After Friday's benefit for the Houston International Festival's education programs, Aftermath can understand why, in all the recent reminiscing about Rockefeller's we've been doing on Rocks Off, no one has ever had a bad word to say about the place. Never having set foot in the place before, it was everything we hoped it would be. And as nicely appointed as Rockefeller Hall is these days - we'd get married there, if such a thing were ever to happen - it was nice to see a little of Washington Avenue's rough-and-tumble past preserved in the form of a bullet hole in the window above the door to the tiny alcove that passes for the hall's smoking area.
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But as impressed as we were by the venue, it still would have been just another room without the music. Headliner Marcia Ball's lively set had the sold-out room second-lining all over the place, making sure those fancy Mardi Gras outfits didn't go to waste. But never mind the beads and the gold coins, Texas Johnny Brown was the real treasure.
For a solid hour (or thereabouts), the 82-year-old Brown and his Quality Blues Band peeled off a slick, funky set embedded that was as much soul and jazz (and soul-jazz) as blues. Calling the cucumber-cool Brown "spry" wouldn't quite be covering it, especially after the band's covers of War's "The World Is a Ghetto" and the best live version of the Temptations' "Papa Was a Rolling Stone" we've ever heard. There's more to come, too: Before the music, iFest Director of Performing Arts Rick Mitchell gave everyone a sneak preview of this year's lineup. Although much of it has already leaked, here are a few highlights: George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars, King Sunny Ade, the Joe Ely Band, Ozomatli, a bunch of zydeco artists (we lost count), Sideshow Tramps, Wild Moccasins, Robert Ellis & the Boys and both Ball and Brown in a return engagement. The complete lineup will be announced Friday, when tickets also go on sale.