In this coming week or two following the Turkey Day that’s just passed, there will be some notable bands and tours cutting through our state as a part of some really major tours. Wilco will make their way into Dallas on November 29th and into Austin on December 1st, for example. That’s pretty big, right?

Well, Wilco’s great, but things get even more epic and more arena-rocking in the week after Jeff Tweedy and roll through.

Perhaps the biggest, most anticipated concert tour of the year will hit our state once Jay-Z and Kanye West bring their Watch The Throne show to town. The album of the same name is already one of the better hip-hop releases of the year, but when you combine that album with the boat-load of hits the two MCs have in their arsenal already, it’s sure to be an insane night for all. Be sure to catch them in Houston (the Toyota Center) on December 5th, and then in Dallas (where I’ll be!) on December 6th. Reviews have been more than postivie so far, so it’ll be cool to see if the duo has stepped it up even further by the time they get to Texas.

To make next week even bigger, the Kentucky-bred, rough-hewn indie heroes turned arena-rock mammoths, My Morning Jacket will laser-shoot their way through the same two towns on the following two nights. Still basking in the glow of their latest, border-broadening (and excellent) release, Circuital, the Jim James-led outfit will show Texas why they can rightfully and successfully headline ACL and any other massive festival, regardless of whether they are the household name that many think they should be or not.

Next year will bring big shows: Radiohead has already announced a March tour, Roger Waters will bring the Wall back to Texas in May with giants like Foo Fighters and Coldplay sure to announce their Lone Star 2012 dates soon. But for now, for the end of 2011, the next week and a half is going to be a great time to bring the noise.

Robert Ellis is a Texas country artist that isn’t like many so-called Texas country artists thesae days. In fact, he’s really just a straight-up stone-cold country twanger with a sensitive soul and a deft touch with a tune that focuses more on the writing than it does a thunderous, frat boy-approved backbeat. What’s refreshing is that we’re in a time where folk-artists with serious contry leanings that focus on soulful writing such as Justin Tones Earle, Josh Ritter and Joe Pug can become successful touring artists and critical darlings. In such a setting, there’s no wondering whether the 22 year old, long-haired Ellis will be a success. Signed to New West Records, the Houston native is label-mates with The Old 97′s, and John Hiatt, among others. Lately, he has regularly been stealing the show from the likes of Lucero and Dawes with his understated, folksy approach to country story-telling.

Ellis’ debut full-length album, Photographs, rarely rises above a whisper. It doesn’t need to really. The sparse production isn’t terribly unlike that of a classic Texas album, Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Ol’ Willie didn’t need his amps cranked up to 11 to wow the masses, now did he? Indeed, there are some nods to laid-back 1970′s singer-songwriter stylings – whether it be James Taylor or even Jackson Browne.

Really, this is an album best enjoyed on a porch, after dark as the only light available barely flickers as you sit alone with only a warm glass of high-octane brown liquid to accompany you and the thoughts that are conjured up by Ellis’ rich, yet plain spoken imagery. It’s not like other’s arent noticing, mind you. The always excellent site Daytrotter.Com recently featured Ellis and had him in to record a few songs for their site (which you can download for free), and even Spin magazine had some nice things to say recently about the latest export of the Texas folk-country factory that now belongs to the entire country.

Robert Ellis – What’s In It For Me by NewWestRecords

While Europe has long been considered the home of “Major League Football” and South America has often hosted teams that were nothing short of Futbol dynasties, The Great 48 has been picking up steam when up it comes to not only the quality of play we can display here, but in the enthusiasm of the supporters (aka “fans” for the uninitiated) that loyally follow the clubs they often will to victory.

In recent years, Texas has been the home to two of the MLS’s best teams. The Dynamo of Houstonhave been perennial contenders that took home the MLS Cup as the league’s champion in both 2006 and 2007 (after entering the league in 2005, which makes the back-to-back titles even more impressive). As for the Frisco-based FC Dallas (formerly the Dallas Burn), they were a sad, “own-goal” away from being crowned champions this past season when they lost a heart-breaker to the Colorado Rapids.

Perhaps even more impressive than the on-field credentials that each team has built is the devotion and organization of the folks that support each team for each home-game (not to mention many road-games). Whether it’s the Texian Army in support of The Dynamo, or The Inferno in support of FC Dallas, each group makes clear their intentions to any who may wonder: To fully and vocally encourage their team at all times throughout the 90 minutes of each game.

By organizing pre-game tailgate parties that often end with a coordinated group “march to the match,” these fans are showing all others what it’s like to really be a supporter in far more than name only.

Chants? Check. Group Songs? Check. Coordinated color clothing? Check.

Such details are common-place in Europe and other soccer hotbeds, but here in the states, outside of a few college football-crazy spots, such obvious fanaticism has withered away from our professional sports landscape as many of the prices to attend events have made it so that the average fan is unable to attend regularly. With both Houston and Dallas, strides are made to include fans of all tax-brackets. Cheap to free parking, regular ticket-discounting programs and even drink specials make it easier for people to come equipped and ready to support their favorite squad.

