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Clockwork Angels

Veteran rockers Rush brought their steampunk-themed concept album to Toyota Center December 2.

Live Shots

Most bands could never manage to come up with a concept album, let alone more than one. And certainly, any band that did have the chutzpah to make a concept album for their nineteenth release wouldn't think of doing it nearly in its entirety on tour.

Most bands aren't Rush.

Despite being more than 40 years into their tenure as rock and roll's most underappreciated (yet still insanely popular) nerds, bassist Geddy Lee, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart still found a way to keep things fresh during their two-hour-plus show at Toyota Center.

Geddy Lee and Rush's latest tour leaned heavily on their synthesizer-heavy 1980s albums.
Groovehouse
Geddy Lee and Rush's latest tour leaned heavily on their synthesizer-heavy 1980s albums.
Dave Brubeck on the cover of 2003's The Essential Dave Brubeck.
Dave Brubeck on the cover of 2003's The Essential Dave Brubeck.
Mason Lankford (second from left) says he will one day leave Houston behind.
Katie Rentfro
Mason Lankford (second from left) says he will one day leave Houston behind.
Sometimes, Les Heinemann admits, he does get peed on.
Creg Lovett
Sometimes, Les Heinemann admits, he does get peed on.

But this was not a show for the casual fan, as the band played almost all their latest release, the steampunk concept album Clockwork Angels, a bit differently from their hit-laden previous show in Houston in 2010, when they did their best-selling album Moving Pictures from start to finish.

Much of Rush's success is owed to the fact that the band has always chosen to go down its own path, and this night was no different, from the multiple drum solos to the string section (a first for a band that has always prided itself on playing everything as a three-piece, despite some seriously complicated keyboard arrangements).

Perhaps most surprising was how heavily the show leaned on songs from the band's synthesizer-laden series of albums in the 1980s — a period that caused some fans to grumble at the absence of guitars. (Lifeson has even said this wasn't his favorite era for the band.)

But from the opening, "Subdivisions" from 1982's Signals, through "The Big Money," "Force Ten," "Grand Designs," "Territories" and "The Analog Kid," it was apparent the direction the night would be going. Even "Bravado" and "Where's My Thing?," from Roll the Bones, were included in that first hour, broken up only by Moving Pictures single "Limelight" and "Far Cry" from Snakes and Arrows.

But what Rush may have lacked in some of the older classic hits, they more than made up for with their rendering of Clockwork Angels. Even though this was their last U.S. tour date, the band seemed relaxed and focused on "Caravan," "The Wreckers" and beautiful closer "The Garden." Fans ate it up, singing every lyric and mimicking every drum fill.

The sound and light show, as per usual with Rush, was an integral part of their performance, particularly the Clockwork section. The stage set, videos and animations leaned heavily on the steampunk influence of the album artwork. A video featuring the band dressed as gnomes pranking a tax collector opened the string of songs from the record, and the multiple video screens, limited pyrotechnics and a massive lighting rig were all characters, filling out the plot of the story.
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Miles-Tones

RIP DAVE BRUBECK
The "Take Five" jazz composer/bandleader was 91 years old.

By Chris Gray

Dave Brubeck, the professorial jazz pianist and composer whose No. 2 album Time Out was a standard of the Mad Men era, died December 5 at age 91, according to the Associated Press. Brubeck's manager, Russell Gloyd, told the AP that Brubeck died of heart failure on his way to a cardiologist's appointment near his home near Hartford, Connecticut. He would have been 92 the next day.

Brubeck was born on December 6, 1920, in Concord, California, the son of a cattle rancher and a mother who taught piano lessons. In college, where he intended to study veterinary science, the head of the zoology department told him, "Brubeck, your mind's across the lawn in the conservatory." His inability to read music caused a minor scandal at the school, now known as the University of the Pacific.

In WWII, Brubeck served in General George S. Patton's 3rd Army, and escaped the Battle of the Bulge by volunteering to play at a Red Cross-organized concert. The regular jazz group he formed shortly thereafter, known as "The Wolfpack," was one of the first examples of racial integration in the U.S. military.

