Can't Knock Me Down: Vex Singer Returns for One Last Howl

Photos courtesy of David Ensminger
In a time before Houston was overly infested with sprawl, when portions of downtown were dripping with decay, mechanical bull-riding mesmerized crowds at Gilley's, and police violence regularly marred neighborhoods, bands like Vex, peppered with heavy duty politics, the "plague" of punk, and bruising live sets, set themselves far apart from wafer-thin New Wave and moronic glam-metal that held sway in the 1980s.

They sided with a slightly older set of witty, spirited outcasts like Really Red, Orgasm, Mydolls, Anarchitex and the Hates, whose music -- rank with disaffection and disarray -- served as a countercultural beacon in the Reagan era.

Singer Mike May (who also later joined Keelhaul and Crust), now suffering from Stage-4 melanoma, was the band's center of gravity.

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Prog-Rock Legends Wishbone Ash: Nostalgia "Not the Whole Story"

Photos courtesy of Wishbone Ash
Wishbone Ash today: Joe Crabtree (drums), Andy Powell (lead vocals/guitar), Bob Skeat (bass), and Muddy Manninen (guitar).
One of the greatest prog-rock albums ever, Wishbone Ash's 1972 epic Argus also remains the English band's best-known and definitive sonic statement.

And while other acts in the genre like Yes, Jethro Tull, ELP and Genesis have wider name recognition, Wishbone Ash has cultivated a cult following by consistently touring and recording in some formation since its founding in 1969.

The current lineup, which features original co-vocalist/guitarist Andy Powell, along with Muddy Manninen (guitar), Bob Skeat (bass) and Joe Crabtree (drums), is performing Argus in its entirety on its current tour. However, there's still plenty of stage time to explore both the band's rich history and its brand-new record, Blue Horizon (Solid Rockhouse).

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Warpaint's Stella Mozgawa: "Every Song Is From Its Own Universe"

Photo by Mia Kirby/Courtesy of Beggars USA
It's been a few years since Warpaint mesmerized Houstonians in a live setting -- nearly three years to the day, in fact. But the group is finally set to return to Houston.

Tomorrow night, the quartet of Emily Kokal, Theresa Wayman, Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Mozgawa will headline upstairs at Fitzgerald's in support of their sophomore LP, Warpaint. The album, featuring singles "Love is to Die" and "Disco//very," was written, recorded and produced over a span of four years with the help of producer Flood (Depeche Mode, PJ Harvey) and mixing on select tracks by Nigel Godrich (Beck, Radiohead). Warpaint represents the most accurate reflection of the group's talents thus far, and although they've been touring heavily since its release in January, Rocks Off was lucky enough to catch some one-on-one time with drummer Stella Mozgawa in between the group's two Coachella performances.

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Roots-Rock Papa Luther Dickinson Has Plenty "Mojo, Mojo" Workin'

Categories: Inquiring Minds

Photo by Mike Kerr/Courtesy of New West Records
If the general rules of parent/child relationships hold, most members of the latter group will find the former's music tastes "uncool" at some point.

However, how can that be the case when your dad is Luther Dickinson, the rock/country/blues singer-guitarist and current solo artist, member of the North Mississippi Allstars and South Memphis String band, and former member of the freakin' Black Crowes?

"I have two daughters and another baby due next month, and I'm raising them the best I can, but they are bored with rock and roll!" the Memphis native laughs in a slow, stoner-like drawl. "My four-year-old likes classical and jazz!"

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A Quick 15 Minutes With YG, Rap's Hottest New Star

Categories: Inquiring Minds

Photos courtesy of Universal Music Group/Island Def Jam
At heart, YG is an everyman rapper to the core. He doesn't completely crowd the mind with a ton of abject wordplay like his Compton compatriot Kendrick Lamar, but instead crafts pop-rap tunes that bite with far more believable menace than, say, Rick Ross.

His first major effort came in 2009 with L.A. singer Ty Dolla $ign on the "find 'em, fuck 'em and flee"-espousing underground hit "Toot It & Boot It." Soon after he inked a deal with fabled New York label Def Jam Records but his career stalled thanks to a burglary conviction, the date of which he commemorates on the cover of his new album. But since his release, YG's blunted tone in tandem with West Coast producer/current radio kingpin DJ Mustard has forced Def Jam's hand through a series of buzzworthy mixtapes, culminating in his chart-topping March debut My Krazy Life.

