Archive for Cactus Music

Live: Ryan Bingham, Houston

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , on February 3, 2013 by 30daysout
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Ryan Bingham

Lots of fun Friday at Cactus Music in Houston, as Ryan Bingham dropped by to perform a handful of tunes from his latest studio album, Tomorrowland.  The acoustic set included the rollicking “The Road I’m On,” “Never Ending Show” and “Western Shore.”

Bingham 1

There’s Ryan Bingham in Houston, back there with the gimme cap.

Bingham is, of course, the Academy Award-winning writer and singer of “The Weary Kind,” from the movie Crazy Heart, and the latest in a long line of fine singer-songwriters of the Texas tradition. This was a bit of a homecoming for Bingham, because he spent his high school years in Houston before taking off to join the rodeo circuit.

Tomorrowland, Bingham’s fourth studio album, is a bit of a rocker that’s earned good reviews. At the in-store on Friday, Bingham stripped the songs down to their acoustic underpinnings but the boy’s a heck of a guitar player, so they rocked nevertheless. “Never Ending Show” is one of his many road songs, declaring “I don’t need the marquee lights/I don’t need my name in lights” while all he wants is to “hopefully make it home.”

“Too Deep To Fill”  is perhaps the album’s best song, Bingham’s mission statement of why he’s hitting the road again: “I’m going out to the country/I’m going to see if I can find out why,” while reminding the listener he will won’t stray forever with “I hope to be home by supper time.”

People in Houston kill me: this capacity show at the record store (complete with firemen on hand, ostensibly to prevent too many people breaking the fire code) required a purchase and a bit of trouble to enter. Still, there were pockets of people who’d rather stand and gab with their bros and ugly girlfriends, instead of relinquishing 30 minutes of attention to this fine artist. Bingham seemed to sense this, so his set at Cactus was a bit shorter than the one he performed the day before in Austin.

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Bingham took some time to meet the fans and sign autographs afterward.

The people who really were there for the music were early and up front, one even offered Bingham a swig from his whiskey flask which the singer happily obliged. The payoff was a rollicking version of early song “Bread and Water” with the lyric “Houston always brings me down” delivered with a big smile from Bingham.

We didn’t get the surprise treat that Bingham offered the Austin audience, a cover of Robert Earl Keen’s “The Road Goes On Forever.” But you can see it on the YouTube video below, at about the 36:30 mark.

If you want to see Bingham with his full band, he plays March 10 in Houston at House of Blues. Or catch him at another tour stop, click here for a list.

YouTube: “The Road I’m On,” live at Cactus Music, Houston, 2/1/2013

YouTube: “Keep It Together”

Videos courtesy of pokabeb

YouTube: Ryan Bingham plays an in-store at Waterloo Records, Austin, 1/31/2013. Thanks to Bob Knauf for the video.

Ryan Bingham official web site

Record Store Day 2012

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , , , , on April 22, 2012 by 30daysout

Evanescence with Amy Lee (far right) showed up to sign autographs for Record Store Day in Houston. What happened where you live?

I still have a bit of a hangover from Record Store Day yesterday … what about you? The fifth annual event, staged to help music fans remember their independent music stores, took place yesterday at record shops across the country, and people walked away with armloads of exclusive, rare vinyl and CD items made just for the occasion.

As someone who’s faithfully patronized RSD every year since its inception,I found that the asking prices for this year’s exclusive items have gotten a bit steep. Seven-inch singles by classic bands like the Byrds and the Small Faces, as well as by current artists like Jack White and the Flaming Lips, reached into the $12 range this year … I found that a bit much to pay for a couple songs on a 45-rpm single.

Likewise with the longer offerings – I bought a Miles Davis LP with five unreleased songs for $25 … but passed on the Flaming Lips’ The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends, a double LP that went for upwards of $35 and which may or may not have contained an autograph from band frontman Wayne Coyne. (Ha ha, that item was long gone by the time I got to the table – we purchased a Mastodon/Flaming Lips 45 single instead, for 10 bucks.)

For me, Record Store Day is starting to lose its charm. These prices are seeming more than ever like a gouge, for limited-edition stuff that most likely winds up on eBay an hour or two later. I’d rather go to my hometown independent record store – that’s Cactus Music in Houston – on a non-special day when I can peruse the stacks of used vinyl at my leisure. And of course, I’m there when the good folks at Cactus want to set up a fine in-store performance with free beer. And for all of you who didn’t make it on Saturday – visit your friendly neighborhood record store on Monday … you’ll be surprised what is left over!

