Look Out, Boy DJs of Houston: Here Come the Girls

Photos courtesy of Here Come The Girls
At their first gig ever, a funny thing happened to Here Come The Girls.

The boys came running.

"It was a bit hectic getting all of the gear set up and we had guys coming up to us all night fixing our levels on the mixer," says co-founder Darenda Weaver. "We thought it was really funny because if it had been a male up there DJing, people would likely expect him to know what he was doing or tell him to fix the levels rather than touching his gear. It was just all in all a fun night, so we decide to book some more shows."

Since then, Houston's all-female DJ group has cut out the kinks and built up an audience from shows at MKT Bar, Eastdown Warehouse, Big Top Lounge and the like. This Sunday the group kicks off their second year together with a noon-5 p.m. showcase at Pop Shop Houston, 1657 Westheimer.

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A Fistful of Soul's Top 25 Solid Gold Tracks

Photo by Mars Varela/courtesy of A Fistful of Soul
The A Fistful of Soul brothers
If you're seeking a scene, maaaaaaaaaan, you could do a hell of a lot worse than A Fistful of Soul, the monthly where some of Houston's grooviest DJs drip rare (and not-so-rare) vintage wax all over Midtown. Now steered by Joe Ross, Stewart Anderson and Alex LaRotta, Fistful dates back to the Mink in 2009. It hopped next door to the marginally bigger Big Top some time later and soon enough spilled over onto the Continental Club patio, where it celebrates its fourth soul-spinnin' anniversary next Friday night. (Enter through the Big Top.) It's always no cover, and always all 45s.

"We get comments on that every time we play," LaRotta says. "We realize that some of our youngest patrons likely never grew up with a turntable in their house -- much less obscure soul/R&B 45s, so there may be some old-school DJ 'hipness' attached to our analog ethos."

This thing is a happening, we assure you. Recently Rocks Off asked the Fistful guys to come up with a list of their Top 25 tracks from four groovy years, only the tightest of the tight and the funkiest of the funky (but in no particular order). Dig it.

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Your 2013 Houston Record Store Day Rundown

Your financial situation be damned, Record Store Day 2013 is coming this Saturday, April 20, to drain your wallet of life and those little green pieces of paper.

This Saturday your dance card should be full with all the major indie record stores in Houston and the surrounding areas offering up giveaways and special RSD merch, along with their own in-store markdowns.

This year's RSD ambassador is Jack White, the veritable king of the modern vinyl movement, who loves wowing fans with oddball promotions through his Third Man label.

As part of the festivities this year, certain stores -- including Cactus Music -- will be showing the documentary Last Shop Standing: The Rise and Fall and Rebirth of the Independent Record Shop, based on a book by Graham Jones and directed by Pip Piper, centering on dwindling British shops.

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The Unsent Letter to Art Garfunkel I Found In a Record Sleeve

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This past weekend I went digging for records at some thrift stores near my parent's house in Pearland. Yes, the fella who wrote a blog about needing to pare down his record collection went looking for more to add to his pile.


Liquidating Your Record Collection Is Harder Than You Would Think

Inside a copy of Simon and Garfunkel's Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme I found an unsent letter to Mr. Art Garfunkel, one-half of the iconic folk-rock harmony duo, from a Sherry L. Jarrard of Dahlonega, Georgia, north of Gainesville.

The album, released in 1966, features the beloved cuts "Homeward Bound," "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" and "Scarborough Fair."

Sure, I have found cool things in the record sleeves of used LPs, and most record-store owners have stories about things they have found inside boxes of albums they have bought up.

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Exploring Sweet Spot Audio And Records In Webster

Sweet Spot on Facebook
A few weeks back, our own Marc Brubaker detailed ten of the best record stores in the Houston area. This past weekend I finally visited another one to add to your list of must-visit shops in Houston, and it is worthy of the drive if you live inside the Inner Loop.

Sweet Spot Audio and Records is located in Webster, at the corner of Highway 3 and Bay Area Boulevard, and is run by a husband-and-wife team from the area who retired and jumped into the record store business.


Houston's Top 10 Record Stores

Nigel Harrison first opened up Sweet Spot in League City two years ago, intending to make his store a sort of "Hallmark for men," but he soon shifted gears into audio components (turntables, speakers, receivers) and new and used vinyl. He still carries band shirts and other trinkets alongside the vinyl.

Sweet Spot is now the only true record store in the Webster/Clear Lake area, and Harrison has customers aged 14 to 75 he says, some who come from as far as Beaumont to visit.

