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Seasons Greeting! I hope many of you were able to take some time off and enjoy the Thanksgiving holidays - With the rest of the Holiday Season upon us, ‘tis time to try our hands at making time stop and enjoy the essence. November was a short month for us and we weren’t able to get to all of the hangouts we normally hit but based on our sampling of what we were able to partake, trust all is well with you and live music out there in Snow Bird country!

The Big Fifty – Which would be a hearty congrats to the Bay Area Chorus of Greater Houston, amongst the areas longest running local live music groups happening. In November, we took in their Loyalty (Veterans Day) performance at the Gloria Dey Lutheran Church. With the return of Dr. Ray Moore, the BAC’s 7th Director returning as guest conductor.

One of Houston’s oldest non-profit choral groups, the Bay Area Chorus has brought heartfelt performances to Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast since 1965. Long before the population of the Houston metroplex expanded to the shores of Clear Lake, this thriving choral group had already built a following among local residents and in surrounding communities. BAC has performed at such notable venues in the U.S. and Europe as Carnegie Hall – New York; St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Dublin, Ireland; Notre Dame Cathedral – Paris; Viener Rathaus – Vienna, Austria; and Santa Iglesia Cathedral – Merida, Mexico.

HANGING OUT – In November, we joined up with a few of you at Claudio’s for an evening of down to earth fine food, spirits, and good company. The place still amazes me to this day with the Sherry McClendon full size murals to loose your self into, in a menagerie sort of way, of a time and place far away. Our good friend, Abel Salazar was on the music stage serenading the dancers with comfortable ease as he has over the years we’ve known him. Missing was Carolle’s friendly face so we will just have to catch up with her some other time. Claudio’s – A great place to get away and unwind for us and obviously for many of you too.

NEIGHBORHOOD BARS – I’ve been to many over the years and typically, they are your smaller cozy hangouts to chat with the mailman, your neighbors, catch a ballgame, and maybe a seasonal pot luck party. We dropped in at a new stop on the beat, The R&R Sports Bar, which blurs the distinction between neighborhood bar and a bona fide western saloon which in this case is a good thing. It does make a certain sense though when you consider that this R&R Sports Bar “is” in Friendswood, Texas. This upcoming Holiday Season, if you have guests from out of town who frequent their own neighborhood bars, flip them out and bring them into the R&R Sports Bar and tell them it’s not a saloon but simply a normal local neighborhood bar. If you catch Rush Creek on the stage as we did, they’ll likely insist the place is a saloon – After a while of chatting with the friendly patrons, they’ll leave scratching their heads wondering what their neighborhood bar should really be. Try it….

While on the topic of neighborhood bars, we ventured further west on 518 to Friends Pub, another humungous Texas size neighborhood bar. We caught a nifty new 90’s Alternative band calling themselves the Gift Card Millionaires, a carry onward from the days of Hobson’s Choice, a ferociously fierce alternative garage band that played locally at the turn of the decade. According to the drummer, “Our band name Gift Card Millionaires came about on a group vote. It was the last of the 3 choices which I found on urban dictionary. The band was almost called Top Shelf Noise or Big In Japan. Plain and bland explanation of our name, but you can't handle the real truth behind our millions worth in gift cards”. Lead guitarist, Mark puts it this way, “We ain't got no money to pay the bills, but we do have lots of gift cards to buy bling”. Bassist, Kevin chimes “There's a story of some guys who laundered tons of money, but hid it all on gift cards; hence becoming gift card millionaires”. I’m going to side with Brad Johnson, the band’s front man, that “Gift Card Millionaires stood out for me. Makes one have a shifty grin knowing he may have millions in gift cards somewhere”. Why so much mention? Their music connected with the audience…

