7 Seconds at Walters, 8/9/2014

Photos by David Ensminger
7 Seconds, the Copyrights, the Turnaways, Some Nerve
Walters Downtown
August 12, 2014

"Give the people what they want," seems to be the populist modus operandi of touring veteran punk and hardcore bands, from Youth Brigade to DOA and 7 Seconds, who belted out a stew of contagious hits from the early-mid 1980s at Walters on Saturday night. Sure, that meant a steady flow of lean hardcore, but it also meant a Stalinist purge of their pop-minded fare.

To be sure, the crowd, which swelled precipitously right before the band hit the claustrophobic stage, was eager to chew every morsel, especially when the band unleashed deep catalog shockwaves like "Red and Black," "The Crew" and "You Lose" (each under one minute long!) to dizzying singalong hoarseness and beer slosh that shot out like a fire cannon at times.

Up front, the punk ladies of the humidity-caked night pushed their way forward in a heave of righteousness on tunes like "Not Just Boy's Fun" and made the chorus of "99 Red Balloons" reach immense proportions, like a seismic sonic wave inundating the scene.

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HPMA Bands Reflect Houston's Diversity and Drive

Photos by Marco Torres
The Suffers
Houston Press Music Awards Concert
Featuring Electric Attitude, thelastplaceyoulook, the Suffers & the Tontons
Warehouse Live
August 7, 2014

The beautiful thing about Houston music has always been how it mirrors our city. It's a little disorderly but uniquely diverse and bursting with energy and soul.

Thursday night at Warehouse Live, the Houston Press Music Awards Concert delivered an eclectic reminder of the strengths of our local scene, with four 2014 nominees (two of them winners Thursday) who were focused and determined to put on a show worth seeing.

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Ray LaMontagne at Jones Hall, 8/3/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
Ray LaMontagne, The Belle Brigade
Jones Hall
August 3, 2014

Many singer-songwriters talk throughout their shows, telling stories about how particular tunes were developed or tales of adventures with strange characters, but Ray LaMontagne is a different breed. To characterize him as being a man of few words simply does not fit.

Sunday night, performing at a Jones Hall packed with beautiful people, the singer-songwriter appeared very shy and chose not to speak between songs. Instead he let the depth of his lyrics and heartfelt guitar playing express his sentiments.

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Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers at Jones Hall, 7/31/2014

Photos by Jason Wolter
Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers Feat. Edie Brickell & Paul Simon
Jones Hall
July 31 2014

The Houston Symphony must have enjoyed having the night off Thursday. But helpfully, Steve Martin was there to explain to any subscribers wondering what had happened to their concert hall that "Yo-Yo Ma is off making Cheaper By the Dozen 3."

The Waco-born actor/comedian/author and his Grammy-winning bluegrass band the Steep Canyon Rangers were the symphony's guests for a sold-out evening of music and comedy, and occasional musical comedy; even his attempt to explain the old bluegrass tradition of murder ballads in the encore elicited some laughter. But despite Martin's constant efforts to maneuver the center of attention back onto him one way or another, he wound up being upstaged all over the place - including by one very special guest indeed.

Of course that air of casual, almost unwitting arrogance has become Martin's go-to public persona, and Thursday it was there from the outset. Noting the heavy congestion around Jones Hall before the show, he said, "I haven't caused this kind of a traffic jam since the last time I went jogging in shorts."

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311 at Bayou Music Center, 7/30/2014

Photos by Francisco Montes
311, Full Service
Bayou Music Center
July 30, 2014

Three songs into Wednesday night's show at Bayou Music Center, 311 played their hit song "Come Original." Despite what its name might imply, there was nothing original about it, and that was exactly what the crowd wanted. 311 came to Houston Wednesday night to give their rabid fan base an energy-packed dose of what they love: more of the same.

If the band 311 were a walking cliché, they would be "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Forming in Omaha Nebraska in the late '80s and gelling up their lineup and sound in the early '90s, 311 is a band composed of moderately talented guys who found a formula to make easily-digestible, audience-pleasing beach-rock, and have not wavered from this formula since.

In all earnestness, they haven't had to. The 311 fan base is not looking for that, they want more of what they already love.

