Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the original Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Who? Leslie Krafka came late to the songwriting game; the bug didn't bite her until about four years ago. She spent a year making her first album, The White Cat Sessions, at Jack Saunders' studio. But she found a bit of success with the album, being nominated as a best emerging artist in the annual mytexasmusic.com awards.
Krafka is back with a new album, Onward, recorded in Austin with uber-producer Lloyd Maines and his cohort Terri Hendrix. Krafka's music runs in the Hendrix vein, although on this effort Krafka has found some country twang to go with her thoughts on cheating men and wild women. She even flips the Hayes Carll/Ray Wylie Hubbard doozie "Drunken Poet's Dream" over, telling it as though she is the woman in the tune.
Home Base: "I'm all over town," Krafka says. "A couple of places I play frequently are JP Hops House and the Old Quarter in Galveston. I'm looking for a home, though, a venue where I can have a regular gig. Let me know if you have any suggestions."
Good War Story: "Several years ago, I attend my first 'Life's a Song' songwriter workshop hosted by Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines in Port Aransas," she says. "Up until then, I hadn't had an ambition to write songs, but the workshop was a gift, so I went to it thinking it would be cool to hang with Terri and Lloyd, as I am a fan."
About a week before the workshop, I thought maybe I should take a stab at writing a song. So after a trip to the Kroger, I sat in the parking lot and wrote this song called 'The Checkout Stand Blues.' At the workshop I sang the song a cappella, because I didn't play an instrument back then.
Lloyd approached me the next day and asked me to sing it to him again. We sat outside on some folding chairs while he played through it on his guitar. He said, "I think you should sing that tonight at the student concert," which would be in front of a public audience of about 150 people. He said, "I'll accompany you."
Well, in my naiveté, that sounded fine. Sure, why not? So I said yes. Now I look back at that and think, I can't believe I sang the first song I ever wrote in front of 150 strangers with Lloyd Maines backing me up.
Ignorance is truly bliss.
Story continues on next page
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I guess the question for me is not why stay, but why leave?" Krafka replies. "I love Houston. Yes, it's big, it's got traffic and it's hot and the air's not so great sometimes. But I've lived here since I was 11. I grew up here; all my best and worst times happened right here.
"Now I'm living in the Heights and I love it," she continues. "I have some of the best places to eat and shop and have fun with friends all within a few miles of my house. I'm happy here, that's why I stay."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Fickle fans," says Krafka. "One minute a band is packing them in, two weeks later they're lucky if there's more people in the audience than in the band."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
- James Taylor, Sweet Baby James
- Soundtrack, The Sound of Music
- Joe Ely, Honky Tonk Masquerade
- Patty Griffin, Living with Ghosts
First Song You Fell In Love With: "I was about ten years old and visiting my grandmother when my older brother found a huge stack of worn 45s in our aunt's old bedroom," Krafka says. "Since she obviously didn't want them, we took them home. In the stack was 'Listen to the Rhythm of the Falling Rain' by the Cascades. The song had been a hit nearly a decade earlier, but I didn't care, I loved it. I wore it out."
Best Concert You Ever Saw: "I've seen some icons and been to some great shows," she figures. "However, my adoration for Elton John has always run deep. I've had the opportunity to see him perform several times, and they were all great shows. My favorite show was performed at Hofheinz Pavilion. It was only Elton on piano and percussionist Ray Cooper. Those two guys filled that arena with music..."
Leslie Krafka's release party for Onward is Saturday night at Anderson Fair, 2007 Grant, at which she'll be backed by a full band.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
THE ROCKS OFF 200
Michael Anthony Shanks, Houston's Merry Shankster
DJ Baby Roo, Vegetarian Hip-Hop Veteran Rachel Bays, Filming Them Softly Punk-Rock "Newcomers" Screech of Death Erin Rodgers, the Keys to Glass the Sky Alex LaRotta, Crate-Digging Fistful of Soul Brother Alycia Miles, Triumphant Soul Singer DJ Piam, Poison Girl's Bacon-Fat Funk Specialist Mister Insane, Host of The Insane Show Jake Rawls -- Kemo For Emo Is Back Santos Pastrana, Sound Engineer and DJ Ninja Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez DJ Dayta, Keeper of That Good Good Matthew Davis Buehrer, Runaway Sun's Globally Thinking Bassist Fat Tony, Third Ward to "BKNY" Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.