Cold War Kids Make a Soulful Return to House of Blues

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Cold War Kids, Elliot Moss, the Vanity
House of Blues
March 5, 2015

It's been nearly ten years since Long Beach's Cold War Kids took the indie-rock world by storm with their debut LP, Robbers & Cowards, but their fans have not forgotten it. With its soulful sensibility and soaring singalongs, that album felt like a breath of fresh air back in 2006, and vaulted the Kids on to the playlists of even the most casual indie-types.

What a lot of those casual fans might not know is that the band that recorded Robbers & Cowards is more or less gone. The group that showed up to headline a crowded show at House of Blues on Thursday night is essentially brand-new, with front man Nathan Willett and bassist Matt Maust the only holdovers from the band's early success. As perhaps even their most ardent supporters might admit in 2015, consistency has never quite been the Cold War Kids' strong suit.

More »

Helmet Melts Faces In the Spirit of a Landmark Album

Photos by Jack Gorman
Helmet/Betty 20th Anniversary Tour
March 4, 2015

No matter how many different descriptions have been used for Helmet's music, it all boils down to "heavy." The group's discombobulated intro of "Wilma's Rainbow" Wednesday evening, the veteran New York band transitioned into the dense bass line that hit the crowd and started the note-for-note playing of their 1994 album, Betty, in full. So began an evening in the company of the gentleman and scholar, Page Hamilton, and his accomplices.

Time and time again Helmet has bucked the way people expect them to sound, and Betty was no different. Instead of riding the industry wave of grunge's popularity, Helmet gave the world an album that was so diverse and ironic, right down to the subversive album cover that is has become a classic. Even today, Betty has spawned a 90-date European and North American tour 20 years after its original release.

More »

Fleetwood Mac Gives Houston an Extended Encore

Photos by Jack Gorman
Stevie Nicks remains in fine shawl even 60 dates into Fleetwood Mac's reunion tour.
Fleetwood Mac
Toyota Center
March 3, 2015

Tuesday night marked, according to Stevie Nicks, the sixtieth show on this string of dates for Fleetwood Mac. It's a hell of a run. It's even the second time they've hit Houston's Toyota Center. How do they maintain the fire? Even 60 shows in, they are just as energetic, just as vital and just as masterful as ever.

Nicks's comment was actually in reference to the fact that she had been welcoming back keyboardist and singer Christine McVie after a 16-year hiatus from the band for 60 shows, and that it was a bit redundant at this point. Put simply, she's back. The same could be said for the entire band.

More »

Bad Ass Weekend 2: A Banquet for Extreme-Music Lovers

Photos by Francisco Montes
England's Napalm Death finished off the pungent, black-wearing crowd of extreme-music lovers at Fitzgerald's.
Maybe it was the dank weather that drove them out of their burrows, or the deep bass vibrations that attracted them. But the extreme rock underground slithered up through the cracks and into the daylight on Saturday, turning out early and with enthusiasm to Day 2 of the Bad Ass Weekend III festival. In studs and spikes they came, rocking mullets, mohawks and long, frizzy tresses, to catch the kind of cult bands that you can really build a scene (or a fashion statement) around.

The sold-out crowd hustled up and down the stairs at Fitzgerald's all night, trying to see and hear everything. It was impossible. The deep lineup of thrash, death and grindcore thought-leaders on both stages was staggered nicely, but difficult choices had to be made. That's just the way it goes at the biggest, gnarliest extreme-rock show of the season.

By the time old-school Orange County grind outfit Phobia began bashing away upstairs at 7:30 p.m., the Bad Ass Weekend had already been underway for quite some time. D.C. punk originals Government Issue had headlined a practically unmissable punk portion of the fest the night before, and lesser-known acts like Church of Disgust and Peasant had been rocking a capacity crowd at Mango's since early Saturday afternoon.

More »

Cursive Still Sounds Vital After All These Years

Photos by Francisco Montes
Written by Eric Grubbs

March 1, 2015

Sunday night at Fitzgerald's, Cursive might have played songs from an album released 12 years ago, but the long-running Omaha-based band still sounded vital and viable. Co-fronted by Tim Kasher and Ted Stevens (along with original bassist Matt Maginn, longtime drummer Cully Symington, multi-instrumentalist Patrick Newberry, and new touring cellist Ellen Lind) they gave a packed audience a solid 19-song set over the course of 90 minutes.

