Judas Priest, Nas, Death Cab for Cutie and Girl Talk Top Fun Fun Fun Fest 2014 Lineup

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Photo by Marco Torres
Fun Fun Fun Fest is not the biggest festival in the world. It doesn't draw the biggest names. It's not a hub for celebrity activity, although Val Kilmer did show up once.

But true to its name it is fun, and if you ask me (let's pretend that you did) it's the best festival of the year, the shining light at the end of a long festival season.

But hey, enough of the romanticizing- tickets for the 2014 installment of Fun Fun Fun Fest, taking place November 7th to the 9th, go on sale tomorrow (Tuesday) at 10 a.m. Check out this years lineup.

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The Rocks Off 200: Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash

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 Tony Noons
Who? For all its strengths as an international city, Houston has been suffering through a real dearth of quality homegrown roots-reggae acts for years. And one of its very few talented female artists in the genre hardly ever plays out around town.

That would be Kyra Noons, also known as Neutral Sister. About a decade ago, Kyra and her baby sister Bianca were known as the Neutral Sisters, and were tapped by some to cross over into the pop marketplace. Eighteen months apart in age, they were featured in an August 2003 Houston Press cover story, around the time their album Live N Direct was released.

Aiding the Sisters on the album (produced by John "Pops" Dowling) were Sly N Robbie, the famed Jamaican bass-and-drums duo who have backed artists from Beenie Man and Grace Jones to No Doubt, Michael Franti and Sting. Live N Direct is still available on iTunes, and well worth seeking out; both the sisters' strong vocal interplay and the rubbery grooves hold up exceptionally well.

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1,100 Beers, 31 States: One Young Kiwi Band's Summer-Long Odyssey

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Photos by Kotone Taniguchi/Courtesy of Night Gaunts
New Zealand's Night Gaunts
This summer, indie bands everywhere booked out-of-town gigs, loaded up the van and hit the open American road in search of new fans and more success. They racked up miles and formed impressions of the places they visited. Few crossed an ocean, drove 15,000 miles or put as much trust in total strangers as the ska-punk band Night Gaunts.

From June through August, the band traveled from Auckland, New Zealand to play dozens of U.S. shows in 31 states. Now that they're safely back home, they've opened their travelogue to share their impressions of touring, the modern music industry and America circa 2013.


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The Best of iFest's Second Weekend: Aaron Neville, Sergent Garcia, Grupo Fantasma, etc.

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Photos by Jody Perry
Aaron Neville
After four certified platinum albums and a few Grammys, Aaron Neville -- now 72 -- would have had every right to hang it all up years ago. Instead, to the delight of fans, the New Orleans soul singer found himself performing at iFest this weekend in support of his fourteenth studio album, My True Story, his first release in seven years.

Clad in a white button-down, blue jeans and with a beige fedora atop his head, Neville closed down the World Music Stage early Sunday evening, crooning to the horde of listeners that had gathered to hear and see the legend for themselves, eventually getting everyone to snap their fingers and dance along. He performed plenty of his own songs, including "Hercules," "Don't Go, Please Stay" and True Story's title track, peppering his set with renowned classics such as Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and Ben E. King's "Stand By Me."

If Sunday's performance was any indication, Neville's still got soul to spare, and he won't be slowing down anytime soon. MATTHEW KEEVER

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Acts You Shouldn't Miss at iFest's First Weekend

Rocks Off asked our staff members who will be covering the Houston International Festival for us this weekend to give us one or two choices for artists they don't want to miss.

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Photos courtesy of Houston International Festival
Bootsy Collins
Forro In the Dark
Bud Light World Music Stage, 2:30 p.m. Saturday/Center Stage, 6:30 p.m. Saturday

As one of the first acts to hit the iFest stage, Forro In the Dark provides an early exposure to the delights and diversity of Brazilian music. The group should be an enjoyably educational introduction to the "forro" musical style, a dance-happy amalgamation of rhythms primarily powered by the interplay of guitar, flute and percussion.

