Tom Jones at House of Blues, 5/4/2014

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Tom Jones
House of Blues
May 4, 2014

If, as Lord Nelson once remarked, our reputation precedes us, then Tom Jones' rep must enter the room a couple hours in advance. It would at least partially explain the 90 minute wait time between the doors opening at the House of Blues and his eventual entrance.

What gets lost in all the tales of tossed undergarments, tight pants, and famous flings is the fact that Jones really is one hell of a singer. After a brief career downturn in the late 70s/early 80s, has been a steady touring presence, and if Sunday night's stop at the HOB was any indication, the 74-year old has no intention of slowing down.

Judging by the number of panties tossed on (or near) the stage, that's probably a good thing.

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UPDATED: Liberty Hall Founder Michael Condray Recuperating After Brain Surgery

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Photo courtesy of Bob Novotney
Michael Condray (far left in white t-shirt) and the staff of Family Hand
UPDATE (April 11, 2:15 p.m.): According to Lonnie Brantley, Condray will be released from ICU this afternoon.

I last saw Michael Condray five years ago at his home outside Porter. I was working on a story about his legendary Houston venue, Liberty Hall, where Bruce Springsteen found his first success in Texas and where a budding guitarist named Billy Gibbons would occasionally work out. Condray loaned us some significant photos for that article.

One of the quiet giants of Houston's music scene in the late '60s and '70s, Condray is in Hermann Memorial Hospital following an emergency brain surgery to relieve pressure Wednesday night, according to an email from his friend Lonnie Brantley.

Brantley added that Condray is suffering from both brain and lung cancer, and is in dire condition. Informal vigils are planned for this weekend.


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Five Post-Hardcore Bands Who Should Get Back Together

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Poison the Well's You Come Before You
Living in the end times, every band who ever played music and had ten fans is scrambling to get back together before it's too late. Or, at least before the gravy train stops and people get tired of nostalgia. That being said, we've seen some great ones make their return, especially in the post-hardcore genres.

Just in the past few years, we've been blessed with a return of At the Drive-In, Refused, Hot Snakes, the Jesus Lizard, Murder City Devils, Hot Water Music, and Quicksand. But there are still more we want to see, and these five need to hurry up and jump on the bandwagon while they still can.


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Do Genres Have an Expiration Date?

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Dance Gavin Dance's Acceptance Speech
Whenever you buy a carton of milk, it comes with a lot of important information on the packaging. It tells you its nutritional facts, its location of origin, and, perhaps most importantly, its expiration date. Sure, you can usually tell just by the smell, but it's generally a decent arbiter.

Does music work the same way? Some forms of it are seemingly indestructible. I'm not sure the guitar will ever be completely abandoned, no matter how popular music programmed on a computer gets. Still, it might be true when we're discussing sub-genres and micro-genres, because some of them go sour fast.


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Depeche Mode at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 9/18/2013

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Photos by Groovehouse
Depeche Mode
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
September 18, 2013

People talk about how improbable it is that Keith Richards is still alive to tour with the Rolling Stones, but for a time there in the mid-'90s, it seemed equally unlikely Depeche Mode would ever hit the road again. Singer Dave Gahan suffered a heart attack (in 1993), attempted suicide, and finally had to be revived by paramedics following a heroin overdose in 1996. Richards may have been an addict longer, but to my knowledge he has never had to be brought back from the dead.

Of late, DM has settled into a familiar cycle, releasing new albums every few years and embarking on lucrative tours. Of course, as with most bands whose peak years are well behind them (and whether they like it or not), Mode is largely a nostalgia act. Folks who abandoned the group circa Ultra may not even be able to name their recent efforts (hint: the latest is the Violator-ish Delta Machine). But really, who cares? None of that matters much when you're arguably the greatest electronic band of all time, having influenced everyone from a-ha to Rammstein.

Besides all that, Gahan's been clean for quite some time now. And if Wednesday night's show is any indication, he's back at the top of his game. putting on a sinewy, animated performance that was in diametric opposition to a certain other lead singer's as he and fellow DM lifers Martin Gore and Andy Fletcher held a steamy CWMP crowd in the palms of their black-lacquered hands.

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The Top Five Stunt Queen Antics From Last Night's MTV VMAs

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Can we just rename last night's MTV VMAs the MTV JTMAs? Cause really, now. Mr. Justin Timberlake dominated that stage the entire night, even with Lady Gaga warbling off-key and Miley Cyrus grabbing at her crotch every two seconds. It was teh impressive.

