Sunday, February 4, 2018

REVIEW: Matt The Electrician and Kris Delmhorst

February 2, 2018 - Cactus Cafe (Austin, Texas)

By Sean Claes
Cactus Cafe is a great listening room on the campus of University of Texas and it was the perfect location for an evening and song-swap with Austin's Matt the Electrician and Massachusetts' Kris Delmhorst
This is probably my favorite kind of show, for I feel in an environment like Cactus Cafe singer-songwriters are able to peel some of the layers away from their songs and share stories and inspirations about the creative process. Plus, with this night, it seemed like we were getting a glimpse into the reunion of two friends catching up, laughing and playing together. Almost like they were hanging out in their living room and we got to watch.
Photo by Sean Claes
Matthew Sever is Matt The Electrician. (who, as the name suggests was an electrician in his former life - in the 1990s) took the stage first, shared a few stories, and played a few songs from his discography, which runs a dozen records deep. 
Photo by Sean Claes
Just before launching into a fantastically speedy rendition of "Change The Subject" (from  2007's One Thing Right) he mentioned that February 3 was going to be the 14th anniversary of his quitting drinking alcohol and the song was written after attending a potluck/gathering with his wife, the week he decided to quit drinking, where he knew nobody. That gave a whole new perspective to the opening lyrics: " If I never gave up drinking / I would surely have a beer right now / Talking politics and religion / I don't wanna be here right now."

He also played "The Bear" and "California" off his 2017 release The Doubles which is a collection of the 7" singles he's released along with renditions of those tracks featuring the trio with which he currently performs.

A treat of being in a listening room setting is artists sometimes try out new material. Sever debuted a song that he'd never played live, which I believe is called "Angels Chasing After Me." He realized, and pointed out during the track, that the riff he was using was the same as "What's So Funny" off his 2009 release Animal Boy and promised to change it. He explained that this show was his first gig of 2018 after taking about six weeks off, the longest time away from stage since he'd begun his career.
Honestly, if he'd not mentioned it, nobody would have known he'd not played live in a minute... but it made for a few funny references. Once he played his set, it was Kris Delmhorst's time to take the stage.
Whereas Sever has a laid back, conversational and sometimes quirky approach to his storytelling style, Delmhorst has what I'd describe as a classic singer-songwriter style. Her songs are beautifully composed stories of life and love. 
Photo by Sean Claes
I was first introduced to Delmhorst's music in 2003 with the release of her Songs For A Hurricane. She was a regular performer at Cambridge, Massachusetts' Club Passim where my sister and brother-in-law frequented.  I caught her in 2007 (I think) during SXSW at a restaurant-turned music venue on 6th street. I recall that, while being impressed with her music, the venue didn't suit her. Well, fast forward a decade and The Cactus Cafe made for the perfect backdrop to showcase her beautiful voice and poetic lyrics. 

She settled onto the stage after a fun little volley with Sever where he couldn't think of the city in Massachusetts where she hailed from, so it was dubbed "Northernville." 
With 12 albums under her belt, she also had a dearth of great material to pull from. Delmhorst is touring on the release of her 2017 album The Wild. She treated the crowd to songs off the album like "Temporary Existance" and "Rules To Games."

After her set, they took a short break. When that concluded, both Sever and Delmhorst took the stage together and riffed off each other while playing back-up to each other's songs. Sever switched from guitar to trumpet and Delmhorst switched from guitar to violin. It was definitely a wonderful sight to behold.
Photo By Sean Claes

Probably my favorite song of the night was a track that Delmorst never released and I can find zero reference to it online. Her and Sever are part of a songwriters game that consists of a song title being sent to them on a Monday and they have a week to turn it into a finished song. During the play of this game, the title "Russian Girl" was sent out. She turned it into a great tongue-in-cheek song about a friend who has been in the dating pool for a long time... recalling that he should consider a fantastically flawed girl he'd once dated (might be insane, drank a lot, but she recalled he thought she was "OK").