On Saturday, Cactus in Houston hosted the band Evanescence for a meet-and-greet autograph session, and a live solo performance by Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller. I tried to swing downtown to the equally awesome Sig’s Lagoon for a live in-store by classic rocker Mark Andes (formerly of Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne and Heart) but totally failed on that count.

I hope you got most of what you wanted to get on Record Store Day; and I hope you are NOT that asshole who posted it on eBay five minutes later.

Johnny Winter makes rare in-store appearance in Houston

Posted in Rock Moment with tags , on February 8, 2012 by 30daysout

Johnny Winter, second from right, and members of his band at Cactus Music in Houston. (Photo courtesy Cactus Music)

Even though we’re a few months out from Record Store Day (April 21) we thought we’d give a little love to Cactus Music, Houston’s biggest independent music store. Not only is it one of the country’s last few real record stores – yes, they also sell vinyl – but Cactus goes out of its way to book some really cool people to show up and play live music.

In the past year at Cactus Music I have seen such great acts such as Los Lonely Boys, Girl In A Coma, Peter Case, Robert Earl Keen and the great Steve Earle, performing from just a few feet away and in person – all for free. They hand out free beer at all of these (ice-cold Saint Arnold, from the local brewery) and in many cases the artist hangs out and signs autographs.

Last week Cactus hosted a true Texas legend: blues guitarist Johnny Winter, who did a rare autograph signing session to support his latest album Roots. People started lining up about a half hour early and by the time Winter and his band showed up a line snaked through the store, full of people carrying old LPs and guitars for the man to sign.

I didn’t get anything signed but I was impressed by the number of fans who turned out for the chance to meet this legendary musician. The most recent Cactus Music newsletter reported that an estimated 1,000 people attended the two-hour meet and greet.

Winter is of course the Beaumont, Texas, native who made his name in the late 1960s with a blazing guitar and an authentic blues style. He played at Woodstock with a band that included his brother Edgar, drummer Uncle John Turner and bass player Tommy Shannon (later of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Double Trouble). Winter also helped resurrect the career of blues great Muddy Waters in the late 1970s, most notably with the Grammy Award-winning Hard Again album.

Roots is a collection of classic blues numbers that helped shape Johnny’s love of the blues. The CD features such notable guests as Vince Gill, Warren Haynes, John Popper, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi and others. At age 67, Winter shows the miles and physical toll the years have taken on him (he was once a heroin addict) but his guitar playing is still pretty sharp. Check out this appearance on “Late Night With David Letterman” from January:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Anyway, thanks Cactus Music. Check out the store’s official website for upcoming in-store performances (Dr. Dog next month!).

Johnny Winter official website

Live: Robert Earl Keen, Houston

Posted in Review with tags , , on September 1, 2011 by 30daysout

Robert Earl Keen played a short in-store at Cactus Music in Houston.

Any time Texas singer/songwriter Robert Earl Keen plays Houston, it’s an event. After all, Keen is a Houston boy, born and raised, and his fan base is larger in H-Town than any place else.

So you can imagine folks were pretty pumped for Keen’s in-store performance Wednesday at Cactus Music & Record Ranch, to promote Keen’s latest CD Ready For Confetti. Those of us who were lucky enough to experience Steve Earle’s generous tour-de-force at Cactus this past spring were hoping for a similar intimate evening with the legendary Robert Earl Keen.

But it wasn’t to be – even before Keen hit the stage, we were informed that things were gonna run on a tight schedule: he had even pre-signed CDs for those who purchased them in advance! So Keen came on, wearing his trademark “game warden” cowboy hat and looking pretty road-weary.

Right at the outset he informed the crowd he was gonna play only three songs, and went into “Play A Train Song” off the new album. That one, Keen said, was written by Todd Snider.

Before the next tune, Keen explained that he grew up in Houston, where he said “we thought the way to celebrate Christmas was to shoot roman candles off the back of a riding lawnmower.”  He and bass player Bill Whitbeck then kicked into the bluesy “Who Do Man,” one of the highlights from the new album that also featured some nifty guitar picking from Keen.

The set closed with “The Man Behind The Drums,” from 2009’s The Rose Hotel. Keen said he and Whitbeck wrote the tune after playing Levon Helm’s Ramble once up in Levon’s home studio in Woodstock, N.Y. “For those of you who are fans of Levon in the Band, or fans of his movies,” Keen said, “he’s really as small as he looks.”

