iFest's Jesse Dayton: "I'm Ready to Throw Down"

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courtesy Jesse Dayton
Jesse Dayton (r) as Captain Clegg
The last time Rocks Off caught up with Jesse Dayton, he was up to his eyeballs in alligators with his film project Zombex, working on an album of Kinky Friedman cover songs and playing Kinky for a bunch of New York art types in Marfa. One of the hustling-est hustlers in show business, Dayton has plans to spread himself even thinner. He had just left a rehearsal when we caught up with him.

Rocks Off: The last time we talked, you were editing your movie. Where does that stand?

Jesse Dayton: We're very close to being finished. I just found out the producers are going to take it to Cannes next month. And it looks like I'm going to get to direct two more pictures for them. I've got one script finished and I'm working on another one.

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iFest 2012 Heavy On Latin Rock, Funk, South Americans

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Seun Kuti
The Houston International Festival officially announced its 2012 lineup this morning. The music is heavy on Latin-flavored rock, reggae and funk, with Texas well-represented as always and an exceedingly rare Houston appearance by Seun Kuti, son of Afrobeat giant Fela, and his group Egypt 80.

Among the other headliners are Los Lonely Boys, Del Castillo, WAR, Steel Pulse, JJ Grey & MOFRO, Galactic feat. ex-Living Colour singer Corey Glover and the Rebirth Brass Band's Corey Henry, bluesman Joe Louis Walker, South African reggae band the Tidal Waves and the Texas Tornados.

Although iFest is relatively light on artists from its featured country, Argentina - sure wish Los Fabulosos Cadillacs could have made it - several others are making the trip from South America: Chilean cumbia crooners Chico Trujillo, Venezuela's Los Amigos Invisibles and Ecuadorian singer-guitarist Cecilia Vilar Eljuri.

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iFest's First Weekend Thick With Music, Humidity

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Jimmie Vaughan (left) and his band gave the large iFest crowd some saxual healing Saturday.
Lots more iFest in our slideshows: The bands, the performers, the crowds and even the food.

For something that was still going on 24 hours ago, the first weekend of the Houston International Festival sure seems like a long way away now. That's what happens when one of the most monumental events of your lifetime happens when all you're trying to do is wind down from a long weekend of outdoor music in a muggy Bayou City spring.

Now, in hindsight, iFest's choice of "The Silk Road: Journey Across Asia" as its theme this year seems especially poignant. If you need to brush up on your world geography, the Silk Road is a network of overland trade routes that has been in use since ancient times. Effectively, it forms a belt between the Mediterranean and China - making Afghanistan and Pakistan the buckle.

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Lucinda Williams, Spearhead, Kronos Quartet Headed To iFest

The Houston International Festival, better known as iFest, announced its 2011 lineup late Thursday night. Here are some of the highlights:


World Stage: Kronos Quartet feat. Homayun Sakhi; Houston Youth Symphony String Quartet; Houston Grand Opera


World Stage: Mayapuris; Kora Konnection; Rootz Underground; Jimmie Vaughan feat. Lou Ann Barton; Jonny Lang

Louisiana Stage: Voodoo Brass Band; Corey Ledet Zydeco Band; Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole; African Zydeco Revue feat. Kora Konnection; Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws

Houston Stage: Funk Bank; Chango Man; Free Radicals feat. Subhendu Chakraborty; Corey Ledet Zydeco Band; Kyle Turner

Latin Stage: Francisco Guevara Trio; Chango Man; Karina Nistal

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Joe Ely's Top Five Live Shots, By iFest's Rick Mitchell

Jason Wolter
Joe Ely (left) and David Grissom at iFest 2010
Next Friday, Feb. 11, the Joe Ely Band returns to Rockefeller Hall for the first time in more than a decade, since the legendary Washington Avenue showcase club stopped presenting live music to focus on the less risky business of private parties and other rental arrangements. Houston's Mike Stinson Band opens the show at 8 p.m.

The event is a fundraiser for the education programs of the Houston International Festival - specifically, the Teacher's Curriculum Guide, which is distributed annually free of charge to approximately 1,500 area schools, five copies per school, each February. The Guide is dedicated to the honored nation or theme of each year's festival; this year's is "The Silk Road: Journey Across Asia."

As it happens, I am the artistic director of the Houston International Festival, and the former music critic at the Houston Chronicle, jobs have given me the opportunity to see Joe Ely perform many times. At the invitation of Rocks Off editor Chris Gray, here are my top five live Joe Ely experiences, as well as I can remember them.

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iFest President & CEO Jim Austin Stepping Down February 1

Festival not booking Justin Beiber, interim replacement says

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George Clinton at iFest 2010
Speaking of festivals...

The Houston International Festival announced earlier today that Dr. James Austin will retire as president and chief executive officer of the Houston Festival Foundation, the nonprofit organization that oversees the production of the annual springtime music, arts and cultural festival informally known as iFest.