Photo by Sean Claes

If you ever get the chance to see Matt The Electrician or Kris Delmhost live, it's totally worth it and you will leave musically fed. Those who were lucky enough to see them together... well.. we got one of those once-in-a-lifetime treats that will go in the books as a beautiful musical memory.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

REVIEW: 10 Years, From Ashes To New, To Whom It May, Broken Valor

January 23, 2018 - Come and Take It Live (Austin, Texas)

By Sean Claes
For the first time in 2018, I walked through the doors of Austin's Come and Take It Live... and for the first time in a much longer time I was there to see a road show. Four bands, none of them from Austin. I was invited to the show by the publicist for From Ashes To New (Lancaster, PA) who was opening for 10 Years (Knoxville, TN) whom, ironically, formed 19 years ago. Rounding the band out was To Whom It May (Galveston, TX) and Broken Valor (Houston, TX)

The atmosphere was perfect for this line-up of rock/melodic metal bands. Surveying the crowd, it was pretty nice to see a diverse and mixed age bunch of folks. There was your old-school metal heads standing alongside a new "Xs on their hands" breed of live music fans.

Broken Valor

First up was Broken Valor. They came out the gate hard with a sound that was straight-forward barroom metal. Vocalist Kelly Allbright commanded the stage like a seasoned pro.
To Whom It May
Next up was To Whom It May ('I' III I III). Got to love a band that comes in with the Willie Wonka “Wondrous Boat Ride” audio playing in the background. Lead vocalist Jonathon Jourdon surprised me when he had a voice that didn’t match his metaltastic beard. Kind of a Layne Staley meets Robert Plant tinge to the vocals... in the best way possible. The music was a melodic metal groove that built up throughout their set and and peaked with the final song, which I believe was called "Signal Fire."
From Ashes To New
The already crowded club (really packed for a Tuesday night) seemed to double in size when From Ashes To New hit the stage. These guys are one of the most high energy bands I’ve witnessed live in a while. The songs were great and they owned the crowd from the first strum to the last bass drum kick. The combination of lead vocalist Danny Case's emo-infused rock combined with the flows of rapper Matt Brandyberry made for some solid tunes. 
The mentioned that this was the first time playing Austin since they came though during SXSW in 2015 and I think Austin approved. They can come back anytime. Perhaps as a headliner next time? 
10 Years
Come And Take It Live was standing-room only when headliners 10 Years hit the stage. This tour was in support of their 2018 release (how to live) AS GHOSTS which is the band's 8th release since they formed in 1999. The ambient hard rock the band performed was great and the crowd was in tune with each lick.
Over-all this was a great line-up of music and for those who braved the Tuesday night air to catch a show... we were all rewarded. Come and Take It Live is such a great venue and I'm so glad there's a mid-sized place in Austin to host great local acts as well as road shows like this one. Credit goes to owner Anthony Stevenson for keeping the metal alive in the ATX. It's also nice to make a right off IH-35 to Riverside to catch a rock show again.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

DAY TRIP - Flea Market - Kyle, Texas

A Mini-Mall of Mixed Treasures
An Impressively Inexpensive Adventure    

By Sean Claes

Early January saw some amazingly cold weather and some dreary days. The type of day that you don't want to wander around outside, but you've got to get out of the house, right? I found the perfect day-trip for those in the Austin area. The Flea Market in Kyle, Texas.

I know, a flea market invokes thoughts of dark smoky places where the broken toys of your childhood gather dust next to an old VHS of Over The Top... and about 10 years ago when I visited the Flea Market in Kyle it was kind of true to that thought. But, in recent time, they've stepped up their game and there are some great booths with some amazing discoveries. It's also smoke-free inside.

Kyle Flea Market (Web |Facebook) is located at 1119 N Old Hwy 81 in Kyle, Texas. It's just off IH-35 on the southbound access road. They are open from 9a - 5p on Saturdays and Sundays year round.