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Heights Vinyl Celebrates One Year Slinging Wax

Photo by Allison McPhail
Craig T. Brown at Heights Vinyl
This weekend Heights Vinyl celebrates its first year of life with a big party at their shop on White Oak, just blocks from Fitzgerald's, featuring beer, food, giveaways, and performances from Electric Attitude, Brandon West, Come See My Dead Person and the Heights Boogaloo All-Stars, a band brought together by store owner Craig T. Brown.


Your Wallet's New Mortal Enemy: Heights Vinyl On White Oak

In an age when record stores are supposed to be shuttering, Heights Vinyl has proven industry numbers wrong by thriving, with brisk sales, great weekend crowds, a decent location and in-store performances almost every weekend. Along with Cactus Music, Vinal Edge, Sound Exchange, Sig's Lagoon and Black Dog, the shop a couple of doors down from Fitzgerald's is showing that Houstonians are still mad about vinyl and actually buying music.

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Not Fade Away Soundtrack Offers Up a Fistful of Blues, Stones

The fictional Twylight Zones from Not Fade Away
Not Fade Away, Director David Chase's period piece about a burgeoning rock band in the '60s, is still playing on limited screens in New York and Los Angeles, but this week preview copies of the soundtrack hit mailboxes. It is a sprawling double-disc, double-LP collection featuring vintage Rolling Stones, Elmore James, and James Brown cuts.

The L. A. Times seems to be saying good things about the film. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers likes it too.

The movie centers around The Twylight Zones, a fictional group from the Jersey suburbs who set out to make it big in the mid-'60s rock scene. The Zones' music is performed by a supergroup helmed by Steven Van Zandt and featuring Max Weinberg and Gary Tallent. You may recognize those names from another little band from New Jersey. In all, they contributed six Zones cuts, mostly covers.

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Happy 114th Birthday to Waldo Semon, Father of Vinyl

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The proper storage of vinyl records.
Yesterday, September 10, marked the 114th birthday of a man who helped introduce more people to music in the 20th Century than perhaps any other person despite never picking up an instrument or plugging in a microphone. Unless you're a serious chemistry geek, you've probably never heard of Waldo Lonsbury Semon, but you've almost certainly enjoyed the fruits of his labor. Semon is the inventor of the ultra-versatile chemical compound polyvinyl chloride, more commonly referred to among audiophiles as vinyl.

At least, he's the inventor of the elastic, durable version of vinyl that's now used to make just about everything. When Semon first started experimenting with synthetic rubbers back in 1926, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) existed already, but it was considered useless. Fresh off earning his PhD at the University of Washington, Semon went to work for BFGoodrich developing a new kind adhesive rubber that could be used to coat metal.

Semon's early efforts using reclaimed crude rubber were a failure, so he moved on to synthetic compounds including PVC, which was basically considered interesting trash back then. Because this early vinyl was stiff and brittle at room temperature, Semon heated it in a solvent with a high boiling point. The resulting jelly was elastic after cooling, and the chemist quickly realized he was onto something.

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Cover Story: Wanna See A Vinyl Record Get Pressed Before Your Eyes?

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This week's Houston Press cover story, "Playing For Keeps," dives into the world of vinyl records, with interviews with local collectors and shop owners who are helping keep the medium alive in the Bayou City. Research for this cover story took me as far north as Dallas, where I visited with A&R Records' Stanley Getz II, who showed me around his record pressing plant.

Our trip to A&R was highlighted by getting to see the Flaming Lips' Record Store Day release The Flaming Lips And Head Fwends -- which was pressed and completed at the Dallas plant -- before all 20,000 copies got ready to be shipped to record stores all over the country.

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Flaming Lips And Their Fwends Set To Weird Up Record Store Day

In a few weeks on April 21, Record Store Day is yet again set to obliterate the wallets of record collectors around the country, and the Flaming Lips will have quite a release for fans on that day. What would you think if I said that they have been recording with none other than Ke$ha, Bon Iver, Nick Cave, Yoko Ono and Coldplay's Chris Martin?

The Flaming Lips And Head Fwends, due on Record Store Day, is sure to be a big-money item in April. The double LP will easily be the most fought over release at stores. As the press release I received today adds:

[The album] will be pressed on two high-quality, multi-color vinyl discs housed in separate custom art jackets and poly bagged together. No two discs will look exactly alike. Once it's gone, it will not be repressed again...
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