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LOOSENOTES – Happy New Year! Hope everybody had a good holiday season and able to enjoy time with family and friends out & about on The SCENE. It was surreal driving around town with all the shops closed and people off the streets – The way it probably should’ve been. Looking ahead, the days are finally getting longer, our home town pro football team complete with a new coach gave us reason to stay tuned in, our pro basketball team is well in the mix this season, and Mardi Gras season lies ahead.

As for the live music scene, the month of December blew by “FAST” and we weren’t able to make it out to as many shows as our norm. Nonetheless, what we were able to take in during December was stellar and trust that our local live music helped liven things up.

MUSICAL SLEEPER AWARD – Over in the craft brewery department, the boss took me along to check out a local open house complete with gumbo cook-off. I’ll let him tell everybody about the brew and fine eats. For me, these tend to be seriously fun outings and this time out, I was totally hoodwinked catching Raf Rivera playing the acoustic and singing solo – so surprised at first that I had to make him take off his sun glasses to be sure. Over the years, many catch Raf shredding the electric with local groups such as Dev Electric, Hounds of Jezebel, a couple times on stage with Erase the Virus and on lead with The Hunger – All waaaaaaaay over on the high energy end of the spectrum. Yet on this day, there was Raf layout out crisp and articulate acoustic licks on his Taylor and looper, singing with a clarity that could hold its own at any private party or big stage – Had no idea he had this in him, it was such an enjoyable treat! The second enjoyable treat that afternoon was getting a chance to chat with Raf – often time we cross paths in venues at 95-110 db. Raf filled me in on being a musician from Florida who took root in Clear Lake while on his way to LA. Aside from being quite the busy full time professional musician, Raf shared his plans for his upcoming wedding at the white chapel in Las Vegas “where all the musicians get married” – You can’t fake a happy smile folks and suspect 2015 will be a good year for this man. Cheers! I’m not sure if we’ll ever see Raf playing on the coffee house or wine bar circuit anytime soon but hopefully, will get a chance to hear him fly solo again, perhaps at Skallywags down in the Lighthouse District.

KEMAH TOY DRIVE AND PUB CRAWL – Was PACKED this year with perhaps the largest turnout in the history of this annual Krewe du Lac and SCENE magazine holiday event. There were LOTS of new faces in this year’s batch of Merry Mongers to join King and Queen Larry & Betty Hayes. Once again, T-Bone Tom’s and their fantastic staff did a splendid job hosting the kickoff event without missing a beat – Dang, they’re good…. Speaking of beat, Andy and the Dreamsicles along with their entourage of Parrot loving holiday tropical rockers were cooking things up nicely – A big Happy Birthday to Andy Upchurch for joining the class of local musicians (Hammond, Shannon, McCorquodale, & Schwope to name a few) celebrating their 60th orbit around the Sun – A strong class of musicians indeed… Speaking of strong, we caught Pirate Radio at deep down in the Lighthouse District at Zone 504. Eric Garza and the band has been at it for several years now on the local Clear Lake scene. I like the way this group takes time for what’s important yet ready for action when ever the bell come calling and predict that in 2015, Pirate Radio would be an ideal band to play on the big stage that at a League City, Walter Hall Park event - just not on Cowboy night. Cheers to Prime Minister of the Krewe du Lac, Annabelle Ruch, who after 14 years, will be sharing the reigns to spend more time in North Texas with family. Annabelle has been a phenomenal force of nature organizing events such as the original Seabrook Music Festival and the original Boogie Blues & Brews – Everything she does, many wish to do too.

FOLLOWUP – A few months ago, we crossed trails briefly with The Michael Stevens Band, had to cut out prematurely and owed them a follow-up. We had a pleasant surprise catching Michael, sans the band, at Gabacho’s, the little local Tex Mex diner across from the Arlan’s. We’ve enjoyed TMSB over the years as they effortlessly pound out endless medleys, never need a playlist, interacting with the audience and going wherever the evening may lead – And this evening, it was definitely one for the audience.

OVER THE TOP – This month goes to Katie’s for the annual return of Mark May. In years past, Mark would hang out this time of year for nearly a month, playing shows all across the greater Houston metro area. Events shortened this year’s visit to a week and of the two shows that were on the schedule, the good folks at Katie’s scored one of them. A packed house took in an evening of the finest with Mark May and The Paul Ramirez Band trading off solo after solo, back and forth lead licks, that clearly had to be wired in straight from the cosmos. Music lovers came in for this Thursday night show from as far as Katy and Kingwood and stayed the entire evening despite having to work the next day. KPFT’s Blues Hound, James Nagle, along with his Houston Blues Society entourage were in the house and true to form, Mark played the show on borrowed equipment, this year provided by Phil Morrison, a musician from Manvel, Texas. Mark says he’s still playing the local scene up in Ohio with his band and spending time in the studio putting together another CD. Can’t wait!

IT’S A WRAP – By the time you read this, you’ve probably hoisted a cup and sang your Auld Lang Syne -- For each of us dealing with such, whatever your terms & conditions, we want to wish each of you the best as we press forward to 2015. According those who read tree rings for a living, word is that we are in a 2000 your cooling spell so do what you can to keep the flame alive and hopefully with some of our awesome live music – We’ll catch you out there on The SCENE!
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