Houston In the '60s Was a Happening Place

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Photos courtesy of Vicki Welch Ayo
The Larry Kane Show
One day, in the distant future, hopefully there will be a Vicki Welch Ayo to document Houston's present-day music scene. If so, that person must now be a dedicated and adventurous showgoer, someone who is enthusiastic about the current acts and venues, and who cares about local music enough to one day look back at it with unabashed love and respect.

That's what Ayo did for the 1960s Houston rock scene in her book, Boys From Houston. Released just over a year ago and weighing in at more than 400 pages, it's a glance back at the players who sowed the seeds for today's Houston music landscape.


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The 10 Biggest Reasons Houston Is Turnt Up

Categories: Only In Houston

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Photo by Marco Torres
...because B L A C K I E has a new release out, and it's a doozy. Entitled Imagine Your Self In a Free and Natural World, it's subdivided between two tracks that last more than 16 minutes apiece, "Wings Blocking Out the Sun" and "Forest of Ex-Lovers," and a six-minute coda, "Cry, Pig!" Forest is an apt metaphor too, because you'll find a virtual Grimm's fairy tale full of spooky sounds and monsters of the mind within these three tracks.

Listen for globs of synthesizers like the opening of The Shining, wheezing saxophones combining in a dissonant chorale, bass-guitar notes marking time like the secondhand on an armageddon clock, an ominous Doors-like repeating guitar pattern, and an abundance of its creator's primal-scream therapy. Depending on your temperament, Imagine Your Self... could be a tough listen anywhere outside a 2 a.m. drive through industrial wastelands, but this explosion of nervy energy is surely best experienced live -- where the always-riveting B L A C K I E is in his element.


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The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Ray Wylie Hubbard, Omotai, Sucre, etc.

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Photo by Jason Wolter
Ray Wylie Hubbard
Main Street Crossing, September 3

Ray Wylie Hubbard likes to live by words he eventually set to music in the song "Mother Blues" from his 2012 album The Grifters' Hymnal: "The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, well, I have really good days." The 67-year-old iconoclastic singer-songwriter is a holdover from Texas' progressive-country scare of the '70s, and pocketed plenty of mailbox money from writing Jerry Jeff Walker's Viva Terlingua! hit "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother."

But starting with his mid-'90s albums Lost Train of Thought and Loco Gringo's Lament, Hubbard began releasing music at a steady clip that has yielded ten more albums and improbably endeared Hubbard to both the good-timin' Texas Country scene (where he's something of a kindly uncle figure) and Americana aesthetes who can't stand that crowd. CHRIS GRAY

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The 30 Best Concerts In Houston Before Halloween

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Photo by Christian Faustus/High Voltage PR
Islands
Walters, September 6

Given the recent excitement of the Unicorns' first shows in a decade, opening some recent Arcade Fire dates, the good news that their Canadian indie successors Islands are headed back to town for the first time in a while should make a few townies happy. The show should be a burner, too. JIM BRICKER

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The Best Concerts in Houston This Week: August Alsina, Better Than Ezra, KISS, etc.

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Photo by H. Matthews/Def Jam
August Alsina
Warehouse Live, August 29

This show has already sold out, so time to hit up the "secondary market." But August Alsina is that hot, no thanks to rumors that he's now dating Nicki Minaj. She's definitely a fan of the New Orleans-bred singer's "No Love" single, because she appears on the now-viral remix. That's nothing new for Alsina, 21 years old and part of the YouTube generation of artists whose record deals are a direct result of their homemade videos; or at least the number of views those videos have accrued.

After two well-received volumes of his The Product mixtape, Alsina is now on the Def Jam roster and in April released his full-length LP, Testimony, leading with his hit duet with rapper Trinidad James, "I Luv This Shit."

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The Rocks Off 200: Handsomebeast, Silver Jeans Starchildren

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

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Photos courtesy of Handsomebeast
Who? Handsomebeast, who have been kicking around Houston venues like Notsuoh full-time since 2013, strike us as one of the most likely bands in town to describe themselves as a "collective." As heard on their album Estilo Gacho (stream it here via Bandcamp), theirs is a sound created by serious musos whose principal purpose is to get people to move; the music made by these self-admitted "space-rock bump-n-grinders" has the side effect of sounding like it's coming from a lot more people than there actually are. But at the moment the band is made up of only four human beings, who by their own admission are tapped into some pretty universal shit.

"We strive to make music that can cause ripples of emotion in the brains of fellow humans," an HB spokesman explains by email. "Being our strongest and most meaningful connection to the universe and its natural mystic power, music influences our lives in such a way that we produce our own sounds and collection of frequencies for others to hear and experience. We like to share."

Whoa...pass some of that over here, please. Currently Handsomebeast is a finalist in the "Battle of the Bands" contest sponsored by the Silver Jeans Co. and FADER magazine, competing for a chance to win a trip to New York to record a demo and 500 "vinyls" of said demo that will be sold in Silver Jeans stores nationwide, plus a writeup in FADER. Voting ends Friday night, and due to some kind of glitch earlier this week, HB is running second behind some L.A. outfit. Won't you help 'em out by voting here?


