A Full Dance Card
I live too far away from the coasts to care about Coachella all that much and have done far too much time in both the ACL and SXSW trenches to get too excited about anything that happens in far west Houston anymore. So instead, I have started looking forward to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's annual entertainer lineup announcement, which came early January 7, much more than any piece of news regarding those other three festivals.
But like other critics do with those three events (sometimes obsessively), I have come to enjoy reading each year's RodeoHouston lineup like tea leaves to see what it "says," not only about the rodeo itself and the State of Music in 2013, but the city of Houston as well. And the 2013 talent could be the strongest lineup in the rodeo's history, almost across the board.
I assume tweens will do what tweens tend to do and be delighted with the Demi Lovato/Austin Mahone twofer. This year's classic-rock spot, Styx, might make some people laugh, but the Styx that came to The Woodlands in May of last year showed an abnormal amount of pizzazz and theatricality for the graying-rocker set.
This year's country artists are either at the top of their profession or some of the hottest rising stars in Nashville. I personally think Jason Aldean comes off as a massive tool, but he owns the rodeo's current single-night attendance record. Toby Keith might not be to my taste either, but the man can sell some Ford pickups, not to mention albums. Respect to the moneymakers.
Kenny Chesney I have made peace with after last year's Reliant Stadium show and his cutting Charlie Robison's "El Cerrito Place," by one of my favorite Texas songwriters. (More on that in a bit.) Kenny's then-tour partner Tim McGraw won me over for good last year with the unstoppably awesome "#TRUCKYEAH." The old, old men of the bunch, Alan Jackson and Gary Allan, are right as rain.
Among the younger set, Lady Antebellum may not be all that country, but musically and emotionally speaking, who could really argue with Fleetwood Mac in cowboy boots? The Band Perry are verging toward crossover-hit territory themselves with "Better Dig Two," and both Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley wouldn't be in country music at all if not for Waylon Jennings.
Brantley Gilbert shares the same sort of predilection for hard rock as Aldean without seeming quite so odious about it. Only Luke Bryan is a little meh, mostly because I thought his "Country Girls (Shake It for Me)" was the one country song that most needed to go away last year.
More to the point, country takes up only two-thirds of this year's rodeo, 14 nights out of 20. The rodeo's diversity is spreading. Mary J. Blige has already given one of the greatest shows in Reliant Stadium history at 2010's rodeo. And there's already no question that Go Tejano Day, with banda up-and-comer Julion Alvarez and norteño veterans Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon, will sell out. The real question is whether the rodeo should consider adding a second Go Tejano Day, maybe during the week.
In a way, it already has. Pitbull may prove to be one of the smartest bookings the rodeo has ever done. The Miami singer/rapper manages to squeeze pop, hip-hop, Latin music and big-beat EDM into one family-friendly perfect storm, a "long, hot and frenetic dance party," as our own Marco Torres wrote of Mr. Bull's August 2012 Woodlands show. Bruno Mars is likewise brilliant and may prove to be the most electric rodeo performer since The Jackson 5 all the way back in 1973 and '74. Seriously. He's got a lot of Michael in him.
In fact, the only thing — only, only, only thing — the rodeo lineup is short on is somebody from its own backyard, or rather the Texas country/Red Dirt universe. Unlike past years, which have featured Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, Kevin Fowler, Eli Young Band and Miranda Lambert, this year's rodeo is 100 Texan-free, right up until the Sunday-night concert-only performance with George Strait, Randy Rogers Band and Martina McBride. (That show is an option for rodeo season-ticket holders.)
It would be wrong to read too much into this. No doubt it's a scheduling issue as much as anything else, and three or four of those artists could well be in the 2014 lineup. And The Hideout, the no-cover on-site saloon where the liquor flows and the two-stepping goes, features a solid string of Firehouse Saloon-type favorites.
But one thing this year's schedule definitely means, without question, is that Houston really has grown too cosmopolitan and diverse to think it can count on some Texas music in the rodeo lineup.
Boy, isn't that a bittersweet thought? I guess it's a good thing the rodeo has Strait looking over its back fence.
Down in Front
An open letter to tall people at concerts.
Dear Ridiculously Tall People at Concerts:
Enjoying the privilege of being tall must be such a joy.
You get to do everything short people can't: pick apples off the tops of trees, make early predictions of oncoming storms, slap high fives with Jesus, and — perhaps the most self-indulgent thing of all — attend jam-packed concerts and see everything and everyone there.
We short folks wouldn't know anything about that.
I first noticed you guys' blatant disrespect toward us short types when I covered rapper Kendrick Lamar's concert at Warehouse Live last month. Lamar's wasn't the first concert of this type I've attended; last fall's The Weeknd concert was my introduction to "standing room only." Even then, the spacious interior of Bayou Music Center offset the sizable crowd. If we got stuck behind one of you, we could easily move to another corner to view the singer's performance.
The very opposite could be said of Lamar's show. The rapper, the venue and I have something in common: We're pint-size, which should have meant a "show" of empathy for the punier among us in attendance. Alas, the crowd that squeezed into Warehouse Live was about twice the size — in numbers, that is — of Bayou Music Center's, leaving me and those like me at the mercy of your thrown elbows and double-fisted drinks.
Perhaps you saw me? I was the knotty-haired, speckled-jean-wearing gal busily scribbling into a notebook, ignoring the security guards poking fun at me.
Or maybe you didn't: No matter where I turned, I, 5-foot-3 on a very good day, always ended up lodged behind one of you beer-chugging 6-footers.
