Just Give Blue Ivy Carter All the VMAs, Please

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MTV
Are we tired of twerking yet?
Sunday night was the billionth year for the MTV Video Music Awards, and only one thing can be taken away from the whole unfunny shebang: just give Blue Ivy Carter all of the VMAs, now and forever, and let's be done with the whole thing. Seriously.

So in case you were wondering (or were smart enough to skip it), the whole show -- from Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" yawn-fest to Miley Cyrus' well-intentioned but still somehow totally stunt-queen stand-in antics -- was just kinda meh. Everything but Blue of course, but we'll get to that. Here's what happened.

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Failure's Unlikely Reunion: "It's Like a Whole New Audience"

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Photo by Priscilla Chavez
Ken Andrews, right, with Failure
For 17 years, the story of Failure was thought to be written; finished. The L.A. alternative-rock band produced three albums' worth of carefully layered, atmospheric heaviness that was an uncomfortable fit for the grunge-dominated early '90s. After scoring a minor alt-rock hit with "Stuck On You" and joining the final Lollapalooza tour in 1997, the group disbanded under a black cloud of interpersonal conflict, drug abuse and label indifference -- not exactly an uncommon tale in '90s rock.

Unlike so many of their alternative peers who dabbled in heroin, however, nobody in Failure died...and neither did their music. Whether the group was simply ahead of its time or required the help of new digital distribution tools to be heard, Failure's acclaim continued to grow after the band's dissolution, with many new fans (and critics) coming to revere its final album, Fantastic Planet, as one of the decade's best.

Now all cleaned (and grown) up, Failure has reassembled to write a new and unexpected chapter in their story, with all of the potential for excitement and disappointment that such a return must entail. Before the band takes the stage at House of Blues tonight, Rocks Off spoke with older, wiser bandleader Ken Andrews about how and why Failure now finds itself with another stab at success.


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25 People Having More Fun Than Us at FPSF

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Photo by Jim Bricker
When you're pushing 40 at a festival like Free Press Summer Fest, you often find yourself thinking things like, "What in the hell is going on?" and "Is there somewhere I can go take a nap?" Rocks Off would like to doff our slightly mud-spattered cap to the following people our photographers captured this weekend, and hope some of them will tell us where we can get some of whatever they must be on.


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10 Signs You're Too Old for Coachella

Note: Last weekend our friends at L.A. Weekly and OC Weekly were all up in America's No 1. selfie-taking spot, the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, and now they've gone back for more. We know.

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Photo by Chris Victorio/OC Weekly
You tell 'em, Grandpa!
Age, of course, is a state of mind. But it's easy to feel like you've aged 30 years after three busy days at Coachella. Whether you've gone to the festival since the first year in 1999 or just started going a few years ago, the festival can feel a bit, well, different than when you were in your teens and 20s. If so, you might want to check and see if you just might be getting too old for this shit.


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The 10 Worst Musical Comebacks of All Time

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We'll get to you in October, Vince, Tommy, et. al.
Don't call it a comeback...because it sucked.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that "less is more," especially when you're a retired musician. It can be easy to find yourself pining away for the spotlight and those glory days of old, but we really would advise you to think twice before hitting the comeback circuit, lest you become one of these poor folks below. So many things can go wrong and, apparently, very little can go right.

So our wayward, nostalgic musician friends. Please make sure you're good and ready to face the world again before you emerge from the bowels of a previous decade, or else this could happen.


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The Reality Bites Soundtrack at 20: The Good, the Bad and the Totally '90s

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This week marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Reality Bites, Houston's cinematic "'90s moment" starring Ethan Hawke's grunge locks and Winona Ryder's doily dress. It's a flawed film, and rather unsatisfying at times, but it's hardly without its charms -- quite like Houston itself, one might say.

Today, it's remembered fondly by many not so much as a classic love story or intimate portrait of life in our city, but as a perfect, time-capsule snapshot of our mass-culture conceptions of success, love and self-expression in the early '90s, before the whole decade lost its damn mind towards the end there.

But hey, we here at Rocks Off ain't film critics. What about the tunes?