One thing true about a neighborhood bar is that you can find one open on the holidays – Not everybody can be with family and hanging out with friends on these special days is mighty special. The good folks at the Cockeyed Seagull were open Thanksgiving evening with Cisco’s Open mic providing the entertainment. Joey Wainright (a star product of Bryce House’s fine Karoke Brigade) tore it up with Kevin Fenton performing Elton John’s “Love Lies Bleeding”. The special feature for the evening were the Tryptophan Twins of Billy Gilbert and Steve Staas performing Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant Massacree in recognition of the 50th Anniversary of the event and in honor of Cindy Peterson who lost her battle with cancer recently. Cindy was a long time supporter of local live music and in recent years held her own quite well at the various open mics around the area. I’m humbled to claim getting Cindy to understand and put into practice CAGED patterns, basic progressions, root note theory. Suffer no more, dear Friend…

FOLLOWUP – In the previous issue of the SCENE, we covered the great reunion performance of the Tillman Brothers at David Schwope’s 60th Birthday Shindig. In November, we followed up by catching Greg Tillman along with his son Tyler and dentist-turned-lead-guitarist Doc Saenz on stage at Jackie’s Brickhouse. Balance? Check… Clarity? Check... Tonal Quality? Check…. Following? Check, check, check… We heard a good sampling of music from the trio that afternoon before having to bug out Keep your ears tuned for more of the Tillmans – To be continued… While we’re at the Brickhouse, need to mention the Fab 5 show that went down in November. We’ve been following the Fab 5 around town and Jackie’s for quite some time so when Rob book this band from Houston, we were curious about the reception they would get south of the lake. Since that first booking, the Fab 5 have returned on several occasions filling the house nicely. South of the lake music lovers are funny when the tribute bands come to play at the Brickhouse – These good people would often simply sit and take in the show out of respect for the band like you would see on a PBS show. Before long, the itch sets in, the boogie woogie breaks through and before you know it, the entire Brickhouse is twisting and shouting. Go figure…. <vbgrin>

THE GOOD STUFF – This month, we found it at Cock & Bull with ‘da Swing Shift hosting the open mic session. We arrive later in the evening missing out on what was reported to be some really good stuff - our apologies. We did arrive in time to catch the every steady Hank Wolff with his eclectic interpretations of the contemporary classics along with Justin Lassiter from the Coffee Oasis proving grounds. Word is Lassiter’s evolved a lot over the years since his days at the Oasis and this evening, he put forth a crisp presentation. My vocal coach running buddy pointed out aspects about Justin’s singing style that evening, how it may change in the years ahead, and will be worth watching over time. As for the rest of the good stuff, that would be the classic swing played by Don Eisele & Steve Shannon, a style germane to Americana in a Ken Burns sort of way, not often heard, and can also be heard at music friendly venues such as Crazy Alan’s Swampshack. Speaking of music friendly places…

OVER THE TOP – This month goes to where lots of my musical coverage with The Scene began, at T-Bone Tom’s before the palapas and huge trees loomed, the Kemah Jam hosted by Wood & Wind breezed through the air, and I caught The Navigators for the first time cooking things up on the patio… Fast forward through Ike, the new kitchen, turbo charged service, and palapa coverage for year round dining pleasure and the place transformed into the place to bring, grand parents, aunts, uncles, nieces & nephews all together for a meal with incredible efficiency – Not a bad thing... In November, we experienced our usual 48 hour cold snap, keeping the dinner crowds at home, creating a perfect evening for Van Wilks with Wood & Wind warming up the stage that night. Van hooked up with Navigator’s bassist Galen Medlenka and the people came. The dinner din was down around 12db the norm and the music filled the air with incredible clarity thanks to soundman David Barnett on the board. The performances that evening were masterful, the diners predominately there for the music, the applause sincere, and the only thing missing that evening were candle lit tables. Great evening…. Let’s do it again!

IT’S A WRAP – November was a brief month and I’ll apologize now that December’s coverage will be even shorter, that our annual coverage of the Texas Buzz Music Awards at Scout Bar will not be in the January issue (we will provide a report in February) “but” I am looking forward to the annual Krewe du Lac Toy Drive & Pub Crawl happening on the 12th. Lot’s of in
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