|Photos by Mark C. Austin|
What kind of blog crew follows a five-day SXSW music binge with a double shot of power-pop built for those born in the second Clinton administration? Why Rocks Off, of course. Think of it as a preemptive inoculation for the two minutes or so of post-SXSW, pre-iFest/Summerfest doldrums.
We booked it from Austin to Houston early Sunday afternoon, fueled by artistic curiosity and the Jeff the Brotherhood record to see America's favorite new Canadian pop star, Justin Bieber, and the Texas-born Selena Gomez drain money out of the pockets of parents and send preteens into fits of insanity at RodeoHouston's last show of 2010. Kind of a far cry from mustachioed hipsters with Hitler haircuts and chicks with throat tats we waded with off Sixth Street for the past few hazy days.
The sold-out crowd, in excess of 72,800 screaming children and young teens, was way more rabid than the lethargy we saw in droves just two weeks ago at the Jonas Brothers' one-night stand. In a real sense, Bieber and (to a lesser extent) Gomez are at the point that the J-Bros and their opener Demi Lovato were just a few years ago. It was as if the two sets of acts have switched places. No doubt a third act is now being polished for a summer radio blitzkrieg to undo Bieber at this very moment.
Gomez isn't reinventing the wheel with her brand of Hilary Duff-derived pop-rock, with each song seemingly floating on a bed of eerie familiarity, boasting not influences so much as time-tested cues. Kind of like rote pop-single engineering. Sassy snarls here, girly-longing there, throw in an old-school cover if you can (Pilot's 1974 gem "Magic"), and shake well until you can start posing in Maxim or a sexy vampire movie.
She did though hold down a cover of her namesake, the original Selena's "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," turning it into the Tejano Blondie nugget it was always meant to be. Things could get interesting down the line with Gomez, so we'll just see.
It was kind of cruel for the RodeoHouston organizers to harsh the pop mellow of the kids with a ten-minute bull-riding highlight reel in between Gomez and Bieber's set. The crowd collectively groaned with each clip of a bull pummeling a man, only briefly perking up when the Ford truck would pull up to the stage to drop off Bieber's backing band. All bets were off once JBs' Ford Explorer pulled around 6:45 p.m.