I can already hear your yells of protest: "I don't give a damn about your little-person problems! I'll stand wherever I damn well please! I'm an American!"
While one might argue that stacking concert attendees randomly is a nugget of the American Dream, denying the vertically challenged an opportunity to witness our favorite musical artists is not only unfair, it's the very essence of inequality.
But here's where the tables turn: When you get mean, we get meaner. They don't call it a Napoleon complex for nothin'. Just because we're short doesn't mean we can't teach you a lesson in concert protocol.
There are lots of insidious things we could do to you: tie your shoelaces together, punch you in your knees, kick you in your shins, step on your toes — anything involving the lower half of your bodies, really. Our height restrictions pretty much limit our range of destruction. Ahem. But don't let that keep the terror from creeping into your hearts!
We're everywhere. Our forces are growing. We're not going to endure one more concert staring into the small of your backs. Our little balled-up fists, they're ready.
We know you don't want this problem, so avoid it. Step aside to let us shorties through rather than clamor to the front of the stage. You will still be able to see everything just fine.
That would also cut down on the inevitable fights that break out at concerts such as these; if there has to be a round of fisticuffs, let it be because Stoner Dude blew his smoke in your face, not because Little Dude, standing on his tiptoes to see around you, accidentally tripped in your direction.
If you don't, things could get very sticky for you.
You have been warned.
A Frustrated Short Person
Shake Your Culo
Pitbull's easy guide to Spanish pickup lines.
When 2013 RodeoHouston performer Pitbull released "Culo" in 2004, fans who couldn't speak Spanish sang the hook like this: "Da da da lita benenenita tenentremendo...CULO!!" They didn't know what he was saying, and most of them didn't care to find out. It was just fun to scream "CULO!"
Pitbull is now the reason that many non-Spanish speakers know that "culo" means "ass" in English. He's the foremost Spanish professor for people who don't want to learn the language but simply want to master enough phrases to take someone home.
But certain words and phrases in Spanish can mean different things, depending on the connotation. Fortunately for Pitbull's "students," every song has an exclusively sexual connotation, and they all say the same thing: You're sexy, you like to party, so we're going to get down.
His singles are the best thing to happen to white dudes at the club since Haddaway's "What Is Love."
Without further delay, it's time to learn some sexy Spanish pickup lines with Pitbull!
A brief forewarning: These are phrases you probably want to avoid using around family or in any public place besides the club. Also, these phrases are roughly translated.
Song: "Culo," feat. Lil Jon
Lyric: "Está tan linda, está tan rica. Tiene tremendo culo."
Translation: "She is so cute, she is so tasty. She has a big booty."
Comment: There you go, everyone who mumbled most of the hook to this 2004 hit song. You can use "Estás tan..." if you'd like to personally compliment a lady on her tastiness in the club.
Lyric: "Traelo patras"
Translation: "Bring it back."
Comment: Perfect for when you're dancing with that special someone.
Song: "Ay Chico (Lengua Afuera)"
Lyric: "Todo el mundo con la lengua afuera"
Translation: "Everybody with their tongue out."
Comment: Lengua is a popular meat dish in Latin America as well as Pitbull's favorite part of his body. Put that thing back in your mouth!
Only in Houston
Now Houston baseball fans know what it means to hate the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Before I became enamored of rock stars, rock journalists, punk rockers, metal mavens or DJs, the first idols in my life were Houston Astros players, namely Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell and the late Ken Caminiti.
So on January 9, when the Baseball Hall of Fame failed to induct Biggio, Bagwell or any other players who were up for the highest honor the sport can bestow on a ballplayer, it stung really bad. These were guys I grew up emulating.
Even Bagwell sounded pissed, not for himself but for his friend Biggio.
Of all the names on this year's ballot, it should have been Biggio who went in. With more than 3,000 hits, plus 414 stolen bases and 12,504 career plate appearances, his numbers are amazing for a second baseman, not to mention a Houston Astro. Let's face it, the team has been underwhelming most of my life, save for the flashes of excitement that were due mostly to Biggio and Bagwell themselves.
So last week, baseball fans felt the same sting that fans of the MC5, KISS, The Smiths, Sonic Youth, New Order, New York Dolls, Lou Reed, The Replacements, The Cure, The Cars, Iggy Pop and Peter Gabriel have all felt each year that those artists and many others haven't been inducted into the Rock Hall.
Years ago, rock fans began to turn away from the Rock Hall as it became increasingly clear who was pulling the strings — Jann Wenner and his Rolling Stone cabal. Maybe that will now happen to the baseball HOF as the luster of what has always been a fan-friendly enterprise begins to fade.
Baseball fans, though, hold that HOF in higher esteem than rock fans do its rock counterpart — or once held the Rock Hall, I should say. There isn't much cynicism in baseball, a sport still clinging to decades of sepia-toned history. Rock and roll is still young by comparison.
Bagwell's past has been somewhat sullied in regard to his supposed steroid use, and some of the rest of 2013's would-be inductees are no cleaner. Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds...yeah. But what of guys like Curt Schilling, Tim Raines, Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez?
I say let's wait until next year. Maybe next year Biggio can go in with Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Moises Alou. Maybe 2013's wrongs can be righted in a big way.
And in 2014, the Rock HOF could induct Nirvana, Green Day, Pavement and Nine Inch Nails in one swoop. Who knows?
Or hell, maybe our beloved Biggio could turn into the Rock Hall's version of Rush and be shut out for years and years until he finally gets the honor — by which time everyone will have given up on the HOF anyway.
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