iFest Bringing Bootsy, Baby and a Boatload of Brazilians

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This was a surprise. The Houston International Festival, sort of like ACL goes to the museum, just announced its 2013 lineup about half an hour ago, right out of the blue. Get ready to get funked up in Sam Houston Park rather than outer space.

Topliners include funk warlord Bootsy Collins, New Orleans crooner Aaron Neville, reggae droppers The Wailers, jam band Leftover Salmon, (both previously announced), British soul singer James Hunter, Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi, Austin's Grupo Fantasma, the Stooges Brass Band, Texas Brass Band and Houston's increasingly popular Bombon Sound System.

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Saturday: iFest in Downtown Houston -- War, Bombino & More

Categories: Aftermath, iFest

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Photos by Groovehouse
Lonnie Jordan of War
Houston International Festival
Downtown Houston
April 28, 2012

Check out our slideshows from this weekend: iFest bands and food and faces from iFest. Also, be sure to read our write-up of iFest's artistic and cultural offerings.

It's hard to know what to experience first at iFest. Long before you reach the gates, the smell of a tremendous variety of meats and vegetables being smoked, grilled and fried fairly carries you inside, and the mingled strains of a dozen genres of music, both live and recorded, waft from every direction.

It's a fitting, disorienting introduction to Houston's annual downtown celebration of cultural eclecticism.

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Rockin' Bluesman Joe Louis Walker Ignites Hellfire

Categories: Blue Notes, iFest

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Photo by Michael Weintrob
While many young'uns spent their years 'twixt 12 and 20 just listening to music and attending concerts, Joe Louis Walker was a bit more proactive. At age 16, he became the house guitarist for the legendary San Francisco rock club The Matrix, he played with or opened shows for everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Lightnin' Hopkins to Thelonious Monk and Freddie King. He also became close friends with blues guitarist Mike Bloomfield.

Later, after a decade spent performing nothing but gospel music with the Spiritual Corinthians, Walker returned to his brand of blues-rock in 1986, releasing 23 albums since then. The latest, Hellfire, is his first for legendary blues label Alligator. And -- as the title would indicate -- it's full of fiery tracks.

Rocks Off spoke with Walker about the new CD, an infamous incident with Hopkins and how Texas is like a big garden for growing guitar players.

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Sunday: iFest in Downtown Houston -- Galactic, Jason Isbell, Etc.

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Photos by Marco Torres
Stone River Boys
Houston International Festival
Downtown Houston
April 22, 2012

With a slight north breeze keeping festival-goers from broiling under a cloudless sky, Sunday's iFest turned into a perfect laid-back Houston day of rest and entertainment excess. It didn't hurt that the music lineup was both diverse and stellar, that there were virtually no lines and that things ran with an almost informal efficiency that is so typical of the Bayou City.

We started the day with Austin's Stone River Boys and the hundred or so souls mostly scrunched under the big live oak tree which offered the only shade -- shade and sunscreen being in high demand.

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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

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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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