Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy & More at The Woodlands, 8/15/2014

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Photos by Francisco Montes
Wiz Khalifa
Under The Influence of Music Tour
Feat. Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy, Rich Homie Quan, Ty Dolla $ign, IAMSU! & Sage the Gemini, Mack Wilds

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 15, 2014

Either I've gotten older or Wiz Khalifa doesn't exactly do it for me anymore.

That's not a slight to Khalifa, as far as charting of his evolution from stoner kid who used to rap with a spitfire energy and rasp to arena-rocker. It's more an overall assessment of where my fandom with him has lain over the years. It was at its apex maybe three years ago, right as his Kush & OJ mixtape became a late-night soundtrack and "Black And Yellow" became an inescapable hit record.

Ever since then, it's lowered and watching him live -- for the third time this year, no less -- it's clearly evident he's more in a rocker kind of mood than a rap star.

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Clap Your Hands Say Yeah at Fitzgerald's, 8/12/14

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Fitzgerald's
August 12, 2014

It's hard to say that this show was perfect, but that was the only adjective coursing through my mind as I walked down the stairs and out of the door of Fitzgerald's after a performance from storied indie rockers Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Sure, the performance had a whole lot going against it. Being a Tuesday night, possibly the least social night of the week, definitely hurt ticket and bar sales, but in the end I think worked out for this show. People that were there were there for one reason and one reason only -- to see a great band put on an even better performance.


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The 10 Best Acts at Houston Whatever Fest

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Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
ANDREW W.K.
Andrew W.K. was a revelation. He came out, trademark grin firmly in place, and immediately told the crowd he was "not a musician." He's a known party inducer and he was exactly what Whatever Fest needed the moment he was booked. He ran through the hits in a frenetic set that featured audience stage-dives and mosh pits. "Ready to Die," "I Love NYC," "We Want Fun," "Party Hard," "I Get Wet"...he played them all while his hype man extraordinaire, Blakey Boy, revved up the crowd.

The energy and good vibes were contagious. It seemed everyone in the crowd was smiling just as widely as the man himself. I was impressed by his piano playing skills as attacked the keys like a modern-day Jerry Lee Lewis and played the craziest version of "Rhapsody in Blue" I've ever heard. Andrew W.K. is a lot of things -- quick-start-party-starter, motivational speaker and Village Voice writer among them. He is also definitely a musician. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

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HPMA Bands Reflect Houston's Diversity and Drive

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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

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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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Paramore & Fall Out Boy at The Woodlands, 8/1/2014

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Photos by Francisco Montes
Paramore
MONUMENTOUR featuring Paramore, Fall Out Boy & New Politics
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
August 1, 2014

Haters gonna hate, but Paramore and Fall Out Boy make great rock music. Any band that gained notoriety during the post-pop-punk-emo boom of the mid-2000s has been pigeonholed into a very specific category -- namely, much of the general public doesn't consider them to be credible rock and roll.

Fall Out Boy has certainly experienced a great deal of this backlash, despite continuing to mature as a group and output good music. Many of the bands of that era could not grow past it; Paramore and Fall Out Boy, who are co-headlining this summer's MONUMENTOUR, are both talented exceptions. Touring together was a wise and logical choice.


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

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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

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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

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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

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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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