Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms & Fastball at Arena Theater, 8/17/2013

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Photos by Jim Bricker
Why are all these people onstage during Smash Mouth's set?
Under The Sun Tour
Feat. Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms & Fastball
Arena Theater
August 17, 2013

The '90s were an interesting time for music, especially in the realm of pop. It was an age of one-hit wonders, and as a band it seemed like it took a whole lot more than that one catchy song to keep you on the map. Saturday evening at Arena Theatre featured an onslaught of 90's bands that were good enough to take that next step and not fizzle off with the rest of the Aqua's and Baha Men.

In a show billed as the "Under the Sun" tour, Arena's spinning stage hosted Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, Gin Blossoms and Fastball -- a grouping of bands responsible for more hits than you'd probably realize. Over the course of three hours, these four bands had no problem bringing the '90s nostalgia to full tilt.

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Kanye's "New Slaves" Video Bomb: An Eyewitness Account

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Photo by Charne Graham
There he is...
Between his video premieres and SNL performances, Kanye West managed to confuse me in a good way all weekend. So it's Friday night in Chicago and I had planned my night of catching up on television shows I've missed all week. But I checked my Twitter and my timeline was filled with Kanye West tweets.

At first I'm thinking, "Shit, what did he do now?" but no, this time it was something good. Kanye tweeted that he was premiering his new video by projecting it on buildings across the world tonight. Several locations in Chicago were listed on Kanye's site.

I immediately started to grin an unstoppable grin and had my moment of being a complete fan, with lots of oh-my-gods, so I geared up for this treasure-hunt adventure Kanye set up for us. I chose to go to the University of Chicago location, which only gave the address of an intersection. This somewhat reminded me of that movie Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, where Michael Cera and Kat Denning's were looking for that band Where's Fluffy. The only difference was that I was on a mission to look at a Powerpoint presentation from Mr. West on a building instead of a live performance.


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Slip Slidin' Away: My Life as a Rock Journalist With the Houston Press

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
The author watching Free Energy at Fitz in 2011.
I had a hernia operation in the early summer of 2006, and had nothing to do all day but hobble around with cool cane a borrowed from Grandpa Hlavaty and play on the Internets for two months or so.

I had developed the injury while working at Domino's, but it was cool because their insurance helped pay for it, and the cool pills that came with the painful surgery.

That summer while trolling around on Craigslist for stray local writing gigs, I saw that then Houston Press music editor John Nova Lomax had put out a call for freelance music writers.

A-ha.


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The Best Hip-Hop at SXSW 2013

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Photos by Marco Torres
Snoop Lion premiered his movie, Reincarnated, at this year's festival... then rocked Lionfest at the Viceland showcase with Major Lazer.
I remember going to SXSW a few years ago without a place to sleep, less than $100 to spend, no agenda, badge, wristband, or RSVP. I bar-hopped up and down Red River, made friends, snuck into Stubb's, ate cheese pizza and drank Lone Star.

After years of busting my ass as a music photographer and writer, I've been upgraded to staying at the Hilton, carrying a music badge around my neck, and getting exclusive access and invites to the kind of parties, showcases, and backstages that most people can only dream about.

And you know what? Both experiences are equally amazing and fulfilling. Here is my list of the Best Shows of SXSW 2013:

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Austin, SXSW

Last Night: Sprint All-Star Jam Session Concert With Ludacris And Ke$ha

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photos by Marco Torres

Sprint Pre-Game Concert feat. B.O.b, Ludacris, and Ke$ha
All-Star Jam Session at George R. Brown Convention Center
February 17th, 2013

Sunday afternoon, as I was counting down the minutes until I had to leave an amazing All-Star day party, where I was making friends with a beautiful girl, drinking a beautiful drink, listening and dancing to beautiful music... I began to dread the news that I received earlier in the week.

The headliner for the Pre-Game concert was to be Ke$ha.

Ke$ha!

Not exactly the All-Star caliber of performer I was hoping for. I mean, she has a damn dollar sign in her name! I'm a grown ass man, dawg... I don't exactly wanna see a blonde, auto-tuned "singer" covered in glitter waving her private parts in my general vicinity.

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Last Night: Flogging Molly at House of Blues

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Angelica Leicht
Flogging Molly at House of Blues

Flogging Molly
February 17, 2013
House of Blues

Damn, I wish I was Irish.

So does half of Houston, apparently, judging by last night's sold out Flogging Molly concert at House of Blues.

Thanks to the salty sea-dog opener Skinny Lister (who deserve much more than my little mention; they were ridiculously entertaining), the crowd was bouncing and pushing before frontman Dave King and company ever made it on stage.

