The Rocks Off 200: DJ B*Ryte, From VA To H-Town With Love

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 DJ B*Ryte
Who? Megan Bowie can flip her look on a dime. When she's not working in local television, she's DJ B*Ryte, a mixer who's found her home on multiple stages across the globe, but more recently on KBXX 97.9 The Box. She has a knack for bringing grooves together without being "sloppy" (in the words of OG Ron C) and has crafted plenty a late-night mix for listeners, not to mention break tracks from local artists and national mixtape cuts that usually take months to even arrive to some listeners.

Her arrival to Houston just five months ago didn't come without its fair share of detours. Bowie learned her craft at age 16 after entering college at Virginia's Hampton University.

"I had never been to a party or club before," she says, reflecting on the moment when she knew. "And when you're in college, you can use your college ID to get into everything -- regardless of how old you are because they assume you are at least 18. I remember going to my first party and looking at the DJ and watching the crowd.

"It was like, Okay, this one person is responsible for hundreds and hundreds, sometimes thousands of people's happiness. You have the ability to either make or break their night."

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The Rocks Off 200: Jess Walker, the Pride of Pride Houston

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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Photo by Hussain Najeeb
Who? Since 2012 Jess Walker has been slowly but steadily making a name for herself in pop music. Her voice is a potent combination of R&B/soul mixed with the high-energy electro-pop that Houston used to manufacture so well. It's standard dance floor fare, sure, but Walker has a penchant for classic production sounds that sets her apart from the flavor-of-the-day crowd. There's a difference between tricks and techniques, and Walker is the latter.

"Steady Pace," her most notable hit at the moment, is the best example of that skill. Walker wrote it for Venice: The Series, which was featured on the most recent Daytime Emmy Awards. The attention has her planning to jet out to Los Angeles for a fan event for the show and perform for the Hollywood crowd. She's become a true Houston pop export.


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The Rocks Off 200: Phil Peterson, AR*V All-Star

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 Phil Peterson
Phil Peterson outside Houston House of Creeps
Who? Rocks Off wouldn't say we know Phil Peterson that well, but we do know that he is one of the most unique personalities we've come across in our seven-plus years of covering the Houston music scene. Every time we run into him, which is at roughly every third concert where at least one local act is on the bill, Peterson is there and usually brimming with enthusiasm about one of the upcoming shows he's promoting.

So local musicians and bands, Peterson is a good guy to know, because he is a better conduit into the local scene than just about anyone else in town. Through his AR*V company, he promotes shows at grass-roots venues like Notsuoh and the Alley Kat, places that are (thanks to him) willing to take a chance on experimental or just inexperienced acts. He also has a hand in booking the heavily local multi-act/multi-venue festivals that have appeared in recent years such as the Main Street Block Party and Yes Indeed!, which relocates to the Continental Club/Big Top/Alley Kat Mid-Main compound next month.


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The Rocks Off 200: John Janatsch, Mayor of Houston Rock City

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 John Janatsch
That's Janatsch on the right
Who? We're never quite sure just how much our inner-Loop readers are aware of this, but people out in suburbia like to party. Like, you might catch a wicked cabernet buzz in the Heights once in a while or need a cab after a few craft beers too many at Hay Merchant, but out in the 281 some people don't stop until losing control of their bodily functions. Sadly, we just can't handle that shit anymore, which is why it's so nice to have people like John Janatsch Jr. around.

Janatsch, 45, is our man on Jones Road, and calls into the office every so often to let us know what is going down at BFE Rock Club, pound for pound our choice for the hardest-rocking venue in the Houston area. Some of its neighbors up north give it a pretty good run for the money sometimes, but BFE also tosses in a wrestling night here and there, so it's really not that close.


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The Rocks Off 200: Frank Ortiz, Synth-Pop Served Perfectly Frank

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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Frank Ortiz
Who? I've said it before and will say it again; Houston has an electronica scene that never gets anywhere near the recognition that it deserves: Bang Bangz, BLSHS and now I hear Asmodeus X is back on the move. Now you can add Frank Ortiz, who goes by the simple frank., to the list.

Ortiz cut his teeth on a Casio MT-500 he got for Christmas. His dad showed him the C, F and G chords, and he taught himself the rest. When technology improved, he teamed with some friends to form Paul Lynde is Dead (PLID) for live performances, but since that act petered out he has dedicated himself to writing solo.