When he left the service, Brubeck studied at Oakland's Mills College with jazz-loving French composer Darius Milhaud. His albums from the 1950s, such as Jazz Goes to College, were enough to land him on the cover of Time in 1954, the second jazz musician to be so honored after Louis Armstrong. (Brubeck said he would rather have seen Duke Ellington on the cover.) He also worked in A&R for Bay Area label Fantasy Records, which later released Creedence Clearwater Revival's albums, and helped discover West Coast jazz artists such as Chet Baker.

Named for its unconventional time signatures, Time Out featured "Take Five" (written in 5/4 time, with a distinctive alto-sax riff played by Paul Desmond), which reached No. 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary Top 10 in 1961. Its success led Brubeck's quartet to release several other albums that made use of irregular time, including 1966's Time In. "Take Five" became his best-known tune, although other Brubeck compositions such as "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "For All We Know" were also popular.

In 1959, the same year Time Out was released, Brubeck's quartet — which at the time was the most successful jazz group in the United States — performed with the New York Philharmonic, and he would glide easily between jazz and classical for the rest of his career.

In the '80s, Brubeck began composing sacred music following his conversion to Catholicism, the subject of his final album, 2010's Sacred Choral Works. He was given a Kennedy Center award in 2009.

Brubeck, who was 85 at the time, performed at Houston's Temple Beth Yeshurun with the Houston Chamber Choir in December 2006.
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When Publicists Attack!

FLACK JACKET
Some of 2012's funniest (and strangest) PR e-mail subject lines.

By Craig Hlavaty

Rocks Off gets at least 6,000 e-mails a week.

Aight, it's more like 30 a day, I guess, more if it's SXSW season or the holidays, or if my co-workers get into a rousing conversation about chicks in one of our nightlife slideshows.

Out of all those e-mails, we may gleefully respond to a dozen, and delete most after just reading the header. The ones we respond to are mostly about new albums, toys, interview opportunities or advance screenings.

And yes, a lot of PR folks send us invitations to shows thousands of miles away , or write us and breathlessly tell us about "national tours" with only seven dates — Chicago, NYC, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Duluth and Denver — that we should really write about. It's cool, we get that the PR world is hella crazy.

But some of the subject headings we get stop us in our tracks, and we have to forward them to our fellow journalist friends out of sheer hilarity. Sometimes we end up sending each other the same ones.

I got a MONO tattoo in college, and now I'm working their tour

Yeah, well, I got a Rolling Stones tattoo in college and that won't get me free tickets to any of their shows in 2013, now will it?

Article: Young Pop Star Gives Advice

"Blog: Perturbed Rock Writer Bounces Rent Check."

Your Karaoke Houston Digest

I ain't gonna hate on you Friday- and Saturday-night superstars. Do your thing, guys.

Death Metal & a porn star

Sold and sold and sold forever.

The Ultimate Doo-Wop Show Comes to Stafford Centre

You should see me. I just disappeared like Wile E. Coyote in those old cartoons and I am lying down typing this in a tent in front of the Stafford Centre.

NIDINGR: Greatest Of Deceivers Details Revealed

If you look at this sentence really quick...never mind.

Moscow's "Michael Buble" heads to the Big Apple to launch CD — announces upcoming concert with Jennifer Lopez

At least Canada and the United States don't need to suffer alone, and you would think there would be a Russian Jennifer Lopez by now.

Cheaper does not exist anywhere

What an existential brain teaser. Does not exist anywhere. Does not exist, anywhere. Cheaper does not exist, nor is it anywhere.

ONE DIRECTION "LIVE WHILE WE'RE YOUNG" PREMIERES TODAY -- UNAUTHORIZED LEAK OF MUSIC VIDEO BRINGS FORWARD PREMIERE OF BRAND NEW SINGLE "LIVE WHILE WE'RE YOUNG"

ALL CAPS WITHOUT SPACES.

CASSEROLES are back

I can't remember if this e-mail was about a band named Casseroles or from a restaurant that was bringing back casseroles.

