Outside the Loop, Tribute Bands Rule the Roost

Photos by Melissa Caudle
OZZ, Houston's leading Ozzy Osbourne tribute band, barks at the moon during a recent Scout Bar show.
Years before most music was made, performed and bought digitally, people would go out to see it live. There was a time when rock and roll ruled radio, not just in Houston but across the country as lines were drawn in the sand between 97 Rock and Rock 101 KLOL. People had arguments over whether it was cool or not that Eddie Van Halen played keyboards on "Jump" and the title track for Van Halen's sixth studio album, 1984. We had things like Texxas Jam, and bands such as Foghat and .38 Special played at the Astrodome.

It was American as apple pie. And life was good.

While those days are gone for most people, those precious memories live in the hearts and minds of many. Luckily, you don't have to depend just on your old and fuzzy recollection of times past. They are still alive and well, and you don't have to go too far to find them. Just drive any direction outside of 610 on any given night, and you'll run into a pub or bar billed as having "live music."

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SantaCon Descends on an Ever-Changing Montrose

Categories: After Dark

Photos by Sean MacManus
Sadly, Frosty the Snowman just couldn't hang at SantaCon this year.
It's been said that all good things must come to an end. And with the blink of an eye, the most wonderful time of the year -- the one where stockings were being hung with care and we weren't trying to kill ourselves to score the new Beanie Baby, or whatever it is that kids want these days -- is once again a thing of the past.

But 'twas also the season to blow off some serious steam. We all know that with the holidays come stress and a serious need for everything in moderation, including moderation. It's exactly the reason we've been given the Christmas miracle known as SantaCon.

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A Lowly Peasant Crashes Ren Fest's King Midas' Ball

Categories: After Dark

Photos courtesy of Gunslinger/pygmypony.net
King Midas and his court
Somewhere off Farm-to-Market Road 1774, nestled in the woods about an hour and a half away from Houston, is a place called Todd Mission, Tex. You might not recall the name of the town sandwiched in between the "big cities" of Plantersville and Magnolia, but you're well aware of events that transpire there eight weeks in October and November every year. The Texas Renaissance Festival.

Hear ye! Hear ye! If you, like I, have written off the Ren Fest as "kid stuff," take heed!

To celebrate the festival's 40th anniversary, organizers have added another sparkling jewel to the king's crown: King Midas' Masquerade Ball. Debuting this year, it's described in the press release as "an unprecedented celebration of magic, mystery, and imagination...It's sure to be a party beyond your wildest dreams!"

While most of Ren Fest might be considered a family affair, the Ball is not. Every Saturday through November 29, after the fair closes, the Ball opens. Leave the little ones with a sitter, because guests at this soiree must be 21 and over.

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The Rocking Dead: Six Musical Zombies Who Survived Their Own Deaths

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Photo by Groovehouse
Ozzy Osbourne at the Woodlands, 2013
Rock and roll can be a scary thing, and not just on Halloween. The music industry is populated by more sunken-eyed ghouls than a dozen haunted houses, and most of them will not hesitate to fuck your girlfriend. Some of the best of 'em die way too soon -- and all too often. Others, like Keith Richards or Lemmy, keep coming back for more like a horror-movie slasher, seemingly impervious to decades of drugs, alcohol and STDs. Whatever these people are, they aren't human.

But there's a certain class of rock star that's even more disturbing. These are the men who have stared death in the face and made the Reaper flinch. They've crossed over to the other side, sometimes more than once, and somehow made it back again to tell the eerie tale. They are the guitar-slinging undead: Real-life rock and roll zombies.

How do they do it? Hard drugs and 911, in most cases. The reasons why any of these people remain amongst the living when so many haven't is anybody's guess. But it's hard to escape the notion that somebody, whether in heaven or in hell, is a fan. So gaze upon these living corpses with wonder and awe, but beware! For given a half-melted spoon and a defibrillator paddle, you too could share their fate:

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Rubblebucket at Fitzgerald's, 10/24/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Rubblebucket, Landlady
October 24, 2014

Bands on the rise generally give you their all during a live performance. They have something to prove more than an already established act, with their careers on the line every single night. For a band to make it these days, they have to feature something different, whether it be a unique sound or approach to their style, or even just a wacky front person to keep you coming back (see Wayne Coyne).

