Trae Day 2014 In Photos

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Photos by Marco Torres
Six years ago, in the sweltering summer of 2008, the City of Houston bestowed a proclamation upon one of its citizens, a certain Frazier Othel Thompson. Rap fans know the man much better now as Trae Tha Truth, Houston's own "King of the Streets." The following year, the city was rewarded with "Trae Day," a free family block party and concert that has become an annual extravaganza of music, carnival rides, health screenings, school supplies and giveaways.

So much has happened since the first "Trae Day," both in the city and in Trae's personal life and rap career. A dispute with 97.9 The Box and subsequent ban from the station's airwaves only fueled Trae's urge to work, first aligning himself with Lil Wayne's camp and then signing with Grand Hustle, the umbrella label run by the self-proclaimed "King of The South," Atlanta's own T.I. Trae also suffered the loss of his brother "Money" Clip D and ABN associates Dinky D and Poppa C to gun violence. A bullet even managed to find his shoulder, although he would make a full recovery from the shooting.

Despite all of the adversity, Trae Day lives on as one of Houston's most anticipated annual events, and Tuesday's 2014 edition at NRG Park was full with memorable moments. Here is a short racap of yesterday's festivities as seen through my camera lens:

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Stone Temple Pilots & Blue October at The Woodlands, 7/19/2014

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Photos by Francisco Montes
Stone Temple Pilots
Bud Lite Weenie Roast
Feat. Stone Temple Pilots, Blue October, 10 Years
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 19, 2014

When it was first announced that Chester Bennington would be singing with the Stone Temple Pilots, the public raised a collective eyebrow and even avid Linkin Park fans wondered if he possessed the chops for the job. But Bennington slowly won over fans, both old and new.

With an appreciation for the band's original sound but also a swagger all his own, he strode out onto the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion stage Saturday night alongside the rest of the band's original lineup to the elation of the crowd.

Unlike many contemporary rock concerts, Bennington's vocals were subdued, set alongside the bass and guitar levels instead of high above them. As fans gleefully sang along to the likes of "Sex Type Thing," "Vaseline," "Big Empty" and "Dead & Bloated," it became clear that Bennington had resolved himself not to reinvent the wheel.

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On the Run Is Beyonce & Jay Z's Epic Moment

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Photo courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Talking about the On the Run tour without breaking into cliché is difficult.

It goes without saying that any Beyoncé concert in Houston is special. It's, at the very least, a homecoming. When you add in her mega popular husband and set the whole thing in Minute Maid Park, it becomes even more than that: it becomes an event.

And even still, it's more than that.


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Houston Went a Little Too Beyonce-Crazy Friday Night

Categories: Aftermath

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Photos by Marco Torres unless indicated
"JAY Z/BEYONCE TICKETS! I GOT JAY Z/BEYONCE TICKETS"

There's a weird air whenever you mention "Beyoncé" and "concert" in unison. I've seen her twice, once in New Orleans and in her second Houston stop of last year, days before the release of Beyoncé. Attend and you feel like the air around you is almost blessed, and you've been gifted the opportunity to see her. Especially on this tour, where Queen Beyoncé, Ruler of All Things Pop Music, and that other guy who decided he was too good for the hyphen in his rap name are together like the 21st-century Sonny & Cher.

Walking around the outside of Minute Maid Park Friday, I began asking questions while catching fans dressed in Beyoncé regalia, the "BEYHIVE" on full activation. I jokingly asked these entertainment brokers about how much they were attempting to sell tickets for.


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Beyoncé & Jay Z at Minute Maid Park, 7/18/2014

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Photos courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment
Beyonce & Jay-Z
Minute Maid Park
July 18, 2014

When the downtown lots were charging upwards of $80 for parking, could there be any doubt that the biggest tour of the summer had hit Houston with all the force of a summer lightning storm on Friday night? Beyonce, our very own homegrown megastar was in town, and she brought her hit-making hubby along for the ride. By 8 p.m., the air outside the ballpark was absolutely crackling with anticipatory energy as legions of ladies in their club-ready best lined up with and without the men who love them to bear witness to the spectacle cooked up by the closet thing we've got to a modern-day musical monarchy.

It was the biggest assembly that Minute Maid Park has seen in years, and the stadium staff seemed more than a little overwhelmed by it all. Huge crowds clustered at every entrance waiting as patiently as they could to get inside as harried security tried to check everyone as thoroughly as time allowed. With thousands still outside the gates as the show began, staffers finally gave up on the metal detectors and began sending everybody through, narrowly avoiding what felt like a riot in the making.


