Friday Free For All: Texas Me, Alex Chilton, Carpool Karaoke, Sisters of Mercy, etc.
Posters courtesy of Cactus Music/Tony Davidson Family
The Friday Free For All relays albums, artists, videos and vibes the Houston Press Music staff has been grooving to over the past week.
Anyone who works around music, especially in the media, is likely to wind up with a lot of stuff. Promotional swag, be they records, posters, ticket stubs, or more elaborate items, tends to accumulate in shoeboxes, crates, under the bed or, in the case of the late Tony Davidson, in picture frames. Davidson, who passed away last December, was a former DJ in Austin and College Station who founded KUT’s Texas Music Radio in the late ‘70s and hosted Red, Hot & Blue on Texas A&M’s KAMU for more than 20 years. He was also a poster hound of the highest order and a longtime friend of Cactus Music, and Davidson’s family is letting Cactus host an exhibition of selections from his collection, entitled “Texas Me” after one of Davidson's favorite Doug Sahm songs. Featured are many of Austin’s top poster artists and music venues from the late ‘60s through the early ‘80s, among them Jim Franklin, Kerry Awn, Micael Priest, Guy Juke, Antone’s, Soap Creek Saloon, Armadillo World Headquarters and Raul’s. Many pieces from the collection (which will be for sale) were featured in UT Press’ 2015 anthology of Texas poster art, Homegrown, but many weren’t. “It really is an incredible archive and I think that we have many more pieces than were exhibited for the official Homegrown exhibit,” says Cactus GM Quinn Bishop. “I’m still blown away by the volume and the quality of this trove, and I'm kinda hard to impress these days.” Poster artist Danny Garrett and Steven L. Davis, editor of Homegrown, will appear at Saturday evening’s opening reception (6-9 p.m.), with period-appropriate music courtesy of KPFT’s Blues In Hi-Fi DJ Clint Broussard. CHRIS GRAY
THE BLU JANES
Local hip-hop artist Genesis Blu released a video this week in conjunction with Nashville indie artist Kristen Ford. What’s so amazing about this collab is not only the miles separating the artists, but what seems like two opposing genres coming together in harmony, an incredible and brave idea. To imagine an acoustic guitar with spoken word is usually the stuff of open-mikes and smokey poetry houses. Here, it is something altogether different and timely. Calling themselves The Blu Janes, these women are crafting music in response to the epidemic violence in our country. Instead of focusing on hate or anger, the song’s message transcends the negative to looking for healing and solutions. If there ever were a time when our country needed some positive messages, it’s now. KRISTY LOYE
If you’re hearing this song for the first time, go ahead and address a box of chocolates to the paper’s main office. Roses are fine, too, but please don’t bother to scent them additionally. Au naturel will do. The rest of you, here’s some piano accompaniment for your early-weekend liftoff. Share some love with the people nearest you at heart. “Like Flies On Sherbert” is one of the finest studio recordings ever made, sly, steeped in a profound love of music and, more importantly, joie de vivre. TEX KERSCHEN
KANYE V. TAYLOR
This whole Taylor Swift-Kanye West controversy that broke this week didn't really interest me. But it did get me thinking about Kanye. No, not Kanye, the attention-whoring, megalomaniac, Kardashian-marrying celebrity. Rather, I got to thinking about Kanye the musician. Here's the issue — back when Kanye was releasing good music — think College Dropout, Late Registration, 808s and Heartbreak — he wasn't near the diva he is now. Sure, he had diva-like tendencies and certainly thought highly of himself. But he wasn't such a public nuisance. Here's my one-man theory, which I suppose doesn't make it a theory at all: Kanye's latter-day rants and public spectacles are a man masking the fact that he doesn't have his fastball anymore. Did you know that each of Kayne's previous five solo records has sold fewer copies than the one before it? Not to mention that his last two albums — Yeezus and The Life of Pablo — weren't nearly up to the standards of prior material. Kanye is no idiot; he knows that staying in the news maintains his relevancy. If only he could let his music do the talking again. CLINT HALE
MICHELLE OBAMA & MISSY ELLIOTT'S "CARPOOL KARAOKE"
There is nothing quite like "Carpool Karaoke" with The Late, Late Show host James Corden. It’s a silly good time and although I’m not a personal fan of much on television these days, his latest installment caught the country’s attention. None other than First Lady Michelle Obama joined him for a duet of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed Sealed Delivered” and Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” If that wasn’t enough, surprise addition Missy Elliot singing “This Is for My Girls” (by multiple artists) and her own, “Get Ur Freak On” is the stuff of television magic. Of course, FLOTUS is always promoting a positive agenda for women and used the opportunity to plug not only her new Snapchat account but draw attention to “62 Million Girls" Campaign, which seeks to educate all girls around the globe. KRISTY LOYE
SISTERS OF MERCY
Last weekend’s death of Alan Vega, the vocal half of early electro-punk NYC duo Suicide, shone rare mainstream light on one of the most important groups in rock history, alternatively speaking. Besides Bruce Springsteen, who has often covered Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream” in concert and appended it to the end of his 2014 LP High Hopes, the list of bands that would have gone nowhere fast without Suicide only starts with Joy Division, the Jesus & Mary Chain and Nine Inch Nails; and then there’s the Sisters of Mercy. In the mid-’80s, Vega befriended Sisters figurehead Andrew Eldritch — he of the dark glasses, hyper-baritone vocals and drum machine dubbed Doktor Avalanche — and played a murky role on the 1986 album The Gift, which Eldritch released as the Sisterhood due to a dispute with his previous associates over the rights to the Sisters’ name. All that was cleared up when he simply hired new musicians for the next year’s Floodland, the album that midwifed the goth-rock cornerstones “Lucretia My Reflection” and “This Corrosion.” Eldritch is still at it, writing if not releasing new music while bringing the Sisters to a handful of spots across the globe each year. He has no love lost for the U.S., even promising to record a new album if Donald Trump is elected President, so if you can’t free up the time to catch the Sisters on their Latin American swing in September — Mexico City on September 13 may be your best bet — Saturday night at Numbers they’ll be the guests of honor, figuratively speaking, at Houston’s most ravishing monthly DJ night, Underworld. CHRIS GRAY
RIP ALAN VEGA
Love and respect to Alan Vega. I’m far too shallow a person to properly observe the long, funereal roll of the credits that this year is quickly becoming, but the death of Alan Vega brings us a little closer to the death of the American era, as with him goes a bit more honesty, style, and street-tough optimism. Born in 1938, long assumed to be much younger than he was because he looked so great for so long, Vega sounded like one of the rockabilly greats because he was one of the last rockabilly greats, albeit the only one of his generation to combine lefty folk with completely modern methods. He was a beautiful rooster, a scourge to the wicked and the banal, a dream protector, a comfort to the afflicted, and a warm voice in the dead of night. Judging by the headlines, it’s gonna be a long night. TEX KERSCHEN