Pachanga Tour w/ Los Rakas & Bomba Estereo at Warehouse Live, 9/12/2014

Photos by Marco Torres
Pachanga Tour
Feat. Bomba Estéreo, Los Rakas, Bombón Houston
Warehouse Live
September 12, 2014

"Maaannn.... We've got a million stories!" proclaimed Raka Rich as we chilled in the Los Rakas green room at Warehouse Live last Friday night. Stories about meeting fellow Panameño musician El General at the "white people gym" back in Panama, how Scarface and Devin the Dude are their favorite Houston-based rappers, and how a bird mysteriously fell from the sky during the video shoot for their just released remix of Wiz Khalifa's "We Dem Boyz."

Within the last few years, Rich and his cousin Raka Dun have elevated themselves to the top of the Latin charts with their energetic and light-hearted mix of hip-hop, reggaeton and other Latino-Caribbean sounds. Their name is derived from the Panamanian slang "Rakataka," which means "hood rat" or "ghetto." By reclaiming the term and wearing it proudly, they provide hope to everyone who hears their hip-shaking and motivational tracks.

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Lyle Lovett & Robert Earl Keen at The Woodlands, 9/11/2014

Photos by Jason Wolter
Lyle Lovett & His Large Band, Robert Earl Keen
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 11, 2014

Between Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen, it's a miracle there was any room left in the Woodlands Pavilion for paying customers Thursday. Both men's extensive roots in the Houston area were reflected in their considerable guest lists, which in turn made the lengthy evening pass a little quicker than it otherwise might have. Lovett thanked his family, 10th-grade English teacher, a Texas A&M history professor he shared with Keen, a couple of Aggie football players, and the guys at Bellaire's Cycle Shack, where he worked for a while in high school.

For Keen, his guests included a passel of fans in our section wearing backstage passes, plus the man he said inspired him to write "Merry Christmas From the Family" -- his uncle Joe, who showed up in a T-shirt sporting the phrase "I may be old, but at least I got to see all the cool bands." Doing his best not to sweat through his dark three-piece suit (he failed), the 58-year-old Sharpstown native walked out and introduced himself a few minutes after 7 p.m., pawing the opening chords of "Corpus Christi Bay" out of his acoustic guitar. There would be a lot of territory to cover before an all-in version of Townes Van Zandt's "White Freight Liner Blues" brought the curtain down almost four hours later.

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The Black Lips at Fitzgerald's, 9/11/14

Photos by Nicholas Zalud
Black Lips, King Khan and BBQ Show
September 11, 2014

Summer may be officially over in Houston, but that didn't stop Thursday night's crowd at Fitzgerald's from turning in one of the sweatiest shows of the year. Hell, when the Black Lips are in town, sweat should be the least of your worries. The Atlanta four-piece once cultivated a reputation for vomiting, pissing and swapping spit on stage, all (well, mostly) in the name of entertainment. These days they're better known for their raucous garage-rock tunes, but the threat of wild unpredictability still hangs in the air at their shows, urging their fans on to mayhem lest the band resort to ralphing once more.

Regurgitation wouldn't be necessary on Thursday. The bill was too good. There can't be too many better fits with the Black Lips than the Montreal duo King Khan & BBQ Show, who were greeted with nearly as much enthusiasm as the headliners by the crammed-in crowd.

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One-Eyed Doll & Vanilla Sugar at Scout Bar, 9/10/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
One-Eyed Doll, Vanilla Sugar
Scout Bar
September 10, 2014

A solid but small crowd that gathered at Scout Bar Wednesday night to view the greatest Texas goth-punk band in the world, Austin's One-Eyed Doll. Earlier, around 8 p.m., a line of about 20 or 30 people had waited to meet front woman Kimberly Freeman, who Revolver named one of its "Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock" at the merch table.

The tall, slender brunette wore a trucker hat atop her Crystal Gale-like mane that flowed past her mid-thigh. She hugged each fan and chatted them up as she signed memorabilia and took photographs, before disappearing for a bit and returning to catch opening band Vanilla Sugar right up front.

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NEEDTOBREATHE at Bayou Music Center, 9/5/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
Bayou Music Center
September 5, 2014

The divide between Christian and secular rock might be one of the most overblown distinctions within pop music there is. It's real, but sometimes it all seems so unnecessary. People of faith do just fine in many if not most professions (even journalist!), but those who pick up electric guitars are often judged on how Christian their music is rather than how much it rocks. And readers accustomed to coverage of heathen artists may tune out a review the second someone drops that C-word. Too bad.

NEEDTOBREATHE is probably used to that. Even the South Carolina trio's own label -- a big one, Atlantic -- downplays their faith in its publicity materials. But the chorus of "Wasteland," the opener on this year's Rivers In the Wasteland album, is a pretty straightforward paraphrase of Romans 8:31: "If God is on my side, who can be against me?" So it's not like they're hiding anything under a bushel.