Driving up that dirt road towards the big tin-roofed building that sports a huge "KYLE FLEA MARKET" on the top - I felt like I was going to an old-school swap meet. There were folks with tables on the grounds in front with piles of clothing and "sellable junk" akin to a big multi-family garage sale. I found out later that anyone can "buy" a space outside for a few bucks. I took my parking space (it's free) and decided to bypass those folks and walk into the building.

Once inside, there are what seems like hundreds of "booths" that feel more like individual stores within the building. The layout is a large rectangle with two walkways... stores on either side. There's toy stores, an art space, stores with paintings, some refinished furniture spaces as well as some with "upcycled" furniture. There are some antique, knife/weapon, and feng shui spaces. Some hand-made knit items and some college-themed hats/shirts/collectibles. Yes, there are some "garage sale" flea market booths, but they are outnumbered by manicured "antique" stores. 

In other words, they've done a great job turning this place into a pretty nice and safe place that the entire family can visit and get some great deals. It's well lit and the booth owners (for the most part) are really nice and welcoming and ready to chat you up or sell you a new-to-you item.

 One of the stores I walked into took me back in time to college... in San Marcos, Texas. There was a Hastings there and this space had some of the signage from that location. Almost bought a huge newsstand sign for $10... but decided to leave it there for someone else to discover. I chatted with the owner and he uses this space as a sorting space for a consignment store he owns in San Marcos called Junk In Da Trunk. Because of this, it was one of the stores where you dig for treasures instead of find the wares displayed. Oh, There was also a cheeky laundry sign that made me chuckle. 

 On the other side of the spectrum, there was a fantastic upcycled furniture store (Booth 70A) where I found some fantastic bar stools that were turned into functional art pieces. The owner, who holds this space as an overflow for a North Austin upcycle furniture gallery (where the prices are likely tripled) had them retailing for $30 for the pair. They now reside on my back porch... but what drew me into the space was a "mounted deer head" piece that was both beautiful and funky. 

In addition to the stores, there is a modern art space in the back corner of the space encased in glass. It's the Dirty Dark Place, an "errant, artist-run project space." The current installation, entitled "Bornagain"  evokes a post-apocalyptic living space complete with makeshift seating, fly-paper chandelier and camouflage toilet paper. It's definitely a modern art piece that is open for interpretation and feels both awkward and right at home at the Kyle Flea Market. 

Once I got my modern art appreciation in, I walked into a store that reminded me of one I'd find in Chinatown Center in Austin. Gold and Green Jade has a large display of feng shui items and a great assortment of maneki-neko (often referred to as the "Chinese Lucky Cat"). The owner, Kim Lee, was really welcoming and gave me a nice tour of her space 

 Of course, not trip to a space like this is complete without finding some funny, strange and just plain weird items. That is part of the fun of going to the flea market, isn't it?
I found a few funny t-shirts, a box of wrestlers, a painting of a cactus playing the guitar and some other great items. 

So, if you've got a few hours to kill and a few bucks in your pocket to spend, I'd highly recommend checking out Kyle Flea Market. You won't be disappointed.


This is a fun game I like to play with my kids (10 and 13). Everyone has $5. Get the coolest/neatest/most interesting thing you can for that price. The great thing is... most of the booth owners will work with you on price (sidenote: This game is also great for helping the kids get comfortable talking with business owners and other adults)

The day we went, we played this game and here are the results of our $5 finds:
The author & his kiddos with the $5 finds game results.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Celebrate New Years Eve in Corpus Christi with Oscar Houchins


1960s-70s Rock Star and South Texas Music Walk of Fame Nominee to Perform Two Night Engagement at Oso Grill and Pier - Corpus Christi 

Oscar Houchins of The Clique Comes Home December 30 & 31


Gulf Coast Music Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame 2008

Legendary Musician-songwriter and King High School (Corpus Christi) graduate Oscar Houchins will be headed to Corpus Christi to perform two nights of originals and classic rock from the 1960s and 70s at Oso Grill and Pier (6124 Ocean Dr) to ring out 2017 and ring in 2018.
Event on Facebook: Link

Houchins is best known for being a member of The Clique in the late 60s and early 70s, but his musical career spans decades and includes touring with bands such as Tommy James and the Shondells and Sonny James and the Southern Gentlemen. In fact, Houchins recently received word that he was nominated for a star in the South Texas Music Walk of Fame. He is hopeful to receive his star in 2018.

