The 10 Best Local Concerts of 2014

Photo by Marco Torres
The Geto Boys huffed, puffed and brought the house down.
93.7's "Welcome to Houston" Party
Arena Theatre, February

When 93.7 The Beat premiered early this year, you could tell that the station really wanted to establish itself in the local hip-hop community and forge a connection with Houston listeners. And the reason you could tell is that they called up just about every famous Houston rapper they could get on the phone and put them on a bill together, calling it the "Welcome to H-Town" concert.

Not only did the stunt give us some strong sets by the likes of Z-Ro, Paul Wall, Slim Thug and Lil' Keke, but it also provided the best local Geto Boys performance in more years than anybody was really willing to count. If there were any radio execs in attendance who showed up needing a crash course on Houston hip-hop, they went home with at least an associate's degree. NATHAN SMITH

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The Five Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Lauryn Hill, Andrea Bocelli, RL Grime, etc.

Photo by Marco Torres
Lauryn Hill in 2012
Ms. Lauryn Hill
House of Blues, December 9

One of the biggest question marks coming into this past Free Press Summer Fest, Ms. Lauryn Hill emerged instead as one of the weekend's biggest surprises with a Sunday-afternoon set many fans said was one of the weekend's best. The ex-Fugee and multiple Grammy winner's 1998 masterpiece The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill remains a hip-hop/pop/R&B lifestyle manual for loads of young women, and although she's lost a little of her loose-cannon live reputation, it's safe to say Hill will never be accused of being boring onstage, either. CHRIS GRAY

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Weekend: Usher, Jessica Hernandez, Atomic Opera, etc.

Photo by Marco Torres
Mr. Excitement: Usher at Toyota Center in 2010
Toyota Center, December 5

A master showman and entertainer, Usher is so far at the top of pop music's pecking order his only real peers are Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars. Now 36, the epicenter of Atlanta's urban-music diaspora has been making records for a full 20 years, has been a star since 1997's My Way and a superstar/mogul since demanding the whole world yell "Yeah!" six years later.

Blessed with the ability to craft silky slow jams and sweaty dance-floor workouts with equal skill, Usher has also logged a couple of seasons as a mentor on The Voice and collaborated with a host of top-shelf producers on 2012's sleek Looking 4 Myself. His next album, tentatively titled UR, is said to be nearing completion. With August Alsina and DJ Cassidy.

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Remembering Dale Brooks, Early Houston Punk Videographer

Photo courtesy of Ella Tyler
Dale Brooks, center, with "Robot" Burtenshaw (left) and Ted Barwell at Brooks' 2013 wedding
When the first wave of punk swept through America and Britain during the rather moribund mid-1970s, it became so fertile because punk was inclusive, participatory and democratic. Into its ranks swept musicians, fashion designers, artists, radio personalities, photographers and writers, as well as filmmakers and documentarians.

Dale Brooks, who passed away on November 19 at his home in Marble Falls (age 60), was a seminal character from those times. I met him while he filmed the Island reunion gig a few years back, and Brooks' audiovisual skills and vision helped propel local acts like the Hates into the video age and caught touring acts like the Dils during their rare, short-lived jaunts into middle America. Though Brooks was a longtime supporter of electric cars, eventually becoming president of the Houston Electric Auto Association, today Rocks Off would like to shed light on his forays into local music.

Like many, he began his pursuits by preparing well in advance of punk's zero hour.

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Family, Fans Boogie Down to Remember Elroy

Photos by Marco Torres
Gone but never forgotten...DJ Elroy Boogie was remembered at Boogie In The Park.

Saturday afternoon at Bear Creek Park, family and friends gathered to remember Roy Samano, better known as DJ Elroy Boogie of The Almighty Krackernuttz at the Second Annual Boogie In the Park. Rocks Off photographer Marco Torres was on hand to capture the highlights.

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The 5 Best Concerts in Houston This Week: Common, Ryan Adams, Brown Sabbath, etc.

