The Friday Free For All relays albums, artists, videos and vibes the Houston Press Music staff has been grooving to over the past week.
The vocal in the recorded performance of Love's beautiful song “Message to Pretty” is so intentionally maudlin, so syrupy and sunk-shouldered, that it drips insincerity. It starts with a familiar lament, of being misunderstood and alone in the world, poorly matched in love, over strains of familiar, romantic folk-rock. Meanwhile, it has drawn you in so close that you can detect the vapors of something else altogether, nihilism, the repudiation of one love and all love, early shadows of a death wish, the siren call of slipping away into nothingness.
Even as a young star on the make, Love leader Arthur Lee radiated as much menace as sympathy. There he was, dressed in the Haight of fashion, an influence on Jim Morrison, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and so many others, his own songwriting quickly absorbing and surpassing the early influence of the Byrds and Dylan, a king on the Sunset Strip but somehow trapped between two futures – international fame or oblivion. Sure, it might be the honking drone of hindsight talking, but an emotional ambivalence seems to flicker within the softest of Love’s songs.
It’s there in Lee’s lyrics, his delivery...menace. He had a huge range, a talent for synthesizing genres, and more than his fair share of pizzazz. His suede voice was light and compelling, particularly when he was singing about eschaton and incarceration, as he did in vivid, clairvoyant detail. Love were the first multiracial rock band in the limelight, ahead of the times in many ways, yet working in a racist industry and an even more racist society. In the best of times, it’s a narrow path to utopia, and we haven’t seen the best of times yet.
Not only did Love never get their due, but how many white rock stars ever actually do real time in prison for relatively minor legal violations, as did Arthur Lee? When I saw a late version of Love, only a few years before Lee succumbed to leukemia, he silenced the band mid-song to intimidate an inaudible heckler. For a moment, it looked like things were about to get ugly. Arthur Lee was just out of prison. He’d spent five and a half years serving a sentence for a minor firearms charge, and for a second he looked ready to do some damage.
I was right up front and all ears, and I didn’t hear any hecklers in the audience, only cheers and exuberant applause, but perhaps the heckler was a mime, or an apparition of some long-past prospect of beautiful things that weren’t to be. TEX KERSCHEN
As bands here grow, so do their fan bases. Wouldn’t it be amazing if some of our local bands had monikers attached to their respective legions of fans? We could be the scene where our music fans become as storied as the acts, thanks to some creative branding. For instance, out-of-towners would come here to check the stylings of hip-hop artist Kyle Hubbard and to hang with his followers, Ol’ Hubbard’s Muthas. Or, the many who follow Kam & company's exploits might become known as Suffers Fools. Some nicknames would be simple — PuraPharmers, Second Lovers Lovers…duh. Others might be more nuanced, like Guilla Teens (adolescent fans of the rapper) and Not Alone on the Moon. For good measure, clothing lines like FYHA could design T-shirts for these groupies and bars could align themselves with the group’s doings (i.e., AvantGarden of the Ancient Gods, wherein the band’s fans overrun the Montrose venue on show night). As for my son’s band, Days N Daze, I got dibs on the name for its beautiful followers: DNDeezNutz. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS
Can't say I was a big fan of Twenty One Pilots when I first heard them. I got what they were going for with their breakthrough single, last year's "Stressed Out," but it just wasn't for me. That said, once I caught wind of the single, "Ride," I changed my tune a bit and decided to listen to the band's platinum album, Blurryface. I'm glad I did, as it makes for a pretty enjoyable listen. Yeah, it's made for the masses and tailored to radio play, but that's not always a bad thing. Mainstream alt-rock isn't exactly in the best place right now, but it's nice to see that perhaps there is some hope on the horizon. Those interested in checking out Twenty One Pilots live can do so next Tuesday at Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion. CLINT HALE
Many people only knew Scotty Moore, who passed away Wednesday at age 84, as Elvis Presley’s lead-guitar player during the Sun Records years that kicked off the once and future King of Rock and Roll’s meteoric rise to stardom. But those familiar with his Web site also knew Moore as the keeper — or at least namesake — of a treasure trove of Moore-related arcana, which amounts to a ringside seat at the birth of rock and roll and all that implies. (Web-wise, a certain James V. Roy appears to have done most of the heavy lifting.) Here you’ll find a scrapbook that spans hundreds of entries, a cataloging of Moore’s many guitars, and equally exhaustive itinerary that lists the King’s first performances in the Houston area as November 25-27 at the Paladium Club [sic], formerly the Texas Corral at South Main and Old Spanish Trail. Of further interest to local Elvisphiles might be the index of venues Moore passed through, preserved through newspaper clippings and photos supplementing the man’s own recollections. Moore covers many more cities than ours, of course, but take a gander at his entry for Magnolia Gardens, the Channelview honky-tonk where Rodney Crowell sang of seeing Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis on 2001’s “Telephone Road.” The cast of characters includes Presley's contemporary/rival Tommy Sands; Elvis' infamous manager, Col. Tom Parker ("the Colonel"); powerful Houston DJ/promoter Biff Collie; and Eagles Hall, located at the present-day Midtown strip center that houses Coaches Pub:
Originally the stage at Magnolia Gardens was basically just a fenced in porch on the side of a shed, though by the mid-‘50s it had been rebuilt. Still simple in construction, it at least now featured a roof. By the end of 1954 Tommy Sands’ records though weren’t doing very well and in spite of the Colonel’s promotion he was still a regular on the local music scene playing Collie’s Saturday night Grand Prize Jamboree at Eagles Hall.
HUSTLE HARD BLOCK XPLOSION 6
Last month, we attended a video shoot starring blues rockers “Ganesha” and got a special treat when legendary Houston rapper and R&B artist Cl’Ché mobbed the mike like a Soprano with the band backing her. We’ve been promised a future joint effort, but before that, Cl’Ché takes it to the streets tomorrow with the Hustle Hard Block Xplosion. Dubbed HHBX6 (it’s the sixth anniversary), the massive block party will feature a “Peace Walk” and guest speakers, all promoting the strength found in embracing one’s community. Cl’Ché , the event’s founder, knows how empowering it can be to be part of a group with a purpose. She’s a longtime member of South Park Coalition, which formed in 1987 and has sent forth into the world talents like K-Rino and Point Blank, who will be at HHBX6. Ms. Toi – who made you put your back into it on Ice Cube’s “You Can Do It” – is a special guest from Cali. In all more than two dozen acts are expected to rock southeast Houston for an annual event that feels like a family reunion. As female MCs like Lyric Michelle and Genesis Blu are starting to emerge, it might be a good time to hang with one of Houston’s original first ladies of rap. (Saturday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., 8515 Martin Luther King Dr.) JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
NOW IS THE TIME
We are currently in the middle of the most rich and vibrant era of Houston music ever. There are more venues, bands, and fellow musicians than have ever been before. This is the time where through a single Facebook post, you can build an entire band and begin playing with each other. It has quite literally never been this efficient and this easy to be an artist and to be heard. So again, just a reminder, if you want to play music, this is the time. BRANDON CLEMENTS