Pachanga Tour w/ Los Rakas & Bomba Estereo at Warehouse Live, 9/12/2014

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Photos by Marco Torres
Pachanga Tour
Feat. Bomba Estéreo, Los Rakas, Bombón Houston
Warehouse Live
September 12, 2014

"Maaannn.... We've got a million stories!" proclaimed Raka Rich as we chilled in the Los Rakas green room at Warehouse Live last Friday night. Stories about meeting fellow Panameño musician El General at the "white people gym" back in Panama, how Scarface and Devin the Dude are their favorite Houston-based rappers, and how a bird mysteriously fell from the sky during the video shoot for their just released remix of Wiz Khalifa's "We Dem Boyz."

Within the last few years, Rich and his cousin Raka Dun have elevated themselves to the top of the Latin charts with their energetic and light-hearted mix of hip-hop, reggaeton and other Latino-Caribbean sounds. Their name is derived from the Panamanian slang "Rakataka," which means "hood rat" or "ghetto." By reclaiming the term and wearing it proudly, they provide hope to everyone who hears their hip-shaking and motivational tracks.

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Quantic Sways MFAH Crowd With Tropical Swing

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Photo by Marco Torres
Quantic Music
Mixed Media Series
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
August 22, 2014

About halfway through Quantic's set this past Friday evening amid the art of the MFAH's Cullen Sculpture Garden, DJ Sun shuffled excitiedly towards the area immediately behind the stage, dancing, hands raised up to Heaven and grinning wildly. "That's from my country!" he shouted at British-born DJ and producer Will Holland, better known as Quantic.

It was a special moment between the two vinyl enthusiasts, both of whom prefer to spin 45-rpm records without the crutch of a laptop. The song in question was "Opete Kwasi" by Suriname artist Sopiang Kawina. And not only did Sun dig it, but the crowd accepted it and every other selection that night with the upmost respect and energy as they experienced one of the most noteworthy DJ sets the city has experienced this year.

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Mario Rodriguez of Bang Bangz Talks Touring Mexico and Wonky Power

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photo by Michael Gault

The soul of a good musician is usually restless and ambitious, always ready to expand their sound and talent towards as many ears and hearts as possible. Houston is blessed with many such individuals, including Mario Rodriguez, the curly-haired, bespectacled, wonky frontman of the electro-pop group Bang Bangz. We caught up with Mario as he and the band prepare to embark on a week-long tour of several venues in and around Mexico City.

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Marco Antonio Solis at Toyota Center, 8/10/2014

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photos by Marco Torres
Marco Antonio Solis
Toyota Center
August 10, 2014

Hailing from the beautiful Mexican state of Michoácan, Marco Antonio Solis is the epitome of a Latino superstar. He is suave, romantic, talented and charming, equally comfortable singing a ranchera as he is a love ballad, dancing to a cumbia or swaying along with bachata. He creates his compositions, writes his own songs, and plays his guitar and timbales masterfully. Solis is a natural performer, and exhibits attributes that he was seemingly born with, not learned or faked. In short, he is what Pitbull and Enrique Iglesias wish they could be.

On a sweltering summer night in the City of Houston, Solis began his show about ten minutes past 8 p.m. Sunday, allowing his large band and orchestra to introduce him with a medley of his past and current hits. A white backdrop showcased video of past performances and music videos, leading into the first song, "No Puedo Olvidarla (I Can't Forget Her)." The crowd cheered loudly and illuminated the arena with a sea of cell-phone cameras.


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The Rocks Off 200: DJ Navo, Bombón's Boundless Body-Mover

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 by Marco Torres
Who? Alex Nava is the fair-eyed, jovial member of the Bombón Houston crew, born and raised here in Houston. His father moved here from Maracaibo, Venezuela in the '70s and his mother came to Houston from Halmstad, Sweden in the '80s.

"Musically, my mom had an ear for everything from salsa and hip-hop to R&B and soul," says Nava. "My dad would usually listen to popular salsa and Spanish singer-songwriter music. My older brother by six years [Justin Nava of thelastplaceyoulook] was involved in the Houston music scene at a young age and still is today. I grew up going to his bands' practice sessions to just hang out and listen."

