10 Texas Bands That Don't Get Enough Credit

Categories: Texas Me

Photo by Mike Brooks/Dallas Observer
Baboon rocks out at Dallas' Trees in 2011
Baboon has a rare gift for squeezing the dense guitars and brawny drums more often heard on post-hardcore records into bittersweet pop-rock tunes. Some of Weezer's better albums mine the same territory, but for our money this Denton-based crew had better songs, especially on 2002 personal favorite Something Good Is Going to Happen to You Today. Once badly burned by the same label that unleashed Creed on the world, Baboon have largely curtailed their recording and touring activities, although they still play out in the Metroplex from time to time.

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Ranking ZZ Top's '80s Videos

Screenshot via Locke Bryan Productions
Those seeking a tasty holiday treat need look no further than Billy F. Gibbons' new Fiesta ads; our favorite is the one where the ZZ Top singer/guitarist breaks down his recipe for homemade tamales while wearing an adorable "BFG" apron. It's obvious the camera loves the right Reverend, and it's not exactly shy about winking at his bandmates Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, either.

The Top has been laying low while Hill recuperates from the fall that sidelined him with an injured hip last September, a few days before the band was scheduled to play the Cynthia Woods Pavilion with Jeff Beck. (Make-up date is May 2, by the way.) Anyway, all of this is to say that those Gibbons spots -- we just caught the new "Christmas" one typing this Wednesday night -- got us thinking about all those great videos ZZ made back in the '80s. From there it was a short hop to all the ones that maybe weren't so great, but have retained a certain hairspray-and-Velcro charm. So happy holidays, all you sharp dressed men and women.

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R&R Hall of Fame Finally Admits Stevie Ray Vaughan

Categories: Texas Me

Photo by Groovehouse
Rockin' Robin's famous Stevie Ray Vaughan mural
A great injustice in the eyes of many Texas music fans has been corrected with this morning's announcement that Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble have finally been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The late Texas guitar icon was elected in his sixth year of eligibility, long enough to make many fans wonder if he would ever make it in. According to the Hall's rules, artists become eligible 25 years after releasing their first album or single; although forming in Austin in the late '70s, Double Trouble did not make their debut recording until 1983's Texas Flood.

Results were announced early Tuesday morning. Also inducted this year were Green Day; the late Lou Reed; Joan Jett & the Blackhearts; Ringo Starr -- the last of the Beatles to be inducted as a solo artist -- soul singer Bill Withers; the Paul Butterfield Blues Band; and early Carolina R&B group the "5" Royales, whose songs "Dedicated to the One I Love" and "Think" later became huge pop hits for the Shirelles and James Brown's Famous Flames, respectively.

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Please Hold on While the Old 97's Are Moving

Photos by Violeta Alvarez
@Fidoz: Going to @Old97s tonight. Be jealous bitches.
Note: Dallas' alt-country heavyweights the Old 97's are doing a victory lap around Texas this month, performing their 1994 debut LP Hitchhike to Rhome front to back alongside with selections from this year's Most Messed Up -- now reaping its fair share of year-end accolades -- and the rest of the group's 20-year catalogue. Although Rocks Off's reviewer had to back out last-minute due to a family emergency, photographer Violeta Alvarez and a few of the 97's Houston faithful in the packed-out Fitzgerald's stepped in to pinch-hit at what turned out to be a perfect gig for their hometown bash at Dallas' Majestic Theater the next tight.

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Outdoor Texas Music Festivals: What Not to Do

Photo by Anna Hanks via Flickr
The Great ACL Fest Washout of 2013
Note: this article originally appeared on June 4, 2014.

Free Press Summer Fest dodged a pretty serious bullet this year. When festival officials announced that the grounds around Eleanor Tinsley Park needed to be evacuated around 2 p.m. on the Saturday of the festival, some of us who were there had visions of pandemonium at the exits and the kind of heavy rains that would have had leftover props from Russell Crowe's Noah floating down Buffalo Bayou. But we were spared a direct hit from the weather and while the evacuation spawned a ton of predictable social-media carping, all in all everything worked out OK once everyone (finally) got back into the park.

Indeed, FPSF went on to have a pretty successful weekend, eventually drawing hordes of people, especially Sunday, and officially selling out for the second year in a row. No doubt the FPSF folks in the golf carts and production trailers could have done without the close call, but all the same, this near-miss couldn't help but remind us of a few other outdoor Texas festivals some people would probably rather forget. (Note: why are we re-running it in November? Haven't you already started to feel that familiar FPSF itch yet?)

