American Fangs Take It Personally On Dirty Leg EP

Categories: Listen Up!

Photo by Brandon Holley/Rocksound Magazine/Wikimedia Commons
American Fangs' latest EP approaches full-on mortal combat in places.
I know that American Fangs finally put out an LP last year, and there's nothing wrong with that at all. For me, though, the band was made for their famous string of hard, fast EPs that feel like a combination short story and psychotic's manifesto. They've got another album coming out next year (date TBD), but Houstonians have a chance to pick up a the latest offering, Dirty Legs, this weekend as a limited-edition pressing. Is it worth it?

Few bands in Houston that can match the Fangs for pure, driven energy. They approach the rage of metal without ever once stepping over the line, which is important to avoid if you're going to hold onto a certain musical heritage.

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Four Controversial Songs by Current Houston Acts

Photo by Vox Efx/Flickr Commons
Controversy abounds, as it always has. But we're reminded more frequently than ever just how confusing our modern-day existence is, what with these phones-turned-newspapers and social-media feeds and such.

In Denmark, Santa Claus is apparently a heinous slave owner who dictates his nefarious Christmas plans to someone called Black Pete. Fat Albert may or may not be a rapist. Some publishing company believed yet another photo of Kim Kardashian's bare ass -- a thing that had already been seen more than Punxsutawney Phil over a century of Februaries -- could "break the Internet." We can land an unmanned probe on a comet hurtling through space at 84,000 miles per hour, but we still don't know why dropped toast always falls buttered side down.

Musicians have always been there to address many of these issues. It's a tradition that dates back at least as far as "Ring Around the Rosie" and its social commentary on the Great Plague. In more recent times, it's been carried on by songs like "Strange Fruit" and "Masters of War," and "Fuck Tha Police." Houston of course enjoys its fair share of artists with the nerve to take on the day's provocative issues, such as the ones responsible for these four recent songs.

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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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Gabe Bravo Drums Up a Comedy Career

Photo courtesy of Gabe Bravo
Gabe Bravo, asking you to please check the drummer jokes at the door.
A funny thing happened to Gabe Bravo on the way to a successful career in music: He found out he was funny.

More precisely, others are finding out Bravo is funny. The well-known and highly regarded Houston musician is notably an outstanding drummer known for his time in acts such as Shotgun Funeral and The Trimms. But since early 2013, Bravo has traded his place at the back of the band for front-and-center as a stand-up comic.

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All the World's a Stage for Gogol Bordello

Categories: Listen Up!

Photo courtesy of Red Light Management
For Gogol Bordello, every day is Halloween.

Leading up to Friday's Halloween-night performance at Warehouse Live, front man Eugene Hütz says that his band of misfits doesn't have anything specifically spooky planned, but that it would be out of character for them to bring anything less than their very best.

"We're kind of a band that never developed a routine," he says. "Anything celebratory, we're kind of a natural fit for it."

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Get to Know Houston's Unified Underground

Photo by Bryant Murgas/Marisa Guerra Hendrick
Unified Underground in their office, definitely not posing for this photo
You don't need to turn over rocks to find musical gems in Houston. They sparkle across our landscape and reflect their brilliance back upon us.

But if you insist on mining for diamonds in the rough, Juan Olivo and his friends want to help you on your treasure hunt.

Olivo is founder and editor-in-chief of Unified Underground, an upstart magazine/Web site/initiative that plans to spotlight the Bayou City's unheralded creatives. The project formed in April, after a discussion about seeking out and interviewing Houston's stealth street artists.

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Hitching a Ride With Screaming Females

Photo by Christopher Patrick Ernst
Screaming Females
Screaming Females' drummer Jarrett Dougherty said the band has played Houston a few times before, but is still looking for that one knockout performance here as headliners.

Those who know one of rock's most exciting groups may find that hard to believe. Dougherty and bassist King Mike are a solid one-two combination, setting up the haymaker that is guitarist and front woman Marissa Paternoster. It's difficult to fathom they haven't rope-a-doped locals with their punishing live act, but they'll get another chance by stepping into the ring as the main event tonight at Walters.

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Girl in a Coma Grrrls Get Even Fiercer With Fea

Categories: Listen Up!

Photos courtesy of Fea
Martinez, foreground, and Diaz, Lee and Alva , L-R, are Fea
Phanie Diaz doesn't want you Girl watchers to worry.

She's the drummer for one of Texas' biggest breakout bands of the past few years, Girl In a Coma. Her sister, Nina, is the band's guitarist and vocalist. While Nina works on a solo project, Phanie and the band's bassist, Jenn Alva, have unveiled Fea, their own side group that touches down at Mango's Saturday night as part of a month-long tour.

A mixed audience of Pearl Lounge regulars and curious Girl In a Coma fans got a glimpse of Fea this past summer. Once the music started, it was obvious these weren't the indie melodies the flagship band is known for.

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Be Very Afraid of Illegal Wiretaps' 80th Release

Categories: Listen Up!

Courtesy of Illegal Wiretaps/Facebook
The Illegal Wiretaps are bar-none my favorite band in Houston because they are nuts. Completely left their cakes out in the rain. Less than two months since their last EP they're back with a new freakshow in the form of Cancer and the Princess Suite.

Technically, it's a single because it's only one song. On the other hand, it's nearly 12 minutes long, making it longer than several of the Wiretaps' previous multi-song releases. See? Everything they do is freakin' backwards anyway.

Cancer is another outing by Stephen Wyatt on his own, and that usually leads to the most personal if harder to understand work. Certainly this is a parade of strangeness is aimed at something internally, but what that is is beyond me.

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Afro-Cuban Beats Power Medeski & Friends' Juice

Photo by Stuart Levine
The "Juice" Boys: Billy Martin, John Medeski, John Scofield, and Chris Wood

As fans of the jazz/funk trio Medeski Martin & Wood know, the band likes to improvise, a big reason why they're also a hit on the jam-band circuit. But dancing on the edge of a musical cliff isn't always as effortless as it may look, according to drummer Billy Martin.

"It could be a gut-wrenching experience!", he says. "It's all about the chemistry of the [players]. And when you're really into it, you don't know how it's going. There have been moments where I thought it really sucked."

And I may have thought it went terribly wrong, but then find out that the other guys or some of the audience may think it's the best thing ever!", he adds. "So who knows..."

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