It was a big year for Houston music from concerts to controversy, great singing and some disappointments.
It was a big year for Houston music from concerts to controversy, great singing and some disappointments.
Photo by Jack Gorman

The Most Read Houston Press Music Stories in 2017

Performance art gone seriously off the rails at a well-known Houston venue. The death of a beloved Houston musician. Big concerts that came to town. All these and where to park your butt in a Heights bar were among the most read stories in the Houston Press in 2017.

Take the time to take a look and reacquaint yourself with these stories — or read them for the first time. For the complete versions of a story, just click ont he link in the highlighted headline to each account.

Some performances at AvantGarden can get pretty far out there, but nothing like what happened last Friday.
Some performances at AvantGarden can get pretty far out there, but nothing like what happened last Friday.

Performance Art Gone Awry Raises a Big Stink at AvantGarden

Stephan Wyatt | February 20, 2017

Last Friday night, Montrose’s beloved AvantGarden was besieged by a pair of “performance artists” who turned a well-intentioned benefit show into a scatological catastrophe of nearly Biblical proportions.

The duo, Sonic Rabbit Hole, readied to perform their set for Zoning Out over a Bowl of Ice Cream Benefit Show #1, a charity event open to the public that featured live music, face painting, vendors, raffle prizes and performance art to support a local artist's fight with cancer. Instead of an improvised set of experimental music, the audience witnessed one of Sonic Rabbit Hole's members, Michael Clemmons, perform a “muscle-milk enema” onstage. Soon after he evacuated himself, the audience did too by fleeing the scene.

“I received a text message on WhatsApp that my staff and I use, and I see a text from one of my bartenders saying, ‘It stinks here. What’s going on? Somebody smells. Please find him,'” says Mariana Lemesoff, AvantGarden’s owner. “We go to look at what’s going [on], and we see that he’s defecating on the stage.”

According to Lemesoff, one of the venue’s bartenders confronted Clemmons and bandmate William Foisy and immediately attempted to kick them out of the venue. An argument ensued, and as the band left the venue, one of them allegedly broke the window with his amplifier. Someone in the crowd called the police, but they did not arrive until long after the duo had left ...

Nickelback's Chad Kroeger at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, April 2015EXPAND
Nickelback's Chad Kroeger at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, April 2015
Photo by Eric Sauseda

10 Bands You Should Hate Instead of Nickelback

Houston Press | January 25, 2017

Just to get it out of the way, no one is saying you should like Nickelback. In fact, if we're being honest, there are plenty of good reasons you might actively dislike them: their occasionally problematic lyrics, how their success has resulted in the signing of other bands that aren't very good, the “She Keeps Me Up,” the sound of Chad Kroeger's voice, the fact that their Vevo page is a mess, so on and so forth. And yet, somehow whenever you ask someone to explain why Nickelback are monsters worthy of scorn, 95 percent of the time you're going to get this tired response: All their songs sound the same.

This is, of course, simply not true. Nickelback have about four core types of song they write, which shouldn't be surprising because that's how most bands operate; seriously, unless your favorite band is Ween, odds are good a band you love is just recycling the same ideas over and over again.

So, seriously, why all the hate for Nickelback? They don't write the worst songs in modern music. They're not the worst live act. Chad Kroeger doesn't even have the most punchable face. Again, hate them if you want, but Nickelback as the most joked-about band is a meme that was run into the ground years ago. Let's find a new object of scorn. Here are some suggestions ...

The Josh Abbott Band can start a party like nobody's business.
The Josh Abbott Band can start a party like nobody's business.
The Josh Abbott Band can start a party like nobody's business. Photo by Gary Dorsey/Courtesy of Shore Fire Media

Texas Country's 10 Best Live Acts

Amy McCarthy | May 10, 2017

Whether heard in a massive honky-tonk or a dingy old college-town bar, Texas Country is the best kind of drinking music. The state’s music scene has staked an entire reputation on its live performances, known for producing acts that really know how to get a hard-boozing crowd going. As a result, it’s easy enough to find an excellent band playing in any number of small bars off the beaten path.

Texas Country may not have found a way to dominate the Nashville sound just yet, but when it’s paired with just the right amount of cold beer, nobody in this state could care less that the state's biggest acts haven't gotten their due on the national scene. It’s a testament to just how strong Texas’s live-music culture really is. In a field packed to the gills with excellent talent, these ten artists represent the best that Texas’s rootsy, hard-partying music scene has to offer, from the icehouses of Lubbock to the honky-tonks in Houston ...

