Camera Cult Kicks Off Evening of House of Creep-y Fun

Photos by Alyssa Dupree
Camera Cult caught on instantly with Friday's freezing crowd.
Camera Cult, Hank & Cupcakes, Say Girl Say, Sphynx
Houston House of Creeps
February 27, 2015

It's not every day that you get to catch the first-ever live performance of what could be Houston's next big act, but I was lucky enough to see Camera Cult's debut on Friday, February 27 at House of Creeps. The trio, who formed on New Year's Eve 2014, opened the night with a 30-minute set in what would end up being the tamest HHOC event I've ever been present for.

However, despite the blistering cold, the main room was packed full of people dancing and bobbing their heads to music that they've likely never heard, and it was pretty damn impressive.

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Why It's Okay Your Band Isn't Playing FPSF '15

Photo courtesy of The Bad Drugs
Jaqui Kill (right), the Bad Drugs' resident throat, says the local garage-punks are over stressing about an FPSF nod.
So, your band isn't listed among the many invited to play Free Press Summer Fest 2015. Is there anything that could conceivably comfort the gnawing ache in your spurned bones? Well, for starters, just remember that Run the Jewels, Lana Del Rey, Beck and Drake won't be playing, either.

In all seriousness, being called to perform at FPSF is indeed a huge honor for Houston-area bands. And the sting of not being invited sometimes needs a salve to remind you that being passed over doesn't mean you need to rush all your equipment over to Action Pawn.

So, we enlisted the help of Jacqi Kill from The Bad Drugs and Ganesha front man Ricky Dee to pass along some reminders why it's okay if your band is not playing the fest this year.

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Stalking the Elusive Vanilla Whale: Hard Rock Ahoy!

Vanilla Whale, landlocked: Darr Nieuwoudt (drums), Alex Iannuzzi (bass/vocals), Tyler Lucas (guitar/vocals) and Andy Stewart (guitar/vocals).
Blackbeard Recording Studios off Kuykendahl Road in Spring isn't the easiest place to find. There's no eye-catching sign on the plain, box-shaped concrete building behind a strip center, which also houses a mechanic, tattoo parlor and some sort of kids' play facility.

Then you have to drive around a dumpster before reaching the studio's single-door entrance. The surrounding bare lot of dying grass is instantly familiar to anyone who has seen a "Dateline" murder mystery crime scene photo.

But inside, you'll find owner Darr Nieuwoudt shuttling between rooms and around equipment and mixing boards as local band Vagrant Sons lay down some tracks for an upcoming project. In the corner on leather couches and chairs surrounding a table are the rest of Nieuwoudt's own group, the variously hirsute Vanilla Whale.

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Digging Into the Recordings That Really Red Never Knew Existed

Photo courtesy of Ben DeSoto
Really Red performing at the Island, early '80s
It's been an exciting week for fans of classic Texas punk. Why? Well, the more-or-less complete recordings of Really Red, the top-flight Houston punks who were among the very first independent bands in the state to tour the country and release their own music, were remastered and re-released on Tuesday by Alternative Tentacles, the storied label run by ex-Dead Kennedys agitator Jello Biafra.

If you're old and cool enough to have heard this stuff before, trust us, you've never heard it like this. And if you've never heard of Really Red before, get these records and savor them, because you aren't likely to stumble on to a better or more obscure golden-age punk band without the use of a time machine.

The new Alternative Tentacles set is not a terribly large collection, comprising only three LPs. Really Red spent around six years together and then split up forever, fading into memory. When the label set out to restore the band's output, it was no sure thing that it was even possible. After 30 years of silence, no one was even sure exactly what remained of the band's original recordings.

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Those Really Red Reissues Really Rock

Flyer courtesy of David Ensminger/
A flyer for Empty Records' 2004 reissue of Teaching You the Fear, featured in the book Left of the Dial: Conversations With Punk Icons.
Punk rock in Houston today just makes sense, but in the late '70s, it was not exactly the place to be. As punk rock was just beginning to find its footing amid complaints from the older generation of rockers that it was all just noise, Houston had little to offer to the scene, which was exploding in places like the Bay Area.

One of a handful of bands changed that and put Houston on the map, Really Red struck a chord with young punks, capturing just about every aspect of the genre that would soon become the recipe for every successful punk band to come in their wake.

Though now largely only known by punk historians and aficionados, Alternative Tentacles -- the label run by ex-Dead Kennedys provacateur Jello Biafra -- has honored Really Red's place in punk history by reissuing their entire discography across three records: Volume One: Teaching You the Fear; Volume Two: Rest in Pain; and Volume Three: New Strings for Old Puppets. Now young and old alike can rediscover one of hardcore punk's early masters as the three-disc set finally gives them their due.

