Rest of the Best

Houston's top 5 local music venues.

Best of Houston

5. The Big Easy Social & Pleasure Club: Big it ain't. Easy and relaxed it is. But The Big Easy can also be one hell of a party. The James Reese Band, Luther and the Healers and The Mighty Orq are just a few of the local heavy hitters who regularly perform at this venue. The Houston Blues Society hosts monthly parties on site, and you may even spot a few roller-skaters cutting it up on the dance floor.

4. The Continental Club/Big Top: Local acts including Beatles cover band Beetle, Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man, Paul Ramirez Band, Glover Gill and Little Joe Washington make recurring appearances, keeping the Continental Club and its little brother two doors down, the Big Top, rockin' most every night. Both offer affordable drinks, a relaxed atmosphere and plenty of local charm, turned up a notch on themed-party nights such as the '80s Prom and "Discoween."

The Continental Club is a second home to a variety of popular Houston artists from Little Joe Washington to Beetle and Los Skarnales.
Jay Lee
The Continental Club is a second home to a variety of popular Houston artists from Little Joe Washington to Beetle and Los Skarnales.
Bahrain got a whole lot less fun when Andrew WK's trip fell through.
Bahrain got a whole lot less fun when Andrew WK's trip fell through.
The late Burl Ives is a Yuletide tradition for "Holly Jolly Christmas" and narrating the Frosty the Snowman TV special.
The late Burl Ives is a Yuletide tradition for "Holly Jolly Christmas" and narrating the Frosty the Snowman TV special.
Marco Torres

3. Cactus Music: Not only is Cactus Music one of the last true record stores left in our city, it's also home to plenty of live music. Local acts perform regularly, and touring bands often stop in for a brief performance before their headlining shows around town. Members of local acts like Buxton and Wild Moccasins even work there. While you're there, sift through the records and CDs – not only does Cactus showcase live acts, it gladly sells local music as well. Lots of it.

2. Fitzgerald's: This historic site has become Houston's premier venue for smaller artists, both local and otherwise. From hard-hitting rap acts such as B L A C K I E, Fat Tony and Bun B to indie and folk-rock artists like the Second Lovers, Wheel Workers, A Sea Es, the Tontons and Young Mammals, Fitz's upgraded sound system blares some of the best local music our city has to offer. Even newcomers get their chance at the spotlight at open-mike night every Wednesday.

1. Mango's (Best of Houston® Winner, 2012): Head down to the little house at Westheimer and Taft any night of the week and you'll likely hear live music by a local band, ranging from a new ensemble playing for the first time to an established outfit honing its set. The venue never discriminates against genres, meaning that in a span of a few days (and sometimes even a few hours), you'll be exposed to anarchist punk, sludge metal, fragmentary singer-songwriters and high-decibel bizarro.
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Classic Rock Corner

BOLD AS LOVE
When Jimi Hendrix died too soon, what did we miss?
By Craig Hlavaty

Jimi Hendrix would have been 70 years old last month. Mind you, 70 isn't what 70 was just a few years ago. Now you can be 70 and be Paul McCartney. Ann-Margret and Raquel Welch are both over 70 and still smoke hotter than ladies younger than Raquel's first facelift.

Born November 27, 1942, Hendrix died September 18, 1970, of asphyxia related to a drug overdose. At his age, he was obviously just warming up. We hope.

His influence is massive, lighting sparks in Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Lenny Kravitz, Eddie Van Halen, John Frusciante and P-Funk's Eddie Hazel, who some would say should rank next to Hendrix himself in terms of artistry.

When we asked Rocks Off's Facebook fans what they thought, some said Hendrix would have probably done jail time, recorded with Nickelback or Santana, or been a commercial sellout. Not necessarily in that order, presumably.

Another commenter made the point that had Hendrix lived, Eric Clapton's station as a guitar god would have been diminished. I honestly don't put them in the same master class, but to each his or her own. I think Hendrix was a lot weirder, or at least had a more esoteric future ahead of him than Clapton.

But then again...

What would his relationship have been with Prince, who more or less fused Hendrix's shit-hot licks with a 25-cent peepshow and a gang of synths? Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister once said that he had no use for Prince, since he had experienced Hendrix firsthand himself.

