Madman Across the Water
Elton John has become the best-case scenario for the future life of a troubled character in one of his songs, albeit it's a song he has been writing since he and collaborator Bernie Taupin decided to forge a songwriting partnership nearly 45years ago.
He's now a seasoned sage, deeper in voice, richer in smile, stately in manner, but still able to pull off a blindingly bright red sequined coat.
He's Elton John, that guy on YouTube in the powdered wig, the Donald Duck costume and the sunglasses from Mars, with 40 years of life acting as his wardrobe here in 2013.
Last Thursday's sold-out Toyota Center show saw John dialing the time machine back to the days of 1971's Madman Across the Water while also plucking choice cuts from the rest of his catalog. "Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding" even made a cosmic appearance in the middle of the show, one of seven Goodbye Yellow Brick Road cuts to make the set list.
Those of us weaned on Elton songs on classic-rock radio had to get used to his now deeper register, with most of his higher and breathier passages turned to mellow growls. It forces the songs to hit a little harder, the drums to pound even heavier.
He let the crowd and his band take the high notes, which they (we) all did ably. It's been that way since the late '80s or early '90s, according to folks who saw him long before me.
His piano playing is still flawless, with a lipstick camera aimed at his keys at all times, his hands gliding to and fro. His hands looked like they were insured for billions, give or take a few zeroes.
His live show in 2013 is very Vegas, a product of his headlining The Colosseum at Caesars Palace off and on since 2009. High on drama, high on glitz, it's still very much custom-built for John the storyteller to sing us tales of tiny dancers, rocket men and dead glamour girls.
His Vegas-honed road act is aided by drummer Nigel Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone, band members for more than 40 years. On backing vocals, John has Rose Stone, a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer in her own right, formerly of her brother's Sly and the Family Stone. Her daughter, Lisa Stone, sings next to her.
He seemed more at ease behind the piano than I had seen him in previous live clips, even saying last week that he still tours because he enjoys it, not because he needs to. His Vegas spots are a hot and expensive ticket, outpacing prices for his touring show, so he's not lying or being disingenuous.
Especially coming from a man who at this point probably has a bank account nearly comparable to Paul McCartney's, anything after 65 for rockers of John's status has to feel like a victory lap, the icing on the gluten-free cake.
John closed Thursday night with a single song, "Your Song," sending fans back into the world refreshed and ready to take on the world, or at least the drive home.
The Rocks Off 100
Swishahouse co-founder OG Ron C helped create a sound that changed the world.
As co-founder of the Swishahouse record label, OG Ron C has been instrumental in the molding of the music and culture that represent the city of Houston. As a producer and DJ, the OG continues to place Houston at the forefront of rap with his "Chopped Not Slopped" series of screwed-down mixtapes and albums.
He frequently serves as host to rappers traveling through Houston on national tours, many times opening those shows with his extensive arsenal of beats and remixes.
"I'm OG Ron C, also known as OVOG Ron C, as named by my dude Drake," opens Mr. C. "H-Town-born and raised. I am an original Swishahouse DJ and co-founder, known mainly for my F-Action mixtape collection. Currently, I run the Chopstars and we keeping everything purple."
Why do you stay in Houston?
"Houston is where the Screw legacy was born," Ron explains. "If I'm not in Houston representing our culture and my craft, then I'm not doing my job. DJ Screw is the creator of all slowed-down music. God has blessed me to be a DJ that was able to reach millions of people by using the sound he created for us.
"And when I say 'us,' brother, I'm talking about Houston," he continues. "Lil Keke once said, 'The world gon' drip candy and be all screwed up.' In 2013, look at what's happening in the music you hear. Everybody's screaming 'Robert Earl Davis Jr.!' [DJ Screw's birth name]. That's why I chose to stay in Houston."
Music Scene Pet Peeve
"I would like to see more unity among artists in terms of working with each other," Ron says. "It's 2013 and people are loving Houston because we produce some of the best music in the nation right now. So when folks leave town after having fun, we are still here with each other.
"Unity is the key and progression should always be the goal," he continues. "As long as we keep working with each other, we'll be unstoppable."
Cheeseburgers in Paradise
Is this the year Zilker Park finally gets Jimmy Buffett?
This year will be the first that the Austin City Limits Music Festival expands to two consecutive weekends with identical lineups. At this point the lineup for ACL 2013, scheduled for October 4-6 and October 11-13, is weeks away from being announced.
The annual ACL announcement is always a big deal for Texas festival-heads. Granted, it's not as rich in flavorful band reunions and bearded, tattooed folk like Fun Fun Fun Fest or weirdo corporate gigs like SXSW, but it does offer mainstream spectacle.
Last year's Iggy & the Stooges set was probably as "dangerous" as anything ACL has ever ventured, beyond that one time it scheduled Wilco up against My Morning Jacket in 2007.
