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Allison Iraheta & Halo Circus

Sat, October 1 / 7 PM930 PM

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Allison Iraheta + Halo Circus is a critically-acclaimed bilingual alternative rock band, featuring its star singer Allison Iraheta. Crafting “anthems for introverts,” Iraheta digs deep into dark places and transforms this anguish into lush, unforgettable melodies. Admired by millions as a finalist on American Idol, Iraheta released her debut album Just Like You shortly after her elimination in 2009. The album sold approximately 32,000 copies in its first week, debuting at number 35 on the Billboard 200 album chart. While touring in support of the album, she met songwriter and producer Matthew Hager. The pair began writing together and later decided to form a band, leading to the formation of Halo Circus in 2012.

Halo Circus’ debut earned instant acclaim, with LA Magazine declaring, "Allison Iraheta has moved beyond reality TV, forming a group that Duran Duran bassist John Taylor called ‘the best live band in the U.S.A.’ Think: dark, anthemic rock with a knack for soaring hooks" Rock NYC also admired the band, praising, "Hard-hitting and infectious rock and pop melodies, very diverse songs with bi-lingual lyrics [English and Spanish] and even covers - but not any covers, rather powerful renditions of hit-songs - all transformed by Allison Iraheta’s powerhouse vocals - this was the most impressive part about the whole band, no matter how many groups have tried to get to this rock sound fronted by a big-voiced female, very few can do it with such ease and confidence.”

Halo Circus quickly earned a reputation for their impressive live performances, which led to a series of high profile bookings, including: The Grammys "Women Who Rock - Festival At Sea" with Heart, Emmylou Harris, and other iconic female singers; a four- week Friday night residency at the prestigious Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles; and "Say It Loud! A Night of Cultural Disruption"; at the legendary Troubadour. Iraheta also performed on The Tonight Show, making history as the only guest vocalist to sing with the show’s band for an entire week.

On February 8, 2016, Halo Circus shocked the music industry by announcing, via Billboard, the first fully crowd-sourced American tour ever to be attempted on such a large scale. Through Road Nation, the band declared that any town in America that raises $600 would get Halo Circus to play there this summer and fall. Nine weeks later, the campaign reached 100% backing by fans, making music history with the first successful US crowd-funded tour to date, with 30 cities confirmed.

Next up is the release of Halo Circus’ highly anticipated debut album, Bunny, produced by Matthew Hager and mixed by multiple Grammy Award-winner Craig Bauer (Kanye West, Smashing Pumpkins). Iraheta explains, “our aim was high: play as much as possible, and try to develop a reputation as a great live band before releasing an album. 

Somehow along the way we learned how to play these songs to an audience and the band actually started to take on a life of its own.”She continues, “We decided to re--record what we recorded a year before. We wanted to capture the evolution of our live sound. We wanted Halo Circus to have the opportunity to record an album with the same quality and attention to detail that was given to bands in the 90’s.” And this band’s effort for perfection is paying off. The first single off the album, "Desire (Lo Que Vale La Pena)" was downloaded 647,000 times in its first week of release in a promotion with BitTorrent Bundle. The album, entitled Bunny will be released on June 24.

For Allison Iraheta, life before and with Halo Circus is like night and day. The daughter of Salvadoran immigrants, she was raised in South Central L.A., with Spanish as her native language. She draws from her background as inspiration for Halo Circus’ most popular songs: “Yo Me Voy,” “All I Have,” and “Desire (Lo Que Vale La Pena).”

Individually, the members of Halo Circus are veteran musicians. Prior to forming Halo Circus, bassist/keyboardist Matthew Hager was a No. 1 Billboard multi-platinum producer who crossed multiple genres working with the likes of Duran Duran, Scott Weiland, Mindi Abair, and Mandy Moore. 

In addition to being an accomplished Cantonese and orchestral drummer, Veronica Bellino’s previous work with Jeff Beck and DMC of Run DMC has helped to shape her live performances with Halo Circus. Brian Stead is a relentless guitar aficionado who evokes energy and charisma. 

He is a thoughtful guitarist with his own voice, one that makes him unique. Together, the band is one unstoppable force to be reckoned with as they continue down the rabbit hole and embark on the next chapter of their sound.

Iraheta concludes, “Magic happens in this band. It happened when we were writing, when we were recording, and when we were failing. The only thing that mattered was keeping it honest and getting it right, whatever that means. We may be inconvenient, but we continue to attract believers.”

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Open Mic

Mon, October 3 / 630 PM

This little gem might be a bit easily overlooked in Houston’s typical bar scene, but that’s because it’s an entirely different kind of place. McGonigel’s Mucky Ducky is an Irish pub that features a very popular open mic night every Monday at 6:30 p.m. (sign up by 6 p.m.) 

