Planning That Perfectly Disaster-Free Summer Tour

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Photo by Daniel Torres
The Grizzly Band
It's summer. No 7 a.m. classes. You've saved your money. You've hoarded your vacation and sick days because you need those perks now.

You've made all these sacrifices and more to be able to team with your kindred spirits and take your band on the road. You've planned to go forth and conquer with all the precision and foresight of Alexander the Great. But before you can start weeping over no other worlds to conquer, are you ready for the battles you'll face on this particular roadie?

Two bands, one local getting ready to tour and the other just passing through, recently shared their best advice on this musical rite of passage.


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MC Chris Is in Town; Maybe He'll Come Over

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Photos courtesy of MC Chris
Rapper MC Chris has a significant and sometimes intensely personal relationship with his fans.

How personal? He's been known to crash fans' house parties or just stop by to play video games. He includes them in T-shirt design and remix competitions on his Web site. He reaches out to them to help fund research against a debilitating disease. They've been his lifeblood over a nearly ten-year music career.

Houston fans have two chances to catch him this week. He's hosting a screening of How To Train Your Dragon 2 tonight at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park and tomorrow he'll be one of dozens of acts braving the heat at Houston's Vans Warped Tour stop.


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Dolly Parton's 10 Best Songs of All Time

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We really couldn't adore Dolly more. As a songwriter, performer and even an actor, she's proven herself worthy time and again. She holds a number of career milestones -- 25 gold, platinum, and multiplatinum awards, 41 career Top 10 country albums, and eight Grammys, just to name a few -- but more than that, she holds the hearts of country-music lovers everywhere.

So with so many accolades, it would be unjust to make Dolly share a Throwback Thursday list with other artists. She just kills the competition, so we compiled a list of her hits all her own to salute to the country-music legend.

After all, in Dolly's own words, "Its hard to be a diamond in a rhinestone world." And we'd just hate to hurt anyone's feelings.


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Battle of the Beach Music: 1984 vs. 2014

Categories: Joyful Noise

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IMDb photo
Yes, the beach looked like this in 1984
I've never been a fan of the beach. My family is about it, though, so sometime this summer I'll be sitting someplace that smells worse than a Red Lobster Dumpster introducing new grains of sand to my ass crack.

My parents were from Galveston, but they hated the beach. We never went as kids. So I never cultivated a youthful, healthy perspective by building sandcastles or finding seashells like some of you.

By the time I got there, I was old enough to drink beer and buy my own music; those were the things that made a beach day more bearable for me. In honor of my first true beach outing 30 years ago, and to steel myself for an imminent trip, I thought I'd see if I'll fare at least as well music-wise this summer as I did in 1984.


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What If Stevie Had Been a One-Hit Wonder?

Categories: Joyful Noise

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If hit songs were eggs, flour and frosting, Stevie Wonder would be a Cake Boss.

He'd be able to bake one of those huge, rectangular monstrosities they roll out at corporate functions, and it would taste damn good. Down deep, there'd be the belly-filling substance of songs like "Front Line" and "Higher Ground." Up top, there's the sweet stuff, like "You Are the Sunshine of My Life" and "I Just Called to Say I Love You."

Today is Wonder's 64th birthday, good reason to celebrate all he's served up in a career that's spanned more than a half-century. It's easy to take someone like that for granted. Listen to his songs today, knowing there's so much of his music to enjoy. Then, try imagining a world where he's a one-hit Wonder.


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Old Testament Tales That Fit Today's Musicians

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In April 2014, one of the hottest figures in Hollywood is an old-timer called God. He's the subject of Noah and God's Not Dead, two films that have somewhat surprisingly charted multimillion-dollar grosses this Easter season.

Whether the actors and producers are true believers isn't the point. Their personal salvation might not be assured, but it seems their bottom lines have been saved by bringing The Big Guy to the big screen. But in secular music entertainment, God's archrival gets all the run.

Whether the Stones are sympathizing with him or Jay-Z is illuminating on him, Satan rules, and folks like Jimmy Page and Ozzy Osbourne have ridden Old Scratch's coattails all the way to the bank. The only time music artists ever mention God is when they're receiving a trophy at some awards show, right before they head off to a drug-laden orgy.


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10 Songs We'd Like to Hear at Astros Games This Season

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Photo by Keith Allison/Flickr Commons
Go get 'em, guys...

Last year's Houston Astros were beyond bad, the second-worst season ever by a franchise n Major League Baseball's recorded history. That should give you this blog's frame of reference, which will be long on hope and short on snark. If you want to read a bunch of shitty comments about how bad the team was or may be this season, head over to Deadspin.

I'm a homer when it comes to my sports teams. I've been an Astros fan since Bob Watson and Doug "The Red Rooster" Rader played the corners. We used to sit in the centerfield seats so Mom could amuse Cesar Cedeno by speaking to him in Spanish between pitches. She got him to converse a few times while dad would be guzzling down some Dome Foam and teaching us how to log the game on the scorecard.

So, yeah, this devotion runs deep. I wish the squad well and hope their progress this season will be acknowledged by possibly hearing the following songs at Minute Maid Park in 2014:

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Lenten Promises Music Lovers Can Actually Keep

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Photo by Jerry Kirkhart/Flickr Commons
One of the best friends I've ever had in this life was Ann Ball. At the Catholic high school I graduated from, she was my English teacher during my senior year.

Ann was a little older than I, but a large margin wiser. She smoked like a Texas City refinery and let us crash on her sofas when we were too drunk to go home. She was one of the most dedicated religious people I've ever known, as well as a writer whose books are still on shelves at Christian bookstores everywhere.

Although she was immensely influential on me, I didn't absorb every lesson of Ball's. She was uncommonly kind, a trait I'll probably never have or even understand. She was no holy roller, either. She was faithful, but she made her devotion seem so damn cool.

One lesson that stuck regarded the Christian practice of Lent, the six-week period preceding Easter Sunday that begins today. During this time, Christians frequently practice self-denial and wallow in repentant prayer; it's basically the time of year when Christianity goes emo.


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Three Little Birds: Songs for New Families and a New Year

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Photo courtesy of Thoughtful Cakes
In 2013, some friends of ours shared with us the good news they'd be having their first child. They are excellent people, so we were very happy for them and the kid they'd soon welcome.

I've been a dad nearly half my life now (yikes), but the only bit of wisdom I shared with them was to listen to all the advice being offered by we who have already been in your shoes and then do as you see fit. It's your experience, so own it.


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Blue Christmas: A Love Story

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Photo by Marco Torres
This is a love story. I'd like to think that it's still being written, although the reality is that the last chapter may have already been recorded. First things first: I caused this. I hurt her. And now we are no longer united. It was a beautiful thing, our love. Still is. But not all love stories have happy endings.

I once saw the phrase "Love Stories Suck" on the street when I was traveling. Although I quickly and angrily posted it on Instagram and wanted to believe that to be true, my heart told me otherwise. Not all of them suck. I had hope for mine then, and still hold onto hope even now.

Music is, or was, a big part of our relationship. From concerts to car rides to streaming audio, it was more than just background noise to us. We cherished music in our own way, and shared quite a few of our favorite songs with one another. We could constantly send each other new tracks as we discovered them, their lyrics describing us sometimes too perfectly.


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