Ortiz released the single "alibi" earlier this year, and hopes to have his first EP ready by September. He's currently working with Thomas Brigman on some collaborative synth-pop, and if his current work is any indication it's going to be good stuff.


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The Rocks Off 200: Optimo Ram, Online Radio Jefe

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 Optimo Ram
Who? "If it ain't local, it ain't live!" That is the mantra of Ramsey Allred, better known in the community as Ram -- Optimo Radio's chief, founder and CEO. His father was a record store owner from Port Arthur and his mother is a fourth-generation Houstonian.

"I grew up in my dad's record store, All Records, and got an appreciation for music at an early age," says Ram.

He fell in love with Houston rap after discovering the Geto Boys, then a friend opened up a freestyle studio in King's Flea Market when he was 15, which led him into rapping. "I was a rapper for a while, like everyone else in Houston, and once the idea of the radio was presented, I decided to quit rapping and play a position," he explains.


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The Rocks Off 200: Meagan Chambers, Don't Gag Her Gorgeous Guitar

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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Betsy Baker
Who? Gag Me, I'm Gorgeous is one of those bands that makes me sad I don't run a column on band names anymore because the name alone is thing of beauty. Over and above that, they have a unique sound that is truly difficult to describe -- a mixture of incomprehensible metal growls and progressive changes, mixed with a style of alternative rock almost like the Breeders. It honestly might be a bit too much, even for a city like Houston that breeds musical madmen like others raise dachshunds.

Part of that genius is Meagan Chambers, whose guitar style compares to everyone from Robert Smith to Tom Morello. She started out life as a band nerd playing the trumpet, but picked up the guitar in high school at the behest of a Bible study teacher who taught her hymns on an acoustic.


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The Rocks Off 200: Justin Nava, the Voice of thelastplaceyoulook

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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Photo by Marco Torres
Justin Nava with thelastplaceyoulook at Warehouse Live in July 2012
Who? It's hard to believe that it's been eight freakin' years since Justin Nava started thelastplaceyoulook, but it's true. He's one of the hardest-working men in all of Houston music, always on the go and showing up where you least expect him. He also has a voice like a pagan god, and we are lucky to have him.

Right now TLPYL is going through changes. Guitarist Derek Young is moving on, and thelastplaceyoulook plans to proceed as a four-piece. The space he formally occupied in the creative process is to be filled by more programming from Nava, who says he's excited to see where that takes him. Again nominated for Best Modern/Alternative Rock this year, the band has graciously agreed to perform at this year's Houston Press Music Awards concert August 7 at Warehouse Live. In addition, Nava is pursuing an acoustic solo act, restarting his old project Black Sex, and working on remixes with BLSHS. Busy guy.


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The Rocks Off 200: Donnie Houston, Halftime Entertainment

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
Donnie Houston during an interview with D-Solo of "Street Flava."
Who? Donnie Houston is a producer and DJ who, fittingly, was born and raised in Houston. This Houston Press Music Awards nominee (Best Producer) was first introduced to music by his mother and older sister, who played him all the music from their eras -- Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and other legends of the '60s and '70s from Mama Houston; Donnie's older sister chimed in with '80s hip-hop.

"I actually remember her going to the store with me and buying my first rap cassette," he says of Run-DMC's Tougher Than Leather album. "It's because of those influences that I eventually started DJing in around the year 2000 and later picked up producing in 2006."


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The Rocks Off 200: Chase Harris, Deep Cuts' Rather Deep Thinker

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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Photo by Lauren Holshouser
Who? Props to Deep Cuts' Chase Harris. Not only does he have a pretty astute bead on what goes on around the Houston music scene (as far as we can tell), he's the first person we've asked to join the Rocks Off 100/200 to give us five Desert Island Discs we've never heard of. He's also solved the mystery of Cat Power's odd behavior at Free Press Summer Fest 2013 for us. Well played, sir.

Harris' right-hand man in in the two-year-old group (a current HPMA Best Pop Act nominee) is his best friend/co-founder/collaborator Zach Alderman, with whom he's been tight since the two were four years old. If their band name somehow isn't a clue, Harris says he's been into music since about that age as well.

"I've loved music since I was a kid," Harris says. "My parents said when I was little I would go nuts listening to CCR's 'Susie Q.'"


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