Daniele Dalledonne via Flickr
Common performing at London's O2 Arena, 2007
Warehouse Live, December 2

The most natural heir to Curtis Mayfield's legacy of socially conscious and intrinsically soulful Chicago music (sorry, Kanye), Common doubles down on this year's Nobody's Smiling, tackling his hometown's record-setting epidemic of gun violence head-on. That's not all that's on his mind -- he even drops in a reference to Hell on Wheels, the AMC historical drama he's starred on since 2011 -- but the way he seethes with righteous anger on "Kingdom" and "No Fear" is a reminder that when he on his game, Common is one of the best MCs in hip-hop. Has been for a while, too. CHRIS GRAY

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Houston's 10 Best Dance Clubs

Photos by Marco Torres
Note: this article originally appeared on July 24, 2014. Happy Black Friday!

Grooving to the beat is all well and good and all, but sometimes when the music burrows deep into your veins, there's only one way to unleash that energy...and that is to get down on it, shake your bombon and boogie. Houston is filled with a plethora of dance meccas, where our fellow citizens go to forget the stress of life and get sweaty on the dance floor, one club anthem at a time.

In order to create this list, we pulled from our own experience of covering the nightlife scene in the H, and also surveyed our social-media friends for their input in order to create a more well rounded selection. Thus, we present to you Houston's Top 10 Dance Clubs 2014.

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The 10 Best Concerts in Houston This Weekend: Randy Rogers Band, Supersuckers, etc.

Photo by David McLister/Courtesy of HBPR
The Randy Rogers Band is also playing New Year's Eve in Beeville, if you're up for a road trip.
Randy Rogers Band
House of Blues, November 28 & 29

About at a year ago, the Randy Rogers Band and a tribe of their soon-to-be-hoarse Hill Country fans gathered at the legendary John T. Floore's Country Store outside San Antonio for two nights of sawing fiddle, steamrolling drums and overdrive guitars. The weekend was captured on Homemade Tamales: Live at Floore's, two discs and nearly two hours of choice RRB cuts like "Better Off Wrong," "Buy Myself a Chance," "This Time Around" and a generous portion of tracks from 2013 studio album Trouble. As a gift for the Red Dirt fan in your life, it almost beats actual tamales.

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The 25 Best Songs About Houston

Ron Riering via Flickr
Lots of songs down here...
Note: this article originally appeared on October 24, 2014. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bobby Bare, "I Can Almost See Houston From Here"
One of the great homesick songs, Bobby Bare infuses this one with downtrodden ennui as he pines for the warmness of his old hometown. Usually veteran Houstonians are forced to deal with some newbie from Portland telling us all the things that are wrong with the Bayou City, so this one is a refreshing twist; Bare pines to get back to his old hometown and leave the Denver cold behind. It also contains the drop-dead perfect honky-tonk realization: "Funny how much better I can see without my pride." WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

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Houston's 10 Best Bars for Out-of-Town Guests

If you don't recognize this register, we're glad you're here. How long are you in town?
Note: this article originally appeared on October 3, 2014. Happy Thanksgiving!

So you've got out-of-towners coming in -- old friends, relatives, business prospects from Minneapolis, Titans fans in for a hit-and-run NFL weekend, or whatever. Now the burden is upon you, the local-scene guru, to show them the town. You've told them how great Houston is, how much you enjoy living here, and recently every national publication on the planet has supported you in this assertion.

So it's put up or shut up time. Whether they're sophisticates from Boston, San Francisco or L.A.; denizens of uber-cool bike-friendly enclaves like Seattle, Portland, Santa Fe or Brooklyn; or just your long-lost cousins from farms in Iowa or Kentucky or oilfield burgs like Midland or Tulsa, the pressure is on to show your guests that Houston isn't a swampy version of Sodom and Gomorrah or some sizzling, humid, un-zoned urban hellhole where we drive down Main Street firing semi-automatic assault rifles on the way to our oil wells and cattle ranches.

So here are some tips. First of all, unless they are the straightest, most boring, megachurch-attending Stepford people ever or here with an unlimited expense-account/"business promotion" boondoggle, don't take them to trendy new upscale places where the ice in the drinks costs more than valet parking, and valet is the only kind of parking you'll find. Your money would be better spent drinking a can of cheap Sofia Coppola champagne out of a hooker's high-heel shoe on Irvington Blvd. at 4:30 a.m.

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