The Finer Points of Turntable Science, According to DJ QBert

Photos by Marco Torres
DJ QBert displays his mastery of the turntables at Fitzgerald's.
If any ever decided to erect a Mount Rushmore-like monument dedicated to DJs and turntablism, DJ QBert's face would definitely be one of the chosen few on the side of that mountain. A pioneer of the craft of scratching, juggling and mixing, QBert visited Fitzgerald's Wednesday night on his "Extraterrestrium Guided Space Tour." He graciously took some time to speak with us before the show.

Rocks Off: Hola sir! Thanks for your time. What's your impression of Houston and Texas?
DJ Qbert: The art scene [here] is incredible, and throughout the whole tour, I have the most friends that I personally know [who] live here! My guest list in this city was the longest, ha!

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Willie Nelson at House of Blues, 11/18/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
There's only one Willie.
Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver
House of Blues
November 18, 2014

See enough Willie Nelson concerts, say at least a half-dozen, and you'll really start focusing on the little things. Sure, the set list may not change much from show to show, if at all, but each one that comes around makes the subtle variations applied by Willie and family stand out that much more.

Plus, these are songs like "Whiskey River," "On the Road Again" and "Georgia On My Mind" we're talking about, so it's not wise to look a gift horse like that too closely in the mouth anyway.

Tuesday night at a sold-out House of Blues, the biggest question going in was whether the atmosphere would be as fragrant as the previous evening's Method Man/Redman/B-Real blunt brigade, and Willie's fans more than held their own. There was some pretty powerful herb being passed around for sure.

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Method Man & Redman at House of Blues, 11/17/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
World Wide Rollers: Method Man (left) and Redman
Method Man & Redman, B-Real, Berner, Mick Jenkins
House of Blues
November 17, 2014

Fans had every excuse in the book to skip last night's stop on the Smokers' Club "World Wide Rollers" tour. It fell on a Monday, for one thing, and at the venue with the strictest anti-smoking policy in town...not exactly an ideal fit for a package tour that's all about the stickiest of the icky. And on a night when smokers were forced to keep the blunt cherried just to keep warm, too!

So, maybe it was only ever going to be the hardcore fans -- the real, no-hope stoner types -- who turned up at House of Blues last night, and even they wouldn't be in much of a mood to scream and shout. Getting this party to rock was going to be a job for professionals.

Luckily, a few showed up. After more than 20 years in the game, decorated East Coast veterans Method Man and Redman have refined the hip-hop live experience to a clean-burning science, and they had Cypress Hill's B-Real along for the road trip -- possibly because he rolls the best joints. If this crew couldn't get a few hoodies unzipped inside House of Blues, we were in for a long night.

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Sturgill Simpson at Fitzgerald's, 11/16/2014

Photos by Jason Wolter
Turtles All the Way Down: Sturgill Simpson (in red), not a country-music messiah but perhaps a prophet
Sturgill Simpson
November 16, 2014

Artists like Sturgill Simpson don't come along very often, but they do show up enough to prevent those of us who contend we love "real" country music from truly despairing. But honestly, what does that even mean anymore?

In an age dominated by Florida Georgia Line, who at least has a little personality (grating though it may be to some), and a slew of gym-chiseled stars whose anonymity is eclipsed only by the banality of their material, times were looking pretty grim for lovers of the twang. Then the proudly unsigned Simpson showed up on last year's High Top Mountain, looking like a stereotypical record-store clerk and sounding like the love child of Waylon Jennings and his fellow Kentuckian Tom T. Hall.

Maybe in the past, his latest album, this year's Metamodern Sounds In Country Music would have been a game-changer, flying up the charts out of left field and causing the scales to drop from label executives' eyes. Then the publishing houses would quit minting so many songs about tailgating in favor of...coal mining? Sitting around waiting to die? OK, maybe not.

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Neon Hitch at House of Blues, 11/10/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
Gypsy in a Coca-Cola bathing suit: Neon Hitch
Neon Hitch
House of Blues
November 10, 2014

Where to start with Neon Hitch? Let's start with her name. Neon Hitch is her government name. It's true; she showed me her passport. She is a gypsy raised on a bus after her home burned down May 25, 1986. Her dream at that young age was to have her name in lights, NEON in blinding neon.

Don't believe me? Watch this BBC documentary on her family. Neon is resilient. Neon is a survivor. Neon is going to be bigger than even she can ever imagine.