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Counting Crows at Bayou Music Center, 7/29/2014

Photos by Francisco Montes
Counting Crows, Toad the Wet Sprocket
Bayou Music Center
July 29, 2014

It would be easy to assume that a Counting Crows concert featuring Toad the Wet Sprocket would be a nostalgia-laden '90s throwback showcase, but that would be highly inaccurate. There certainly was some pre-millennial love in the air Tuesday night, but the Crows did not come to remind Houstonians that they were a great band two decades ago. They came to remind us that they are a great band, period.

Back in 1993, when his dreadlocks and fame were both considerably smaller, Crows lead singer Adam Duritz told the world (and his pal Mr. Jones) that he wanted to be Bob Dylan. That statement was seemingly based on the desire to write deeply meaningful lyrics that connect with audiences; in this case, Duritz and the Crows have succeeded.

Dylan rarely plays his best-known songs in concert, and the Crows did not play "Mr. Jones" Tuesday. They simply didn't have to, as Bayou Music Center's audience was completely invested in the band's performance, top to bottom.

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Austin Mahone at NRG Arena, 7/26/2014

Photos by Francisco Montes
Austin Mahone, the Vamps, Fifth Harmony, Shawn Mendes
NRG Arena
July 26, 2014

It was in 2011 when I first came across Austin Mahone's YouTube channel. I remember watching a few of his singing videos and forming a pretty vacant opinion of the then-brace-faced 15 year-old. To me, he was another teenage boy who could stay on pitch but mostly relied on his baby-faced looks to see if he could make it.

In fact, out of all the young guys during that time who were trying to make it as a singer on YouTube, I'd say Mahone had one of the highest rates of WPV (winks per video). However, it did seem like the San Antonio native was one of the few who had that certain something record labels could work with.

Since then, the budding teen idol has released four successful singles and an EP through Young Money Cash Money records, but the bulk of his success should be indebted to his legion of loyal fans who call themselves "Mahomies."

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Robbie Fulks at the Mucky Duck, 7/26/2014

Photos by Jason Wolter
Robbie Fulks
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
July 26, 2014

Chicago songwriter and flatpicker extraordinaire Robbie Fulks made it look easy before an almost sold-out crowd at the Mucky Duck Saturday night. In spite of several quips about how hot Houston is in July, Fulks didn't even break a sweat as he rolled through 90 minutes of tunes from his 11-album career.

At 51, Fulks has been at this professionally over three decades, so he has the drill down; so much so that it would be easy to say Fulks mailed it in Saturday night were it not for his virtuoso picking, a grab-gab full of songs any writer would kill for, and a voice that hits every note.

Much like Hayes Carll, Fulks sprinkles his shows with wit and wry wisdom and tells a few "stories behind the song," which is de rigueur for solo acoustic shows these days.

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John Legend at The Woodlands, 7/23/2014

Categories: Last Night

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
John Legend
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 23, 2014

As the crowd's applause subsided following Wednesday evening's first song, "Made to Love," John Legend leaned down toward the crowd from the his piano bench onstage at the Woodlands Pavilion. He had a coy, even mischievous look about him, as if he was about to divulge a secret.

"Houston," he whispered into the microphone, "I want to be the best you ever had."

Legend then raised a single eyebrow and smirked as the crowd resumed its cheering.

"I don't want to brag," Legend sang, "but tonight, I'll be the best you ever had."

Does it really constitute vanity if it's true?

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Stone Temple Pilots & Blue October at The Woodlands, 7/19/2014

Photos by Francisco Montes
Stone Temple Pilots
Bud Lite Weenie Roast
Feat. Stone Temple Pilots, Blue October, 10 Years
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 19, 2014

When it was first announced that Chester Bennington would be singing with the Stone Temple Pilots, the public raised a collective eyebrow and even avid Linkin Park fans wondered if he possessed the chops for the job. But Bennington slowly won over fans, both old and new.

With an appreciation for the band's original sound but also a swagger all his own, he strode out onto the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion stage Saturday night alongside the rest of the band's original lineup to the elation of the crowd.

Unlike many contemporary rock concerts, Bennington's vocals were subdued, set alongside the bass and guitar levels instead of high above them. As fans gleefully sang along to the likes of "Sex Type Thing," "Vaseline," "Big Empty" and "Dead & Bloated," it became clear that Bennington had resolved himself not to reinvent the wheel.

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