Dick Dale at Continental Club, 4/17/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Dick Dale
Continental Club
April 17, 2014

Walking into the Continental Club, I had the thought: "Can Dick Dale still do it at 76 years old?" I mean, I know folks younger that can't even send an email, let alone rip a guitar like it's going out of style. But I would soon find out that not only can he still play, but his guitar riffs sounded cleaner than ever.

Dale, who has had an off-and-on relationship with music since the late 1950s, likes to keep it simple, and proved that Thursday during a 90 minute set of mostly covers to an overly packed room. He doesn't need all the bells and whistles of modern technology -- just give him his Fender and a classic amp and he'll walk all over the youngsters trying to replicate his style today.


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Slick Rick at Warehouse Live, 4/11/2014

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Photos by Marco Torres
Slick Rick
Warehouse Live
April 11, 2014

Legends don't need a fancy stage, dazzling lighting or flamboyant dance routines. And they definitely do not need a 20-piece entourage to stand with them onstage doing absolutely nothing. All a legend needs is a little bit of your time and a platform on which to showcase his or her talent.

A legend of that caliber coolly strolled into Warehouse Live on Friday night, bringing with him 30 years of experience in the hip-hop game, with a handful of the most iconic rhymes and rhythms ever to be pressed on wax in his back pocket.

Slick Rick. Ricky Dee. The Ruler. The man with the eye patch who carries his own weight in gold around his neck. He's a shining example of what a storyteller is supposed to be: descriptive, enticing, understandable and relatable. No wonder so many rappers point to this man as an inspiration -- he simply has "it."


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Helstar & Venomous Maximus at Fitzgerald's, 4/12/2014

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Photos by Groovehouse
Helstar
Helstar, Venomous Maximus, Sanctus Bellum, Termination Force
Fitzgerald's
April 12, 2014

The list of local bands that can still fill up Fitzgerald's more than 30 years after jamming out on their first power chord is a short one. On Saturday night, the metallic warriors in Helstar proved they can still pull that trick off with a little help from a few Johnny-come-lately friends.

The old club's crowded upstairs room was in fine spirit all evening, with supporting acts Termination Force, Sanctus Bellum and Venomous Maximus drawing plenty of claps and cheers. But the audience's most unconditional love was reserved for Helstar, the Houston metal institution celebrating the release next week of their tenth studio album, This Wicked Nest.


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Jeff Bridges & the Abiders at Warehouse Live, 4/12/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Jeff Bridges & the Abiders
Warehouse Live
April 12, 2014

Sometime during Jeff Bridges' headlining set at Warehouse Live on Saturday night, things just seemed to click. It took a little bit for the band to warm up to the room, and more specifically the room to warm up to the band, but after that happened this show became a good one.

I'm not sure if it took the crowd getting over the fact that Jeff Bridges was standing in front of them, but when people finally did get over his celebrity and stopped shouting quotes from The Big Lebowski at the stage, things seemed to fall into place and it became a real show.

Not that Bridges and his aptly named band the Abiders were churning out bad tunes, it just seemed to bore the audience at first -- one that seemed quite excited about the performance heading into the start. Could be that most of the crowd paid the hefty ticket price just to get a glimpse of Bridges or yell inaudible movie quotes at him, but after they realized that it wasn't just him acting out his "Dude" persona, the unrest throughout the room was noticeable.


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Kings of Leon at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 4/10/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Kings of Leon, Local Natives
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
April 10, 2014

Welcome back, Kings of Leon. We had missed you since you skipped out on our last show. While you might've been touring pretty relentlessly since your return last year, it was nice to see you back at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, in seemingly good health, and with a re-established vigor.

We weren't sure if you had the ability to give us your all last night, but that was soon disproven in the first minutes of your performance. You showed us that, despite all your brotherly quarrels in the past, you really do like playing with each other the songs you've cleverly crafted in the past decade.

You have good songs, and you certainly know how to rock, but how long is that going to last? When are you going to fall into that same situation that caused a ruckus in Dallas a few years ago and made you cancel your Houston performance the next night? I mean, I guess you are (mostly) brothers, so those arguments are deep-seated in years of alcohol-fueled love and hate, but how long can it last?