You’ll hear plenty of folk, country and acoustic renditions by performers that spent their afternoon in classes at Rice or a long day at the office. Not only does the pub feature an impressive array of live music almost every night, but the Mucky Duck has been listed by Billboard Magazine as one of the 20 best acoustic venues in the country. - CBS Houston 

Sign up at 6pm. Music begins at 6:30

No Cover.

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The Grahams

Tue, October 4 / 730 PM

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Alyssa and Doug Graham have spent nearly their entire lives exploring music together. Friends since she was 7 and he was 9, they became a couple in their teens, then husband and wife. Somewhere along the way, they also became The Grahams, a dynamic Americana duo who've married their love of adventure with a desire to build on foundations laid by their musical predecessors. 

Their first song-crafting expedition, along the Mississippi's Great River Road, became their 2013 debut, Riverman's Daughter. For its follow-up, they rode the rails - and wound up recording not only a studio album, but a documentary and live album on the move and in venues from Sun Studio to Amtrak's famed City of New Orleans train.

Their new long-player, the explosive and aptly named Glory Bound, was helmed by Grammy nominated producer Wes Sharon (John Fullbright, Parker Millsap) at his 115 Recording studio in Norman, Okla., and will be released on May 19. Recording in Oklahoma holds special significance for a couple raised as Dylan-loving New York City suburban kids who spent weekends strumming campfire songs in the Adirondacks. Like many Dylan fans, they traced their way back to his greatest inspiration.

Simultaneously, the band will be releasing Rattle the Hocks, a musical documentary focusing on the live recording, and the relationship between the railroad and American roots music. Both film and album (which will be released digitally on May 19) were directed and produced by Cody Dickinson of the North Mississippi Allstars. The Grahams debuted the film at this winter's Folk Alliance International conference in Kansas City.

"After we recorded Riverman's Daughter, we were listening to a lot of Woody Guthrie," Alyssa explains. "The song 'Farmer Labor Train' kept sticking in our minds, so we wanted to write a song about trains. We wrote 'Glory Bound,' then decided that we really wanted to ride the trains in honor of Guthrie, Lead Belly and other old folk legends who used the train system to bring voices together. We had to go to Oklahoma, obviously, because Woody was our mentor or guide"

Adds Doug, "The river was the original way that people got around and moved through the country. And moved music around the country. The rivers are the veins. And now, here we are on trains, the next means of motion the arteries of America that brought people and music and cultures together. So that had to be the next progression for us."

The Grahams' songs for these projects, often co-written with collaborator-since-childhood Bryan McCann, capture the rhythms and energies of that transport system and the momentum of its time, with Doug's masterful resonator slide-work and harmonies fueling Alyssa's locomotive voice and acoustic guitar chords. With her big range and storyteller's delivery, when she sings, for example, in "Glory Bound," "Wish I'd never majored in caffeine and solitude/Wish I'd never let them see my nasty attitude," she curls her tongue around "nasty" as if she were simultaneously evoking Snidely Whiplash and some bitchy college girl you'd wanna tie to the tracks.

That's another element of these collections that distinguishes them from mere historical repetition. "We're still our own artists; we're still living in the modern era," Doug explains. "We say in the film, and it's really true, we're not trying to re-create anything, we're trying to let the echoes ring in our ears."

"The modern echoes," Alyssa adds. After so many years together, they easily finish one another's sentences, and onstage, they share the sometimes-irreverent repartee of a seasoned comedy act. As the film conveys, though, they're still best friends - and they love nothing more than making new friends via the communal bond of music.

"Even when we were in the studio with Wes, doing this very traditional kind of recording, a few local musicians stopped by and we were like, 'Hey, we've got these people here we've never met before who sing and play music. Let's do something together right now,'" Doug recalls.

"For us, making music is sort of whimsical," Alyssa notes. "We're not precious about anything."

"Life is short," affirms Doug, who lost his mother two years ago. (In the 30-minute film's most poignant moment, as they prepare to record the original spiritual, "Mama," in Sun Studio, Alyssa says, "Sing so your mom can hear you.")

"The dream," he says, "is to play with as many great people as we can, and share the music as much as we can."

In Memphis, that meant not only visiting the train station, but celebrating its 100th anniversary by doing a live recording of "Big John" with the audience gathered onstage, singing around a microphone. In New Orleans, on the train, they covered "City of New Orleans," the Steve Goodman song made famous by Woody's son Arlo. (Cody's late father, famed producer Jim Dickinson, had played piano on Arlo's hit version.)

Though the studio and live albums share many of the same songs, they're treated differently. Sharon brought in Fullbright, members of the Turnpike Troubadours and Flying Burrito Brothers vet Byron Berline to accompany the Grahams on various tunes. Dickinson lined up brother Luther; R.L. Burnside's son Duwayne; Otha Turner's granddaughter, Sharde Thomas; the Norman Sisters; Alvin Youngblood Hart; members of Memphis band Lucero; and many others. The result of these unique experiences is that both recordings embody a sound and spirit authentic to their respective environments.