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Jello Biafra Thinks It's Time You Re-Examined Really Red

Photo by Ben DeSoto/Courtesy of Ronnie Bond
L-R: Ronnie "U-Ron Bondage" Bond and original Dead Kennedys bassist Klaus Fluoride at Houston's The Island, c. early 1980s
Back in the early '80s, there was a kick-ass punk band in Houston called Really Red. In a lot of ways, they were no different than a hundred other groups exploring the potential of alternative rock back in the day. In their six years together, they wrote a bunch of politically charged songs, self-released a few records and toured around the country to anyplace that would have them. Then the band simply ceased to exist.

For 30 years, that was the story on Really Red, and not a terribly unique one, either. If you were around the fledgling Houston punk scene back then, chances are pretty decent that you remember Really Red. If you weren't around, then odds are good-to-great that you've never even heard their music. But you should. And now, a bonafide punk-rock legend has stepped up personally to make sure that you can.

Today, more than three decades after the band called it quits, ex-Dead Kennedys front man and beloved counterculture loudmouth Jello Biafra's storied Alternative Tentacles label is re-releasing pretty much everything Really Red ever recorded on CD and vinyl. The three-volume collection includes albums, B-sides, live cuts and unreleased rarities, most of which haven't seen the light of day since long before drummer Bob Weber, guitarist Kelly Younger, bassist John Paul Williams and singer Ronnie "U-Ron Bondage" Bond went their separate ways.

Why is AT re-releasing the catalogue of a long-gone band that so few outside Texas even remember? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Really Red were really, really good.

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Otenki Vox German Alexander's Top 5 Desert Island Discs

Categories: Local Motion

Photo by German Alexander
Here on Rocks Off, we ask local heroes for their top five absolute desert island discs, the records that made them the musicians they are today. This week; German Alexander, vocalist for Otenki.

Thrice, Vheissu
You can't just ask a musician to pick inspirational music. It's like asking a mom to tell you who her favorite kid is. She has a favorite, secretly wants to slap one of them, but she's never going to tell you which. Music is like that. Sometimes we want to keep those secrets to ourselves because some of them are our dirty little secrets but here goes.

Thrice inspires me to be a bit more aggressive with the music I write with my band.
I love mean guitar riffs. Thrice definitely has that mixed in with some really tough sounding vocals.

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Mikey and the Drags Come Roaring Out of the Garage

Photo by Mars Valera
Mikey and the Drags are: Austin Sepulvado (organ), Chris Oddo (bass), Andrew Lee (drums), and Mikey Drag (vocals/guitar)

A couple of months ago at downtown's Discovery Green, Mikey Drag sat behind a merchandise table near the big lawn.

This was after his band, Mikey and the Drags, had played a blistering set of garage rock as part of a Thursday night concert series to listeners whose mode of personal transportation ran the gamut from baby strollers to Medicaid-issued walkers.

Among the offerings spread out for sale were the usual suspects of CDs and T-shirts, but also copies of the band's 2013 EP, On the Loose!, in...cassette.

Cassette? Vinyl may have made a huge comeback, and Sony just introduced a new version of the Walkman. But how many music fans are clamoring for the return of a media format that can be munched up by a tiny roller or recorded over? Actually, more than you think.

"Yeah, it's something that we had to think about doing, but we were surprised to find out that a lot of bands are doing [new] cassettes today. And they sell!" Drag offers with a laugh. "Plus, they're really cheap to make!"

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Their Name Was Treason Vox Jeremy Kilgores's Top Five Desert Island Discs

Categories: Local Motion

Photo by Rhonda Meredith
Here on Rocks Off, we ask local heroes for their top five absolute desert island discs, the records that made them the musicians they are today. This week; Jeremy Kilgore, vocalist and guitar player for Their Name Was Treason.

Nirvana, Nevermind
The five albums that influenced me the most would have to begin with Nirvana's Nevermind. The first time I heard "Smells Like Teen Spirit" I fell in love with music. I had never heard anything like it, and it was the first time I had an opinion of my own about music. I knew from that moment that music would be apart of my life.

Pearl Jam, Ten
Second on my list would have to be Pearl Jam's Ten. I first heard Pearl Jam shortly after becoming addicted to Nirvana and I became hooked. The angst and the energy the band had mixed with Eddie Vedder's vocals showed me how soulful someone could be about being pissed off. I could relate to that.

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Dear #Texans: Please Let Kam Franklin Sing the National Anthem

Photo by Mark C. Austin/Courtesy of the Convoy Group
Kam Franklin warms up at a Houston Rockets game...could NRG Stadium be next?
In accord with the time-honored tradition, before every Houston Texans football contest at NRG Stadium, someone is trotted onto the field to perform the national anthem.

In a nod to fans, something the hometown football team truly excels at, it is "auditioning" talent to perform the song before the team's December 28 home game. It's part of a contest the Texans have done previously, inviting fans to load their video auditions to the team's Facebook or Twitter accounts and use the hashtag #TexansFanthem.

When that game arrives, it'll be a merciless beatdown of the Jacksonville Jaguars. And, my hopes are that sweet victory will be preceded by a stirring rendition of the anthem performed by Kam Franklin of The Suffers.

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