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Music and atmosphere make festival a success
by Marty Racine
Houston Chronicle; Houston, Tex.; Oct 31, 1988

ON a misty pre-Halloween Saturday night, club-goers took back that hour of ``daylight.''

``We're in Chicago,'' said one misguided soul, referring to the newfound 3 a.m. (CDT) closing hour. It is not clear whether bartenders across the city were hep to the extra duty, but the live music houses were rocking.

First, though, we take you by the George R. Brown Convention Center, Exhibit Hall A, where KLOL staged a successful Rocktoberfest before about 5,000.

Winner of the local Budweiser Battle of the Bands contest was the Pack, which heads to regional competition and receives a stipend for musical equipment. The Pack beat out, in order of judging, Civil Eyes, the Allisons, Private Numbers and Cordray.

The Brown Center is proving itself ideally situated, and it has a fine rock 'n' roll atmosphere, with a properly laid-back security system allowing for plenty of boogie space on the sides. Two adjoining stages hastened the set changes. Unfortunately, the low, hard ceiling is acoustically primitive, hampering the sound.

That, however, will just have to be part of the act; the center is worth more concerts and sure beats the Sam Houston Coliseum (of similar capacity) in all the amenities.

Excellent performances reigned, including Ronnie Lane's ad hoc set with guitarists Rick Richards and Dan Baird of the Georgia Satellites and the drummer from Austin's Alamo Choir supplying backup. Lane, who left the stage via wheelchair, is said to be doing ``better'' in his bout with multiple sclerosis.

David Lindley, the Southern California king of polyester world-beat music, was equipped with a new drummer, ``Rock,'' and dealt a highly evocative set of reggae and Tex-Mex rock 'n' roll, opening on a long, funky ``Papa Was A Rolling Stone'' (from his new LP, ``Very Greasy'').

Lindley's music carries a wealth of imagery, and he applied it to the rollicking Tex-Mex of ``El Rayo-X'', which also serves as the name of his band, and to such lyrically silly yet hard-grooving numbers as ``Premature''.

Backed by regular El Rayo-Xers Jorge Calderon on bass, Ray Woodbury on second guitar and ``Smitty'' Smith on keyboards, Lindley played a cheesy electric guitar, pedal steel and what looked like an electric lute.

The Georgia Satellites then took the crowd by storm, with everyone standing for their basic, in-your-face rock 'n' roll. Dan Baird was especially beguiling as front man, displaying much style in his guitar work.

The Satellites, a surprise success story out of Atlanta, played to the crowd, restarting their deserved hit, ``Keep Your Hands To Yourself,'' due to ``poor'' crowd response on the refrain, and interjecting the Rolling Stones' ``It's Only Rock 'n' Roll'' as a bridge. Richards played a mean slide on Can't Stand The Pain, and the band simply rocked out in their first Houston appearance since the release of their second album.

Wednesday I took in Germany's Scorpions, playing to about 11,000 at The Summit. The Scorpions, who played second headliner on last summer's Monsters of Rock caravan, were hard-rocking technocrats, with a clean, chunky, angular riff attack on such as ``Big City Nights'' and ``Rhythm of Love''. At times, though, they were too perfect for any delightful surprises, and their music proved itself simplistic and conservative. Best effort was a drawn-out ballad, ``Still Loving You''.

Thursday, Wayne Toups led his Zydecajuns in a fine romp at Club Hey Hey. Toups joins a number of regional Louisiana accordionists - Zachary Richard, Buckwheat Zydeco - updating Cajun/zydeco music by rocking the stuffing out of it.

Friday, I survived the Orange Show's annual Halloween Masquerade Ball at the Whitehall Hotel. Name dropping: ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill attended. C.J. Chenier and Albert Collins turned in suitably dance-inducing sets as this stunt man ``Red'' ate fire and flung knives at Orange Show publicity director Suzanne Demchak.

A grand party, as the wine flowed and the ghost of Fellini hovered over the eccentricities.

From there we snuck in Johnny Reno at Hey Hey. On the pop numbers, Johnny was just another dance band. When he swung on some hard jazz, he was untouchable.

POP NOTE: Look for Lisa Morales and Marie English to divide and conquer, ending their yearlong Wednesday gigs at Blythe Spirits next month and freeing English to pound the keyboard for Jerry Lightfoot & The Essential Band. It's a great trade for all parties, certainly for the Essentials, who have quietly become the city's most swinging act.


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