No, the Grahams hadn't planned such a big project at first. 

The pair, who had moved to Nashville to record Riverman's Daughter with Malcolm Burn (Emmylou Harris, Chris Whitley), arranged their train trip to include meetings with potential producers; Sharon was one - not because of his location, but because they had a feeling he'd be a good fit for what they had in mind. "When we met him in person, we just fell in love with him because he's such a down-to-earth, sweet guy," Alyssa says. "We like to surround ourselves with easygoing, real people, and he just exudes that. When we left him, that's when we were like, 'Whoa, and he's from/in Oklahoma.' That's such kismet."

He also, according to Alyssa, "has some of the best ears in the business" - and is a perfectionist, which appealed to them after the intentional "anti-perfection" of Riverman's Daughter. "We said, 'OK, he's our guy.'" But Cody Dickinson was next on their list; they'd hung with him and his brother and fellow North Mississippi Allstar, Luther, when Burn asked them to guest on Riverman's Daughter.

Cody had just co-produced the successful documentary Take Me to the River, and wanted to make one of his own. He proposed recording on the go, almost guerrilla-style, creating a documentary and live album in the process.

"When we met with Wes, we knew we wanted to do a studio record, and when we met with Cody, we just knew we wanted to do anything with Cody," says Alyssa. "He's just fun and creative and so incredibly positive."

"We thought, 'Great, one will be a record and one will be a movie and soundtrack,'" Doug adds. "But Cody is such a big thinker, all of a sudden, we found ourselves in Sun Studio recording music and hanging out all around Memphis with l.

"We don't necessarily think things all the way through," says Alyssa, laughing. But they went for it, because, in the finest traveling troubadour tradition, seizing the moment is something they do; it's their version of hopping a rail car.

"We really wanted to get away from the environment we grew up in and do something that would open our eyes to the country we live in," Alyssa says. "We play music and we love playing music and we love meeting people who want to play music."

When they hire musicians to join them onstage, as they did at their Americana Music Association showcase last fall, they often get asked how many rehearsals they'd like.

When they say rehearsals are unnecessary, they're met with surprise, but as Alyssa explains, "Our songs are pretty simple. Just feel something. Have a good time. Enjoy the music and listen to the echoes."

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Game Night - Irish Session

Wed, October 5 / 730 PM

Board games are hot right now — whether it’s the new Euro-style games like Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, 7 Wonders or Power Grid, or you’re kickin’ it old school with traditional games like the Trumpesque, land-grabbing Monopoly. For a great midweek diversion, head on over to the Mucky Duck for a pint and a little tabletop competition; they’ve been at it for almost 25 years. We checked in with Stevie Hazlewood, day manager for McGonigel’s Mucky Duck, and she says the club stocks a nice selection of titles for the Wednesday night Game Night and Irish Session. 

“It runs the gamut from Connect Four, to Scrabble, Yahtzee, Risk, three different versions of Monopoly, Scattergories, Cards Against Humanity,” says Hazlewood. Play one of those games or bring your own, and scarf down pub snacks like fish and chips, Welsh rarebit and the club’s famous shepherd’s pie. 

Best of all, there’s no cover. 7:30 p.m. 

By Susie Tommaney - Houston Press

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Bonnie Whitmore

Thu, October 6 / 7 PM

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CD Release!
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Jaimee Harris

Thu, October 6 / 930 PM

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Jaimee Harris is a unique musical voice rising out of a deep well of Texas singer/songwriters.  Her songs draw on universal themes of love, longing and family, while her style incorporates all the best that Americana has to offer.  

Planted somewhere between country and roots music, Jaimee is comfortable in her own musical skin. She began playing guitar at age 5, and she started writing songs almost immediately. She hasn’t stopped. Drawing from musical influences as diverse as Patty Griffin and Led Zeppelin, Jaimee’s musical palette is as broad as it is deep.

Beginning in 2004, Jaimee began the process of bringing her songs to the world when she started playing live shows with her father.  Since then, she has recorded 4 full length albums and two EP’s ("Grateful Dad," "Great Expectations," "Songs to Break Up To," "Home,” “Farewell to Texas,” and most recently, “Transitions”). 

She has been fortunate to be able to collaborate with musical artists from all over the world, and the diversity of her recordings matches the diversity of her writing.  In her few short years of playing live music, Jaimee  has played with and opened for such artists as David Ramirez, The Black Crowes, Bob Schneider, Matt Nathanson, Jessie Baylin, Jon Randall, and Jack Ingram.  

A native of Texas, Jaimee quickly became a small part of the wonderful Dallas and Fort Collins, CO music scenes before relocating to her current home in Austin.  Since moving to Austin, Jaimee has captured audiences in living rooms, sold out clubs, and coffee shops with her unique blend of pop melodies and folk based lyrics.  

Her passion for writing, touring, and recording have helped her develop very quickly and well beyond her 22 years of age.