For information on both the teams and the official supporter groups, see below:

Houston Dynamo:

FC Dallas:

The Von Ehrics A New Texas Dynasty: MyFoxHOUSTON.com

A few weeks ago, I gushed over the new album from Dallas-based country punks, The Von Ehrics. The guys are getting great press from all over the country as they tour all over and are coming back to Texas for some shows. Here’s an interview and sripped-down performance from a recent Houston TV appearance.

One sunny, late fall day a few years ago, I had the pleasure of skipping the afternoon session of a trade show while in our state’s largest city. Knowing I needed to back in the Galleria area later that evening for a function or two related to the trade-show, I discarded a couple of ideas that would’ve had myself taking a serious day-trip, well out of the city limits. As it turned out, it was silly to even think of exiting the congested confines of what is an underrated artistic gem. Well, at least it’s underrated to many of us outside of the Gulf Coast.

Given the fact that Houston’s Museum District is as rife with time-killing goodness as it is, I highly doubt that it’s flying under the radar of any art or history-loving Houstonian. Growing up in the Ft. Worth area, as I did, it’s easy to think that everyone else in the state gazes enviously upon the historic and renowned Arts District (home to The Kimball Art Museum, among many others).

In one afternoon, I was treated to eclectic and edgy installations at the Contemporary Arts Museum, just after experiencing a more traditional, yet highly awe-inspiring visit to Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts. In fact, the Fine Arts collection is showcasing a highly-praised grouping of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work from The National Gallery, at this very time. Clearly, I focused on the art which the neighborhood offered, but the history is as prevalent and important as the collections of the museums I managed to visit. Perhaps on another trip, I’ll make it to the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, or possibly to Houston’s Holocaust Museum, which is different than the one in Dallas.

There’s also something for the kiddos, too. The Children’s Museum of Houston is a colorful blast of interactive fun for both parent and child. And there’s the Houston Museum of Natural Science - which, as is the case in Ft. Worth, has an IMAX Theater.

So, next time you’re sitting in a convention in Houston, and the rest of the day’s docket looks pretty dull, act like you have to take a call in the hallway and hop in your rental and point it to the museum district!

Aerosol Warfare Gallery will be filled with fashion, live music, art, and good people! Kitchen Incubator will be in the house serving up some delicious graffiti art themed chocolates and other goodies.  Fashion Show by Richard Saenz.  Musical entertainment by SATIN HOOKS and NIKKHOO.

A limited run of Aerosol Warfare 2010 Designed Posters and AW Christmas Cards will also be for sale.

Art Crawl Houston has represented over one hundred eighty artists and art organizations each year! Maps of participating galleries, studios and places can be found via www.artcrawlhouston.com or at Aerosol Warfare Gallery.

Since 1992, the tradition of the artists “open studios/galleries ect” takes place on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Visitors have the opportunity to pARTicipate in the live/work/show spaces of these neighborhood” urban pioneers”. The mission of the ARTCRAWL is to assist the public in understanding contemporary art by directly involving the visitors in a dialogue with local artists in the Artist Warehouse District and surrounding areas of Downtown Houston.

Saturday Nov. 20th 2010
Tour the Warehouse, Downtown and EaDO District ALL DAY EVENT!
A FREE  Come-and-Go Event!

10am to 9pm
2110 Jefferson, Suite 113
Houston, Texas 77003

On November 20 and 21 the streets of downtown will transform into a massive unconventional art gallery and canvas. AOL presents Via Colori, Houston’s premier street painting festival benefiting The Center for Hearing and Speech. This annual fall fundraiser is expected to raise more than $300,000 to support the development of hearing-impaired children.

The Center for Hearing and Speech is a non-profit organization that exists to provide hearing-impaired children with the listening, speaking and literacy skills needed to succeed in the mainstream hearing world. For five years Via Colori has served not only as a means to raise necessary funds for the Center, but also to build community awareness of hearing loss in children and showcase the agency as a resource.

“We’re proud to be able to bring this fun, free festival to our community. Who imagined that a small nonprofit agency could do it,” said Renée S. Davis, executive director of The Center for Hearing and Speech. “It is all due to our bedrock of support from Houston. Our artists, sponsors and, most importantly, our attendees make this festival truly one of a kind.”

During this two-day festival, more than 15,000 attendees will witness artists sitting, kneeling and lying down with pastels in hand –bringing the asphalt to life. With over 250 artists, 16 live bands and more than 15 interactive activities, people of all ages are sure to enjoy this event.

“This year’s festival will be like no other. We are excited to welcome AOL as our presenting sponsor,” said Lisa Benitez, Via Colori event manager. “And with so many new creative activities, we have truly enhanced the festival for our attendees to help us celebrate our fifth anniversary.”

AOL is teaming up with The Center for Hearing and Speech to promote creativity and art within the Houston community. A new addition to the festival will be the AOL Creative Lounge, featuring a candy bar for all to enjoy and contemporary furniture for attendees to relax and enjoy the art at the festival.

