Local Acts Besiege CMJ for Texas Takeover

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All this week, aspiring rock stars, rappers, DJs and even a folksinger or two have fanned out across Manhattan and Brooklyn for the 33rd annual CMJ Music Marathon. But today New York City's week-long festival will have a pronounced Texas twang.

Lone Star acts, almost two dozen of them, will overrun one venue in particular, a three-level nightclub on the Lower East Side called The Delancey. Dubbed the "Texas Takeover," it's an official showcase and everything, open to all CMJ badgeholders. Representing Houston are a number of acts our readers ought to recognize, among them BLSHS, Featherface, Catch Fever, Ravin' Symone (aka DJ Dave Wrangler), -Us, iPod Ammo, Wrestlers and the Suffers, who close out the whole mess at 10:30 p.m.


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Houston's Best Music Photographer Is...

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Photos by and Courtesy of the Winner
These folks are as happy this contest is over as we are. (Not really -- it's ACL Fest 2014.)
...finally over. After more than six months and 7,000 votes (wow), we have a winner.

Take a bow, Greg Noire. The floor is yours.

"Wow. I am literally amazed by all of this," he says. "My photography got me on this list, but my supporters definitely got me this win. Watching those votes go up was pretty overwhelming -- I didn't realize that there were so many people who enjoyed my work out there."


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Premium Goods Offers Premium Sounds at 10-Year Bash

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Photos by Marco Torres
Bun B onstage with The Suffers
Saturday evening, 8th Wonder Brewery in EaDo hosted a party for one of Houston's most important cultural institutions: the sneaker and apparel boutique Premium Goods (2416 Times Blvd.) was celebrating its 10-year anniversary of existence, and invited a few friends to assist in the festivities. Rocks Off photographer Marco Torres was on hand to capture the highlights.


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The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Watsky, Heart, Jason Aldean, B.o.B., etc.

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Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr
Watsky
House of Blues, October 21

Last year, the most badass statistical analyst you've ever heard of, Matt Daniels, released something called the Hip-Hop Flow Chart, which ranked several popular rap acts by vocabulary size. I pored over the results like a rap geek and wondered how could Daniels have missed this prolific word-monster. This year, Daniels' version 2.0 of the chart rightfully included San Francisco-based Watsky, and counted 5,651 unique words among the first 35,000 he rapped.

That slotted him alongside some of the very best, names like Aesop Rock (still reigning champ), Sage Francis, Immortal Technique and The Roots. Watsky's new album, All You Can Do, which features more smart and empowering raps from the San Franciscan, who always seems genuinely grateful to be able to do what he does. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

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VIDEO: Jose Figueroa Is Still Dancing

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Jose Figueroa is still dancing. The Channelview high-school teacher we told you about earlier this month, whose goal was not only to dance to live music every single night for a solid year but also to make a documentary film about it, says he's not much closer to recovering the equipment that was stolen from his car last month, but still believes he might be able to complete the project nonetheless.

Although Figueroa says the police still haven't been able to turn up any information that might lead to getting his stuff back, a friend has donated a video camera that should allow him to complete a crucial part of the process - the introductory video required of Kickstarter users to start one of the crowd-based Web site's fundraising campaigns.

"Not nearly as compact as my GoPro, but a very generous loan that I'm truly grateful for," he notes.


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Houston's 10 Best Bars for People-Watching

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Photo by Ed Schipul via Flickr
Note: List is in alphabetical order.

AVANTGARDEN
A converted turn-of-the-20th-century house, AvantGarden is a bar, community venue and gathering point where creative and artistic people throughout the city come for poetry readings, live music, theatrical productions, independent-film premieres, art exhibits, improv comedy, cabaret, and more. The patrons here are sometimes described as hipsters, but the mostly friendly, non-pretentious people we have encountered here do not exhibit the more negative stereotypes of that sometimes pejorative label.