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James McMurtry's 10 Best Songs

Categories: Texas Me

Photos by Shane McCauley/Conqueroo
James McMurtry will release his first album in seven years in February.
Decades from now, when social anthropologists look back on which musicians most accurately and articulately captured the plight of the dwindling American middle class in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, they'll surely home in on the brilliant Austin songwriter James McMurtry. Rivaled only by Jason Isbell in his ability to construct compelling tales of small-town pathos without sounding patronizing, McMurtry doesn't exploit his characters or paint them in overly dour strokes; even his meth-heads have a good time here and there.

But off-the-grid life isn't an excuse for McMurtry to sing about lakefront bonfires and Daisy Dukes. Such backwoods blowouts are the stuff of Music Row fiction, filled with trucks, cans (both containing beer and affixed to chests) and one-night stands. Yet for as flawed as the protagonists in his songs can be, you'd still much rather spend time with them than the buff bros and babes by the beach.

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Willie Nelson at House of Blues, 11/18/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
There's only one Willie.
Willie Nelson, Billy Joe Shaver
House of Blues
November 18, 2014

See enough Willie Nelson concerts, say at least a half-dozen, and you'll really start focusing on the little things. Sure, the set list may not change much from show to show, if at all, but each one that comes around makes the subtle variations applied by Willie and family stand out that much more.

Plus, these are songs like "Whiskey River," "On the Road Again" and "Georgia On My Mind" we're talking about, so it's not wise to look a gift horse like that too closely in the mouth anyway.

Tuesday night at a sold-out House of Blues, the biggest question going in was whether the atmosphere would be as fragrant as the previous evening's Method Man/Redman/B-Real blunt brigade, and Willie's fans more than held their own. There was some pretty powerful herb being passed around for sure.

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Houston's Historic Starday Records: The Earliest Singles

Handbook of Texas Online/Texas Historical Foundation
Houston businessman Harold "Pappy" Daily's sons Don and Bud founded Cactus Records in 1975.
In 1952, Houston jukebox operator and record distributor Harold "Pappy" Daily and Jack Starnes, Lefty Frizzell's manager, formed their own record label. A combination of both men's names, the tiny Starday actually began recording operations in Starnes' house in Beaumont and released its first 45, Mary Jo Chelette's "Gee It's Tough To Be 13" b/w "Cat Fishing," in early 1953.

Over the next five years, Starday went from a bedroom operation to one of the most important regional labels in the country. Along the way, it would serve as a regional springboard for the popular new craze known as rockabilly as well as a label noted for its roster of important regional artists and eventual national country stars.

Daily and Starnes released 16 singles in their first year of operation, and seem to have skipped over No. 8 and No. 13, as no information is available on those series numbers. Several of these were by the same artists, as it was not unheard of to release several singles per year to feed the bulldog that is mainstream radio. While only one of the tunes from the first year caused much of a ripple outside the Gulf Coast area, they do give a fascinating representation of the sounds that certainly filled local joints and radio stations, and also offer a measure of how much talent there was in the local market.

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The Best and Worst of ACL Fest, Weekend 2

Photos by Julian Bajsel
Note: this article was updated at 8 a.m. Tuesday, October 14, to add Ivan Guzman's contributions.

Best 17-Year-Old Who Rocked
Oh Lorde! This lovely New Zealand native is the real deal, and stole Weekend 2 with her windpipes, big hair and humility. The crowd at the Retail Me Not Stage was one of the largest of the festival, with everyone in awe of this youngster's performance and singing along. She even sprinkled in an amazing cover of Kanye's "All Of The Lights."

Lorde said ACL was her last show on her first world tour, and asked the crowd to "cheer louder than you have ever cheered before" as a token of appreciation of her crew. I'll take a Lorde performance over Iggy Azalea any day of the weekend. MARCO TORRES

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A Dozen Houston Highlights From Austin City Limits

Categories: TV Party, Texas Me

Photo by 33stradale via Wikimedia Commons
Lightnin' Hopkins' mojo hand was still plenty strong at his 1979 Austin City Limits appearance.
Austin City Limits wasn't always a cultural institution, nor a repository of some of the finest musical performances ever committed to videotape. In the show's earliest days it was an unusual experiment even for public television, and creator Bill Arhos and his staff did not have the benefit of the sterling reputation it enjoys today. But now, among musicians, ACL is arguably the most coveted booking on the airwaves, perhaps even more prestigious than Saturday Night Live.

Back then, though, the now-retired Arhos was program manager of Austin's PBS affiliate KLRN (later KLRU). He had read Jan Reid's 1974 book The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock and hatched an idea that he might be able to base a TV show around the scene surrounding Austin's Armadillo World Headquarters. That near-mythical nexus of the post-'60s counterculture and traditional Texas values (with tasty nachos, too) was conveniently personified in Willie Nelson, who appeared in Austin City Limits' 1974 pilot episode. Arhos somehow convinced KLRN and PBS to sign off on a series, and ACL was born.

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