In which the author talks about the best concerts he's seen in the Houston area

So, I've wanted to write this post for awhile now, but I never really had an avenue for it. NOW I DO! AND NOW YOU HAVE TO READ THIS.

And by you I mean the three people that are reading this. Oh well. I just want to talk about music.

I love music. I really do. To my great regret, I never took piano lessons as seriously as I should have. To my great regret (and my girlfriend's) I can't sing either. 

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But I still do. Because I love music. I love all kinds of music. I can't write in silence. Even if it's at a coffee shop (shout out again to the wondrous folks at Inversion Coffee in Montrose) there is a certain type of music  both in the background and in the click clack clicking of fingers on keyboards. Anyway, on to concerts. I had never been big on concerts because the bands I liked never ventured much farther than San Antonio. I did manage to see Pedro Fernandez once (as part of a sixth grade choir thing), Del Castillo (in high school, plus, Mark del Castillo is from Brownsville) and Jose Feliciano (in college, as part of an assignment for the newspaper). but the bands I liked? Nope.

That's the problem with being a metalhead, well, a broke metalhead, because even when Sonata Arctica or someone would tour, I was still six hours away. And sometimes even then, they'd tour and hit Houston or San Antonio on Thursday night and I had school/work the next day.

So whatever.

I moved to Houston in 2011, my first concert was Linkin Park at the Toyota Center. Pretty fun. It then started to dawn on me: holy SHIT, I am in HOUSTON, bands COME HERE! And then I went on to not see any concerts in 2012. Fast forward to 2013, I'm working at a small agency in the Spring Branch area, and I realize that three of my coworkers are metalheads. For a staff of 20 to have 4 metalheads, that was a whole new world for me. So one day, one of them tells me hey, I've got an extra ticket to an Amon Amarth concert, would you like to come?

And that's how I got introduced to the Houston metal scene and all its glory. And I wanted to share it with you, in a LISTICLE FORMAT YAYYYYY. Plus, it's easier to organize.

Here is DosAguilas' Favorite Concerts in the Last Few Years, in as best of a top nine list I could conjure with.

9. Otep, Art of Fury Tour 2015
Opening act: The Reaktion, Downfall 2012, Blood of an Outlaw, Klodine
Scout Bar

  Frontwoman Otep Shamaya is five-foot-nothing but had an amazing stage presence and riled everyone up. Her energy was clichedly-electrifying.

 

Frontwoman Otep Shamaya is five-foot-nothing but had an amazing stage presence and riled everyone up. Her energy was clichedly-electrifying.

Diego from The ReAktion was solid, too.

Diego from The ReAktion was solid, too.

So this was a pretty lengthy concert, because every band played an extended setlist, but, it was worth it. I had the opportunity to sit down with Klodine, Downfall 2012, and The ReAktion for quick interviews. Klodine and Downfall 2012 were the two local bands representing Houston, and both noted that it was Houston that has inspired their music and reinvention. (Klodine take their name from the Alief-Clodine area, where the bandmembers grew up) The Chilean-originated/Canadian-based The Reaktion are a group of activists and when I sat down with them, we talked about music and other stuff. Like, the band members are all vegan/vegetarian, which made for an interesting experience in this leg of their tour. And Otep, wow, I mean, she's awesome. She's got the stage presence and the weirdness that makes concerts memorable. She also played my two favorites: Apex Predator and Ghostflowers. After the show, in lieu of a picture, I just asked her what poetry meant to her and she said, "it's the lining of my soul".  A funny thing happened: I didn't end up writing the piece I was sent out for because although I finished the rough draft on time, I came down with strep right after and spent the next three days in fever sweats and unconsciousness.

8: Amaranthe, Massive Addictive World Tour 2014
House of Blues, Bronze Peacock Room
Opening act: Oceans of Slumber

So this was my introduction to Amaranthe, and well, it was amazing. I hadn't really listened to much of them before but they've since become one of my favorite bands. The stage was probably the smallest out of the venues I've been to in Houston, and for having no idea what to expect, it was great. A funny thing happened: Little after this, Oceans of Slumber, one of the opening acts, got rid of their vocalist and hired a new one a few months later. Now they're headlining their own shows at Scout Bar.