Then REK ambled off to sell and sign some more CDs before the bigger show he was to play later Wednesday night. Always a pleasure to see this excellent performer in an intimate setting, I just wish he had just a little more time to linger.

Ah, well. For those of you who don’t have a fine record store like Cactus Music in your hometown, here’s a great story from the Houston Press about the greatest in-stores in the 30-plus-year history of the venerable Houston music institution.

Get the single “I Gotta Go” from Ready For Confetti, free from iTunes

Robert Earl Keen official website

Robert Earl Keen, left, with bassist Bill Whitbeck at Cactus Music.

Record Store Day: The Aftermath

Posted in News with tags , , on April 16, 2011 by 30daysout

Don’t know about you, but we had a nice day in Houston for Record Store Day – temps in the 60s, low humidity and not a cloud in the sky. We lined up two hours early outside Cactus Music and by the time the doors opened a little before 10 a.m. there were about 150 die-hards in line to snap up copies of about 200 exclusive vinyl items. (There were more than 200 copies, there were many copies of about … never mind.)

We talked to the guy in front of us in line, his name was Sonny.  He

Record Store Day line outside Cactus Music in Houston - that Kenny Rogers shirt worn ironically, I hope.

brought a Bible to read while waiting, and after we bothered him from that activity he told us he was getting married tonight! Sonny was worried he wouldn’t make a planned lunch with his groomsmen and even though he didn’t get the My Morning Jacket items on his list (Cactus didn’t get ’em) Sonny did walk away happy with Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons, Bruce Springsteen and some Regina Spektor for his fiancée. He told us he bought tickets for his entire bridal party to see the Avett Brothers in Houston – but that show was scratched due to Scott Avett’s wife possibly giving birth ahead of schedule. That’s life – it gives a little, and it causes your rock show to get rescheduled.

As for us, we came away with the Foo Fighters covers LP Medium Rare, highlights include “Band On The Run,” “Darling Nikki,” “Life Of Illusion” and a scorching live version of the Who warhorse “Young Man Blues.”  We also got some choice 7″ singles including the new Wild Flag song “Glass Tambourine” and the Rolling Stones doing some vintage stuff from Sticky Fingers and a live “Let It Rock.”

It was kinda pricey – the copy of Big Star’s Third, considered to be the band’s “lost” album, went for 40 bucks and the Foo Fighters item was about 20. The 7″ singles cost anywhere from seven to 10 bucks apiece, so you had purchase wisely. Cactus Music personnel helped that process by distributing a list of everything they had, along with the price, so you could make a plan before you got to the counter. Some of these vinyl items were limited edition, but I got pretty much everything on my list.

Yes, even though there was a bit of sticker shock and I wound up spending money I shouldn’t have, it felt good to support my favorite record store. Cactus has been there for me since the 1970s, and even though I don’t buy as much music as I used to I still regularly attend their in-stores. In recent months you’ve read about awesome Cactus performances from the likes of Everest, Anders Osborne, Los Lonely Boys, Girl In A Coma and Rodney Crowell; they have someone playing pretty much every weekend and on May 3 they welcome Steve Earle for his third in-store!

And you know what – right now, as I’m writing this, my 17-year-old son is in the next room playing vinyl records for the very first time in his life. As Ken Shane so aptly put it – that’s like a VISA commercial … Big Star: $40, sharing music with a kid: Priceless.

First time in 20 years I spent 100 bucks on vinyl records - and it felt good.

Live: Everest, Houston

Posted in News with tags , on May 17, 2010 by 30daysout

Everest performs an acoustic in-store at Cactus Music in Houston.

We caught a special in-store performance at Houston’s Cactus Music and Video May 14 by Everest, the great L.A. rock band currently touring in support of their new album On Approach.  This was an acoustic performance, so the short set focused on the band’s roots rock like “East Illinois” and “Tall Buildings.”  It would have been cool to hear the plugged-in-with-drums version of “Let Go,” the nifty first single from the new album – which I’m sure Everest performed later that night at House of Blues (opening for Minus The Bear).  I have had a chance to hear On Approach, and it’s excellent – on only their second album (and first for a major label), Everest has hit its stride and rocks as confidently as Wilco or the Jayhawks in their prime.

Read a great review of On Approach by our friend Ken Shane at Popdose

Everest official website

Stream songs from On Approach on Everest MySpace page


Video: “Let Go” by Everest

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