A tandem Hendrix and Prince concert, with Prince opening for Buster in arenas across the land? Sounds decent. A cameo in Purple Rain? Sure. Marauding America in the early '80s on twin purple motorcycles? Fuck yes.

That could have been Hendrix soloing on Michael Jackson's "Beat It," for Jesus' sake, instead of Eddie Van Halen. Coming out of a subway car in a long black duster, shades and spangly earrings, wrenching out a flawless solo that would have brought Nina Blackwood and Mark Goodman to tears on MTV.

We could have ended the Cold War, dammit.
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Current Events

PARTY FOUL
With Andrew WK out, who can show the Mideast a good time?
By Corey Deiterman

Thanksgiving weekend, the State Department shocked uptight old white people across the U.S. by announcing that Andrew WK, the partying expert behind such songs as "Party Hard" and "Party Til You Puke," would be bringing the party to Bahrain as a cultural ambassador. In the world we live in, this shouldn't be all that shocking. President Obama is practically a regular on The Daily Show, and the guy who played Kumar works for the White House Office of Public Engagement to this day.

Unfortunately, the uptight old white people who still run the State Department realized at the last minute that Andrew WK was perhaps not in line with their uptight old-white-people values. I mean, he's part of that rock and roll stuff, and hard partying is destroying our society. So they pulled the plug on his mission.

Mr. WK released his own statement November 27. Apparently he feels like the State Department "judged a book by its cover" and he "would've done a great job and represented our nation with dignity and pride."

Maybe so, but what if the reason State rejected WK was, in fact, not because of his hard-partying ways but because (hear me out) they thought he didn't party hard enough. I know, I know, you're asking yourself, "Who parties harder than Andrew WK?" Hardly anyone, true, but the State Department may seek out these few elite partying options in WK's stead.

Flea: I know what you're thinking: Flea? Yes, Flea. The Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist has, for better or worse, partied so hard that he's watched a good deal of his friends die from partying too hard. He lived and breathed the party for the majority of the 1980s, and it's a wonder the man made it out himself. Plus, the bass just makes the party. There's not a party in the world that couldn't be improved by Flea's bass line to "Higher Ground." Turn that one up and you're golden for a good time.

Diddy: Diddy is the ultimate celebrity partier. It's questionable if he goes as hard as Andrew WK does, but one thing Diddy does have is class and style. A Diddy party is lower-key than an Andrew WK party, far sexier and, dare I say it, debonaire. If the State Department requires a party that will still be epic but not quite such a raucous mess, they might look to Diddy instead.

Keith Richards: Here's the deal. Keef has partied harder than anyone has any right to while still being alive. He's probably seen things that would even make Andrew WK blush. Enlisting Richards would be like dropping a tactical nuke of partying into Bahrain. It would be the party to end all parties, and would only be rivaled if we were sending in the Keith Richards of the 1960s.
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Holidaze

JOY TO THE WORLD?
So this is five years of Sunny 99.1 Christmas hell.
By Craig Hlavaty

From 2011: "It's time to pass the torch and let someone else get Christmas on their shoes."

2012: And of course, no one stepped in to do this but me this year, which means that this is Year 5 with the blessed Christmas music melting into my ears over an afternoon. At this point, I would like to think of it as a yearly holiday party with myself, but with clothes on.

It's a time for me to enjoy my company with a cup of coffee, my desk fan blowing in my face, while me and I reflect on the past 11 months of being us. How dare Sunny 99.1 rip and tear me away from making my Best Albums of 2012 list like every other shut-in sad music writer in America? I didn't even think the Frank Ocean album was that special.

2 p.m.: Robin Rock is pumping up the volume this afternoon on Sunny. Luckily, the weather in Houston has cooperated to make listening to Christmas music bearable. Earlier, I saw a woman in a Rudolph costume walking down the street in front of the office.

"You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch" kicks us off this year. I wish Thurl Ravenscroft cursed more in this song. It would really drive the point home that this dude was an outcast green bastard bent on stealing Christmas. Also, what was the Grinch? What kind of animal?

