Sometimes it's hard for Americans to believe, but there is in fact a whole world outside of the United States. No, I'm not just talking about Alaska and Hawaii. There are whole other countries out there, and not just ones that are either a) our cute friends (England, Japan) or b) our bitter enemies (North Korea, Iran). They have their own arts and everything!
So with that said, it might come as a shock (but really shouldn't) to learn that newly crowned superstar and YouTube sensation Psy has released a whole five albums preceding his latest, Psy6, which contains the megahit "Gangnam Style."
Immediately you might say, "They can't possibly be good. I've never heard of them!" Well, you would be wrong, sir. Actually, Psy has had many hits in his home country of South Korea, and many of them are just as fun and catchy as "Gangnam Style."
"Father": What may surprise some about this one is that it's a rock song and that it's a serious one, dedicated to fathers. It's odd to hear Psy being serious and sentimental, but the song is actually very cool nonetheless and features a heartwarming animated video of a father's life.
"Korea": This song was written specifically to support South Korea in its endeavors at the London Olympics this year and features Psy taking on a different style: a sports anthem. Surprisingly enough, his take on arena rock is just as catchy and enjoyable as his take on dance music and hip-hop. This video sees Psy and tons of other people in costumes varying from Olympic teams to monsters that look like they're straight out of Where the Wild Things Are marching and dancing through South Korea.
"Right Now": A hit from Psy's previous album, "Right Now" is an uptempo mix of dance, rock and hip-hop and shows Psy apparently having had it with working in an office and being stuck in a traffic jam, so he starts a dance party in the streets. Then some skater kids have a breakdancing competition for some reason.
"Champion": Sampling Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F," this song's video shows Psy embroiled in some kind of breakdancing competition (which seems to be a recurring theme) that is taking place inside of a video game. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense, but it's entertaining. Of course, Psy is the winner and the titular champion. Per the YouTube comments, this song might be more famous for the confusion over the Korean phrase "ni ga," which means "you are" as in "you are the champion."
"Sae (Bird)": Psy's original breakout hit in his home country from all the way back in 2000, this ridiculously catchy bit of funky hip-hop sounds something like an updated version of the American new jack swing movement. It samples Bananarama's "Venus" and is dedicated to "Party Lady." The video shows a thinner, younger Psy stealing kisses and cigarettes from, presumably, "party ladies" up in the club.
Houston's Island of Misfit Bands Briefly Resurfaces
While the hallowed ground of Fitzgerald's has remained steadfast, becoming a seemingly permanent fixture in Houston's indie, punk and metal communities, other clubs have receded into the dustbin of history. Fortunately, the fecund eras of two — the Axiom and the Island — are being celebrated during November.
As the elder juggernaut of local lore, The Island is the one identified as the birthplace of Bayou City punk. From 1978 to 83 — and under the names Paradise Island, Rock Island and, finally, simply, The Island — the former Mexican restaurant near Main and Richmond (not far from the present-day Continental Club complex, itself nicknamed "The Island") witnessed the first wave of free-for-all punk diversity before the genre splintered and hardened into molds.
Hence, on any given night, politics-savvy Really Red and kitsch-poppers The Judy's vibrated the walls of the dark, dank club, or Austin bands like the Big Boys and The Inserts invaded briefly, or touring icons like UK Subs, the Cramps and Black Flag thrilled faithful local fans with their incendiary brand of rock and roll dissent.
Like many first-wave punk clubs, Paradise Island still had one foot in an earlier era.
"It still had the cheesy palm trees covering the columns and the decor of a tropical Mexican dive," tells veteran Don Price. "We played opening night for Phil Hicks, the owner/manager. At that point, Jon Saxon and I were still playing mostly covers in a band called Crash Street Kids.
"It was a mish-mash of Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Mott the Hoople (from whom we lifted the name) and a spare Hendrix tune thrown in here and there," he continues. "We were just starting to write originals and had one or two per set."
The overall setup remained do-it-yourself.
"Bands had to provide their own PA, and I think the lights were a row of track lights like you would see on a patio," recalls Price.
Others, though, recall a more stellar sonic site.
"The Island always had amazing sound," recalls Trish Herrera, guitarist and singer of art-punk pioneers Mydolls, who were regulars at the club. "Bands from all over the world played there."
Still, the overall place remained dilapidated.
"The ceiling tiles would be falling on your head during the gigs," says Herrera. David Ensminger
The Island reunion show featuring Mydolls, Anarchitex, the Hates, Doomsday Massacre, AK-47, the Introverts, Bevatron, Gary Yokie and Vex is Saturday, November 10 at Walter's, 1120 Naylor, 713-222-2679 or www.waltersdowntown.com.
October 24: Madonna at Toyota Center
A sharp influx of sequined booty shorts and fashionable ankle boots invaded downtown the evening of October 24, and many of them were even worn by women. Madonna, the Queen Mother of pop music, was in Houston for the first of two nights at Toyota Center, and her legion of fans representing every color, creed and kink turned out in force to celebrate in style.
Madonna has made headlines all over the world this year for her political statements from the stage, and she made a few Wednesday night. There was nothing too controversial; she encouraged her admirers to exercise their right to vote in a few weeks and to cherish their freedoms despite the many dysfunctions of their government.
Her endorsement of President Obama via temporary tramp stamp was less than shocking.
For her grand entrance of the evening, however, Madonna fell back on more reliable trespasses, appearing first in silhouette as she knelt in a floating confession booth. After an apology to the Almighty for the decadent fun to come, the star threw off a sexy, sheer burqa and lit into "Girl Gone Wild," the torrid opener from MDNA.