In a decade of playing on its home turf, the New York-based but Brazilian-rooted group has built a fervent fanbase that includes David Byrne, who sang on two songs on the band's debut album. MICHAEL POINT

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RIP Ravi Shankar, Sitar Pioneer and Beatles Buddy

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One of the greatest musicians of all time has died. Ravi Shankar, sitar legend and easily one of India's most revered cultural ambassadors, passed away Tuesday afternoon at age 92 in San Diego.

According to ZeeNews, he had been having trouble breathing and was admitted into the hospital last week.

Mr. Shankar is survived by his wife Sukanya and two daughters, sitar player Anushka Shankar and Dallas-bred singer-songwriter Norah Jones. Yes, that Norah Jones.


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Crappy Ringtone Tumblr Makes Indie-Someone's Music More Crappy

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For the past two months, New York City-based composer/songwriter David Nyman has been turning back the clock and making MIDI versions of popular and current indie-rock and hip-hop jams.

His Tumblr page, where he unloads his Soundcloud clips of these tiny wonders, is getting very popular, and was showcased by Internet timesuck saviors Gorilla Mask this past week.

One of his most recent opuses is a MIDI version of Chamillionaire's "Ridin' Dirty", which reminded me of what it felt and sounded like to have one of those great, indestructible Nokia phones. Remember the snake game??


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5 Rising Stars In the K-Pop Invasion

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Said to be a product of South Korea's robust economy, optimism and cultural pride, K-Pop has taken over the eastern part of the world and is now making its mark in the West. K-Pop really made a hit in American pop culture this past summer, with the rapid online spread of Psy's "Gangnam Style." That video was released on July 15, and by the end of August had reached the No. 1 position on YouTube's Top 100 Music Videos chart with more than 9 million views per day.

In September, Psy was signed to Schoolboy Records, the U.S. label also home to Carly Rae Jepsen and Justin Bieber. Now, this past weekend, "Gangnam" surpassed Bieber's record for most-viewed YouTube video of all time at more than 820 million times and counting.

"Gangnam Style" is essentially about big balling in the affluent Gangnam district of Seoul, while the "horse-riding" dance move featured in the video is now a staple on dance floors worldwide. But Psy is hardly the only dynamic K-Pop performer out there. For your curiosity, here are a few other K-Pop upstarts with all kinds of style.


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A Texican in New Orleans: Lessons Learned from Jazz Fest

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Photos by Craig Hlavaty
This past weekend was the last for this year's edition of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which started way back on April 27. The festival runs over two weekends, usually Thursday through Sunday. Obviously, since it is a uniquely Nawlins institution going back to 1970, it's not a festival that can be re-created just anywhere. Also, with that age comes experience.

My job means that I get to cover tons of festivals. Huge tentpoles like Free Press Summer Fest, Vans Warped Tour, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Houston International Festival, Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and the new electronica-geared Identity Festival are some of my favorites. I would still like to see Chaos In Tejas in Austin, and finally hit up some of those crazy British countryside deals like Glastonbury and Reading.

Forgive my lateness, but Jazz Fest was a whole new animal to me, but I think I will be visiting this one more in the future.


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iFest: Top 5 Argentine-American Musicians

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Play-N-Skillz
The Houston International Festival enters its second weekend tomorrow, with featured musical acts WAR, Joe Louis Walker, Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, Texas Tornados, Del Castillo, Steel Pulse and lots more. Although iFest's performers come from all over the world, all around the main stages will be the sights and sounds of its featured country, Argentina.

Rocks Off is still a little sore that iFest didn't book Buenos Aires's answer to the Clash, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, but we're sure they did what they could. It looks like LFC is at least still together, so maybe one of these days.

Of course the national music of Argentina -- national obsession, even -- is tango. You'll hear plenty of tango Saturday and Sunday, including splendid accordionist Hector del Cuerto returning for his second weekend. But Argentina is a big, diverse place, and plenty of Argentines -- either native or Argentine-American -- have distinguished themselves in more contemporary fields of music. Some of them have done quite well for themselves on these shores.


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