Meghan Trainor Carried Herself Like a Superstar Bigger Than House of Blues

Photos by Jack Gorman
Meghan Trainor, Sheppard
House of Blues
February 25, 2015

It's easy to look at pop music from a conspiratorial mindset. If the industry wants an act to get big, it eventually will. Whether they take a gem and polish the edges into something marketable or create something in the lab, money is being invested somewhere to get someone into your ears.

Unless, of course, you're a one-hit wonder. Sometimes an artist lucks into a song so good that a label invests in it, the entire time knowing that they'll be tossing the artist aside as soon as they've squeezed all the blood out of the stone.

If you haven't seen Meghan Trainor in concert yet, it's easy to write her off as a one-hit wonder. Surely that "All About That Bass" girl isn't going to have a real career, right?

Time may eventually render this statement silly, but here goes: get ready to be stuck with Miss Trainor for at least a few more years, because she's not going away anytime soon.

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Lights' Synth-Pop Charms Win Out Over Oscars

Categories: Live Shots

Photos by Jack Gorman
Canada's Lights radiated charm to a young Warehouse Live audience Sunday.
Warehouse Live
February 22, 2015

At age 27, Lights has already won several Junos, Canada's equivalent of the Grammys. However, the electronic musician previously known as Valerie Anne Poxleitner is sneakily infiltrating American culture as well as the music scene. Over the weekend, the NFL Combine used the song "Up We Go" during clips featuring college football players working out for their future employers.

Sunday night, as Houston's temperature dropped again, Lights spent the evening entertaining fans at Warehouse Live on the last Texas stop of her "Little Machine Tour," after weekend shows in Dallas and Austin. The venue was only half-full, with a mix of hip high-school students, young college coeds and people who didn't care about the Oscars. But the fans who came to see her play got exactly what they wanted and thoroughly enjoyed every second of the night.

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Dada Life Took Houston to the Land of Champagne, Bananas & Pillow Fights

Photos by Jack Gorman
Dada Life always keep bananas handy.
After Action Report
Performers: Dada Life, Henry Fong, Bixel Boys
Location: The Dada Land Compound (Stereo Live)
Date: February 20, 2015

Country: Dada Land
Population: 2 (Permanent); Millions (Potentially)
Chief Imports: Bananas, Champagne
Chief Exports: Massive Beats

When I was tasked with the assignment of filing a report on a trip to Dada Land, I knew I was in for a long night. We've all heard the rumors of what goes on once you leave your home country behind and step in to their world of bananas, champagne and happy violence. Cultures that celebrate youth and hedonism are nothing new in the world, but Dada Land takes that celebration to its overly sugared extreme.

One cannot talk about Dada Land without talking about the dual dictators that run it: Dada Life. They travel the world, offering crowds a temporary glimpse in to the world they've created before pushing them back out in to the reality that makes up their day-to-day life. What are we to make of these performances? Is it over-the top-spectacle? Is it propaganda for the Dada Land? Is Dada Life trying to indoctrinate the world's youth to in hopes of making them the youth of Dada Land?

If these shows are for a nefarious purpose, we should all be concerned, because a trip, however temporary, to Dada Land is a fantastic time.

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Bob Seger's System Satisfies Every Time

Photos by Eric Sauseda
Bob Seger's exuberance quickly spread to Saturday's Toyota Center crowd.
Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Heartless Bastards
Toyota Center
February 14, 2015

Love was undoubtedly in the air on Valentine's evening at Toyota Center. Throngs of die-hard Bob Seger fans poured into the arena to celebrate their undying devotion to their favorite Detroit son, while he and his expansive crew of top-notch performers poured every ounce of that devotion right back into the audience. Through their 18-song set of classic rock gold and two well-earned encores, Seger and company reaffirmed why fans have been loving his blue-collar rock since the 1960s.

His catalog of hits includes a decent amount of "slow and steady" songs, so one might make an assumption that his stage show might not exactly captivate the audience with excitement. This would be a horribly inaccurate assumption. Seger, who donned a sweatband around his silvery locks and smiled with pure joy throughout the entire show, ran around the stage as if it would be his last, giving the audience a performance from the heart.

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Robyn Hitchcock Brings Pure Joy to the Mucky Duck

Photos courtesy of Adam Beckham
Robyn Hitchcock
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
February 6, 2013

I'm not sure whether to review Robyn Hitchcock's banter or his musical performance.

The Mucky Duck was blessed with two evening performances from Mr. Hitchcock Friday, with not an empty seat in the house. Backs pressed against the Duck's bar, no one left Friday evening unfulfilled. His ability to connect with the audience through his use of smug yet charming Brit humor coupled with his songwriting and performing skills made for a flawless Friday evening.

"I have 14 friends -- that's two more than Jesus," Hitchcock said, only to follow up with a remark that had everyone in the audience rolling, "Jesus -- the missing years. He was doing stand-up then. That explains why they took such drastic measures to shut him up."

