Caribou at Fitzgerald's, 11/22/2014

Photos by Adam P. Newton
Caribou's buoyant and colorful light show was a good match for the music onstage.
Caribou, Jessy Lanza
November 22, 2014

I want to begin this review by showing my respect and appreciation for the crowd that showed up to see Caribou and Jessy Lanza rock Fitzgerald's Saturday. Not only was this show sold out in advance, but the house was packed even though the night was filled with hours of gross rain and wind. I've been going to shows in Space City for years, and it's been a long time since I've experienced a gathering of music fans willingly standing in line in the rain just to attend a concert featuring electronic artists. Kudos, Houston.

And guess what? Your patience was rewarded by a stellar opening set from Jessy Lanza, followed by a glorious and stunning 90-minute performance by Caribou. You responded by dancing, grooving, bobbing your heads, and generally basking in the evening's mix of sumptuous bass, '70s prog/funk, and '80s electro-pop. A good time was truly had by everyone involved.

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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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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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The Black Keys at Toyota Center, 11/15/2014

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Accept no substitutes: the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach and a ton of gear
The Black Keys, Jake Bugg
Toyota Center
November 15, 2014

For the past few years, there has been a lot of chatter about the viability of "rock and roll." Are any artists truly making rock anymore, or has the genre itself been so heavily diluted that its roots have totally disintegrated? Or, more importantly, why does so much stuff that passes itself as rock nowadays blatantly suck?

Back in September, KISS bassist Gene Simmons wagged his famous tongue and declared that "rock is finally dead," blaming file-sharing, TV talent shows and technology. Clearly he had not yet been turned on to the Black Keys. The duo originally from Akron, Ohio came to Houston Saturday night to dispel any doubts about whether rock is alive, resuscitating the audience with a killer 18-song set and a roaring encore.

From the opening chords of "Dead and Gone" (off 2011's well-deserved Grammy winner El Camino), Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney put to rest any rumors of rock and roll's extinction before an audience that was completely engrossed in the music from the very start, thankfully giving their full attention to the stage show rather than their cell-phone screens.

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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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The Best & Worst of Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014

Photo by Cory Garcia
Boyfriend can work any stage, even when the stage is a wrestling ring.

New Orleans rapper Boyfriend knows how to command a space, even when that space is a wrestling ring. As she danced, stomped and rolled her way around the space, tossing gifts out in to the audience, occasionally borrowing hats and sunglasses and getting up close to sing to different members of the crowd, I couldn't pull my eyes away from her set.

Her songs are good, though, the good type of repetitive-catchy, but actually seeing her perform -- and the chaos that comes with it -- makes them shine. After the set, I was told it was only a taste of what her shows are like. If you'll excuse me, I'll be kicking myself for missing her set at Fitz last week. CORY GARCIA

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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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Modest Mouse at Bayou Music Center, 11/7/2014

Photos by Jim Bricker
Isaac Brock's crew made it worth the ten-year wait.
Modest Mouse
Bayou Music Center
November 7, 2014

It's no question that Bayou Music Center was packed to the gills Friday for the Modest Mouse show. Heck, it's been nearly a decade since the band last hit a Houston stage. A long decade at that, for both the band and the adoring fans that have been desperately awaiting their next arrival in the Bayou City.

In the time Modest Mouse has been away, they've released arguably their most popular (not necessarily their best) record in We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, toured globally and even featured famed Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr for a three-year stretch. But we didn't get that tour -- or any of the others in the past ten years for that matter.

But as a city we're used to it, so we savor any chance we get to see the band. Many fans in Houston are forced to travel great distances to see our favorite acts, hitting festivals in hopes to knock off two or three that don't really come around these parts. For a decade, that's unfortunately the only way for Houstonians to catch MM until they hit BMC.

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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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