The Improbable Return of Houston Prog-Rockers Chameleon

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Courtesy of Craig Gysler
The latter day Chameleon at the Texas Opry House: Craig Gysler (keyboards/vocals), Spencer Clark (guitar/vocals), Rick Huey (bass/vocals), and Marty Naul (drums/vocals)
Houston has a reputation for and kindness toward some music genres more than others. Blues, blues-rock, rap, metal, country and even psychedelia have all flourished in various clubs both still running and long-defunct across the city and its outskirts.

But the Bayou City has never quite cottoned to progressive rock bands, and especially those playing original tunes full of complex movements, multiple instruments, lyrics dealing with space and time, and tunes running in the ten-plus minute range.

In the late '70s, though, one local band of proggers who had paid their dues for nearly a decade seemed poised for a breakthrough; just one more gig, one more demo, one more audition before things could get really, really better. And then -- just like so many other bands before and after them -- Chameleon imploded.


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Houston Artists Pay Tribute to Selena

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Photos by Marco Torres
Art by BlueOneThirty. "Her story is an inspiration" says the artist.
"We remember our daughter every single day. We don't need a special day to remember her." Those were the words spoken by Abraham Quintanilla in an interview with the Associated Press concerning the 20th anniversary of the death of his daughter, slain Tejano queen and entertainer Selena Quintanilla. As someone who has lost a parent, I can certainly understand his sentiments.

But to many, Selena is more that just someone they think about on March 31 or April 16 (the days of her death and birth, respectively). I visited the "Remembering Selena Group Art Show" at the East End Studio Gallery to experience how her music and style has inspired community artists in the Houston area.


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The Illustrated Side of John Lennon

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All images copyright Yoko Ono/Used by Permission
"But I'm One of Your Biggest Fans"
John Lennon drew long before he was in the Beatles, becoming an accomplished student at one of the UK's leading art schools. When the iconic band split up, Lennon put his musical activities aside for several years to spend time with his new family but kept right on drawing; maybe more than ever. If he had never even met Paul, George and Ringo, someone in an excellent position to know thinks Lennon would have done at least as well in the art world as he did in the recording studio.

"Most definitely," says Lynne Clifford, curator of the traveling exhibit "The Art of John Lennon," which opens today at Houston's Off the Wall Gallery.

"Yoko has sometimes said [that] I think he'll someday probably be known equally well for his drawings as his music," adds Clifford. "I mean, he was really a renaissance man -- I know people throw that terminology around a lot, but he was a composer, a musician, a poet, an artist. I mean, there wasn't anything that he couldn't do."


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Here's a Treasure Trove of Vintage Numbers Art

Categories: Art Rock

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All images (unless specified) courtesy of Marcus Pontello/Friday I'm In Love
Numbers Halloween Party flyer, 1988. Note upcoming appearance by Ministry.
Tomorrow night at Numbers, the producers of the documentary-in-progress Friday I'm In Love are encouraging supporters of the hallowed Montrose club to come on down, where they'll be interviewing couples and individuals about their experiences with the very timely subject of love, presumably as it relates to Numbers (but you never know). Meet them on the patio between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. and share with them your "loveliness." Then stay to dance.

As we told you recently, there will be no film if the Kickstarter campaign to cover the filmmakers' estimated expenses doesn't meet its goal of $40,000 by March 6. Spearheaded by director Marcus Pontello and producer Jeromy Barber, it got off to a fast start, with $10K in its first week, but Pontello says the team could use another shot of momentum. Another fundraiser is scheduled for March 22 at Double Trouble next to the Continental Club.

The story of Numbers, which under various names (but mostly #'s) has kept Houstonians dancing for more than three and a half decades, is of course a musical tale. However, the photographs, club flyers, posters and other Numbers-related art is probably second to none when it comes to visual paraphrenalia associated with a local nightclub. The filmmakers were kind enough to share a few pieces of art from the film with us, and we also asked Houston poster artist supreme Uncle Charlie to send over a few of his finest creations. Thanks to him and the Friday producers for pitching in...now it's your turn. Enjoy!

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Bun B and Colleagues Contemplate Hip-Hop and Nonviolent Protest at the Menil

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Photo by Nathan Smith
Bun B (left) addresses a rather large crowd at the Menil.
About 30 minutes before the Tuesday-night Conversation at the Menil Collection was scheduled to begin, all of the best seats stuffed inside Renzo Piano's low-slung masterwork were already taken. All of the bad seats, too. Still, people continued to press inside, sitting, standing or stooping in whatever space they could find. When even the museum's wings filled up and there was no more room left anywhere, folks finally just propped the door open and huddled together outside in the cold.

Not a bad crowd for a Tuesday night. But then, it ain't every Tuesday that you can catch Bun B holding court in the museum district, seriously discussing the interplay of hip-hop, religion and non-violence, for absolutely freaking free. That's what the shivering crowd outside the door showed up for last night when the Menil hosted a public conversation with Bun on the influence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King on hip-hop culture with a panel that included none other than Brooklyn truth-seeker Talib Kweli. Naturally, there was no hipper place in the city to be.

The less rhythmically inclined portion of the onstage panel comprised Anthony B. Pinn, Bun B's partnering professor from his religion and hip-hop class at Rice University, and Monica R. Miller of LeHigh University, who has written extensively about religion and hip-hop. Also on hand was Josef Helfenstein, the museum's curator of current exhibition Experiments With Truth: Gandhi And Images Of Nonviolence, which inspired the event.