Hitchcock's wry, thought-provoking humor feels at times out of place. At other times, however, that very same humor is the type of comic relief necessary after a deeply moving scene in a film. Filled with plenty of laughs filled and equally poignant moments, his music and his monologues fit together perfectly like a quirky old couple who knows what the other is going to say or do even before they do.

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Reel Big Fish & Less Than Jake Do It Their Way

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Reel Big FIsh: Well-executed, funny, and dependable.
Reel Big Fish, Less Than Jake, Authority Zero
House of Blues
February 8, 2015

Maybe it's better that some bands never become uber-famous.

That's the selfish position of a music fan, a sign of our increasingly entitled culture for sure, but that doesn't mean it's wrong either. Consider this: the problem is not that Blink 182 is airing their dirty laundry for the world to see, it's that they're so popular their dirty laundry is news.

Perhaps I'm just mulling this over because Less Than Jake make a crack about who would be Mark and who would be Tom if they were to break up, and I'm selfishly glad that this is a moment I'm experiencing inside the House of Blues rather than a bigger alternative.

Then again, catching a ska show inside a venue as big as House of Blues is a bit wild itself. How many ska bands that formed in the '90s are popular enough not to be exiled to Clear Lake? (How many ska bands that formed in the '90s are still touring at all?) So yeah, to reference Reel Big Fish's "Trendy," not everyone is doing the fish, but enough of people are.

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Sore Throat Can't Stop St. Paul & the Broken Bones' Soul Power

Categories: Live Shots

Photos by Jack Gorman
Mr. Excitement: Paul Janeway of St. Paul & the Broken Bones
St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Sean Rowe
February 6, 2015

St. Paul & the Broken Bones, the Southern blues band from Alabama, is experiencing skyrocketing popularity as they landed in Space City to perform for a packed house. Friday night's show at Fitzgerald's had been sold out for nearly a month, even several weeks before a successful spot on CBS' The Late Show won them a ringing endorsement from David Letterman.

The comedian told the group that the first time he heard them he "screamed until he cried." But as much excitement there is surrounding them, there was also some nervousness this week -- front man Paul Janeway was battling a nasty case of strep throat, which had some fans questioning whether the show would have to be rescheduled to a later date.

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John Doe Makes It Easy to Root for the Underdog

Photos by David Ensminger
L-R: Cindy Wasserman and John Doe tore it up at the Duck Thursday night.
John Doe, Jesse Dayton
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
January 22, 2015

With his rich baritone quiver and chiseled American looks, John Doe has been an uber-indie songwriter who survived the swells of his bands X and Knitters while honing a singular style all his own. As co-helmsman and titanic presence in X, he became a gutsy, savvy working-class songster effortlessly channeling Bukowski and the Beats in the ragged glory years of L.A. nights at the Masque and Whisky a Go-Go, where plentiful sweat, scrawled manic graffiti, and mangled three-chord wonders held sway in 1978.

As a gripping poet at heart and fluid-fingered bass player, he remains an unparalleled force that made formerly 'unheard music,' lurid punk with doses of rockabilly and country twang, go viral in the days of watered down college-rock. In the middle of hardcore's buzz-cut scorn and Hollywood Boulevard's leotarded cock-rock, X held their ground as ductile anchors as both the bile and glam swirled.

Decades later, as beards and skinny pants reign, Doe's authentic underdog spirit keeps aglow in the digital landscape of fakery and fuss. He is the grain of salt in the knowledge economy.

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Who Were Those Masked Men? Why, Mushroomhead

Categories: Live Shots

Photos by Jack Gorman
Eccentric though they may be, Mushroomhead has a loyal army of fans.
Mushroomhead, The Family Ruin
Scout Bar
January 20, 2015

There is a stigma attached to fans of bands who paint their faces or wear masks (see Tuesday's article posted on types of fans yesterday) and those who follow the alt-metal group Mushroomhead are no exception. But after seeing the band for a second time, there is something else to take away from their following -- these fans are connected and truly care about each other.

So you know the cast of characters: J Mann, Jeffrey Nothing and Waylon provide vocals;
Shmotz is on keyboard, Skinny takes care of the drum kit; Diablo and Stitch play percussion and other instruments; and Dr. F handles lead-guitar duty. Mushroomhead's artistry continues to evolve, as the crew comes up with a new theme for their masks
and attire for each album cycle.

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Sam Baker Sings a Few Life-Affirming Sad Songs at the Duck

Photos by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
L-R: Dolan, Baker and Elkin
Sam Baker
McGonigel's Mucky Duck
January 17, 2015

Just after he finished the song, "Odessa," about midway through his Saturday-night set at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, songwriter Sam Baker ruminated on just how sad a song it is. So sad, he said, he believed it was on a Rolling Stone list of saddest songs ever about Texas.

"I don't know," said his bandmate Carrie Elkin. "I feel like we have sadder songs than that."

The truth is those songs performed live have the opposite effect of moroseness. A capacity room on hand for Saturday's early show at the Mucky Duck must have left the venue feeling invigorated and alive, because no matter what -- or better yet, who -- the song is about, Baker delivers it with joy and gratitude.

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