He will be performing in Corpus Christi on December 30 and 31 for a two-night stand at the Oso Grill and Pier. It’ll be an all-inclusive dinner and a show experience. The restaurant seats 60. Call (361) 371-5217 to reserve your spot.

After The Clique parted ways in 1972 Houchins continued performing and being involved in the industry behind the scenes – as a writer, producer and publisher. While under a writing contract with ABC Dunhill, Houchins penned and published songs recorded by bands such as Wilco and Rita Coolidge. One of his songs, “If You’re Willing” became the theme song for the non-profit Tennessee Voices for Children ( He also co-produced Rolling Stone Magazine’s 10th Anniversary Special (1977) and represented the catalog of Tommy James of the Shondells. He currently manages his production company, House of Houchins, in Austin, Texas.

While he is rooted in music, Houchins also continued his education. In 2017 he completed his Concordia University Doctorate of Education (EdD) research in the San Marcos Independent School District. The dissertation, which will be published in 2018, explored the positive effects of music on the behavior and academic engagement of “at risk” students.

The Clique ( were a “sunshine pop” band who saw success with four top forty hits including a gold record for “Sugar on Sunday” and “Superman.”

They’ve been covered by REM (“Superman” 1986), Chi Coltrane (“Hallelujah!” 1973) and Smith (“I’ll Hold Out My Hand” 1969).

They were inducted into the Gulf Coast Music Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame alongside Edgar Winter in Port Arthur, Texas in 2008.

Monday, September 11, 2017

10 Questions with Lucas Cook

“Pouring my heart into every note I sing and chord I strum” - Lucas Cook

By Sean Claes
Singer-songwriter Lucas Cook has been chugging along as part of the Austin music scene for a few years. He’s got 3 releases under his belt in the last decade and has another, appropriately titled Long Road, gearing up for release.

I had to describe Lucas Cook’s music in a sentence, I’d say say it’s six-string toe-tapping storytelling music that invites the listener on a journey into his world. And his world holds joy with a douse of pain and is speckled with humor and wonderful stories.

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, he has put together a relief show at Moontower Saloon September 16 and 17 to benefit the Austin Disaster Relief Network (in funding) and the Central Texas Food Bank (canned foods).

Sean Claes: Musically, you’re kind of difficult to place in a genre. You’ve got your serious side like “South Austin Blues,” the you go tongue-in-cheek with “Chicken Fried Steak” and your goofy/fun with “COMEONIWANNALAYA.”  How would you describe the Lucas Cook sound?
Lucas Cook: I’d call it Americana, with a blend of Country, Rock and Blues. Growing up my parents introduced me to Otis Redding, Led Zepplin, Blind Faith, Eric Clapton and so many others. In my formative years, John Mellencamp was a huge influence, I think you can hear that today in my music.

Claes: As much as I enjoy your albums, I am always drawn in to your live performances. You seem to be at home on the stage and make everyone in the audience feel like they’re hanging out with a friend. How do you craft your performances?
Cook: To be honest, the crowd crafts my performance and really, when i’m in that zone, it just happens. Things I say, my actions on stage, that some from a place that I can only tap into when I have an audience.

The more tuned in the audience the better the show, I think. I really feed from the energy, if I have a crowd that’s into and listening and responding, there’s no telling what will happen up there.

Claes: You’ve released 4 albums Lone Star State of Mind (2008), Toe Tapper (2010), Live At Weirdos (2014) and Hi-Def Low-Fi (2015). How close is the release of your next album, Long Road?
Cook: Long Road is really close, there’s a few things holding it back.

  1. Money, I need to make sure it’s done right and there’s a few things I need to put together before I can release it. 
  2. Timing. We started this album in September of last year, i’d like to get it out this year but as we get closer to the holidays (EEECK) it’s kind of better to just wait until 2018. 