Rubblebucket are a band on the rise. The Brooklyn Afrobeat-meets-indie group have slowly and steadily been making a name for themselves since their first album was released in 2008. Now with three more full-lengths and a handful of EPs, they're really starting to come up, playing packed shows throughout the country.

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VIDEO: Jose Figueroa Is Still Dancing

Jose Figueroa is still dancing. The Channelview high-school teacher we told you about earlier this month, whose goal was not only to dance to live music every single night for a solid year but also to make a documentary film about it, says he's not much closer to recovering the equipment that was stolen from his car last month, but still believes he might be able to complete the project nonetheless.

Although Figueroa says the police still haven't been able to turn up any information that might lead to getting his stuff back, a friend has donated a video camera that should allow him to complete a crucial part of the process - the introductory video required of Kickstarter users to start one of the crowd-based Web site's fundraising campaigns.

"Not nearly as compact as my GoPro, but a very generous loan that I'm truly grateful for," he notes.

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Insane Clown Posse at Warehouse Live, 10/13/2014

Categories: After Dark

Photos by Jack Gorman
Insane Clown Posse, Mushroomhead, Da Mafia 6ix, Hoodoo, Madchild, Jelly Roll
Warehouse Live
October 13, 2014

Let us be honest with each other for a moment, dear reader. The reality is that when it comes to high culture thinking there is nothing left to say on the subject of Insane Clown Posse and/or Juggalos. As a musical group, ICP exists in that same world that Nickelback and Miley Cyrus inhabit, which is to say if you've heard of them you already have an opinion on them and there's a good chance you're just reading this for freak-show value. Unless, of course, you like ICP and just want to know what you missed. Either way, welcome to the blog.

As for Juggalos, all rational, well-mannered folk know that they're just a bunch of regular people who happened to find a family of like-minded individuals all united by the fact that they really love when clowns sing about murder. So yes, I guess I am sort of saying that the FBI aren't rational and that making fun of Juggalos for having passion for something on a level we should all be jealous of is a bit lame.

As such, trying to find an "angle" to talk ICP as some greater concept just sounds exhausting. And besides, if Violent J were here right now he'd tell me the follow: "Fuck critics, fuck your review."

So instead, let's look at what it's like spending an evening with Houston's Juggalos in 2014.

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Houston's 10 Best Bars to Take Out-of-Towners

Categories: After Dark

If you don't recognize this register, we're glad you're here. How long are you in town?
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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Drink Like an Adult at El Patio's Club No Minors

Categories: After Dark

Photos by Sean McManus
Tino and Jose would like to welcome you to Club No Minors.
Driving anywhere near the Galleria is about as miserable as reliving the terrible events of the Houston Texans' abysmal 2013 season; I shudder at the very thought. The area is always an overcrowded cesspool, swamped with traffic and plenty of tourists trying to find parking for the Cheesecake Factory.

But that's exactly what happened on a recent Thursday-night trek to the west side. Tucked inside an El Patio Mexican restaurant in one of the area's many small shopping centers is a hidden gem.

"Remember the first time you walked into the Club No Minors? Nope? Then we've done our job." That's exactly how the El Patio at 6444 Westheimer describes its "club" on its website. My interest is piqued from the get-go.

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Royal Blood at Warehouse Live, 9/23/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
Royal Blood, Meg Myers
Warehouse Live Studio
September 23, 2014

Playing Lollapalooza and SXSW is one thing. But to be a true buzz band, you've got to generate the kind of heat that can draw a big crowd to a club on a Tuesday night in flyover country. By that standard, at least, Royal Blood has arrived.

The U.K. garage duo is less than a month removed from the release of their first full-length, but appreciation for their hard-edged guitar punch is spreading fast. Last night, the Warehouse Live Studio filled up with fans eager to find out if these guys really can be the rock and roll saviors they've already been branded as by the NME set.

Before Houston could get its first look at the pair, however, we were treated to another intriguing, rising talent. A Los Angeleno by way of Tennessee, Meg Myers is blessed with the sort of rich and elastic voice that simply begs to be applied to rock and roll. Flitting between a breathy whisper and an anguished shout, the singer occupies a sonic territory somewhere between Fiona and Alanis, and she's got stage moves enticing enough to keep a Tuesday night crowd enthralled.

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