7 Bayou Doom Metal Fest 3: Headliners: Helstar, August 2015
Fitzgerald's
Supporting acts: Sanctus Bellum, Project Armaggedon, Oceans of Slumber, Switchblade Jeus, Kin of Ettins, Dirty Seeds, and a few others

Doomstress Alexis of Project Armaggedon

Doomstress Alexis of Project Armaggedon

 

So I used to live off of I-10, and played soccer every Sunday at Hogg Middle School in the Heights. To get there, I'd always pass Fitzgerald's, a long-time Houston institution and I'd go hmmm, that seems to be an interesting place. But I never stopped in until years after I moved and I was doing my freelance journalist biz. The Bayou Doom Metal Fest was in its third iteration when I covered it. It was, well, it was a long evening. I got there at 5 and didn't leave until past midnight, stopping by Whataburger to get some energy in before working on the photos and the article. I loved the venue, I loved how it could have two completely different stages, and I loved just how excited people were on it. I got to meet the organizer, Doomstress Alexis, and she was very warm and welcoming to this complete newbie.
A funny thing happened: There was also a guy doing hula hoops for two straight sets from two different bands.

6 and 5 Amon Amarth
Deceiver of the Gods, North American Tour 2014
Opening: Enslaved, Skeleton Witch
Jomsviking Tour 2016
Opening Acts: Entombed AD
House of Blues

Amon Amarth brought a Viking ship stage and two roadies who wore full viking regalia

Amon Amarth brought a Viking ship stage and two roadies who wore full viking regalia

So, as I mentioned, Amon Amarth was the first metal concert I saw in Houston, and it was also the first time I've ever stepped foot inside House of Blues, even though I was next door (at South Texas College of Law and then at Reliant) for two years. Anyway, so....I'm not the world's biggest death metal guy, when it's like this, it works awesome. Deceiver of the Gods and Father of the Wolf were on my NaNo/Thesis playlist. Something funny happened: not so much funny but cool, Amon Amarth have two roadies that get on stage in armor and spar, point arrows at the crowd, or just stand and hold spears with runic flags

4 Nightwish, Endless Forms Most Beautiful North America Tour 2014
Opening Act: Sabaton, Delain
Warehouse Live

I really wanted to go see this one because it was Floor Jansen's first official tour as the new vocalist for Nightwish. Nightwish was one of the first bands that introduced me to metal way back in AUGHT THREE. (The others were Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius, Mago de Oz, and Hammerfall), and they were amazing with Tarja Turunen. But Tarja eventually left the band in a not-very-nice-way and they hired Annette Olson for a few years. I stopped listening to them for a bit because, well, I just didn't enjoy Annette's voice that much. But then they brought in Floor after Annette left the band (and briefly auditioned ELIZE RYD, who would eventually help found Amaranthe) and I gave her a listen, and it was just like Tarja, but, I think slightly better. So, I wanted to see them, I got to see Delain again (even though I missed the first part of their set) and got to experience Sabaton, too. Sabaton took the cake in this concert. Nightwish, I will say, have great concerts, it's cinematic, and I think Endless Forms Most Beautiful is right up there with Nemo as one of their best albums, AND Floor seems to really enjoy being there instead of Tarja, who was a bit more a diva when she takes the stage. 

But Sabaton, man.

Historical metal. From their setlist: Ghost Division, To Hell and Back, Carolus Rex, Swedish Pagans, Resist and Bite, The Art of War, Night Witches; which detail songs about Audie Murphy, King Karl XII, Vikings, Belgium's Chasseurs Ardonnais, Sun-Tzu, and Russia's all-female 588th Bomber Regiment. Near the end of their set, they even brought up two toddlers to the stage to enjoy Primo Victoria. It was a great introduction, and I can't wait to see them tour again. A funny thing happened: I lost my ticket to get in and had to make a convincing case to the teller that yes, I had indeed bought a ticket.


 

3 Amaranthe, Massive Collision North American Tour 2015
Opening act: Butcher Babies, Lullwater



I think this concert really drives home the point that Scout Bar is 1) the best avenue to watch concerts in Houston and 2) worth the drive. At one point in the concert, I made my way right to the stage where I could see band right up close, I had my hand stretched out and Elize Ryd (Amaranthe) took it while she sang a few bars from True. And she stared right at me. I know this goes on in every concert they put on, but man, I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me feel special. The opening acts were great, too, Butcher Babies killed it and Lullwater was pretty groovy, too. A funny thing happened: There was a man right next to me up front, and he was in a wheelchair, looked like he had MS. As the mosh pit swelled, I took several elbows to the back as I turned my body to shield the guy from the ebbs and flows of the people next to us. Nice dude, too. 