It wasn't until Alex heard Squincy Jones' "Nintendub" album that he learned about Houston's DJ scene, which led to him attending the infamous Speakerboxx parties at the Mink/Backroom back in 2009. That's when he decided he wanted to DJ and produce music for the dance floor. He became DJ Navo.


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The Rocks Off 200: Chingo Bling, H-Town's Own Versace Mariachi

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 by Marco Torres
Who? His birth name is Pedro Herrera, but to the world at large he is known as Chingo Bling --and also the Versace Mariachi, the Ghetto Vaquero and a long list of other self-assigned nicknames. The Houston-based artist/entrepreneur has been performing since the early 2000s. Herrera also acts and does some comedy, which he says goes hand in hand with his character.


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Los Skarnales' 20-Year Bash a Show for the Ages

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Photos by Marco Torres
Los Skarnales
Fitzgerald's
June 20, 2014

It was hot, crowded, loud, and borderline dangerous. And it was damn near perfect. Friday night at Fitzgerald's, Los Skarnales showcased every ounce of heart and love their bodies and souls could disseminate, giving Houston a performance that will go down as one of the best the city has ever experienced.

The night began with the most player move of all, a mariachi band. It was only fitting as Mexican tradition dictates that most celebrations should include a mariachi band. And this...this was a celebration of 20 years, from a punk/ska trio called Desorden to the powerhouse band that fascinates crowds at music festivals. There was indeed much to be thankful for.


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Check Out Our Los Skarnales Family Tree

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Photo by Marco Torres
Jose Rodriguez, one of the original founders of Los Skarnales/Desorden.
"It was all pretty much an experiment" says John Garcia, the third original member of Desorden, the band that later evolved into Los Skarnales. "We had to borrow instruments and learned to play them as we went along. But hey, were really good at making loud noises!"

And so began the desmadre that would become Los Skarnales, with family and friends and friends of friends who just decided to have fun and play some tunes. The band celebrates 20 years tonight at Fitzgerald's, which is where I saw them play back when I was a senior in high school around 1997 and 1998.

You could tell right away that they were something special, something fierce and emotional, fueled by beer and the love for ska and punk music.


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Raucous Crowd, Latino Stars Enliven El Tri Watch Party

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Photos by Marco Torres
Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo of El Show de Piolín on SiriusXM Channel 147 hosted the event.
"A que venimos? A TRIUNFAR!!!"
-- Piolín

Piolín's Jugada Musical feat. Gabriel Iglesias and Intocable
House of Blues
June 17, 2014

When you interview someone who talks for a living, keeping him or her on topic is about as easy as winning the World Cup. In other words, it can take what seems like four years to get a word in. That was my experience last week when I spoke with Eddie "Piolín" Sotelo by phone in anticipation of Piolín's Jugada Musical which took place at House of Blues on Tuesday afternoon.

The Mexican radio-show host and actor spoke with a rapid-fire cadence full of jokes, idioms, slang and colloquialisms. Although I had about five or six questions on my notepad, it was much easier to just go with the flow and converse informally with him. We spoke about his childhood in Mexico and how fitness, music and soccer played a big part of his upbringing.

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The Pride of the Northside: La Mafia Celebrates Amor y Sexo

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Photos by Marco Torres
"Their music takes me back to The Unicorn Ballroom, dancing and drinking all night, really feeling the honesty of their sound" recalled my amigo Reverend Butter as we caught up over a few cervezas in the parking lot of The Gatsby (formerly the Drake) last night. "They are the band that made me fall in love with musica en Español!"

Every lover of Tejano music has a story about La Mafia. My own includes making mixtapes on cassettes in the pre-MP3 days, as well as dancing to their songs at the countless quinceañeras I stood in as a teenager in North Houston. From cumbias to corridos, huapangos, and their own special blend of keyboard-heavy modern norteño, La Mafia provided the soundtrack to backyard barbecues, long drives to visit family in the Rio Grande Valley, and the slow and low cruises down Irvington and Airline Drives on Sunday nights.


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