Palms at Scout Bar, 9/29/2014

Photos by Nathan Smith
Palms, Boyfrndz, Born From Ruins
Scout Bar
September 29, 2014

The last time we saw Chino Moreno around these parts, he was rocking one of the big stages at Free Press Summer Festival with the Deftones. In recent years, though, that band's pace of output seemingly hasn't been steady enough to encompass all of the front man' reverb-drenched artistic urges. First came his electronic side project Crosses, with its witch-house trappings and electronica experiments. Now, Moreno is concentrating on Palms, the "supergroup" he's formed with three of the guys from the (now unfortunately named) post-metal icons Isis.

For fans who still miss Isis' masterfully heady crunch, it's an intriguing project with the potential to give Jeff Caxide, Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer a second act in the spotlight. But make no mistake -- there was only one star onstage at Scout Bar on Monday night. From start to finish, all eyes (and lenses) were pointed at Chino, happily slumming it on a stage that more regularly hosts his forgotten nu-metal contemporaries than a group with the still-potent drawing power of his famous main gig.

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The Felice Brothers at Fitzgerald's, 9/25/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
The Felice Brothers
September 25, 2014

Without a doubt, the best shows to come through town are those that basically go unnoticed. Whether they don't get enough advertising or another big-name event or two in town is taking the crowds away, there is nothing better than a non-packed show at a smaller venue such as Fitzgerald's downstairs.

The Felice Brothers played said venue last night, and with so many things going on around town Thursday night, such as FPH's Sammy Awards and the mega-Tom Petty gig at Toyota Center, attendance at this show seemed much lighter than it could have been.

Which is not a bad thing -- for the fans, at least. It's already tough enough sweating through a show in the storied venue when it's half full, but the lack of the extra bodies in the room only brought a light dew on the brow rather than the full-on back sweat it sometimes does. Well, until the dancing began. Fitz, please fix your air conditioner.

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers at Toyota Center, 9/25/2014

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Steve Winwood
Toyota Center
September 25, 2014

Anyone curious what might motivate Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers to continue making records could do worse than starting with "Shadow People," a song from the band's new album Hypnotic Eye. Like its neighbor "American Dream Plan B," the song itself carries a vague political charge, exactly the sort of curmudgeonly tone a 63-year-old man might adopt, shaking his head as he mutters under his breath. These kids today.

In some ways Petty is like Hank Hill, the exasperated but fundamentally decent hero of Mike Judge's late, great animated Fox series King of the Hill. Petty appeared in the show as Lucky, the good-ole-boy love interest of Hank's niece Luanne, but in the Heartbreakers he is the man whose dismay at society's general direction is tempered by his deep bond with the people dear to him. Even among his closest peers, Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, Petty comes off more regular guy than man of the people.

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Royal Blood at Warehouse Live, 9/23/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
Royal Blood, Meg Myers
Warehouse Live Studio
September 23, 2014

Playing Lollapalooza and SXSW is one thing. But to be a true buzz band, you've got to generate the kind of heat that can draw a big crowd to a club on a Tuesday night in flyover country. By that standard, at least, Royal Blood has arrived.

The U.K. garage duo is less than a month removed from the release of their first full-length, but appreciation for their hard-edged guitar punch is spreading fast. Last night, the Warehouse Live Studio filled up with fans eager to find out if these guys really can be the rock and roll saviors they've already been branded as by the NME set.

Before Houston could get its first look at the pair, however, we were treated to another intriguing, rising talent. A Los Angeleno by way of Tennessee, Meg Myers is blessed with the sort of rich and elastic voice that simply begs to be applied to rock and roll. Flitting between a breathy whisper and an anguished shout, the singer occupies a sonic territory somewhere between Fiona and Alanis, and she's got stage moves enticing enough to keep a Tuesday night crowd enthralled.

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Goatwhore at Fitzgeralds, 9/15/2014

Photos by Nathan Smith
Goatwhore, Venomous Maximus, Demoniacal Genuflection, Legion
September 15, 2014

Of all the days of the week, none are less metal than Mondays. The domain of alarm clocks and rent payments, Monday must necessarily be the sworn enemy of middle fingers and Jager shots. Nobody applies KISS makeup on a Monday. No one has ever gotten a skull tattoo on a Monday. If you're listening to heavy metal on a Monday, it's only because you listen to heavy metal every day.

It was these everyday-metal types who showed up to Fitzgerald's on Monday night, with not a part-timer in sight. The black-clad die-hards came to see Goatwhore, the long-running New Orleans headbangers who draw upon the entire, vast universe of metal to arrive at a sound forged in the rank heat of the Gulf Coast. But they were also treated to a fairly stacked bill of local talent on a night when, by all rights, they should have been at home in bed. And they weren't about to just stand around and clap politely.

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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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