Songwriting Great Eric Taylor: "Houston Is Still a Real Music Town"

Photos courtesy of Eric Taylor
Rocks Off hadn't seen Eric Taylor, once a contemporary of Townes Van Zandt, since his last Houston date at 14 Pews in January 2012. But with the release party for Taylor's latest CD, Studio 10, this Sunday at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, we caught up with the veteran Texas singer-songwriter behind "Shoeshine Boy," "Whooping Crane" and Nanci Griffith's "Dollar Matinee" (among many others), from the road.

Rocks Off: I think we have something in common in that Facebook seems to make us both angry. I'm not sure I ever enjoy that Web site. Do you?

Eric Taylor: The Facebook thing is a double-edged sword. Perhaps a necessary evil for some. There are times that it seems a conduit for race-baiting bigots, and there are times it becomes a way for pictures to be shown of little kitties or something someone ate for lunch.

It is supposed to be social networking, and if you can't be somewhat angry about that, then you're not breathing. That being said, it's good to talk to some of my friends.

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Well, It's Official: Ozzy Osbourne Can't Sing Anymore

Photos by Groovehouse
Thursday night at the Woodlands was the first night of the reunited Black Sabbath's world tour, and to say that anticipation was running high would be underselling it a bit. The band is fresh off the release of its first new album together in 35 years, 13, which went straight to No. 1. Clearly, fans were ready for another go-round with the godfathers of metal.

But to add to the intrigue, Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath's legendary guitarist, has been battling lymphoma for the better part of a year now. Iommi's not a young man. For perhaps the first time, his assumed immortality appears in doubt. Long history of retirement fake-outs aside, this could very well be Sabbath's final trek around the globe. Miss this tour, and you might not get another chance.

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30footFALL at Fitzgerald's, 7/20/2013

Photos by Francisco Montes
30footFALL, Bickley, the Smiffs, Skeleton Dick
July 19, 2013

What exactly does it take to keep a punk rock band in Houston, Texas, together for 20 years? Well, delivering the goods onstage year in and year out is certainly one crucial ingredient. That's what has kept 30footFALL fans coming back Christmas after Christmas, and it's what packed 'em in at Fitzgerald's on Saturday to celebrate the local punk troupe's 20th anniversary together.

In When We Ruled H-Town, last year's excellent documentary on Houston's '90s rock scene, a shot was taken at 30footFALL by one of their peers over their perceived booking of inferior opening acts -- ostensibly to make themselves look better by comparison. Nobody could have levied that claim with a straight face on Saturday. In addition to current faves Skeleton Dick, 30FF also managed to corral fellow '90s mainstays Bickley out of super-extended hiatus and even brought along front man Butch Klotz's Smiths cover band, the Smiffs, from Charlottesville, Va.

If that lineup did nothing for you, it's highly possible you have never been nor likely shall be punk, sir.

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Shine a Light On Me: 40 Years of The Midnight Special

Recently, I was swallowed under a wave of memories while channel surfing. Thanks to some infomercial hustlers who were selling a DVD collection, I was spending the first moments of a new Saturday watching scenes from The Midnight Special for the first time in more than 30 years.

My eyes were fixed to the screen, which was now 52 inches wide and not bound by Curtis Mathis' carved wood. It didn't matter. I was eight years old again, watching Wolfman Jack howl and introduce music's biggest acts.

Pop-music-history stuff: The Midnight Special was a television program on NBC. In the 1970s and '80s, it aired after Johnny Carson's Friday-night episodes of The Tonight Show.. Its producer, Burt Sugarman, created a show that featured many of the era's biggest or most promising music and comedy acts. The show debuted 40 years ago this year.

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Boogie Nights: How Surviving Disco Helped Me Understand EDM

Photo by Victoria Pickering
Some kid I know asked me if I ever plan to write an article about electronic dance music. I told him yeah, probably I would.

I guess that seemed too cavalier an answer. He wanted to know if I had something against EDM.

Naw, it's all right, I told him.

What was I, he wanted to know, some kind of music snob?