Austin, 65, has overseen the festival for 24 years and will step down effective February 1. Former Houston Chronicle music critic and occasional Rocks Off contributor Rick Mitchell, currently iFest's artistic director, will take over as interim president and CEO while the HFF board of directors conducts a search for a permanent replacement. Mitchell would not comment publicly on whether or not he is a candidate for the job.

"Jim Austin kept this festival alive through rain or shine and remained true to the original vision celebrating Houston's international population with a focus on multicultural education," Mitchell told Rocks Off this afternoon. "He is leaving on his own terms, with dignity and class."

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iFest Closes To An Afro-Cuban-Reggae Beat

Eggs/ breakfastontour.com
Baba Maal

If the first weekend of the Houston International Festival felt like a detour down Canal Street, the second evoked the festival's emphasis on "Spotlighting the Caribbean." Summer picked this weekend to descend two months early, as it tends to do, resulting in increased traffic and a heightened sense of anticipation.

For two weekends of the year, we're reminded of Houston's status as a world-class city, when bands from around the globe converge among the urban silos of downtown to share a glimpse of their homeland. Saturday and Sunday performers saw Houston as we like to be seen.

After Saturday's highlights, including Taj Weekes and Adowa, Zydepunks and the double-barrel finale of George Clinton and P-Funk on the Bud Light World Music Stage and Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women on the Louisiana Stage, with Houston's Texas Johnny Brown and Los Skarnales adding homegrown blues and ska perspectives, respectively, Sunday brought a relaxed mélange of melodies from Africa, Cuba and los dos Americas.

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Rebirth Brass Band Lights A Fire At iFest

Photos by Eggs/ breakfastontour.com

Weather - usually the bad, wet, turbulent kind - has often been the story at iFest. But the story this year is that in spite of the threat of rain in the forecast, both weekends turned out to be everything promoters could have hoped for weather-wise.

As the sun set Sunday, a brisk late spring north wind straightened the flags on top of the surrounding buildings against a blue, cloudless sky as the final strains of the Rebirth Brass Band fell away at the Louisiana Stage. It truly couldn't have been a more glorious ending to the annual festival.

And while missing two members from their usual lineup, the Rebirth, which our compadre "Third Degree" Burns calls the gold standard of brass bands, brought the funk throughout a set that lit a fire in the feel-good crowd and brought on the usual dancing antics among the faithful.

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iFest Aftermath: A Whirlwind Afternoon With Zydepunks, Some Cha-Chas, Taj Weekes And Dave Alvin's Guilty Women

Categories: Last Night, iFest
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Jason Wolter

There was a moment as Aftermath was walking through the Caribbean Market section of iFest Saturday when we had the most visceral of flashbacks -- stepping off a Carnival cruise boat at the rip old age of 14 in Nassau, Bahamas, and being inundated by tourist-baiting marketeers trying to pawn off bootleg Bob Marley cassette tapes and begging to braid our hair Bo Derek-style.

Thankfully, like the Bahamas, not all of iFest is a tourist trap, and Aftermath was able to see some pretty inspiring acts Saturday, from a sensitive reggae singer to a California native singing good old-fashioned Americana.

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Jason Wolter
iFest had a significantly larger crowd this weekend thanks to what is probably the best weather we're going to have in Houston all year. When Aftermath arrived, the Louisiana Stage area was packed. As was the case last weekend, it seemed to be one of the most popular stages crowd-wise. Aftermath wonders if that's because of its proximity to the entrance -- festival-goers can hear the music from that stage on the street outside.

The Zydepunks were in the midst of their set, and every retro-hipster at the festival was on the lawn watching them, including tattooed belly dancers and members of Los Skarnales, who played later in the evening. The self-described "New Orleans Cajun Irish Breton Klezmer Slavic Zydeco" punk band is a force of energy, and though Aftermath has heard them compared to Gogol Bordello a number of times, their sets Saturday seemed more reminiscent of Dengue Fever thanks to a tinge of 1960s exotica.

Aftermath's companion asked, "What's the difference between this and regular gypsy music?" We just shrugged our shoulders. "They're from Louisiana?"

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Aftermath: George Clinton & His P-Funk Army Seriously Funk Up iFest

Categories: Last Night, iFest
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For nearly two hours on Saturday night, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic tickled every single funk bone in iFest's sun-drenched body. For a festival so family-friendly and altogether worldly, Clinton and his gang made the lawn in Sam Houston Park feel sleazy in the most admirable way.

No one will take up Clinton's baton when the Mothership comes back around to pick him up one last time. There is no one alive on this earth that can and could pull off what he does even in his late, late 60s. It's still a wonder to Aftermath why he can't command a sellout at any venue in any town, seeing that this is a living, cognizant legend that can still tour and has a full-force backing band.

Watching YouTube clips from Parliament-Funkadelic's Houston history, especially the 1979 clips proved that the band has had a storied love affair with our city. A handful of clips from a set from at what looks to be the Summit emanate sweat and funk through your monitor.

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