelled precipitously right before the band hit the claustrophobic stage, was eager to chew every morsel, especially when the band unleashed deep catalog shockwaves like "Red and Black," "The Crew" and "You Lose" (each under one minute long!) to dizzying singalong hoarseness and beer slosh that shot out like a fire cannon at times.

Up front, the punk ladies of the humidity-caked night pushed their way forward in a heave of righteousness on tunes like "Not Just Boy's Fun" and made the chorus of "99 Red Balloons" reach immense proportions, like a seismic sonic wave inundating the scene.


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7 Seconds' Kevin Seconds: "Some Days I Just Want to Scream"

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Photo by David Robert
As heroic elders of the 1980s posicore genre alongside brethren like Uniform Choice and later Insted, 7 Seconds replaced hardcore punk's sheer bellicosity, anti-government sloganeering and stiff ideology with tuneful melodies, deep pockets of personal conscience, and a stalwart sense of hope. Beginning as skinheads forming a community in Reno, known for its steady gambling, easy divorces and arid desert, they soon became stalwarts of a West Coast second-wave insurrection, joining the roster at BYO Records. The band also maintained their own label, Positive Force, which helped launch Youth of Today and Verbal Assault.

7 Seconds' tunes evolved over time from terse, forceful, straight-edge pleas ("Drug Control") to increasingly pop-tinged singalongs steering punks towards unity ("Walk Together, Rock Together"), social and environmental justice ("Regress No Way" and "Satyagraha"), pro-women stances ("Not Just Boys Fun"), racial tolerance ("Colour Blind") and much more. In the late 1980s, as punk often became mired in gang wars and ultraviolence, the group sought softer musical traits but never fled the scene or became sloths.


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A Conversation With Texas Punk Icon Gary Floyd

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This photo by David Ensminger/Others courtesy of Gary Floyd
Gary Floyd today
Gary Floyd is a long-loved underground music icon entangled in fiery black music, queer outrage, punk vendettas, barbed-wire politics, and Eastern spiritual bliss-outs. Whereas the homegrown Texas musical tornadoes the Dicks (later reinvented in San Francisco) were ribald and cantankerous, Sister Double Happiness were rootsy purveyors of sweeping, mesmerizing alt-rock that helped initiate the Nirvana generation.

By the mid-1990s, his Gary Floyd Band buried themselves deep in East Texas saggy porch-howling blues, while Black Kali Ma soon followed by unleashing Shiva as a devouring rock and roll entity. Now, Floyd effortlessly evokes wisdom, transcendence, and transience in his latest guise, Buddha Brothers.

Floyd recently spoke with Rocks Off before heading down for Friday afternoon's meet-and-greet at Cactus Music, his first Houston appearance in the last half-decade. (Note: David Ensminger is also co-author of Floyd's forthcoming autobiography and featured the singer in his book Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons.)


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The Five Best Punk Supergroups of All Time

Categories: 1-2-3-4!

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Punk rock is known for bands breaking up just as quickly as they form. So many seminal groups across its history have only one record to their name that critics talk a lot more about bands breaking up than forming for that reason. But every now and then we get the rare punk supergroup, and it always kicks ass.

Recently a lot of them have been re-forming and playing festivals, which we here at Rocks Off are super-psyched about. So in honor of the recent reunions, here are five of the best of all time, including a few you can catch on tour this year.


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The Cro-Mags at Walters, 7/10/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
The Cro-Mags, Die Young, Black Coffee, BLUNT, H.R.A.
Walters Downtown
July 10, 2014

When the Cro-Mags arose from the streets of New York City in the mid-'80s, punk and heavy metal were hardly the best of friends. If there's one thing that singer John Joseph and company have proved over their tumultuous career wrecking stages together, though, it's that the tight bonds of friendship aren't necessarily a prerequisite to do some groundbreaking damage.

After more makeups, breakups and lineup changes than anyone cares to count at this point, the 'Mags have reemerged as proud hardcore elder statesmen in the 21st century, recognized far and wide for their thrashing, crossover sound's indelible influence on both sides of the once-deep punk/metal divide.

On a rare stop in Houston on Thursday night, the band drew a crowd ready to show out for the scene legends who wielded such a heavy hand in crafting the modern underground's sound and aesthetic.


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Today's Houston Punk-Rock Women Still Rewriting the Rules

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This photo by Lana McBride/Others courtesy of David Ensminger
London Girl
As the mid-late 1990s bloomed in the much-hyped "alternative" era, a whole new crop of dual-gender-fueled bands arose in Houston, including the brazen New Wave leanings of Japanic and Modulator, arthouse traditionalists Vulgarians, guitar heroes Gun Crazy, Lucky Motors' limber indie-rock, the Oi! street mayhem of UTA, the taut pop clatter of London Girl, the boiling first-wave punk redux of the Suffragettes, and the manic garage-rock of Junior Varsity.

"No one was really helping me understand what it was like to be a girl like me," recalls Vicky Satterwhite, singer for both London Girl and the Gigi's. "We were all reduced to [being] pretty boring, docile, sex symbols. It's important to remember when it was truly a rarity to see a strong woman rocking the fuck out in front of you."

"Growing up, I was obsessed with finding a common language with the pop singers of the
1980s, like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Belinda Carlisle. They were fun," continues the Corpus Christi native. Such women could could project themselves "in such strong ways, which was my own personal breakthrough into feminism," Satterwhite says. "As the decade progressed, I finally started going to shows and was energized by all the women of all genres singing to me, playing for me."

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Let's Hear It for the Ladies of Houston Punk

Categories: 1-2-3-4!

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Artwork courtesy of David Ensminger
The Kimonos
Though often under-recognized by society at large, with its overweening narrative of punk rock being a bastion of disenchanted white males, women of all stripes have been intimate and ingrained members of Houston's local scene scene since its very genesis. Yet, few books have extolled the efforts of any punk women; hence, much of the legacy has been left to scattershot digital archives on the Web that fail to cohere and document their full sense of presence.

That's why I chose to create the blog Visual History of Punk, Hardcore, and Indie Women, not to speak on their behalf, but simply to amass the truth beyond the din of musical desperadoes. The entries, spanning more than 1,000 pieces of photography, ephemera, record art, and fanzine clippings, map in a matter-of-fact form the sheer breadth of females in punk over a 40-year period.

This is one way to give thanks to my sister, who spun LPs by the Motels, B-52's, Patti Smith, and Rachel Sweet every day at dawn as high school beckoned nearby. In our ranch home sitting squat in a flat Midwestern former farm patch, the piano refrains and thudding drums of "Pissing In the River" shook the walls as neighbors spat wearily into CB radios and let anxious dogs stumble across knee-deep snow.


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The Rocks Off 200: Stacy Hartoon, Rudz's Punk-Rock Heir Apparent

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

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Photos courtesy of Stacy Hartoon
We've wanted Stacy Hartoon in the Rocks Off 200 ever since she took over for Mike Sims, who left his post booking bands at Rudyard's in mid-April after a decade of steering hundreds (maybe thousands) of bands into a room many fans consider to have the best live sound in the city. Rudz is beloved among local musicians no matter their style (though punk, garage, glam, metal, hard rock and roots seem to be most common) for its unpretentious attitude and commitment to putting the bands first.

Hartoon has big shoes to fill, but she seems up to the challenge. Her email box starts with "Punk Rock Stacy" -- how cool is that?


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