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10 Fun Facts About the Beatles' Ed Sullivan Debut

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Holy crap, this happened 50 fucking years ago.
Fifty years ago this Sunday, the Beatles ushered in a new era in pop music and youth culture when they made their first live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. While the four lads from Liverpool were still mostly unknown to Americans in 1964, they were already the most hyped rock and roll band in U.S. history by the time they arrived from England at New York's Kennedy Airport. More than 40 percent of U.S. televisions were tuned in to Ed Sullivan that night to see what the fuss was about.

Most of those who tuned in -- teenage girls, in particular -- never forgot what they saw. It was the nation's first glimpse of the most important band in rock and roll history. The Beatles had three singles and two albums on the U.S. charts at the time, with "I Want to Hold Your Hand" having sold a million copies in less than a month after it was leaked early to radio. But no one in the U.S. knew much of anything about them other than what they could learn from an album sleeve.

The Ed Sullivan Show would provide a formal introduction. The group had already rocketed to superstardom in England after an appearance on their homeland's Ed Sullivan equivalent, Val Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium. They'd even performed for the Queen. With "I Want to Hold Your Hand" topping the charts and all over radio, now it was America's turn.


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The Blasters at Continental Club, 1/24/2014

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Photo by Lynn A. Long
Unflappable, battle-hardened rock and rollers: The Blasters
The Blasters
Continental Club
January 24, 2013

With rare Houston performances by Barrence Whitfield and the Savages and hallowed SoCal roots gods the Blasters, the city has had a whopper-sized dose of old-time rock and roll in the past couple of weeks.

Phil Alvin and his hard-traveling cohorts -- drummer Bill Bateman, bassist John Bazz, and guitarist Keith Wyatt -- did a number on a full house at the Continental Club Friday night, tearing off rabid, blitzkreig versions of two dozen nuggets from one of the most storied catalogs in roots-rock.


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When Parrotheads Attack: Exile in Margaritaville

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Photo by Tony Nelson
Actual Parrotheads at last week's Jimmy Buffett show.
One night last week, I embarked upon a foolhardy and ill-fated mission to spend 24 hours straight converting myself into the biggest Jimmy Buffett fan in the Twin Cities metro area.

For the uninitiated, Jimmy Buffett is the undisputed champion of wearing Hawaiian shirts and celebrating drunk, bacchanalian behavior, and his tribe is known as the Parrotheads. For more on his musical exploits, read this review from St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center. As a pop-culture figure, he sits on a throne of golden calamari, and his Margaritaville brand produces clothing, frozen food, and alcoholic beverages.

As I knew stability would be needed, I recruited the help of my coworker, Grant Richardson -- a stable and happy-go-lucky character from the Minneapolis underground noise/punk/metal scene. A challenge of the mind, body, and spirit, I regretfully admit to the world that we were overtaken by margaritas, rum, cheeseburgers, and coconut shrimp. My esophagus still stings from heartburn, a cruel reminder of the madness induced by an overexposure of paradise.


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The Rice Hotel Speakeasy: Houston Music During Prohibition

Note: This is Part 2 in a series that timelines through bits of the first century of Houston's nightlife until about the start of what was found to be Houston's oldest running bar.

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Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries
Rice Hotel dining room
The Rice Hotel (now the Post Rice Lofts) is located where the first capital of the Republic of Texas once stood. The Rice Roof at the Rice Hotel was one of Houston's top dance clubs among local elite and whatnot for some time.

By the time Prohibition came about in the early 1920s, the Rice Roof was where much of Texas' elite supposedly kept their private stocks of alcohol in individual cabinets. The Rice Hotel Dining Room Orchestra played here as well as several jazz "territory bands." One such group was Peck's Bad Boys, an influential local group led by Houstonian John "Peck" Kelley. They never recorded, though they were said to be largely popular while remaining generally ahead of their time. They possibly played at the Rice Roof and at college nights at the Lamar Spanish Dining Room, too.

Prohibition-era nightclubbing in Houston was said to happen in speakeasies made out of houses located in the Neartown area along present-day Westheimer, better known today as Montrose.


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