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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Los Straitjackets and Deke Dickerson Camp It Up at Continental Club

Categories: Live Shots

Photos by Jack Gorman
Los Straightjackets at Continental Club
The Nashville-based, luche libre mask wearing band, Los Straitjackets strolled into town with Deke Dickerson in tow in support of their new collaboration, Deke Dickerson Sings the Great Instrumental Hits. The band of masked marauders took the stage at 10 p.m. for an hour and a half set of classic hits. Eddie Angel and his Grammy-nominated crew moved in and out of a variety of tunes and various jingles including the theme songs from Batman and Charlie Brown. The show was played at a frantic pace but with incredible finesse.

Deke Dickerson jumped up on stage four songs into the set and moonwalked as he belted out, "Honky Tonk." It was definitely odd to hear several classic instrumental songs with lyrics, but they make it work. It is similar to a company adjusting lyrics to a popular song to fit the pushed product, but they make it work to perfection. An NPR interview described Dickerson as being similar to the lounge singer portrayed by Bill Murray on Saturday Night Live. Regardless if it is a good comparison, both are fantastic in and of their own rights.

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Feral Future Feasts on Fury at Mango's

Categories: Live Shots

Photos by David Ensminger
Feral Future at Mango's.
Sure, Austin has a roster of contemporary punk bands that have gained notoriety the last half-decade, from nitro-fueled Total Abuse to artful wranglers Coma in Algiers, but the skin of now-punk in the capital trembles with the likes of Feral Future, who keep one foot planted in the scavenged past while exploring secret worlds at their disposal.

With quick punchiness, Feral Future produce music that bellows, screeches, pummels, and caterwauls but never misses the potential for tough, taut melody. Sometimes, including tunes like "No Means Nothing," they veer towards post-punk sweetened carnage, in close kinship to the likes of early Glass Candy, while their electrifying hit-to-be "Gimme Some" cruises non-stop to a territory somewhere between the Red Aunts (just listen to the stop/start antics) and Avengers, all scarred yelps and zealous speed that ricocheted through Mango's on a bone-chilling night. At points in the tune, singer Relle's (Arielle Sonnenschein) voice crackled and fissured, itself becoming an instrument of shapely distortion.

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Clutch - Unapologetic Rock and Roll at the House of Blues

Categories: Live Shots

Photo by Violeta Alvarez
Clutch at House of Blues Houston
Clutch has been creating bluesy stoner rock and gathering fans for over two decades. Fans religiously know their lyrics and guitar riffs. There does not seem to be a half-hearted Clutch fan. This is the kind of band that brings old friends together when they roll into town for a show. Everybody at the House of Blues on Wednesday night seemed to have people around them that they knew for quite some time.

Signs were posted instructing patrons to be on their best behavior, "Absolutely No Crowd Surfing. You will be ejected from the venue." It left people wondering how the crowd would respond. Neil Fallon and crew took the stage to Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers song, "We Need Some Money."

As they ripped into their first song, one person attempted to create a pit. For the record, one person moshing does not create a pit; it just makes someone look like a dick. For the first three songs one individual slammed into people, knocking drinks to the floor and generally took away from the performance. This audience was not in the mood to create a swirling pit. House of Blues' Finest escorted the unruly patron away after confrontations with multiple concertgoers. After that people in the same area were simply jamming out, singing to each other and having a grand ol' time.

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Malevolent Force Slams Into Fitz Saturday Night

Photos by Nathan Smith
Houston's Malevolent Force stirred up plenty of hair-whipping Saturday night.
Malevolent Force, Legion, Annihilist, Thraxis
January 3, 2015

For some folks, cold and rainy weather is just another convenient excuse to skip out on a local show -- even a free local show. For true heavy-metal disciples, though, the cold and the wet of a Saturday night in January is merely an opportunity to dig more and more leather out of the closet and cinch it tight with an ammo belt or two.

It was the latter sort of people who took over the upstairs portion of Fitzgerald's two nights ago when local power-thrash maniacs Malevolent Force assembled a sturdy lineup of like-minded longhairs to help celebrate the release of their debut full-length, Descent Into the Abyss. A great many beers were consumed, and a few thrown, as Houston's lively crop of thrash-meisters convened to get gnarly together.

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10 Solid Music Picks for Houston's New Year's Eve

Photo by C. Taylor Crothers/Shore Fire Media
Should be quite a party over at HOB tonight, featuring the Josh Abbott Band in the Music Hall.
Josh Abbott Band: Newly signed to Atlantic, the Idalou-raised Texas Country stud has a soft spot for fellow South Plains oddballs like Terry Allen. Lots of crazy stuff in HOB's other rooms, too -- disco, drag queens, Thunderpants, etc. See for details. (House of Blues, 7 p.m.)

Mike Stinson: Houston's best songwriter spins his country yarns of tenacity and deceit in the local venue that perhaps best suits his gift. (McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 7 & 9 p.m.; second show is SRO)

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Spoon Turns House of Blues Inside Out

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Spoon brought out both the diehards and "soundtrack fans" to House of Blues Tuesday.
House of Blues
December 30, 2014

Beloved Austin band Spoon's audience is comprised of two different types of individuals: 1) people who love the band; and 2) people that love the band but have no idea who they are. But how can this be?

Spoon is one of many groups that have continued to gain popularity during a time of major change in the music industry. In a previous world where a band's success would lead to massive radio play, arena tours and high record sales, Spoon's success has continued to grow in a post-iTunes world through different avenues. Their music (not unlike other indie bands) has been featured in commercials and soundtracks for many movies and television shows.

Not to mention, Spoon manages to pop up in the algorithm of just about every male-led rock band on any given streaming site; seriously, try typing in the National, Interpol, Phoenix, or even Tom Petty, and Spoon is going to make multiple cameos. Their sound has slipped into the public's musical lexicon without any notice -- unless we are speaking of active fans. Tuesday night's House of Blues show was full of true Spoon fans who love and follow the group, as well as people that were not even aware that they had been fans for years.

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Less Talk, More Rock as Propagandhi Storms Warehouse Live

Photos by Jack Gorman
Canada's Propaghandi had Houston ready to pogo Monday.
The fog lay heavy over town Monday night, but the guitars were crisp in the Studio at Warehouse Live as War on Women and RVIVR primed Houston for Propagandhi.

The studio was just over half full when War on Women began the night with a fury of shredding guitars, pounding drums and Shawna Potter's crazed eyes as she shouted lyrics that admonished cat-calling and raised awareness of other issues. She ended the set with a most unexpected statement to hear at a punk show, "You guys have been super sweet."

Houston immediately took to the melodic tunes of RVIVR, a four-piece out of Olympia, Wash., though they stopped playing during the first song when about six people started pogoing and bouncing into each other. Guitarist/vocalist Erica Freas told them to be respectful and not bash into one another. Between songs, the group heavily championed gender equality, women's rights and admonished police brutality in a strong set that left the crowd was pumped and ready for more action.

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