It's been said over and over and over and over, so what's one more time? If Joe Ely is Texas's own Bruce Springsteen, seeing him at Rockefeller Hall is the next best thing to a date with the E Street Band at their early Jersey Shore stomping grounds, the Stone Pony in scenic Asbury Park. When the former Heights State Bank was still Rockefeller's in the late '80s and early '90s, Ely and his band — guitar guru David Grissom and the muscular (if not steroidal) rhythm section of bassist Jimmy Pettit and drummer Davis McLarty — put on some of the most memorable shows in the venue's history, masterful displays of roadhouse rock, sun-baked West Texas soul and bottomland blues that had the walls sweating, along with everyone else. They repeated this feat, albeit outdoors, at last year's Houston International Festival, and return for iFest's annual fundraising gala benefiting its educational programs. Most bands would quail at the thought of opening for Ely's, but Mike Stinson's group isn't one of them. The honky-tonk crew has been steadily winning converts from the Spot in the Heights to Blanco's in River Oaks, and has reportedly been working on a more rock-oriented follow-up to last year's The Jukebox in Your Heart. Assuming the Rock Hall stage isn't completely demolished by these two groups, it will also be the site of iFest's 2011 lineup announcement Friday evening.
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