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

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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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Trae Day 2014 in Photos

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Photos by Marco Torres
Six years ago, in the sweltering summer of 2008, the City of Houston bestowed a proclamation upon one of its citizens, a certain Frazier Othel Thompson. Rap fans know the man much better now as Trae Tha Truth, Houston's own "King of the Streets." The following year, the city was rewarded with "Trae Day," a free family block party and concert that has become an annual extravaganza of music, carnival rides, health screenings, school supplies and giveaways.

So much has happened since the first "Trae Day," both in the city and in Trae's personal life and rap career. A dispute with 97.9 The Box and subsequent ban from the station's airwaves only fueled Trae's urge to work, first aligning himself with Lil Wayne's camp and then signing with Grand Hustle, the umbrella label run by the self-proclaimed "King of The South," Atlanta's own T.I. Trae also suffered the loss of his brother "Money" Clip D and ABN associates Dinky D and Poppa C to gun violence. A bullet even managed to find his shoulder, although he would make a full recovery from the shooting.

Despite all of the adversity, Trae Day lives on as one of Houston's most anticipated annual events, and Tuesday's 2014 edition at NRG Park was full with memorable moments. Here is a short racap of yesterday's festivities as seen through my camera lens:

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

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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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The Crystal Method at Stereo Live, 7/17/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
The Crystal Method
Stereo Live
July 17, 2014

Over the past two decades, the Crystal Method has cleared the way for electronic artists to flourish today. Their debut album, Vegas, was released in 1997 and today is iconic in the world of electronic music, while Ken Jordan and Scott Kirkland have remained relevant by releasing five more studio albums, multiple collaborations with mainstream artists, a large number of commercials and contributed to a vast array of video game and movie soundtracks.

This year the duo is celebrating their 20th anniversary together with a tour supporting their latest, self-titled album that stopped at Stereo Live Thursday night. It was the third time that I have attended a Crystal Method show, the most recent being in 1998 when the music media was hyping up electronica as the next being thing. One Houston Press article described their music as a bunch of beeps and bloops that created melodies.

I remember going to purchase the tickets at the Record Rack on Shepherd Drive. I also recall either a radio interview or a local article that warned concertgoers to expect something different than a normal concert - you would be disappointed if you attended expecting to see people playing instruments and moving around on stage, it said.

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Rakim at Numbers, 7/15/2014

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Photos by Marco Torres
Rakim, D-Risha
Numbers
July 15, 2014

"That was just sound check."

Forty minutes into his headlining show at Numbers, Rakim had barely broken a sweat. It's quite possible his inability to even let a bead drop from his head comes from a near three-decade presence onstage and beyond. It's also rumored that he has yet to be bested on a microphone and walks the Earth searching for challengers like Caine in Kung Fu. Whatever it is, Rakim is effortlessly cool, a rap legend in mint condition that refuses to be anything other than a legend.

Tuesday night, Lunaface celebrated its 7th year of existence by bringing to the stage hip-hop's first true lyrical MC. It didn't necessarily matter who opened for Rakim or even how long Def Jam Blaster spun through intermissions looking to reach people with classic rap records, everyone knew exactly why they were there. It felt more like a relic, a situated hub of classic rap, traditionalism and more.


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Lionel Richie & Cee-Lo Green at The Woodlands, 7/13/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Lionel Richie, Cee-Lo Green
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 13, 2014

It's not a stretch to say that many of my peers could have possibly been conceived thanks to Lionel Richie's body of work. The legendary R&B singer's sexy-meets-soulful approach, both with the Commodores in the '60s and '70s and solo since the '80s has provided the soundtrack for lovers everywhere for quite some time.

The incredibly preserved Richie is the performer that you never knew you wanted to see until you were there seeing him, singing along to his hits. And hits there were. Advertised as "All The Hits -- All Night Long," Richie's show didn't let down the crowd in that category, as for a little more than two hours he brought his all to the hot and steamy Woodlands summer night.

To be honest, I didn't really expect much going into the show. I figured on a phoned-in performance from a guy just trying to turn his past into a few more bucks. Thankfully, it was anything but.


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The Cro-Mags at Walters, 7/10/2014

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Photos by Jack Gorman
The Cro-Mags, Die Young, Black Coffee, BLUNT, H.R.A.
Walters Downtown
July 10, 2014

When the Cro-Mags arose from the streets of New York City in the mid-'80s, punk and heavy metal were hardly the best of friends. If there's one thing that singer John Joseph and company have proved over their tumultuous career wrecking stages together, though, it's that the tight bonds of friendship aren't necessarily a prerequisite to do some groundbreaking damage.

After more makeups, breakups and lineup changes than anyone cares to count at this point, the 'Mags have reemerged as proud hardcore elder statesmen in the 21st century, recognized far and wide for their thrashing, crossover sound's indelible influence on both sides of the once-deep punk/metal divide.

On a rare stop in Houston on Thursday night, the band drew a crowd ready to show out for the scene legends who wielded such a heavy hand in crafting the modern underground's sound and aesthetic.


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Queen + Adam Lambert Doesn't Add Up for Either Party

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Photos by Jack Gorman
Queen + Adam Lambert
Toyota Center
July 9, 2014

Put yourself in these two situations:

A. You're a member of a Hall of Fame-level band who wrote some of the most famous, popular songs in rock music. Your lead singer was perhaps the greatest of all time, but he's no longer with us. You can still play and, more importantly, you still want to play, but no matter what you do, the shadow of your fallen front man will always be there.

B. You're a singer with an amazing voice, good looks, and a charming personality. You should be a megastar, but you just haven't found the right songs yet. You have fans, but you need something to push you over the hump that separates pop act and legit star.

If you look at these two situations and think, "Well, why not put A and B together?", congratulations for picking the path of least resistance. The good news is that this solution will make both parties some serious money.

That's pretty much where the good news ends for Queen and Adam Lambert.


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Reel Big Fish at House of Blues, 6/29/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Reel Big Fish
House of Blues
June 29, 2014

Nostalgia is all the rage these days, but not just today. For some time, people have been looking to the past to gain current happiness in their lives. Whether the '80s are the focus, or the '60s or the '20s or even as far back as the Middle Ages, people are constantly seeking out the past to escape the monotony of everyday life.

Currently it's the '90s, a decade far enough removed from current culture, but easily remembered by most people to be the latest focus of nostalgia's lens. Big hair and flashy outfits, the growth of hip-hop, pop-punk and ska, technology, and all-around larger-than-life personas made the '90s stand out, and now people are eating it up all over again.


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