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Lady Gaga at Toyota Center, 7/16/2014

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Photos by Barry Brecheisen-WireImage/Courtesy of Live Nation
Note: media photography was not approved for Houston. These photos are from Gaga's artRave at Chicago's United Center.
Lady Gaga, Lady Nightshade, Crayon Pop
Toyota Center
July 16, 2014

For a good handful of years there, there was no question who reigned as pop music's auteur supreme. Arriving as if from some stranger, sillier and downright gayer dimension than our own, a chameleonic diva calling herself Lady Gaga took the charts by storm by bidding the planet to "Just Dance," and dance we did.

She hatched from an egg at the Grammys. She wore a dress made of meat. And her music went into heavy rotation at discos and shopping malls the world over. A new pop icon -- the talented, mutant spawn of Michael Jackson and Madonna -- seemed to be emerging, and it was exciting breath of fresh, Rihanna-free air.

That was then. A couple of middling albums and a few world mega-tours later, and Gaga seems to have been bumped down the pop pecking order a notch or three, teetering on the brink of becoming old hat. While no one doubts her talent for singles and spectacle, could yet another big arena tour from Mama Monster really still compete with Miley's bizarre Bangerz staging, or Beyonce's mechanized perfection? Worse yet, might she actually be committing the unforgivable sin of trying too hard? Reviews (and predictions) have been mixed.


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Rakim at Numbers, 7/15/2014

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Photos by Marco Torres
Rakim, D-Risha
Numbers
July 15, 2014

"That was just sound check."

Forty minutes into his headlining show at Numbers, Rakim had barely broken a sweat. It's quite possible his inability to even let a bead drop from his head comes from a near three-decade presence onstage and beyond. It's also rumored that he has yet to be bested on a microphone and walks the Earth searching for challengers like Caine in Kung Fu. Whatever it is, Rakim is effortlessly cool, a rap legend in mint condition that refuses to be anything other than a legend.

Tuesday night, Lunaface celebrated its 7th year of existence by bringing to the stage hip-hop's first true lyrical MC. It didn't necessarily matter who opened for Rakim or even how long Def Jam Blaster spun through intermissions looking to reach people with classic rap records, everyone knew exactly why they were there. It felt more like a relic, a situated hub of classic rap, traditionalism and more.


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Queen + Adam Lambert Doesn't Add Up for Either Party

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Photos by Jack Gorman
Queen + Adam Lambert
Toyota Center
July 9, 2014

Put yourself in these two situations:

A. You're a member of a Hall of Fame-level band who wrote some of the most famous, popular songs in rock music. Your lead singer was perhaps the greatest of all time, but he's no longer with us. You can still play and, more importantly, you still want to play, but no matter what you do, the shadow of your fallen front man will always be there.

B. You're a singer with an amazing voice, good looks, and a charming personality. You should be a megastar, but you just haven't found the right songs yet. You have fans, but you need something to push you over the hump that separates pop act and legit star.

If you look at these two situations and think, "Well, why not put A and B together?", congratulations for picking the path of least resistance. The good news is that this solution will make both parties some serious money.

That's pretty much where the good news ends for Queen and Adam Lambert.


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Nick Greer & the G's Launch Heart On Fire in Soulful Style

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Nick Greer & the G's
Heart On Fire CD Release
Warehouse Live
June 27, 2014

Its not his voice alone that stuns you, it's the emotion and life behind the voice of Nick Greer that reminds you why and how much you love music. It's not the strokes of his keyboard that are particularly astounding (although they very much are), rather the balance between his delicate touch and the forceful brigade of sound that Greer and his band create.

Friday, the Green Room at Warehouse Live was packed wall to wall for the CD release party for Heart On Fire, the newest offering from Nick Greer & The G's. Rocks Off was in attendance at April's preview event at Wire Road Studios that was attended by friends, family and the Trill OG himself. We heard then about the life trials that have fueled the songwriting and provided motivation to produce something grand and special with this new work; after hearing more tracks from the album, we feel totally confident that Greer has succeeded.

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Reel Big Fish at House of Blues, 6/29/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Reel Big Fish
House of Blues
June 29, 2014

Nostalgia is all the rage these days, but not just today. For some time, people have been looking to the past to gain current happiness in their lives. Whether the '80s are the focus, or the '60s or the '20s or even as far back as the Middle Ages, people are constantly seeking out the past to escape the monotony of everyday life.

Currently it's the '90s, a decade far enough removed from current culture, but easily remembered by most people to be the latest focus of nostalgia's lens. Big hair and flashy outfits, the growth of hip-hop, pop-punk and ska, technology, and all-around larger-than-life personas made the '90s stand out, and now people are eating it up all over again.


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