Her dream turned into a partial nightmare when she realized that her label was stymying her talents. What she decided to do from that point was something that my artists do not even think about doing. She chose to abandon her label and go out on her own. No songs, nothing except her freedom. Even more than that, she chose to start a label -- and not necessarily her label, but one controlled by her fans.

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Jello Biafra at the Continental Club, 11/9/2014

Photos by David Ensminger
Jello Biafra (left) kept the polemics to under five minutes Sunday night.
Jello Biafra & the Guantanamo School of Medicine
Continental Club
November 9, 2014

As Jello Biafra abundantly proves, pioneering political punks need not go quietly into the fetid night, especially when every new government regime like "Barackstar O Bummer" and corporate hoodlums prove ripe for his combative wit.

Gesticulating with spaghetti arms asunder, Sunday night he became a combined demented court jester, B-movie mad scientist, fiery populist soapbox orator, and tweaking meth addict. In fact, he held forth at tiny Continental as if reenacting episodes from 1978 at the Mabuhay in San Francisco, though updated for the emoticon generation.

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Bastille at NRG Arena, 11/7/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
Bastille: Too much too soon?
Bastille, Ella Eyre
NRG Arena
November 7, 2014

As a writer, I try and keep up with the times by brushing up on Top 40 artists as much as I can, but like anything else in life, not everything is going to stick. For me, Bastille hadn't stuck, but it's my firm belief that a band should be given the chance to convince you in a live setting before making a final assessment.

That said, things started off wonderfully thanks to their opening act, Ella Eyre. She is, without a doubt, a lit stick of dynamite just waiting to explode. Sure, Eyre is gorgeous and so much fun to watch live, but more importantly she is full of raw talent as a singer and songwriter.

Vocally, she takes after her fellow bluesy-toned English crooner, Adele. But whereas Eyre could belt out ballads left and right, her energy reads more along the lines of Katy Perry when she was back on the Warped Tour. Of course, it doesn't hurt that all of her songs are high-energy, and Eyre has the passion and guts that bands dream of when booking their touring mates.

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Death From Above 1979 at Warehouse Live, 11/6/2014

Photo by Jack Gorman
Death From Above 1979
Warehouse Live
November 6, 2014

Don't get me wrong; reviewing and shooting concerts is an awesome gig. I get to see the bands that I want to see up close and also get the best souvenirs - my photographs of the artists. Obviously some shows have been better than others for a variety of reasons, but Death From Above 1979 was more of an experience.

It started on Wednesday night with a screening of the new film Life After Death From Above 1979 at the Alamo Draft House. The documentary is a gem from first-time director Eva Michon that begins with the band's inception in Toronto, their rapid rise to success and surprising breakup, and explores the projects that Sebastian Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler took on during their hiatus. It also documents the interactions that led to the duo's making music again after not speaking to each other for five years.

They had unfinished business to address. As stated in the film, there was a desire for the group to reunite and, "become the band it was supposed to be." Footage from the insane riot at their first reunion show during SXSW 2011 exhibited just how much people loved this band.

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Julian Casablancas + The Voidz at House of Blues, 10/31/14

Photos by Francisco Montes
Julian Casablancas + The Voidz, Team Spirit
House of Blues
October 31, 2014

Julian Casablancas is arguably one of the biggest rock stars of his generation. Though he's best known as the lead singer of the Strokes, there's something more to him that often gets glossed over and unappreciated. But everything he is seemed to resonate the loudest when he performed at House of Blues on Halloween night with his newest band, the Voidz.

Doors and curtains rolled a little over an hour later than fans were expecting, likely stemming from the band's appearance at Cactus Records earlier in the day. Even so, it gave it that familiar rock and roll feeling, when you're not entirely sure what to expect.

It was the first time in recent memory that Casablancas was on a non-festival stage, backed by a new band with new music. And for the first time, it felt like he was taking a step away from the Julian Casablancas we've come to know.

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Gogol Bordello at Warehouse Live, 10/31/2014

Categories: Last Night

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Gogol Bordello
Warehouse Live
October 31, 2014

Gogol Bordello's Houston fans came to Warehouse Live for a Halloween show. The band made sure it turned into a Dia de Los Muertos celebration by playing a set that flipped the calendar and was anything but dead.

According to front man Eugene Hutz, it's been a year since the eclectic and energetic band played here and it's like some of you never left the foot of the stage. Warehouse Live's Ballroom was packed with rabid followers. Many were in disguise for Halloween, but their true selves were revealed when the band cranked up for "We Rise Again" at ten minutes after 10 p.m.

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