Zola Jesus Sings Some Very Modern Blues at Fitz

Photos by Jack Gorman
Rather than simply being a product of her influences, Zola Jesus transcends them.
Zola Jesus, Deradoorian
February 2, 2015

Zola Jesus is not an indie artist. She is not an electronic artist. She is neither an industrial, goth, nor an experimental artist. She transcends these silly, superfluous labels like David Bowie, Diamanda Galas, Prince and Kate Bush before her. She fuses together too many musical elements to be instantly referential, and in an age where any genre of music can be readily accessed, Jesus comprises every artist, musician and writer she has encountered in her brief existence.

Today's shrinking world creates artists whose influences are not so easily spotted, and the new blueprint for musicians reflects our changing times. The days when broadcasting limitations produced listener fatigue are over; KTRU, oh how we miss you on the FM airwaves! The once great risk of shelling out hard-earned cash on an album only to discover that the lead single was a classic bait-and-switch (see Clash's Cut the Crap, Queen's Hot Space, and Radiohead's Pablo Honey) has been gratefully replaced with enough access to information to make educated selections.

That technology has generated this era's current cast of musicians is unquestionable, and Zola Jesus is no exception. But for her to mention bubblegum pop, Throbbing Gristle and Kate Bush as influences all in the same breath is truly emblematic of the times.

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Family, Fans Boogie Down to Remember Elroy

Photos by Marco Torres
Gone but never forgotten...DJ Elroy Boogie was remembered at Boogie In The Park.

Saturday afternoon at Bear Creek Park, family and friends gathered to remember Roy Samano, better known as DJ Elroy Boogie of The Almighty Krackernuttz at the Second Annual Boogie In the Park. Rocks Off photographer Marco Torres was on hand to capture the highlights.

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Premium Goods Offers Premium Sounds at 10-Year Bash

Photos by Marco Torres
Bun B onstage with The Suffers
Saturday evening, 8th Wonder Brewery in EaDo hosted a party for one of Houston's most important cultural institutions: the sneaker and apparel boutique Premium Goods (2416 Times Blvd.) was celebrating its 10-year anniversary of existence, and invited a few friends to assist in the festivities. Rocks Off photographer Marco Torres was on hand to capture the highlights.

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Goatwhore at Fitzgeralds, 9/15/2014

Photos by Nathan Smith
Goatwhore, Venomous Maximus, Demoniacal Genuflection, Legion
September 15, 2014

Of all the days of the week, none are less metal than Mondays. The domain of alarm clocks and rent payments, Monday must necessarily be the sworn enemy of middle fingers and Jager shots. Nobody applies KISS makeup on a Monday. No one has ever gotten a skull tattoo on a Monday. If you're listening to heavy metal on a Monday, it's only because you listen to heavy metal every day.

It was these everyday-metal types who showed up to Fitzgerald's on Monday night, with not a part-timer in sight. The black-clad die-hards came to see Goatwhore, the long-running New Orleans headbangers who draw upon the entire, vast universe of metal to arrive at a sound forged in the rank heat of the Gulf Coast. But they were also treated to a fairly stacked bill of local talent on a night when, by all rights, they should have been at home in bed. And they weren't about to just stand around and clap politely.

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The Black Lips at Fitzgerald's, 9/11/14

Photos by Nicholas Zalud
Black Lips, King Khan and BBQ Show
September 11, 2014

Summer may be officially over in Houston, but that didn't stop Thursday night's crowd at Fitzgerald's from turning in one of the sweatiest shows of the year. Hell, when the Black Lips are in town, sweat should be the least of your worries. The Atlanta four-piece once cultivated a reputation for vomiting, pissing and swapping spit on stage, all (well, mostly) in the name of entertainment. These days they're better known for their raucous garage-rock tunes, but the threat of wild unpredictability still hangs in the air at their shows, urging their fans on to mayhem lest the band resort to ralphing once more.

Regurgitation wouldn't be necessary on Thursday. The bill was too good. There can't be too many better fits with the Black Lips than the Montreal duo King Khan & BBQ Show, who were greeted with nearly as much enthusiasm as the headliners by the crammed-in crowd.