Having major musical acts tethered to Austin for two weeks straight would also be grand for cities like Houston, Dallas and New Orleans, and pretty much most of the Southwest. If Bruce Springsteen and his fleet aren't back in hibernation by October, they could be a great get, too.
Daft Punk is every ACL fanboy's wet dream, ever since the Internet was "cheated" out of a surprise gig in front of the state Capitol during SXSW. Alas, the robots have already denied over and over again that they will be playing any shows in 2013.
Nobody listens, though.
And please, no more Jack White appearances for at least three years, or until his EDM project is fully functional.
Over at the festival site at thespacelab.tv, people are asking for everyone from 311 to Nine Inch Nails to play ACL. Nearly everyone is begging for Mumford And Sons and Bon Iver, if that tells you anything about that board's granola-tivity.
Let's indulge in some more speculation, shall we?
Atoms for Peace
This isn't too terribly crazy, and it would finally bring Thom Yorke to ACL, albeit not with Radiohead. The Yorke/Flea supergroup has a handful of dates in October in the States nestled around ACL that would make a great fit.
The band is playing scheduled dates around ACL in New Orleans; Atlanta; Starkville, Mississippi; and Houston's Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on October 6.
Mumford & Sons
They've never headlined the festival and would fit riiiiight in with the sandals-and-bikini crowds.
If Buffett's camp shrewdly decides to position him as the original Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz, and (insert favorite mainstreamish "indie" singer-songwriter here), Buffett would be a noble fit to close Saturday or Sunday evening at ACL. With a new album reportedly in the works and a built-in following of Texas parrotheads, he could bring in the crowd that came out in massive flocks (ha) to see the Eagles a few years back.
The French act has nothing scheduled after late September, and the closest they get to Austin is a May 4 set at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and a spot on EdgeFest in Frisco, Texas, on April 27, that isn't even on their own Web site yet.
The Impalas are playing Leeds, Reading, Coachella, Fuji Rock and Bonnaroo. ACL wouldn't hurt, now would it? Could give them the option of hitting up a bigger venue here in Houston, too, since Fitz was a sellout in February.
The "Ho Hey" band's smaller stage created a giant bottleneck at last year's ACL, and they keep building steam behind just one album of songs, so this is a no-brainer unless they shove off to record or something. Much like Tame Impala, they are playing nearly every 2013 festival imaginable.
DM is skipping Austin during their mid-September swing through Texas, hitting only Houston and Dallas. They have only one other October show scheduled on their site, on the eighth in Phoenix. That means they could be on a short leash in the Southwest to play two shows at ACL, or are really into sunshine.
A Shady Place
The Top 5 bars, clubs and icehouses in the Heights area.
5. Shiloh Club
1321 Studewood, 713-880-2401
Be it Lone Star, Guinness in a can, craft beer or hard liquor, the crowd and friendly staff at Shiloh's are a pleasure night after night. An eclectic mix of music keeps the patrons going as they kick back a few. Inside, there's a good choice of seating — a long bar, a few tables and couches, and then there's always the outdoor seating on the patio off Studemont.
Visit once and you may become a regular. Or, Shiloh Club nothing else, it will offer you an alternative drinkery on those nights when you don't want to put up with all the hustle and bustle of the Heights without having to ever leave.
2310 Decatur, 864-2328, beavershouston.com
For those who don't already know, Beaver's is located just south of Hooters. Not really, but that's its motto anyway. This chic icehouse's bar and patio seating more than make up for the lack of on-site parking, but it's the cold drinks that wash down whatever sloppy sandwich you choose that will keep you coming back.
3. Plonk! Beer & Wine Bistro
1214 W. 43rd, 713-290-1070, plonkbistro.com
It may be in a strip mall, but once you make your way inside Plonk!, you'll forget all about that until you walk back to your car. The back/side patio has a relaxed and quiet ambience, emphasized by the white Christmas lights that often hang low above patrons' heads. Add in the large selection of beers and a full menu inside, and everyone has a reason to love Plonk!
2. The Spot Club
1732 W. 18th, 713-864-4485
Bless their hearts, the staff at The Spot Club are clearly Bible-Belt denizens, serving up drinks with true Texas charm. Cozy and inviting, this Heights-area drinkery offers both steak and ladies' night every week, and live music is regularly scheduled, too. There's also a dance floor, an arcade game, a pool table, electronic darts and a television on which you can root, root, root for the home team.
Visitors are advised not to upset the quick-witted bartenders, who won't mince words if you're pissing them off. So you're telling me the staff actually keeps the assholes out? Count me in.
1. Shady Tavern Ice House
1206 W. 20th, 713-869-7000, facebook.com/
There's tons of outdoor seating at this tavern, there's shade to enjoy and the young daytime crowd is a pleasure to be around. Also outside, there's a small stage for musicians. Beer and wine are all Shady Tavern offers its patrons, so you don't have to worry about the "shots" crowd.
There's nothing on tap, so beer from the fridge is all you'll find here, but it's cheap, chill and casual. What's not to like?
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