2 Sonata Arctica, Pariah's Child World Tour 2014
Opening act: Xandria, Delain

Scout Bar

Sonata Arctica frontman Tony Kakko

Sonata Arctica frontman Tony Kakko

Oh man, choosing between these last two is like choosing whether I like quesadillas or arroz con pollo more. Anyway, this was a dream come true for me. As I mentioned above, Sonata Arctica was one of the bands that introduced me to metal when my friend Raul showed me Wolf and Raven. I know 10/12 songs of Silence by heart. So for TEN YEARS I dreamed of going to one of their concerts. It just so happened that in 2014, they swung through town in September, which is my birthday month. So my girlfriend splurged, got me VIP tickets for the meet and greet, I GOT TO MEET HIM AND TAKE A PICTURE WITH HIM and I got to experience it with one of the friends that brought me into the metal scene in Houston. It was a religious experience for me, not even joking. What made it also awesome was that  got introduced to Delain and Xandria. Xandria was a throwback to old-school Nightwish and frontwoman Dianne and I corresponded later that year because I bought some jewelry from her. 

Delain

Delain

Yeah...my girlfriend framed it :)

Yeah...my girlfriend framed it :)

 

1 Orgy, Talk Sick World Tour 2015
Opening Act: 9 Electric, Death Valley High
Scout Bar

Jay Gordon and Orgy

Jay Gordon and Orgy

I'll get to why this concert takes number one for me in a sec. But this concert was AWESOME. Now, I used to listen to Orgy a lot prior to my metalhead stage in life. They play what they term industrial rock or "death pop" and after a six-year hiatus, they had reconvene to start making new music and touring, too! NOW WAS MY CHANCE! Now, 9electric, I gotta say, that's a fun show. They like to have fun, and I am convinced frontman Ron Thunderwood is half-bat by the way he just...well, likes to hang from things. Not only that, but between his set and Orgy's set, he was walking around, laughing, taking pictures with people and being a very cool dude. Like, WHO DOES THAT? And ever since then I've been a big fan of the band just because, hey, if you take your time to talk to people, you're a decent fellow in my book.

Now Orgy took the stage and...well, it was like being a kid again. I knew most of the songs (Except for the Punk Statik Paranoia songs) by heart and had no shame belting them out while the band (with just Jay Gordon remaining from the original lineup) rocked out. Carlton Bost was on lead guitar, too, and he was in ANOTHER of my childhood bands (Deadsy...who you also have to check out, if not just for their music, but also because that's Cher and Greg Allman's kid) so that was pretty cool. He also travels with his Chihuahua.

My favorite part of the concert, though? The band closing with one of their biggest hits, "Blue Monday" (New Order cover) and in the last part of the song, Jay Gordon JUMPED DOWN into the pit next to me, grabbed me and another fan and everyone started singing "HOW DOES IT FEEL? HOW SHOULD I FEEL" at the top of our lungs. Sure, I got doused in sweat and someone's beer but man, that was amazing. 

AND THEN

I'm leaving the concert, just elated that I was just moshing with Jay fucking Gordon a few minutes ago, and then I see him standing outside the bar, JUST CHILLING. Like, having a cigarette, talking to two people. I went up and said, man, I've been a big fan, bla bla, and we just started talking about sports. He's unfortunately a 49ers and Golden State fan, but still! They say never meet your idols but, shit, that was awesome. 

A funny thing happened: Well, it wasn't funny. I almost bailed on the concert because we had a MASSIVE STORM on the way, but I figured I could beat it. Wrong. It hit Houston just as I was passing downtown, raining so hard that the downtown skyline was well, non-existent. Me and like five other cars had to trek down 45 at 15 an hour with our hazards on in order to, y'know, be as safe as I can. The lighting made the skies GREEN, too, so that was trippy.

Concert merch

Concert merch

 

So, overall, I think Scout Bar is still my favorite venue. It's a bit of a drive, but it's let me see my favorite bands. Fitzgerald's is a close second, followed by House of Blues and Warehouse Live. I gotta say parking at Warehouse Live is always a hassle, at least with the others you have street-side parking or a parking garage nearby.