I have some new material and song ideas and not long after Long Road, I’ll be slowly popping off new singles so that the new music is out more frequently.

Claes: It’s been 10 years since you released Austin State of Mind. Looking back, how do you think you’ve grown as an artist between then and now?
Cook: I can’t even begin to tell you all the ways i’ve grown but some huge areas are in the business side of things, which shows I play and which shows I don’t. How I market myself and my voice, my voice has changed a lot, a little deeper, i’ve been through a lot of heavy life stuff in 10 years and I think you’ll hear that on Long Road.

Claes: You were the house band for the Austin-based Bling Johnson Show which ran from about 2010-2015. How was that experience?
Cook: That was pretty amazing, I think we all were crossing our fingers that this would be it, for all of us. That the show would take off and it would catapult my music. Life tends to take it’s own course but I can tell you that I made a lot of fans and had some great experiences.

Being on TV just feels cool, you feel a little special because not everybody gets to do that. I’m very grateful for the time I spent on that show and the experiences we had.

Claes: In 2016 you took part in Shiner Rising Star competition put on by a Dallas Radio station. You went pretty far making it to the Semi-finals.
Cook: I had seen the contest pop up on social media in the years past and was like: Oh that’s cool, but it’s probably a waste of time, these contests their just never really worth your time. For some reason, I decided to submit and was accepted.

I think they were looking for more traditional country sounds. I still think I’m more country than a lot of music coming out of Nashville right now, but certainly I can’t hold  a candle to the Jason Isbells and Chris Stapletons of today’s country music scene.

Claes: You’ve organized a Hurricane Harvey Relief concert at Moontower Saloon this weekend.
Cook: We actually have two full days of music. We’re asking  folks to bring cash for the Austin Disaster Relief network and canned food for the Central Texas Food Bank. Check out the event page on Facebook - Event.

Claes: One of the things I’ve always admired about you is your passion and drive. As an independent musician you are in charge of booking/writing/social media and everything else that goes with it.  What keeps you going?
Cook: The shows really - it’s not the money or the fame - those are pretty scarce. It’s connecting with people, it’s people connecting with my music and then telling me about it. That’s what we all want, I think. It has to be about the music and that’s what it's about for me. Getting the demons out and pouring my heart into every note I sing and chord I strum.

Claes: If you were to give a starting musician some pointers, what is the best decision you’ve made and worst decision you’ve made in your musical career?
Cook: The worst decision I ever made was playing shows just to play them or for the money. I’ve learned that what’s important to me is building fans of my music and my brand. If I could go back, I’d probably limit the amount of shows, then again, that’s where I cut my teeth and learned a lot about playing shows, managing a band and marketing myself.

One of the best things I’ve ever done for my career was not giving up. I came to realize that for a lot of people out there, I’ve already made it and now it’s just about raising the bar. What can I do to write better music, play bigger shows and reach more fans.

Claes:  What’s next for Lucas Cook?
Cook: I want to get the new album out and start working on new material I have a couple songs to record already and several ideas. I’m really at a point now where if I don’t think a show will further my career or connections, i’m not going to play it. That’s what’s next, raising the bar, and getting everything to the next level.

I don’t want to be overly confident, but i’ve paid some dues, i’ve stood the test of time and I think I owe to myself and my fans to get up there on a more regional and even national level.


Lucas will be hosting and playing Saturday at Moontower Saloon for the Harvey Flood Benefit show and Sunday at Ernie’s on the Lake as a part of the KLBJ Summer Concert Series. Grab some cans of nonperishable food items and head out there for free music, great food and wonderful folks all out there to help serve the needs of folks who could use a little help right now.

And, of course, follow Lucas on his website and Facebook and be on the lookout for the release of Long Road.

Sean Claes is the owner of Austin's INsite Magazine and has been a freelance entertainment writer since 1996. This is week 35 in his "52 Weeks of Austin Musician Interview" series. See the others here: 52 Week Project