However, many customers here indeed have a flair for style and can dress pretty flamboyantly. For some serious people-watching, the best times to come are the customer-appreciation nights on Thursdays, when cheap drink specials bring in large and diverse crowds who gather in the patio/courtyard out back, which is illuminated overhead with sparkling lights, putting out a festival vibe.

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Weekend: Skatestock III, Grindfest 2014, Brand New, etc.

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Photo by Anna O'Connor/Plowboy Records
Cheetah Chrome
Fitzgerald's, October 17

Alongside fellow contenders like Johnny Ramone, Cheetah Chrome became one of the titanic guitarists of CBGB-era American punk. His origins, though, erupted a few years earlier in down-and-out Cleveland, where he helped propel two groundbreaking units there: Rocket from the Tombs and the Dead Boys, who together fomented a warped sonic renaissance with tunes like "Sonic Reducer."

As his new memoir A Dead Boy's Tale: From The Front Lines of Punk Rock recounts, street smarts are a crucial part of Chrome's DNA. Hence, his swaggering new album, Solo (incredibly, his first-ever full-length solo outing), evokes a gritty spirit of survival without hauling along tons of sentimentality. With the Drunks, the Guillotines and Born Liars; see our interview from Thursday. DAVID ENSMINGER

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Vote Now for Houston's Best Music Photographer

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Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns via Flickr
Note: none of the photographers in our contest uses cameras this old...that we know of.
February 24, 2014. A Monday. Go Texan Day, Houston's unofficial start of rodeo season, was still four days away. Stories in that week's Time magazine included "Mexico's New Mission," "Biden Unplugged" and a look at brand-new Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon. Songs popular at the time were Katy Perry's "Dark Horse," Pitbull & Kesha's oh-so-subtle duet "Timber" and a certain earworm Weird Al would soon parody as "Tacky." Closer to home, Houston's Tontons and Wild Moccasins were both celebrating new albums that had been months if not years in the making. Any of that ring a bell?

And...February 24 is also the day Rocks Off asked our readers to tell us their choices for Houston's best music photographer. In June, we announced our ten finalists from a pool of more than 30 candidates, as chosen by a panel of three people with exacting knowledge of both music and photography. The array of candidates that have made it this far is impressive, to say the least. We encourage you to explore their portfolios under the links below. But what we finally wanted to know was -- with respect/apologies to Jerry Seinfeld -- who are these people?

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Houston's Best Music Photographers: Marco Torres

Back in June Rocks Off brought you Houston's ten best music photographers, as selected by a small panel of insiders and professionals. Now we'd like you readers to choose the best. Before voting opens, though, here's a little more about our finalists, in alphabetical order -- and a lot more of their spectacular photography. Best of luck to all ten.

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Photos courtesy of Marco Torres
Pretty Lights
Rocks Off: Tell us a little more about yourself.
Marco Torres: I've documented my city's rich music and art scene since 2004. As a Mexican-American, I grew up listening exclusively to corridos and cumbias at my parents' home in Houston's East End neighborhood. I attended Jesse H. Jones Senior High in Houston's South Park district at the height of the DJ Screw era, and my love for Houston Rap music was born.

I give credit to my high-school band director, Mr. Ronald J. Cole, for introducing me to and teaching me jazz, funk, blues and soul music. I've been working as a paid photographer since 2009; it was my side gig for years as I worked a day job at a bank. I have been freelancing full-time now since May 2013.

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The Best Things We Overheard at Untapped Houston

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Photo by Nicholas Zalud
By Jack Gorman and Angelica Leicht

"Wait. This isn't cider. I thought this was cider. This is beer. Like, beer beer. Oh, God...GROSS!"


Cute woman with a dog approaches a couple hanging out in VIP:
** "Hey, there. So which beers have you guys liked the best so far? Oh, I'm with the fest, by the way."
** "Oh, uh...wait, what? You're with the feds?"
** "No, man. I'm with the FEST. THE FEST."
** "Oh, thank God. I was about to have to jet!"

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