It was the first of eight songs of the evening from the new album. Though many of her critics are happy to paint Madonna as a relic, Wednesday's show was no nostalgia act. More than half of her set list was drawn from her 21st-century output, and even the classic hits from the '80s and '90s were freshened up significantly.
"Express Yourself," for instance, included passages from Lady Gaga's "Born This Way," a tacit acknowledgment of Madonna's continuing influence on modern pop.
As for the woman herself, she certainly didn't look over the hill. Good luck finding another 54-year-old mother of four with a body like hers at your local gym. Madonna performed the show's characteristically detailed choreography as capably as ever, including a particularly impressive bit during "Gang Bang" that cast her as a Hollywood action star fighting off a band of paramilitary attackers in hand-to-hand combat. Milla Jovovich, eat your heart out.
Tickets to the show weren't cheap, but every cent of the price of admission Wednesday showed up onstage. LED platforms rose and fell beneath Madonna and her small army of dancers all night, which the performers navigated effortlessly.
In addition to the flying confession booth, a uniformed drumline twisted high above the stage during "Give Me All Your Luvin,'" a tune that also featured the singer twirling a mean baton. The sequence was spectacular enough to send TSU's Ocean of Soul marching band back to the drawing board. Nathan Smith
Who Should Play RodeoHouston in 2013?
On October 30, just after this issue went to press, RodeoHouston announced its first round of performers for the 2013 edition of the star-studded, yeehawin', nearly three-week event at Reliant Park. (See who they did add at our Rocks Off music blog, of course.)
Rodeo bookings the last few years have been getting more adventurous, with the likes of Kid Rock, Kiss, Mary J. Blige and Janet Jackson making the cut. Our friends over there are getting the hang of booking non-country acts, which is cool, since a lot of (most of) the pop-country that is coming around is pretty vanilla. Save for some of the bigger nostalgia acts like Alan Jackson, Tim McGraw and Reba, the acts are kind of interchangeable.
Obviously, Taylor Swift has moved on from the rodeo, though there could always be a surprise.
Dub(Two)Step Night: Can you feel it? Can you feel it? The bass is about to drop inside Reliant Stadium with the help of Rusko and Skrillex, who preside over the opening night of RodeoHouston: Neon cowboy boots, assless chaps, glitter bombs, rodeo clowns with glowsticks, and cowgirls covered in strategically placed flannel patches. For one night, Mutton Bustin' is replaced with HPD trying to tackle and taser kids on crystal meth on the Reliant floor.
Green Day: Billie Joe will long be out of rehab, chubbed-up from laying off all the fun stuff, and will be craving ribs, alligator meat and funnel cakes. Good, now I am, too. Maybe Tre Cool can play nude except for a cowboy hat.
A Holographic Classic Country Hootenanny!: A few months back, as "holograms" became all the rage after Hologram Tupac appeared at Coachella, I proposed that RodeoHouston do the same with classic country legends like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., Waylon Jennings and Tammy Wynette headlining one evening.
I would like to add holograms of Conway Twitty and Johnny Paycheck to that request, because I wanna hear Paycheck's "Colorado Kool-Aid" at least once in the Slaughterhouse, and a Twitty hologram would probably find a way to get laid.
Psy: RodeoHouston branches out to the Korean-American community by having pop sensation Psy headline. He has more than one song, guys, so don't worry about him filling up an hour onstage.
Kings of Leon: ...are still a band, and have been doing one-off festival dates here and there, and seem to be due to come around Houston again. Rumors that lead singer Caleb Followill was working on a country record never came to fruition, but the band's alt-rock twang would fit nicely with the Midtowners and burb-dwellers coming into Houston for the show.
Randy Travis: Travis's 1998 Trans Am comes barreling out of the backstage area, barely missing photographers and fans. Travis, 17 sheets to the wind on warm Bud Light from his dressing room, does a few donuts as the customary fireworks go off until the car sputters and stalls.
Clad in only jeans and boots, Travis jumps out of the car, smashes his acoustic guitar on the hood, saunters to the stage and performs his 2000 gospel-country album Inspirational Journey in full. Then he quietly walks back to the Trans Am and passes out in the front seat. Craig Hlavaty
October 27: Something Wicked at Sam Houston Race Park
By the time Tritonal had taken the stage at Something Wicked, the sun had set and so did the feel of the festival. The Austin duo's music is high-energy and, when you add in the big LED displays, the zombie nurses dancing onstage and a crowd that was super-excited about everything, suddenly the show felt special. No one would confuse it with Belgium's three-day Tomorrowland blowout, but for a first-time fest, it was pretty impressive.
In a land of DJs, the one band on the bill was bound to stand out. After a late start, credited by the group to some technical difficulties, Modestep took the stage for a set that was both familiar and different.
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Structured like a typical EDM festival set, the group hit upon their original tracks and remixes, including Avicii's "Levels," Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" and Rage Against the Machine's "Killing In the Name of." But the addition of live drums, guitar and vocals took things to a different place, one we wish more artists would visit.
It's unfortunate that Modestep's set was marred by sound issues, because based on what we could hear, the group has a lot going for them. Lead singer Josh Modestep wasn't afraid to voice his frustrations from the stage, although he never quite hit Rusko levels of displeasure. They promised to come back one day for a proper Modestep gig, and we're looking forward to seeing them again.
With a new album topping the iTunes Dance chart and a Lady Gaga collaboration on the horizon, Zedd is well on his way to being a titan in the EDM community. It was no surprise, then, that the crowd had swelled for his main stage set, which hit on a diverse group of tracks that included versions of M83's "Midnight City," Kanye West's "Mercy" and, most absurdly, the theme song to The Legend of Zelda (including animated graphics of protagonist Link).
Zedd brought down the house with his current single, "Spectrum," to what appeared to be the delight of everyone present. Cory Garcia