Signs That I'm Trying To Break Up With You, In Order Of Increasing Intensity

How did this e-mail get in here? I thought I told her never to e-mail me at my work address.
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The Rocks Off 100

NEXT OF KIN
Folk Family Revival leader Mason Lankford joins the Rocks Off 100.

By Jef With One F

Who: Mason Lankford is the young songwriter behind many of the tunes performed and recorded by the Folk Family Revival. The band's debut, Unfolding, was an amazing collection of spiritual and moving Americana tracks that was easily one of the best albums of 2011. Since then, he and his band of brothers (plus Caleb Pace) have kept on a regular schedule of concerts, including one alongside Willie Nelson at a 5,000-strong show.

Next year the Revival will be branching out into other states, like Arizona and California, as well as returning home for another outing with Willie. The big news is that the group has begun recording another album. Considering how unbelievable Unfolding was, especially with songs like "Fallin" and "Chasing a Rabbit," it'll be a tough act to follow.

Home Base: Folk Family Revival was one of the many bands to take advantage of the space available at the Magnolia Red record-label offices, but with producer Jeffery Armstreet now working out of Red Tree Studio and Katie Renfro managing the band from her Montrose home, the Revival is back in a shed they call "The Space Station."

Lankford declines to name a specific venue he favors in Houston, noting only that any day he wears a yellow shirt onstage is a good day. A good deal of the time, you can find the Revival alongside Magnolia Red labelmate Shellee Coley at Dosey Doe in The Woodlands.

Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I love Houston, but I don't plan on staying here," says Lankford. "I think Earth is a pretty big place and I wanna see it all. I wanna live everywhere and travel everywhere else. Houston is where I grew up and started my career, but as soon as I get the chance to move anywhere else, I'm gonna take it."

Best Show Ever: "Probably our CD release party," Lankford says. "It was the first show that felt really magical. That being said, I feel like we do better than the last one every time we perform. So I guess the best answer would be our last show in Corpus Christi at House of Rock with Wanda Jackson."
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Only in Houston

JOLLY OLD ELF
Baybrook Mall's Santa Claus is also a bluegrass star.

By Creg Lovett

Les Heinemann has played Santa Claus at Baybrook Mall in Friendswood for 13 seasons now. Somebody told him that by December 25 of this year, he'll have had almost 300,000 children sit on his lap and sort out their Christmas lists.

I first met Heinemann in 2001 when I worked at Baybrook part-time, and we'd chat on our lunch breaks. Les discovered that I'm from Kentucky, which usually leads to a conversation about basketball, horses or bourbon. Instead, I discovered that Santa loves bluegrass.

Back at his home in Colorado, Heinemann leads a band called The Florissant Fossils Bluegrass Band. They're on Facebook and have a sweet ReverbNation page with a handful of songs. "I'd Like to Trade All My Troubles," "Barefoot Kids from Long Ago" and "Blue Virginia Blue" are about as fluent and well-recorded as anything you'll ever hear.

They've played all over the place for a long time now, both at bars and at parties, but Florissant Fossils are a big festival band now, too. They even had a minor hit, something like No. 13 on the bluegrass charts, over in Europe. No, really, it's true. I've been trying to get them to play Houston for years, but it comes down to money. A six-man band that sounds this good doesn't travel light.

Heinemann hasn't seen Todd Waite play Crumpet the Elf in The Santaland Diaries at Houston's Alley Theater. He's lived it, and people ask him about it from time to time. They ask him to come to their Christmas parties after hours, but mostly they ask him to whisper in their ear, "What does my child want for Christmas?"

By the end of most days, he's got a pile of Christmas lists handwritten in crayon. Some are typed and printed, and some come with Christmas cards, candy canes or baked goods. Heinemann has seen all the crazes go by his lap: The Furby, Tickle Me Elmo, *NSync and Dora the Explorer, to name a few.

He doesn't get peed on every day, but it happens, and Heinemann takes it in stride. The show must go on. That's not what bothers him, anyway. You don't get hugs from 300,000 kids without having a heart, and it doesn't come without heartbreak.

Heinemann says he wishes he could communicate with the autistic kids and hear their wishes, too. He sees them every year, and hopes things get better for them soon.

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