But in today's world, few bands indeed last three records on one of the biggest labels in the game without capturing the hearts (and dollars) of fans who may be lucky to go to church on Christmas and Easter, if at all. They've done well enough at it that Rivers entered the Billboard 200 at No. 3 this past April, and drew a near-capacity crowd to Bayou Music Center Friday. NEEDTOBREATHE seem to be of the mind that 75 minutes of soaring anthems, hook-filled singalongs and classic-rock power is the best testimony they can give, thank you very much.

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Thirty Seconds to Mars at The Woodlands, 9/5/2014

Categories: Last Night

Earthh via Wikipedia
Thirty Seconds to Mars in Moscow this past April
Note: Sadly, due to Friday's traffic nightmare getting up to The Woodlands (see "Random Notebook Dump"), photos from Thirty Seconds' set are unavailable.

Thirty Seconds to Mars
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 5, 2014

Donning a white robe, a golden crown and with his long locks chasing him around all night, Jared Leto looked more like the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar than the front man of an alternative rock group.

The Louisiana-born vocalist and 2014 Oscar winner for Dallas Buyers Club tirelessly ran back and forth across the stage, into the crowd and around the venue for nearly 80 minutes Friday night, spending as much time hyping the crowd as he did singing and playing guitar. When it was all over, the band had performed only nine songs in their entirety.

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KISS & Def Leppard at The Woodlands, 8/31/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
KISS, Def Leppard
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 31, 2014

"Everybody's got a front row seat tonight," said KISS lead vocalist and guitarist Paul Stanley after recognizing fans on the distant lawn, "and just in case you didn't realize it, you're looking at a band onstage that's in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!"

The crowd erupted with cheers, but Stanley barely let the applause sink in before moving on. After all, he was confined by a looming city-imposed curfew, and this was a KISS performance. There was much to be done.

Houston wanted the best, and it got the best. Sunday night, KISS concluded its 40th anniversary tour at a sold-out Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, where new and old fans alike basked in the glory that is "the greatest show on earth."

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Aerosmith at The Woodlands, 8/25/2014

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Aerosmith, Slash feat. Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 25, 2014

More than 40 years into a career that's seen more ups and down than the S&P 500, Aerosmith no longer has any use for another comeback. Thanks to an extensive catalogue of hits and sheer, stubborn longevity, the group even detractors have been forced to acknowledge as perhaps America's greatest rock band has nothing much left to prove (or say) at this point.

The Bad Boys from Boston didn't play anything approaching new music on Monday night, nor did anyone ask for any. All that's needed to send a huge Woodlands Pavilion crowd home happy is for Aerosmith to do what it does best: roll out the classics and continue on being Aerosmith, forever and ever and ever.

Steven Tyler can still screech out the high notes and Joe Perry can still play the hell of that axe, and they still look pretty damn good doing it -- even if Tyler's unfortunate mustache-and-beardlet combo looks like something purchased in a pop-up costume shop. The 66-year-old singer's stage shimmy may be slower and more subtle these days, and his voice has certainly acquired a bit of a patina over the decades. But he and his bandmates can still reliably bring the rock and roll thunder that has made them icons.

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Crosby, Stills & Nash at Bayou Music Center, 8/25/2014

Thumbnail image for CSN03-0826.jpg
Photos by Jack Gorman
Crosby, Stills & Nash
Bayou Music Center
August 25, 2014

"I don't know how people got this idea that we are a political band," David Crosby -- trademark flowing grey hair and walrus mustache intact -- said Monday night. "It might be from just those one or two songs. Or 18."

And indeed, while it seems incongruous that anyone buying a ticket to see Crosby, Stills & Nash is utterly unaware of their strongly left-leaning views, those who came strictly for the warm buzz of a hippie-fest nostalgia trip sure got a rude awakening.

Oh yeah, they got the sweet, comfy love songs like "Guinnevere," "Helplessly Hoping," and a nicely done "Our House." And the bong-fest barn burners like "Wooden Ships," "Long Time Gone," and "Almost Cut My Hair."

But smack dab in the middle of that set, CSN shook it up with a number of new songs all about some pretty contemporary issues, and one decades-old that could have been written yesterday. Remember, this is three-fourths of the group that recorded and released the protest anthem "Ohio" in about a week after the 1970 Kent State shootings that it was about.

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OneRepublic at The Woodlands, 8/22/2014

Categories: Last Night

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 22, 2014

Before One Republic was about to play "Preacher," a song from their latest album about lead singer Ryan Tedder's preacher grandfather, Tedder gave us a little background on his childhood and what it was like living under the eyes of a devout religious elder. He told the crowd, "If I could describe preachers with one word, it would be 'consistent'. They are consistent in everything they do."

OneRepublic is pretty consistent, too.

As a band, OneRepublic seems to stay out of the spotlight. We never see them in the news, never see any controversial interview quotes -- they're just that kind of band. However, the medium most friendly to OneRepublic is the radio, and people may not realize how prevalent their music has been on the Top 40 airwaves for the past five or six years.

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