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Los Skarnales' 20-Year Bash a Show for the Ages

Photos by Marco Torres
Los Skarnales
June 20, 2014

It was hot, crowded, loud, and borderline dangerous. And it was damn near perfect. Friday night at Fitzgerald's, Los Skarnales showcased every ounce of heart and love their bodies and souls could disseminate, giving Houston a performance that will go down as one of the best the city has ever experienced.

The night began with the most player move of all, a mariachi band. It was only fitting as Mexican tradition dictates that most celebrations should include a mariachi band. And this...this was a celebration of 20 years, from a punk/ska trio called Desorden to the powerhouse band that fascinates crowds at music festivals. There was indeed much to be thankful for.

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Failure at House of Blues, 6/11/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
House of Blues
June 11, 2014

It's only been a few months since L.A.'s Failure last appeared in Houston, but it feels like much longer. For dedicated fans, the band's set opening for Tool at Toyota Center was little more than a tease: most of the crowd was still trying hard to find their seats or simply get inside the building by the time Failure was wrapping up.

As teases go, though, it was a pretty damn good one. The heavy, spacey trio sounded sharp, slick and even a bit hungry -- not bad for a band back on the road for the first time in 17 years. The performance made the prospect of a full-blown Failure tour irresistibly tantalizing, particularly for the growing number of fans who discovered the group after their breakup in 1997.

On Wednesday night at House of Blues, those fans finally got what they'd been waiting a very long time for: a reunited Failure on the top of its game, playing all of the old tunes that should have made them rich and famous the first time around.

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Making Magic on the Beach at Hangout Music Festival 2014

photos by Marco Torres

"Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand. With an equal opportunity, for all to sing, dance and clap their hands."

-- Stevie Wonder

There is something absolutely incredible about music. The way it acts as a conduit of expression and celebration, attracting multitudes of people together in a united front of excitement and wonder, creating and releasing emotions from deep within the soul... it is nothing short of magical.

Those were the thoughts that I pondered as I walked along the white sandy beach of Gulf Shores, Alabama during the 2014 Hangout Music Festival this past weekend. With a cool breeze on my face and the sun at my back, there seemed to be a different vibe from what you normally find at a music festival.

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John Legend at Cullen Performance Hall, 5/4/14

photos by Marco Torres

John Legend
All Of Me Tour
Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston
May 4, 2014

"Gentlemen... I can't guarantee that you're gonna get lucky tonight, but I'm certainly setting you up good!" Those were the words of John Stephens, the singer-songwriter and pianist who has, in a relatively short amount of years, earned the right to personify his stage name: Legend. With a genuine smile, handsome but not overbearing good looks, and a litany of hits, John Legend is as true and real (trill) as anyone can be in today's modern music business. Who else plays his instrument with such intensity and mastery? Who else writes his own songs and produces his own arrangements? If we were to make a list, it would be surprisingly short. His talent is unmistakable, and his appeal unmatched.

Which is why it was such an honor to see his performance at Cullen Hall on the University of Houston campus. Every stop on the "All Of Me" tour was hand-selected to be, as my media pass read, "intimate, acoustic, and stripped down". By performing in venues that hold 3000 people or less, Legend makes the show feel more like a family gathering than a concert. Cullen holds about 1,100 in the lower level, and another 500 on the balcony. By the end of the night, we all felt like the most fortunate people in the entire city.

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Houston Celebrates Record Store Day in Grand Style

Photos by Jim Bricker
Record Store Day fans waiting to get into Cactus Music
Frustrated. Nervous. Tired. Anxious. Wired. Those are pretty much the only words to describe the numerous Record Store Day lines throughout town Saturday. Nope, tax day was four days prior so these lines were certainly not at your local H&R Block. These were the emotions of a quickly growing group of collectors lining up around town at their favorite record stores.

Record Store Day is the equivalent to a vinyl lovers' Christmas. For hours and hours, people line up outside of their favorite record store in anticipation of getting one or several of a limited release of specialty records made for just the day.

Towards the front of the lines people had no worries about not getting a specific record, but they had earned their carefree ability with an unprecedented time of sitting and waiting, but as the lines grew the hope for those at the back of them started to diminish. And for good reason. If you're 50 people back in line, and your record store has only three copies of a specific album, then most likely you're not going to get it. If you're 500 people back, you're definitely not going to get it.

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