To commemorate the festival’s anniversary a massive 1,800 square foot street painting mural will be produced before and during the festival. Designed by the Via Colori 2009 featured artist, Melanie Stimmell Van Latum, The Art of Sound will illustrate a hearing-impaired child’s journey to sound. It will take Van Latum and her team of seven professional artists three days to complete the gigantic mural. KIPP Houston has also signed on to be a part of this massive mural. Under the leadership of Rebekah Tee, 59 student artists from KIPP will create the border of the mural.

This project is funded in part by a grant from the City of Houston’s City’s Initiative Program through the Houston Arts Alliance.

For more information on Via Colori, visit HoustonViaColori.com, follow the event on Twitter @Via_Colori, or visit the fan page on Facebook.

FunnyFur.com, a Houston luxury pet boutique specializing in couture wear, fashionable pet carriers, designer dog accessories, collars, harnesses, handmade pet jewelry, novelty dog toys, pet furniture and an array of breast cancer awareness pet accessories, are hosting their annual non-profit Howl-O-Ween pet costume contests. There will be an in-store Howl-O-Ween costume contest at the Funny Fur pet boutique in Houston, as well as an online contest available to pet owners everywhere.

Forget the dog, I want this in a people sweater

The in-store contest will be held on October 29, 2010 at 6 p.m. and will feature a Halloween costume contest for dogs, as well as other pet-themed activities including a scary-costume fashion show, dog nail painting, a raffle and more. Hors d’oeuvres and beverages will be served throughout the event. Donations are accepted for participation in the festivities with all proceeds benefiting the Houston Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). The grand-prize costume contest winner will be judged by local business owners and volunteers. Winner will be announced at the end of the evening and awarded a $200 gift card to FunnyFur.com.

The online contest is open to any pet owners who wish to send in a picture of their dog in their favorite costume. Submissions will be judged by customers and the winner will be announced online on November 1 and awarded a $100 gift card to FunnyFur.com. For contest eligibility, contestants must purchase a costume from the company’s website – enter TREAT at checkout to snag 15% OFF – . This year’s must have costumes include the Calypso Queen dog costume, a colorful carnival dress inspired by Carmen Miranda and the Prince Charming dog costume, a charming getup for male dogs. All photo entries should be submitted to events@funnyfur.com.

If you’re like me, maybe you are, maybe you’re not…you’ve found yourself – at least once – dining in a Middle Easten restaurant and staring resentfully at the belly dancers. You stare resentfully, not because every man’s tongue is lolling on the ground, not because she’s astoundingly beautiful, but because you envy the amount of confidence and healthy body image it must take to be a belly dancer…sigh.

And if you are like me, I encourage you to screw up your courage and check out Soraya’s School of Belly Dance. They’ll be hosting a workshop taught by internationally acclaimed belly dancer Suhaila Salimpour on Saturday, October 9 and Sunday, October 10, 2010. Ms. Salimpour is a well-known performer, teacher and choreographer of belly dance.

From an early age, Suhaila Salimpour began integrating her extensive classical training with the Middle Eastern dance passed on by her mother, Jamila Salimpour.

Suhaila has appeared on television, has performed extensively both nationally and internationally, and maintains her family business, the Suhaila Salimpour School of Belly Dance in California. In addition, she has developed and implemented the first-available certification program in Middle Eastern dance.

Both days of the workshop (a total of 10 hours of instruction) will include format drills, finger cymbal, and footwork technique, ’70s style choreography and “hard rock” fusion choreography.

For more information, please contact Soraya at (713) 899-3771 or visit online.

Soraya’s School of Belly Dance
3939 Hillcroft Ave., Ste. 160
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 977-3900.

On average, I get about 10 press releases a day. Most are of the usual fare, but every now and then I get a real doozy. Case in point…

A Houston based hypnotist wants to hypnotize the overweight population of the USA.  Apparently this he was shocked, shocked I say, when he read some random report I’ve never heard of that claims two thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese.  If wanting to hypnotize an entire nation wasn’t ridiculous all on its own, this guy goes even further to claim that he doesn’t like the word obese, prefers the term “fat” and…AND…says, if you’re fat “it’s because you eat too much and exercise too little.” Did you hear that, those of you that have say, oh, I dunno, Cushing’s Syndrome or hypothyroidism…it’s all your fault! I don’t know about you, but this guy sounds like someone who doesn’t enjoy excess amounts of bacon, and anyone who doesn’t enjoy excess amounts of bacon is no friend of mine.

Here’s a snippet:

A Texas-based hypnotist is offering to hypnotize the entire overweight population of the USA in a bid to help them become slimmer. John McMahon, a Certified Hypnotherapist in Houston says he was shocked when he read the recent report, from CalorieLab, claiming that two thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese. “I tried to visualize 300 million people, and then imagined 200 million of them being fat. It wasn’t a pretty image,” he says.

McMahon adds that, although most people don’t want to be overweight, they lack the willpower to do anything about it. And that’s where hypnosis comes in. “It helps people change their attitude without the struggle of a strict diet.”

“Nobody wants to be fat and unhealthy, but these days our lifestyles almost promote it. “ McMahon doesn’t like the term “obese” because he says it gives the impression that it isn’t our fault. “Look, if you’re fat it’s because you eat too much and exercise too little, and hypnosis can help people to get the balance right.”