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Mobb Deep & Nosaprise at Fitzgerald's, 4/9/2014

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Photos by Marco Torres
Mobb Deep, Nosaprise
Fitzgerald's
April 9, 2014

A hip-hop show on a Wednesday night is as good as a rap show on any other night, except maybe better. Everyone who claims to be a hip-hop fan but is really just a whats-new-on-the-radio rap fan stays home to watch Basketball Wives or whatever nonsense is on cable these days. There is no twerking at a real hip-hop show, no shouts of "truuu" or hashtag rhyme structures. Just the real. Hip-Hop.

Wednesday, I arrived at Fitz already disappointed because I knew I'm too late to catch Walter Mallone's set, the new-ish project by my homies the Zamora brothers and an MC named Raymond Auzenne. But here's a quick listen to one of their tracks:


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Arcade Fire at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 4/9/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Who is that masked man?
Arcade Fire
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
April 9, 2014

I may not be the first person to say it, but then Arcade Fire is not the first group to counter the "most important band in the world" tag by breaking out the costumes and mirrors. U2 is the obvious model, with their Joshua Tree-Achtung Baby-Zooropa cycle, but the tradition is at least as old as their fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde, and no doubt a lot older. "Man is least himself when he talks in his own person," the 19th-century wit famously said. "Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth."

Arcade Fire's latest album, Reflektor, is clouded with suspicion and anxiety. It's the kind of record a band who has conquered the world and is wondering both who they can trust and what to do next might make, but it's so full of shiny surfaces, synthesizer-spawned smoke and mirrors, and a relentless Studio 54 beat that you'd almost never notice. The camera never lies, and there is always redemption on the dance floor. Not their best record, maybe, but maybe the one that translates best to the stage.


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Grouplove at House of Blues, 4/7/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Grouplove, MS MR
House of Blues
April 7, 2014

Damn the iPod. Really. It's truly ruined the way we ingest music. Long gone are the days of sitting down to a full album, taking in all of its little intricacies from front to back, allowing a band to tell their story on two full sides.

We may never have another White Album or Dark Side of the Moon, and can only hope to see another Quadrophenia or Thriller, but the chances of that seem slim. And because of that, bands have now changed their approach to how they release music.

Now we are force-fed a band three and a half minutes at a time, which can't possibly give us a full picture of what they can really do. It's almost a step back to the days of the 45, where people would fall in love with a band based solely on an A-side and (if the band is lucky) a B-side. Today, given music listeners' love of the shuffle, it's rare for anyone to know what a band truly sounds like.


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Sleigh Bells at Warehouse Live, 4/6/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
Sleigh Bells
Warehouse Live
April 6, 2014

One might be forgiven for being a little surprised that Sleigh Bells are still selling tickets in 2014. The duo reached maximum buzz years ago, riding the hype all the way to a slate of plum festival gigs and late-night TV appearances. Like so many indie darlings before them, though, Sleigh Bells never quite seemed built to last. Really, how many ways could they twist heavy-metal riffs around electronic hip-hop beats without growing a little stale? Aren't we on to the next thing, yet?

Well, they might not be the hottest thing out of Brooklyn anymore, but Sleigh Bells has grown an audience the right way over the past few years: on the strength of their live show. The crowd that showed up at Warehouse Live Sunday night arrived didn't come to hear the hottest new buzz band; they came to see Sleigh Bells. And they fully expected the band to deliver.

Deliver they did. After three albums, the Sleigh Bells formula remains relatively simple, but massively effective. After an ear-splitting drumline intro, it was all strobe lights and cymbal crashes from there, with a huge cheer erupting at first sight of leather-clad front woman Alexis Krauss.

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Chromeo at House of Blues, 4/6/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Chromeo
House of Blues
April 6, 2014

For someone to dance means he or she feels something deep down in his or her bones that moves not only the muscles but the spirit. Not everyone was given the gift of rhythm, but everyone has the ability to dance. It might not be with skill, nor with care, but given the right sound or beat everyone will eventually find themselves moving their bodies to music.

Some factors heighten this ability, such as a performance from the Canadian duo Chromeo. If you've ever been enlightened by a performance from the group, you know what I'm talking about. If you happened to be at House of Blues Sunday night, then you most certainly know what I'm talking about.

Chromeo is the catalyst. They'll make even the most stubborn folk get past that traditional head-bob and do that fancy footwork.


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