The day before her Toyota Center show, Janet Jackson visited with Houstonians displaced by Hurricane Harvey at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
The day before her Toyota Center show, Janet Jackson visited with Houstonians displaced by Hurricane Harvey at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
Photo by Marco Torres

Janet Jackson Reminds Houston Why She's an Icon

Brandon Caldwell | September 10, 2017

Janet Jackson
Toyota Center
September 9, 2017

The power of Janet Jackson is an understated sort of power. Her songs and albums call for unity and ownership of one's sexuality and libido; she was a trailblazer long before such buzzwords became the norm for pop singers in their quest for individuality. Songs with a direct social message to end racism? She touched on it nearly 30 years ago with Rhythm Nation. Messages about lovers, old and new, while declaring her own sense of freedom? That was janet. in 1993, with the classic Rolling Stone cover to match.

A day after she walked through the George R. Brown Convention Center to visit with those taking shelter following Hurricane Harvey, Jackson made good on another promise. A long-established one. Months after she halted her Unbreakable tour to give birth to her first child, the 51-year-old icon proved once more how timeless and graceful she is on the revamped State of the World Tour ...

Fitzgerald's owner faced a backlash after she objected to a group's lyrics.
Fitzgerald's owner faced a backlash after she objected to a group's lyrics.
Photo by Jack Gorman

Fitzgerald's Stung by Controversy After Producer Calls for Boycott

Chris Gray | February 7, 2017

Fitzgerald’s, perhaps Houston’s most historic music venue still in regular operation, is facing a firestorm of criticism after a racially charged email exchange between the club and a respected Houston rap producer and promoter began going viral early Tuesday afternoon.

Shortly after noon, TrakkSounds, whose new single featuring Scarface, Starlito and Kam Franklin, “Once Upon a Time,” premiered today on XXL, posted a message featuring screenshots of an email exchange between his given name, Garrett Brown, and Fitzgerald’s. The email from the club, regarding a possible booking by TrakkSounds’ duo Starlito & Don Trip, reads:

“I’m gonna pass on this. Not a big fan of the ‘nigger,bitch,pussy,whore,gonnafuckingshootyou” [sic] music or the fans that wear their pants under their ass with their underwear showing, drink and smoke pot in the parking lot, then scream, ‘you racist bitch’ when I ask that they take their lit joint outside. 300 fans that buy little, tip little and create big disharmony – no thanks.’”

Brown’s answer says:

“Wow...sounds like quite the stereotype but if that’s how you feel then all power to you. A simple no would have worked as well but it sounds like you have some aggression build up [sic] about something else. Have a good week and god bless you.

Sara Fitzgerald, the venue’s owner, claims she was quoting from Starlito & Don Trip’s song “Caesar & Brutus” in the club's message ...

Taylor Swift has experienced a rare misfire with her latest single, "Look What You Made Me Do."
Taylor Swift has experienced a rare misfire with her latest single, "Look What You Made Me Do."
Photo by Jack Groman

Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do”: Why This Song Sucks

Clint Hale | September 18, 2017

I’m Team Taylor. I supported her during her early years as a country superstar in the making. I had her back when she (wisely, financially and from a relevancy perspective) switched her sound to a more pop-oriented tint. I kinda chuckled when she released all her music on Spotify the same day Katy Perry dropped her new album, burying her rival in the process.

Hell, I didn’t even mind that she used her ex-boyfriends as cannon fodder in an array of diss tracks, some of them among her biggest hits. If artists like 2Pac and Eminem could build their careers on diss tracks, why not Taylor Swift?

So it kinda made sense that Swift – who has hits for days with diss tracks like “Bad Blood” and “I Knew You Were Trouble” – went back to that well with the lead single from her upcoming album, Reputation. Nor should Swift catch hell for shifting her sound from pop to a more EDM-oriented style. It’s not like she hasn’t danced between genres before.

There’s only one problem – that new single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” sucks ...

Photo by Troy Fields

Houston's 10 Best Bars in the Heights

Clint Hale | April 6, 2017

Few if any neighborhoods in Houston have undergone a transformation quite like that of the Heights. Once home to small cottages and bungalows and a few local shops, the area is now a haven of condos and townhomes, shopping centers, restaurants and, of course, nightlife. The Heights is still home to a number of dive bars that made their name serving cheap drinks to locals, but those joints now cohabitate with upscale bistros, patio bars and any other number of watering holes. These are the ten best the neighborhood has to offer.