I assured him I was not. Plenty of room for the Skrillexes (Skrillices? Skrilli Politti?) of the world, as far as I'm concerned.

Maybe. But you don't care for it, do you, he asked.

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10 Awesome '90s Boy Bands You Probably Forgot Existed

The '90's produced the best stuff known to man. I mean, who doesn't wax nostalgic over Girbaud jeans, color-blocked windbreakers, and old episodes of Saved By the Bell? That shit was so awesome.

You know who else thinks '90's nostalgia is awesome? The boys -- rather, real live men -- from the late-'90s boy band 98 Degrees. You know, the one with Nick Lachey, the guy who was once married to Jessica Simpson?

Yeah, those dudes. They've reunited, are on tour and belting out those old hits like "I Do" and "Invisible Man." Oh, and they are even assaulting us with a new album. You can thank New Kids On The Block for this entire situation, since they're touring with 98 Degrees and Boyz II Men. That tour, dubbed "The Package," pulls into Toyota Center June 27.

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Slip Slidin' Away: My Life as a Rock Journalist With the Houston Press

Photo by Marc Brubaker
The author watching Free Energy at Fitz in 2011.
I had a hernia operation in the early summer of 2006, and had nothing to do all day but hobble around with cool cane a borrowed from Grandpa Hlavaty and play on the Internets for two months or so.

I had developed the injury while working at Domino's, but it was cool because their insurance helped pay for it, and the cool pills that came with the painful surgery.

That summer while trolling around on Craigslist for stray local writing gigs, I saw that then Houston Press music editor John Nova Lomax had put out a call for freelance music writers.


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Last Night: Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo at Stafford Centre

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Pat Benatar & Neil Giraldo
Stafford Centre
April 17, 2013

If you grew up during a particular window of the early 1980s, there were certain things you couldn't escape: economic malaise, the San Francisco 49ers, and MTV. If you were an early enough adopter of Music Television, you were more than familiar with the likes of Triumph, April Wine, and .38 Special.

But you were probably even more aware of Patricia Andrzejewski, known colloquially as Pat Benatar. Everybody knows the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" was the first video aired on MTV, but not as many realize the second was Benatar's "You Better Run," or that Benatar's husband of 31 years (and collaborator for even more), Neil Giraldo, was the first guitarist featured on the network as well.

It helps explain why he's now sharing a bill with his much more recognizable wife, and the pair's Sonny and Cher vibe helped guide what Benatar described as an "unstructured evening" of songs.

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Last Night: Willie Nelson at Arena Theatre

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Photos by Marco Torres
Willie Nelson
Arena Theatre
March 10, 2013

For some artists, even superlatives aren't enough. Willie Nelson turns 80 next month. He's been making music -- and making a living off it -- longer than my parents have been alive. And while there are other country artists of similar vintage and pedigree still kicking around (George Jones, Merle Haggard, Jerry Jeff Walker), no one else is as embraced and respected across the generations as the Red-Headed Stranger.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying we can cut the guy some slack.

Willie didn't put on a bad show last night at the Arena Theater, because even on autopilot the guy has a repertoire that puts just about everyone else to shame. He offered a dutiful performance, and if the hiccups were more apparent than usual, nobody really seemed to care.

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Last Night: Styx at Reliant Stadium

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Photos courtesy of Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
Reliant Stadium
March 4, 2013

When Styx made the decision to open with "Blue Collar Man" last night at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, I couldn't decide at first if the band was pandering to its anticipated crowd at something as common as a rodeo or being clever. I vacillated when Lawrence Gowan -- the Scots-Canadian replacement for former front man Dennis DeYoung, who famously split from the band in 1999 -- made a couple of jokes about sheep over the course of the ten-song show.

What sealed the deal, however, was the overtly patriotic display of animated stars and stripes exploding onto the curved wall behind the band when Styx shuffled out "Miss America," a song about as patriotic as J. Geils Band's "Centerfold." Whether it was the band or the Rodeo that decided this song should be played -- and backed in such odd fashion -- one thing was clear: Styx may have been trying a little too hard to fit in.

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