"Joy to the World" by Mannheim Steamroller. The name of the group always bothered me more than the music. It could be this great metal band name, but instead your grandparents put this dusty disc on repeat at every holiday until you steal the rest of their pain meds from their bathroom cabinet.

"Twelve Days of Christmas" by Perry Como, who would have been 100 years old this past May, but he's not. He's dead. Once called the "King of Casual" by Bing Crosby, he never lived to see the Snuggie.

Jesus, "All I Want for Christmas Is You" by Mariah Carey. I was worried I would only hear you once this afternoon. I think I can listen to this song all year long, and not because I imagine a young, hot, lithe Mariah Carey in velvety Christmas getup cavorting under a giant lighted tree with bottles of whiskey as ornaments, either.

Same goes for "Frosty the Snowman" from Jimmy Durante. But I didn't spend my formative teenage years masturbating to Jimmy Durante. There are not enough crooners like Durante anymore, people who get by on more or less being drunk and near a microphone where an orchestra might be.

Speaking of crooners, here comes "The Christmas Song" by Michael Bublé, off last year's appropriately titled Christmas album, which sold more copies than most every other record in 2011, making it the year's second-best-selling. Yes, Adele was No. 1.

Oh look, "Sleigh Ride" by Johnny Mathis, a man whose albums infest thrift-store LP bins like roaches in Montrose apartments. I kid.

"Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" by John Lennon has gotten less happy and more depressing to me as the years go by. It must be Lennon's animated emoting.

And the award for Whitest Christmas Song Ever goes to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings" by Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan. Free puppies for all!

The station ID break just said that they are broadcasting from the North Pole. Man, I bet it was expensive moving everyone up north for a few months. Terrestrial radio has deeper pockets than we all thought. What a scam.

HOMESTRETCH. I am on my last five minutes.

Amy Grant is 52 years old? When did that happen? Oh, damn you, Vince Gill, for marrying her and sucking the life out of her. She needs a pop renaissance.

My annual hour of holiday tunes ends fittingly with "Mary, Did You Know?" by Rascal Flatts. Rascal Fartts. Rascal Fatts. Rascal Crapps. Raggle Fraggle.

Is it January yet??

NO.

It can't end like this. It won't.

Here comes Burl Ives to close me out the old-fashioned way, with "Holly Jolly Christmas."

Thank you, fat Christmas angel.
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Sonidos y Más

TRAGOS AMARGOS
The Top 5 overplayed songs at Mexican weddings.
By Marco Torres

Last month, Rocks Off contributor and all-around nice guy Jeff Balke enlightened us with a list of songs that are standard operating procedure at weddings. But as much as I love "Twist & Shout" and "YMCA," in my very Mexican experience, those songs were not what I was used to hearing when one of my hundred or so cousins got married.

DJs at Mexican weddings certainly have their own arsenal of go-to canciones to pack the dance floor, from huapangos to cumbias, rancheras y más. If you are ever invited to a wedding here in Houston or anywhere in South Texas, I bet this list accurately reflects that experience. So put on your pointy boots and listen up to the following:

Vicente Fernandez, "El Rey": Nothing says "Mexican Wedding" like Vicente Fernandez. Actually, Chente is appropriate for any Mexican occasion.

Maná, "Oye Mi Amor": A little rock en español for the youngsters will keep the party going.

Los Tigres del Norte, "La Puerta Negra": Los Tigres del Norte are like the Beatles of Mexico. They are adored for their songs of struggle, love and lust. I used to sing this song at the top of my lungs as a kid while my dad grilled fajitas and costillas in the backyard of our East End Houston duplex. Hearing this song at a wedding brings back so many memories of my dearly departed mother, who with the most beautiful smile would encourage me to sing, no matter how badly off-key I was.

"Carnavalito": Not sure how this one fits in, but this line dance is easy to learn, and somehow it works. Why this is played at Mexican weddings continues to baffle me.

"Tragos Amargos": At the end of the night, when the lights are turned on and everyone is looking for a designated driver, this is the song that gets played. A song of heartbreak and heartache, this gets you right in the feels. The perfect ending to a fun night.

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