The Who's "Baba O'Riley" blared over the speakers during the interlude and forced the crowd into an impromptu dance party, and an idiot throwing Pabst cans riled up the crowd, which was already bordering on the point of explosion.

Flogging Molly, LA's seven-person Celtic punk band, who blend traditional Celtic, Irish, and Folk with ridiculously loud and boisterous punk music, create a sound that is super-charged with energy, and last night was no anomaly. When they hit the stage, they were definitely loud.

And awesome.

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From Ska to Eternity: A Quick History of Fueled By Ramen's Unlikely Rise to the Top

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Photo by Marc Brubaker
fun. circa March 2012.
There is a very good chance that fun. is going to walk away with at least one Grammy come Sunday night. As one of the handful of artists with six nominations to their name; the Brooklyn pop-rockers are odds-on favorites to at least win the smaller categories they're nominated in.

fun.'s rise to the top of the music charts is more than just the story of a small band making good; it's actually the culmination of an entire label's journey from the bottom to the top. Who would have predicted back in 1996 that Fueled by Ramen would ever have a band competing for the four biggest awards in music?

Yes, the very label that was co-founded by the drummer of Less Than Jake and put out all those Hippos, Animal Chin, Ann Beretta, and Impossibles records in the late '90s eventually grew up, forgot about ska, and moved on to bigger things.

What better time to get nostalgic than right before the label potentially reaches the mountaintop? Every label has its defining releases; consider this your Fueled By Ramen Hall of Fame.


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Hear the First Song Recorded On the International Space Station

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Commander Chris Hadfield, a Canadian Space Agency astronaut, is currently on the International Space Station, orbiting Earth. When he is not pointing at the windows of the ISS and screaming "Holy shit I am in space!" and doing various experiments meant to better mankind and science, he also plays guitar.

On Christmas Day, he recorded a "space folk" ballad called "Jewel In the Night" while everyone on Earth ate, slept, drank and opened presents. The dramatic tune was recorded as a Christmas carol to Earth, touching on the birth of Baby Jesus and the beauty of our planet from thousands of miles up.

You can even hear the humming of the ISS' internal workings during the recording. Hadfield also posted a clip of ambient noise from the ISS, which sounds a lot like a noisy airplane cabin.


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space

T.I. Unveils Trouble Man at Houston's Wire Road Studios

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photos by Marco Torres

T.I. is no Marvin Gaye. Or is he? Both men were blessed with supreme talent as musicians and songwriters. Both men exhibit an overflowing charisma and a flair for the dramatic. Both men chose acting as a supplementary alternative expression of their talents.

Both men were also cursed with an unfortunate capacity to seek out dangerous situations involving women, drugs, guns, and death.

In other words, T.I. just might be this generation's rap version of Marvin Gaye.
On a relatively warm December evening at Wire Road Studios in The Houston Heights, an eclectic group of rappers, journalists and fans were invited to a listening party for Trouble Man: Heavy Is The Head, the eighth studio album for Mr. Clifford Joseph Harris, Jr., better known as the Atlanta rapper and sometimes actor T.I. (or Tip).

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Rockin' Houston Site Is a Glorious Monument to Local Concerts Past

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Bruce Kessler's RockinHouston.com is quite simply the best collection of Houston's rock and roll concert past, period. Kessler, a former Pace Concerts house photographer, has amassed a database of every show that he and others shot in Houston from 1965 up until 2005.

The works of the late Larry Lent and James Townshend are also sprinkled throughout the site. Townshend, who passed away around 1990, shot Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones, no big deal. Lent passed away in 2000, and after he died, it was Kessler who went about bringing the departed photogs' body of work to light.

Kessler stopped shooting shows in 2005, but you can view his pictures all the way up to 1983 while he continues digitizing the rest of his archive. Right now he's working on 1984, including some killer Jackson reunion tour shots from the Astrodome. He has a long way to go until 2005, but it's a labor of love. Kessler wants the site to be a reference source for Houston rock fans and their kindred all over the world.

Kessler's mini-bio on the site reads like a Hollywood movie: Young, in love with rock and roll, and ballsy to boot. These days he's a lawyer in Downtown Houston.

Bruce learned all about access. Having never heard of a backstage pass - let alone a photo pass -- Bruce quickly learned from Larry how to gain better access to the front of the stage by impressing concert promoters or road managers with his photo portfolio.

The site is a wondrous time-suck, with thousands of images of some of the greatest rock shows to come to Houston, at venues that have been long since torn down for the sake of progress. Of course Numbers and Fitzgerald's are still standing.

Did you know that Stevie Ray Vaughan played on the same stage that your local favorites play on every weekend?


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