JT performed a medley of what seemed to be every darn hit out of his catalog, and even pulled off that rumored 'NSync reunion, albeit momentarily. The beautiful thing about Mr. Timberlake is that even with the near twenty minute set, he managed to pull off some flawless vocals and dancing, which really led us to believe the dude can do anything and should be schooling all the young'uns on how this pop star thing is done. He's a pro, and he deserved those moon men he received.

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Top 10 Yo Gabba Gabba Musical Guests

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Want to hear the Shins teach a bunch of magical, mismatched creatures about the virtues of trying, trying again? What about Weezer? They're making friends with bugs, and they're making songs about it. No, we're not stoned, sillies...we're just watching Yo Gabba Gabba, and we think you should too.

If you're a parent of a small child, you may already be familiar with the sheer insanity of Yo Gabba Gabba. If you're not a parent of a small child, but you sit around baked, eating Cheetos and watching children's shows (not that we would know anything about things like that), you may also know of Gabba's high awesomeness factor. Either way, we're glad you know how great Yo Gabba Gabba is, because we think it's great too.

That being said, there's not much more to this whole blog equation. Yo Gabba Gabba, which earlier this week announced a December 8 Bayou Music Center stop on the YGG live company's "A Very Awesome Yo Gabba Gabba Live! Holiday Show" tour, manages to teach life lessons without being mind-numbingly boring. The show has some of the best musical guests around to sing about clowns and balloons and why you shouldn't bite your friends, which are things both children and adults should know.

Because we like the idea of life lessons being taught by Devo and the Roots, we've done you the favor of watching all these Gabba musical guests, ranked below in order of their cool points. It's that simple.

Here ya go. These are are the Top 10 Yo Gabba Gabba musical guests. Be prepared for awesome.


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30 Years of the Melvins Is Not Enough

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Dale Crover, left, with the Melvins
In the annals of alt-rock, pretty much nobody can lay claim to a longer, stranger trip than the Melvins. Since 1983, the ambitious, eclectic godfathers of sludge have traversed enough territory both creatively and geographically to buckle the knees of even the most dedicated touring acts. Along the way, they've managed to inspire nearly as much music as they've written, picking up new fans and friends at seemingly every stop.

Next week, the group swings through town on a trek celebrating its 30th year in business, a span that has seen the release of more than 20 studio albums and virtually ceaseless touring through every two-bit burg with a stage. It's been a tad more than drummer Dale Crover bargained for when he joined up with Buzz Osbourne in alternative rock's heady DIY days, but certainly not more than he could handle.

"It's actually only been 29 years for me," says Crover, who joined the Melvins just as they were beginning to gain a modicum of traction in their home state of Washington. "I'd seen the band play in Aberdeen before -- the very small town where we're from. And I thought they were kind of cool; probably one of the only bands in town doing original music.

"We had a mutual friend in Krist Novoselic," he continues. "They were looking for a new drummer and Krist brought those guys over to my house and they asked if I wanted to join the band. Here we are almost 30 years later."


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The 10 Cheesiest '80s and '90s CD Commercials

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In the ever-changing landscape of modern music, it's easy to forget that all those relics of our collective misspent past in the days that will henceforth be referred to as "pre-MP3" or some such thing. You know, back when you had to buy music and you couldn't just check Pitchfork to find out what new albums were out and you didn't have an app to tell you what your favorite song on the radio was. All that's going away, but maybe what we here at Rocks Off miss the most is advertising.

You might think that sounds stupid, but millions of people tune in to the Super Bowl every year just for the ads. We're a consumer culture, obsessed with the latest thing being sold to us. Watercooler talk is what our latest purchases are and what we're planning to buy soon. So it's really not so strange that we're sad that we'll never see those hilarious, stupid commercials from the '80s and '90s trying to sell us CDs again.

However, thanks to YouTube, we can revisit the cream of the crop.


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A Half-Decade Under the Influence: The Best Emo Albums, 2001-2005

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Photo by Matthew Keever
Taking Back Sunday at Houston's House of Blues in July 2011
Roughly ten years ago, the emo genre progressed from its underground roots into a calling card for early-'00s rock. And while there's no denying that bands like Rites of Spring and The Promise Ring helped pioneer the sound, the turn of the millennium saw emo transform from into a lifestyle for the decade's misfits, much like New Wave and grunge did for previous generations.

Nowadays, it seems like many might like to forget it ever happened, but the emo subculture of the 2000s was about more than androgynous-looking teenagers with weird haircuts. In fact, the decade actually produced some albums that have managed to stand the test of time, even if that's just nostalgia speaking.

Rocks Off could probably go on a long walk down memory lane, but if we tried to list every modern emo band, we'd be here forever. Instead, we've compiled some of the genre's most important albums, along with a little report card for one of the most polarizing genres in history.


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