The spot on Studewood that Ritual now inhabits has experienced a curse of sorts. While fellow White Oak-area places like Little Woodrow’s, Christian’s Tailgate, Onion Creek, Fitzgerald’s and Jimmy’s Ice House (pour one out for Jimmy’s) have flourished over the years, the plot where Ritual resides can safely be described as a revolving door. Fortunately, prospects appear high for Ritual, which opened last year and is unique enough to differentiate itself from its neighbors, yet laid-back enough to blend right in. Ritual serves up some of the best food in the Heights – particularly dishes like Beer Can Chicken and the Black Hill Pork Pie – and offers one of the more expansive wine menus in the area. A full bar – one of the more aesthetically pleasing you’ll find in Houston – serves up quality cocktails and an array of local and national craft beers. 602 Studewood, ritualhouston.com ...

The Chainsmokers
The Chainsmokers
Photo by Marco Torres

Chainsmokers, Chris Stapleton, Alicia Keys, blink-182 Top Rodeo's 2017 Lineup

Chris Gray | January 9, 2017

Several all-time favorites join an astonishing 11 debut artists in this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo lineup, which was announced a few moments ago on Facebook live.

Marking their very first appearances on the rotating stage will be dance-pop hitmakers The Chainsmokers, Grammy-winning retro-pop diva Meghan Trainor, X-Factor-spawned R&B vocal group Fifth Harmony and pop-punk comeback kids blink-182.

First out of the chute will be Texas country star Aaron Watson on March 7 (First Responder's Day). Just three years ago, Watson played the rodeo’s World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest before his The Underdog became the first self-released album to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart in February 2015; his new album, Vaquero, will be out next month. Other country artists making their rodeo debuts are neo-outlaw sensation Chris Stapleton (“Fire Away”); R&B-leaning crooner Sam Hunt (“Leave the Night On”); the more traditional-leaning Thomas Rhett (“Die a Happy Man”); and contemporary country-rockers Old Dominion (“Snapback”) ...

Kenny Cordray, shortly before his death, at Houston's Wire Road Studios.
Kenny Cordray, shortly before his death, at Houston's Wire Road Studios.
Photo courtesy of Andrew Bradley

Music Scene Stunned by Killing of Beloved Guitarist Kenny Cordray

Chris Gray | May 22, 2017

Kenny Cordray, a longtime beloved member of Houston’s blues-rock community, is being mourned by friends and fans after a shocking double homicide Sunday night. Houston’s ABC 13 reported that police are investigating the deaths of Cordray, 62, and his son Kelly, 33, as a possible murder-suicide. “According to neighbors, there was an argument followed by gunshots [earlier] Sunday,” the station said.

After the news broke, Cordray’s Facebook page received a deluge of messages offering condolences. This morning, those who knew him around town were still struggling to make sense of what happened.

“It’s very difficult,” says Cordray’s close friend, veteran Houston recording engineer Andrew Bradley. “Losing somebody from cancer or from a heart attack is one thing, but not to have one of your friends killed with a gun. It’s a different scenario completely.” ...

Kendrick Lamar in the "Humble" video
Kendrick Lamar in the "Humble" video
Screen grab from YouTube

Why Everyone's Talking About Kendrick Lamar's "Humble" Video

Brandon Caldwell | April 4, 2017

Kendrick Lamar makes important music. The easiest explanation you may give to someone attempting to decipher between Lamar, J.Cole or Drake is just that. Whenever Kendrick writes something and applies it to warm microfilm or digital audio, we dissect it. Not on a surface-level grade of artistic creativity, either. Critics pull any and every thing out of a Lamar release. This particular line of thought has been settled since 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city. It amplified two years ago when Lamar decided to shift from making a direct GKMC sequel and instead opted for something fiery, political, jazz-driven and ultimately engrossing in To Pimp a Butterfly.

This Friday, we’re getting a brand-new Kendrick Lamar album. In less than two weeks' time, it has become the most sought-after disc of the new year and we’re only a quarter of the way through. We know we’re getting the album because his label, Top Dawg Entertainment, can’t stop hyping it up and Lamar has already given us a hard deadline to prepare. Last week, he delivered a video for “Humble” from this upcoming, as yet untitled album. And all because of two lines in the song, it became a talking point ...

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