Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment
The Suffers have Houston's best stage show because there's so much to look at: cucumber-cool keyboardist and bandleader Pat Kelly; steady-rollin' drummer Nick Zamora; guitarists Kevin Bernier and Alex Zamora; bassist Adam Castaneda; a three-man horn section doing that old JBs side-to-side; "Chapy" Luna going to town on all manner of percussion — congos, timbales, bongos and more — and of course Kam Franklin up front, a singer whose voice is as bodacious as her Afro. The multiple Houston Press Music Awards winners have so much going on onstage at any given time, they're as fun to watch as their intoxicating Island-flavored stew of reggae, rocksteady, ska, R&B and a whole lotta Gulf Coast soul. And even still, the Suffers' stage show is not even kind of close to the action they create on the dance floor.
It's hard to imagine that we're less than three years removed from Robert Ellis's stint playing Whiskey Wednesdays at Mango's and then Fitzgerald's. From that small but loyal fan base — and even earlier in previous band Eyes Like Lions — Ellis has seen his star deservedly rise on the shoulders of his 2011 New West Records debut, Photographs. Along with his 2012 move to Wimberley and eventually Nashville, that year also saw Ellis nominated for an Americana Music Award for Best Emerging Artist alongside eventual winners Alabama Shakes. While all the praise being poured on Ellis is enough to make Houston proud, it's a damn shame you can't find Ellis at Fitz on a weekly basis anymore.
This past summer, the Blaffer Art Museum, nestled on the University of Houston campus, paid the hefty sum of $2.3 million for total reconstruction surgery, and the money was incredibly well spent. The facade evolved into a stunning windowed parallelogram, which both sticks out and enhances the lackluster brick buildings of UH. The interior space is now sprawling and bright, an open and airy dedication to the visual arts. Thin tubes of light cover the ceilings, making for a modern yet classy feel. On the second floor, a balcony overlooks the main gallery, which the museum is now dedicating to emerging artists. If you haven't been since the renovation, do yourself a favor and go.
Poets, novelists and essayists get rock-star receptions at Inprint's two popular reading series, the Margarett Root Brown Reading Series for adults and Cool Brains! for young readers. Authors scheduled for 2013-2014 season readings/onstage interviews and signing sessions include James McBride, George Saunders, Anne Carson and Khaled Hosseini. Past authors have ranged from internationally known Salman Rushdie to Daniel Handler, a.k.a. Lemony Snicket. Local writers aren't overlooked, with Houston talent including the city's first poet laureate, Gwendolyn Zepeda, appearing at Inprint readings.
Dedicated in 2006, this ceramic tile mosaic celebrates the rich history of Houston's Fifth Ward by featuring the faces of some truly amazing people who came from the neighborhood — Barbara Jordan, Mickey Leland and George Foreman. In a city known for bulldozing the past to make room for strip malls or townhomes, murals like this one — which reflect upon and teach about the area's cultural heritage — are all the more valuable. It's a remarkable piece of art and a reminder of a remarkable legacy.
Any dancer will tell you that there's a special connection that forms during the run of a performance; the intimacy and trust are necessary for a dance ensemble to be successful. Now put a group of dancers in the Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park and make them perform in the streaming fountain, and imagine the level of confidence they must have in each other. In "Natural Acts in Artificial Water," renowned choreographer Stephan Koplowitz and his initiative TaskForce created a masterful ensemble production based on the architecture, history, culture and ecology of the park, and the result was one of the most stunning collaborative dance performance pieces this year.