Archie Bell Archie Bell may not have had The Drells to back him up at iFest Saturday, but that didn't stop him from providing a classic performance one would expect from the Houston R&B/Soul legend. With his 70th birthday approaching, Mr. Bell moved with the finesse of a ballerina, and sang with the energy and pizazz of a teenager. Local boys The Allen Oldies Band serves as the backbone of the performance, having as much fun as Archie himself on stage.
As a cool breeze blew, the crowd was treated to standards such as "Stand By Me", "Mustang Sally", "Under The Boardwalk", and "Sitting By The Dock of The Bay", with not a soul wasting time to join the sing along. The show ended with "Tighten Up", and Mr. Bell was accompanied by his three-year-old granddaughter during the track, dancing and providing a rousing vocal performance as Archie shook his hips, extended his arm, and tightened up the imaginary screws. Marco Torres
Two Tons of Steel When I recommended checking out Two Tons of Steel, I wasn't kidding. The group, which performed at the tail end of the afternoon, had couples swing-dancing throughout their set. They even performed their version of The Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," which somehow made sense for a country band covering one of America's pioneer punk groups.
There were a few pissed off murmurs throughout the crowd when the frontman, Kevin Gail, brought up the Rockets losing to the Spurs on Friday (Two Tons of Steel are from San Antonio,) but other fans didn't seem phased by it. As the group performed "No Beer," a song written about getting denied beer in Germany during Oktoberfest, one man was dancing so hard that he looked like he was motor-boating a ghost. Alyssa DuPree
Charles Bradley After his band proceeded to warm up the crowd for what seemed like an eternity, the gentleman known as The Screaming Eagle of Soul shimmied his way onto the Bud Light World Music Stage. This man's life has been a series of depression, suffering abandonment by his mother, seeing friends hauled off to war, enduring the pain of betrayal and death. There is nothing that Charles Bradley can do to avoid emotion, and he filled downtown Houston with some of that emotion during his sizzling performance. And for that, his fans are unconditionally loving, as if trying to hug away the pain from his life.
They even forgave him when he mistakingly called us "Austin, Texas", a cardinal sin for any act. Maybe because he has suffered so much pain that he is a man that can truly value love, for his songs deal with that particular emotion as if it were air or gold, both essential and glamourous. "The World (Is Going Up In Flames)" is about as perfect a song can be, with more sentiment in the first verse that all of the so-called "hits" on the Top 40 charts. God Bless you, Charles Bradley. Marco Torres
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Los Tam Y Tex One of the greatest proponents of cumbia music is the lively band Los Tam Y Tex. As their name suggests, they identify with both Tamaulipas, which is the northernmost Mexican state, and South Texas. The keyboard driven music is fun and relatable, with a beat that induces dancing like no other. They played a couple of songs about a certain muse named Micaela, whose beautiful flowing black hair and generous heart can only be matched in rhythm by the swaying of her hips. A few couples took to dancing in the shadow of city hall, and passersby were not immune to the fun vibes, drawn in to shake and sway with the beat. "La Suavecita", "Tikita", and "Chunchacale Pa'alla" sent me down memory lane, as this is the music my parents would listen and dance to when I was a kid in the East End. Marco Torres
Carnival Talk This electronic duo stuck out like a sore thumb during iFest, though not in a bad way. Carnival Talk worked their way through tracks that sounded heavily inspired by European electronic acts, such as Robyn or La Roux. And though it brought the diversity to iFest that the crowd was craving, it was strange to watch the group perform under clear blue skies on a warm Sunday afternoon.
Despite the fact that their songs make you yearn for a damp, dark club atmosphere, it was a refreshing break from the amount of acoustic or country-inspired rock acts that filled the iFest line-up. They even had assistance from Marvin the CD man -- a guy who could be seen helping acts sell their music throughout the duration of iFest -- who was playing air drums for the band with sticks and no kit. Alyssa DuPree