There was no music, hip-hop or otherwise, played on Tuesday. The overflow crowd stayed as quiet and polite as it could while Menil board member Michael Zilkha introduced everyone onstage, but the room couldn't help but crack up when he was forced to pronounce "Big Pimpin'" in his distinguished-sounding accent. That more or less set the tone for the evening. The conversation would be serious, but also weird and fun. Gandhi and hip-hop? Surrounded by priceless, surrealist art? Hey, sure.

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Houston's Best Music Photographer Is...

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Photos by and Courtesy of the Winner
These folks are as happy this contest is over as we are. (Not really -- it's ACL Fest 2014.)
...finally over. After more than six months and 7,000 votes (wow), we have a winner.

Take a bow, Greg Noire. The floor is yours.

"Wow. I am literally amazed by all of this," he says. "My photography got me on this list, but my supporters definitely got me this win. Watching those votes go up was pretty overwhelming -- I didn't realize that there were so many people who enjoyed my work out there."


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Vote Now for Houston's Best Music Photographer

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Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns via Flickr
Note: none of the photographers in our contest uses cameras this old...that we know of.
February 24, 2014. A Monday. Go Texan Day, Houston's unofficial start of rodeo season, was still four days away. Stories in that week's Time magazine included "Mexico's New Mission," "Biden Unplugged" and a look at brand-new Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. Songs popular at the time were Katy Perry's "Dark Horse," Pitbull & Kesha's oh-so-subtle duet "Timber" and a certain earworm Weird Al would soon parody as "Tacky." Closer to home, Houston's Tontons and Wild Moccasins were both celebrating new albums that had been months if not years in the making. Any of that ring a bell?

And...February 24 is also the day Rocks Off asked our readers to tell us their choices for Houston's best music photographer. In June, we announced our ten finalists from a pool of more than 30 candidates, as chosen by a panel of three people with exacting knowledge of both music and photography. The array of candidates that have made it this far is impressive, to say the least. We encourage you to explore their portfolios under the links below. But what we finally wanted to know was -- with respect/apologies to Jerry Seinfeld -- who are these people?

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Houston's Best Music Photographers: Marco Torres

Back in June Rocks Off brought you Houston's ten best music photographers, as selected by a small panel of insiders and professionals. Now we'd like you readers to choose the best. Before voting opens, though, here's a little more about our finalists, in alphabetical order -- and a lot more of their spectacular photography. Best of luck to all ten.

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Photos courtesy of Marco Torres
Pretty Lights
Rocks Off: Tell us a little more about yourself.
Marco Torres: I've documented my city's rich music and art scene since 2004. As a Mexican-American, I grew up listening exclusively to corridos and cumbias at my parents' home in Houston's East End neighborhood. I attended Jesse H. Jones Senior High in Houston's South Park district at the height of the DJ Screw era, and my love for Houston Rap music was born.

I give credit to my high-school band director, Mr. Ronald J. Cole, for introducing me to and teaching me jazz, funk, blues and soul music. I've been working as a paid photographer since 2009; it was my side gig for years as I worked a day job at a bank. I have been freelancing full-time now since May 2013.

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Houston's Best Music Photographers: Todd Spoth

Back in June Rocks Off brought you Houston's ten best music photographers, as selected by a small panel of insiders and professionals. Now we'd like you readers to choose the best. Before voting opens, though, here's a little more about our finalists, in alphabetical order -- and a lot more of their spectacular photography. Best of luck to all ten.

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Photos courtesy of Todd Spoth
Meechy Darko of Flatbush Zombies
Rocks Off: Tell us a little more about yourself.
Todd Spoth:
I am a full-time commercial and editorial photographer based here in Houston. I was born in Galveston and grew up in Paris, France, before settling back in the Clear Lake area. I graduated from the University of Houston in 2006 with degrees in both Political Science and Psychology before ditching the idea of law school for something a little more creative.

I started out with internships with the Houston Astros, Colorado Springs Gazette, and Patuxent Publishing in Baltimore, Md. before moving back in Houston as an independent freelancer. Although I shoot for several great editorial clients such as ESPN the Magazine, Billboard and Complex, my focus in recent years has been on commercial and advertising work.

I am currently working on an on-going photo essay of hip-hop in Houston and beyond. High school photography was the only class I ever failed. @toddspoth on Twitter and IG and Ello and everything else.

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Houston's Best Music Photographers: Jason Smith

Back in June Rocks Off brought you Houston's ten best music photographers, as selected by a small panel of insiders and professionals. Now we'd like you readers to choose the best. Before voting opens, though, here's a little more about our finalists, in alphabetical order -- and a lot more of their spectacular photography. Best of luck to all ten.

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Photos courtesy of Jason Smith
Charles Bradley
Rocks Off: Tell us a little more about yourself.
Jason Smith:
By day, I am a music teacher at a private school. I teach kids from pre-kindergarten all the way up to eighth grade how to sing and play xylophones and other rhythm instruments. I also help organize mini-music-festivals in Houston like Yes, Indeed! last month at Continental Club.

I also play bass in a band called Alkari, which is currently on hiatus. Lastly, I am part of a nonprofit organization called Houston Mod which encourages people to appreciate Houston's mid-20th-century modern architecture and design. I love to stay busy. I can't sit still for long.

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