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Drake Leaks Dates of His Cryptic "Houston Appreciation Weekend"

Categories: Inquiring Minds

Photo by Marco Torres
See you soon, Drizzy?
When he's not being the nicest rapper ever, Drake tends to surprise fans with random song releases in the wee hours of the morning, cryptic tweets and multiple moments of canoodling with Rihanna. The sad part about the Rihanna thing is that our boy Aubrey is fine and dandy with the fact that she's in love with somebody else and is only "holding on to go home" with Drizzy because being a popular sex symbol who's also single is a bitch.

Last month, in a cryptic, message-board-like posting on his October's Very Own Web site, Drake made mention of a "Houston Appreciation Weekend," but gave up little else apart from a simple logo. Well, now we know via his Instagram that it's at least a tour kicking off on June 13 and ending June 15, three dates that Toyota Center, House of Blues and Warehouse Live all happen to have open (for now).

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Canada's Rip-Roaring Monster Truck Packs Tons of Furiosity

Photos courtesy of SKH Media
Monster Truckers: Steve Kiely, Brandon Bliss, Jeremy Widerman, and Jon Harvey

For this article, this wasn't supposed to be how Rocks Off interviewed Jeremy Widerman, guitarist/singer for the heavy, heavy Canadian classic rock-inspired band Monster Truck.

Widerman was supposed to call from Germany, where the band was wrapping up some European dates before heading to the U.S. and open gigs for Alter Bridge and then Alice in Chains. But when the agreed-upon time came and went, we received a text from their U.S.-based publicist vaguely mentioning that the band "had been pulled over by the cops in Germany and were still dealing with it."

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Jeff Bridges Abides, in or out of Character

Photo courtesy of Warehouse Live
When it comes to music, Jeff Bridges is not some dilettantish actor noodling around with a guitar. Inspired by Bob Dylan and the Beatles, he and a friend would play hootenannys at L.A. clubs like Ledbetter's while still in high school. Years later, while filming the infamous 1980 western Heaven's Gate, Bridges met a couple of co-star Kris Kristofferson's musician buddies from Texas: Fort Worth natives Stephen Bruton and T. Bone Burnett.

That friendship culminated almost 20 years later with Crazy Heart, which won Bridges a Best Actor Oscar for his role as down-but-not-quite-out singer Bad Blake and former Austin singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham a Best Original Song statue for "The Weary Kind."; it couldn't help but renew Bridges' interest in his own musical pursuits as well. Over the phone, though, he comes across much more like his bathrobe-Zen character from 1996 1998 Coen Brothers classic The Big Lebowski, who might have even been a musician himself. Rocks Off was lucky enough to pick Bridges' brain last week while he waited for someone to bring his car around one California morning.

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Revenge of the Music Nerds: Arcade Fire Wins

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Photo by JF LaLonde/Courtesy of Nasty Little Man
Arcade Fire: William Butler is second from right
Arcade Fire's William Butler admits he still gets homesick for Texas. Even the weather...up to a point.

"I miss how green everything was all the time always," he says of his youth in The Woodlands from his current home in Montreal. "You'd come home in December and the lawns would still be green, and there'd be flowers know, that feeling. I like one day of summer that feels like Houston, like one day where it's 100 degrees and 102 percent humidity, where you walk outside and you're just like, 'This is stupid.'

"I like that one day, or maybe three days," continues Butler, who is two and a half years younger than his brother Win, the band's front man. "But not necessarily in a row. I do occasionally miss that aspect of the weather."

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Waxahatchee's Katie Crutchfield: At Home Wherever She Goes

Categories: Inquiring Minds

Emma Swann
Waxahatchee front woman Katie Crutchfield is a homebody...sort of.

Geographically speaking, she's relatively nomadic. Born and bred in Alabama, Crutchfield was raised as Southern as they come. Three years ago, however, she left Alabama at age 22 and headed east to Philadelphia, where her band Waxahatchee's notable folk-meets-pop-punk album Cerulean Salt was recorded. Then shortly after the album's 2013 release, she and boyfriend/bandmate Keith Spencer relocated to New York, where they now reside.

At her core, however, Crutchfield is a homebody, in both the personal and professional senses of the word. Maintaining a home base, despite some geographic shuffling, is vital to a person like her. In fact, her career depends on it.

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