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Heights Guitar Tech Fills Big Gap in Gear-Repair Scene

Categories: Only In Houston

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Photos by Chris Lane
Ed Loco and Mitch Burman in front of Heights Guitar Tech
There's a great music scene and a lot of gigging musicians living in Houston, but few places to get musical equipment fixed when time is a factor. When I was playing in bands a few years back, any problem with a guitar or one of my amps meant I had two basic options: take it to one of the guitar shops scattered around town and let one of their repair guys fix it, or try to remedy what was wrong with it myself.

Lots of places have offered me good repair work, but the problem has always been the amount of time it took to complete. I might drop a guitar off for something that seemed relatively minor and then still wait a week or more for the work to be done. But I didn't always have six or seven days to spare, as I often had shows to play sooner than that.

Inspired by that exact same scenario, a new guitar-repair and musical gear shop recently opened in the Heights. Nightclub owner and occasional rock star Mitch Burman decided to open Heights Guitar Tech this summer with music producer and artist Steve Boriack after realizing that Houston musicians were facing unreasonably long wait times to have their instruments repaired.


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The Rocks Off 200: Silver Blueberry, Garage Days Revisited

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

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Photos courtesy of Silver Blueberry
Who? The Houston scene got a little groovier (man) earlier this spring with the arrival of Silver Blueberry's Twin Reverberation, one of 2014's more appealing and tuneful local debuts. Chunky and riffy in spots, fragrant and meandering in others, to us it recalls the Paisley Underground, the largely L.A.-based subclass of '80s college-rock that attempted to cross-breed the Byrds' swirling jangle-pop with the Velvet Underground's garagey art-rock.

Some groups were more successful than others, but Dream Syndicate, Green on Red and the Long Ryders continue to have their share of admirers, and the Bangles were loosely associated with the movement before they found their way onto the pop charts and started walking like Egyptians.

Anyhow, like the Breeders, Bee Gees and Tegan and Sara before them, Silver Blueberry features a set of twins, Tyson Rinker and his brother Shaun. The Houston natives have been musicians for most of their adult lives -- "to sit with my guitar, ponder my thoughts, and write songs has always been my favorite way to escape," Tyson affirms -- but didn't join forces until late 2012, after he admits both of them realized "forming a band with like-minded, compatible people was difficult to do."


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The Five Best Concerts In Houston This Week: Aerosmith, Buxton, Charlie Robison, etc.

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Photo by Barry Sigman
Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and Joe Perry at Toyota Center in 2012
Aerosmith, Slash
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, August 25

Aerosmith's reputation has been tarnished by some bad records and worse decision-making over the years, but even that can't obscure this fundamental truth: in their prime, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry's Boston bad boys not only lived up to the hype as America's Rolling Stones, but on immortal mid-'70s LPs Toys In the Attic and Rocks, managed to out-raunch Mick and Keef themselves. One decade-long trip off the deep end later, they came roaring back to be one of the biggest bands of the late '80s and early '90s with the killer one-two combo of Permanent Vacation and Pump.

Despite various hiatuses, that dreadful Armageddon ballad and Tyler's American Idol stint, Aerosmith has remained a top concert draw to this day, due mostly to hit-studded shows where the mediocrity recedes and the Toxic Twins step to the fore in all their bloozy glory. One of Perry's most successful guitar acolytes, opener Slash is a happy man these days, still cranking out all those Appetite for Destruction favorites with maximum intensity live and periodically releasing no-frills installments of agreeable hard rock such as next month's World On Fire. CHRIS GRAY

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Bottle Rockets, Rudz 36, Garfunkel & Oates, etc.

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Photo courtesy of Bloodshot Records
Bottle Rockets, Marshall Crenshaw
Continental Club, August 22

The pride of Festus, Mo., the Bottle Rockets would be the best band you've never heard of except, if you've ever subscribed to either No Depression magazine or the Bloodshot Records mailing list, you've absolutely heard of them and know exactly why they're so damn good. Ex-Uncle Tupelo roadie and satellite member Brian Henneman started the Bottle Rockets when the former band started going down the tubes; overall his bunch was less Black Flag-influenced than the Tupelo guys, but the Bottle Rockets' similar combination of classic country, Southern rock and indie attitude made them a cornerstone of the burgeoning alt-country scene.

Simple music-business malfeasance kept the band from climbing much higher on the ladder of success, but they persevered and last year Bloodshot Records reissued those first two albums, 1993's Bottle Rockets and '94's The Brooklyn Side, in a deluxe edition with demos and everything. So good guys don't always finish last after all, and joining them on this rare Southwestern tour is power-pop Ph.D. Marshall Crenshaw, whose first-rate catalog goes a lot deeper than his lone Top 40 hit, 1982's "Someday, Someway." CHRIS GRAY

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