Focusing on material from 2003's The Ugly Organ, the album that transformed the band from the post-hardcore/emo niche into something broader and more diverse, all 12 songs were played by the end of the night. But as is the norm with bands celebrating a classic album on tour these days, Cursive didn't play the album from front to back; gems from their Domestica, Happy Hollow, Mama, I'm Swollen and I Am Gemini LPs all made appearances too. The audience didn't seem to mind: pretty much every song felt like a home run to them. They sang along, pushed around and danced at any chance they got.

More »

Camera Cult Kicks Off Evening of House of Creep-y Fun

Photos by Alyssa Dupree
Camera Cult caught on instantly with Friday's freezing crowd.
Camera Cult, Hank & Cupcakes, Say Girl Say, Sphynx
Houston House of Creeps
February 27, 2015

It's not every day that you get to catch the first-ever live performance of what could be Houston's next big act, but I was lucky enough to see Camera Cult's debut on Friday, February 27 at House of Creeps. The trio, who formed on New Year's Eve 2014, opened the night with a 30-minute set in what would end up being the tamest HHOC event I've ever been present for.

However, despite the blistering cold, the main room was packed full of people dancing and bobbing their heads to music that they've likely never heard, and it was pretty damn impressive.

More »

A Place to Bury Strangers' Theater of Feedback Ravages Fitz

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
A Place to Bury Strangers
February 26, 2015

Thursday night, the world's loudest three-piece rock and roll band made ears ring without regretting the premature acquisition of tinnitus.

A Place to Bury Strangers created a tone of desperation and wild abandon while playing to a mesmerized audience downstairs at Fitzgerald's Thursday night. The bravest of them stood directly in front of the stage, braving both front man Oliver Ackermann's Kabuki theatrics and the tsunami of feedback produced by the evening's actors.

More »

Meghan Trainor Carried Herself Like a Superstar Bigger Than House of Blues

Photos by Jack Gorman
Meghan Trainor, Sheppard
House of Blues
February 25, 2015

It's easy to look at pop music from a conspiratorial mindset. If the industry wants an act to get big, it eventually will. Whether they take a gem and polish the edges into something marketable or create something in the lab, money is being invested somewhere to get someone into your ears.

Unless, of course, you're a one-hit wonder. Sometimes an artist lucks into a song so good that a label invests in it, the entire time knowing that they'll be tossing the artist aside as soon as they've squeezed all the blood out of the stone.

If you haven't seen Meghan Trainor in concert yet, it's easy to write her off as a one-hit wonder. Surely that "All About That Bass" girl isn't going to have a real career, right?

Time may eventually render this statement silly, but here goes: get ready to be stuck with Miss Trainor for at least a few more years, because she's not going away anytime soon.

More »

Josiah Gabriel's Infinity Machines Astonish Fitz Crowd

Photos by Susan Wyatt
The sound of Houston today: Josiah Gabriel, infinity machines
This is what it must have felt like to live during the time when the gift of tongues was dispensed upon Jesus' apostles.

A pentecostal spirit swept through Fitzgerald's downstairs during Josiah Gabriel's set Thursday, reducing the history of modern music into 25 minutes. The few people present during his set witnessed the art of the remix, the convergence of house yesterday and today, and a minimalist ethos coupled with rap's present trap craze. Imagine Steve Reich sitting down with Chief Keef to make a one-take recording and dropping like Drake's surprise mixtape.

More »

Alice Cooper Makes a Ghoulishly Good Valentine's Date

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Don't Be Afraid of the Boogeyman: Alice Cooper brings the heat.
Alice Cooper
Bayou Music Center
February 14, 2015

Sure, it might not have seemed like a traditional date-night destination.

But scores of couples in the nearly-sold out Bayou Music Center chose to spend the most romantic evening of the year watching a man strangle a nurse with the arms of his straitjacket, attack people with a whip, and run a paparazzi guy clean through with a sword.

He in turn would be electrocuted, beaten, bloodied, jabbed with hypodermic needles, turned into an actual Frankenstein monster, fondle a snake, and then -- of course -- get beheaded.

Happy Valentine's Day, Houston!

More »