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Anyhoos — we’ve got a favor to ask, and we’re preemptively returning it. If you help us make our website better with this uber-quick, 10-question online survey, we’ll give you two free passes to your fantastical Cockrell Butterfly Center.
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Austin-based rockers The Octanes have a rockabilly sound that earned them a Houston Press Music Awards nomination for Best Roots-Rock in 2010. The band is peeling through town on Friday night to rock the wheels off LaB 5555: Speed.
We sat down with lead guitarist and vocalist Adam Burchfield in advance of their performance to talk Museum memories, social experiments, and waving the geek flag high.
HMNS: The theme for this month’s LaB 5555 is Speed. How did your band name come about, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Adam Burchfield: When I was first starting out, playing guitar and singing, I would sit down and write out what I thought were cool band names on a legal-size sheet of paper. Nothing ever really stuck out, though. One night after jamming with the guys that would form the band, I had a thought: Rockabilly music and hot rod cars seem to go hand in hand. The music that we play is fast, and usually when you want to go faster you want a “higher-octane” gas. High-octane gas is also high quality or “hi-test.” So, with that, I thought, “There’s the perfect band name: ‘The Octanes’.” It was original, and would forever associate us with a high-performance, hot rod type of sound.
HMNS: Describe your sound and influences. How has the city of Houston influenced your music?
AB: Our sound would best be described as “roots-rock-rockabilly, with blues influences.” I was born in Tennessee into a very musical family that recorded everything from bluegrass to rock and roll. My parents moved to Houston with me when I was 2 years old. I grew up here in the ’80s, through new wave and the dawn of MTV, and I always thought bands like the Stray Cats were very popular in Texas and here in Houston, especially. Stevie Ray Vaughan was also very popular in Houston throughout my childhood, as well as Albert Collins. Through the ’90s I became more involved in the blues scene. I would also go and see Ronnie Dawson and The Paladins quite a bit. They had a big influence on our sound. Eventually, I started The Octanes full-time, earning many nominations for local awards through the 2000s. We’re based in Austin now, and are currently traveling doing shows all around the country.
HMNS: What’s your favorite memory of HMNS?
AB: This may sound like a strange answer, but I would have to say it would be from when I was a kid. The bottom floor, or what I always called, “The Basement,” had a series of displays behind glass that basically gave a history of scientists.There were different displays with the figures doing strange experiments, beakers boiling, and the figures looking very mysterious conjuring up their potions. It was dark down that hallway, too, which made it extra scary. There was also a space exploration display down there, with a capsule, moon rover and space suits. But nothing can beat the fascination I had with those strange static displays in “The Basement.” As a band, I would say our best memory is playing a wedding in the Gem Hall. To get to rock and roll in the exhibit hall among all those priceless stones in an amazing feeling!
HMNS: Do you have a geeky side? Do you wave the geek flag with pride or is it something you keep under wraps?
AB: I’d have to say I’m a little on the geeky side. I still love to research things that interest me. I’m into a little of everything: geology, archeology, space travel … Star Wars movies. Our bass player, Drew Hays, is actually a bona fide scientist who will be publishing a paper later this year. She is also a registered dietician. We’re not afraid to let our geek flags fly.
HMNS: What’s the weirdest experiment — social or scientific — you’ve ever conducted?
AB: This is a tough one because I feel like playing music and doing shows is almost always an “experiment” to a certain extent. On a scientific note, I used to stay up all night with those build-your-own science experiment kits. In the kit they had a radio circuit you could build, and you could hear anything from a radio station to a trucker on a CB radio. I don’t really remember mine working quite right; I’d love to have that whole set now!
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Hear more from The Octanes this Friday night from 8 to 11 p.m. at LaB 5555. Hit the Grand Hall early for science hour from 8 to 9 p.m. and learn all about the science of speed from our expert staff. For more information or to purchase your tickets in advance online, click here.
Start your engines with a video of The Octanes’ single, “Flip Your Lid,” below:
Some people celebrate birthdays with cake. We tend to do things a little differently.
So when it comes to commemorating the birth of one Albert Einstein, we’re doing it with some flavor: celebrate Pi Day this Thursday, March 14 (3.14 — get it?) at either HMNS in Hermann Park or HMNS in Sugar Land. We’ll have crafts, activities, and Einstein-adoring Museum Store swag.
We’ll even have pie (with an “e”!) on-hand from Pi Pizza and Oh My Pocket Pies at HMNS’ Hermann Park location. Come see us from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and feed your brain and your belly — it’s a genius idea.
All cultures are marked by their festivals and celebrations. In Okinawa — Japan’s southernmost prefecture — the Buddhist custom of Obon is celebrated every summer and has given rise to Japan’s most internationally recognized performing art: the Eisa dance.
Obon began more than 500 years ago. It is believed that each year during Obon, the ancestors’ spirits return to this world in order to visit their relatives. During the three-day event, graves are visited and food offerings are made at temples and household altars, ending with traditional dances called Bon-Odori (Obon dances).
The unique culture of Okinawa was established during the reign of the Ryukyu Kingdom. During that time it was a hub of maritime trade in Southeast and East Asia. This was due, in most part, to a tributary relationship with China’s Ming Dynasty. Ryukyuan ships, often provided by China, traded at ports throughout the region including China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Java, Malacca, Siam, and Sumatra.
With the abolition of clans and the establishment of prefectures during the Meiji Restoration of the 1800s, the Buddhist dances in Okinawa began to transform into Eisa performances. Today, in the local villages and towns of Okinawa, Eisa is still performed in its traditional role as part of the Obon festivities. The youth of each community gather to form their own Eisa groups. On the last day of Obon, they march through the streets and stop in front of homes to perform a traditional send-off for the visiting ancestors.
Koza City (present-day Okinawa City) began the transformation to modern Eisa dance by establishing the Traditional Okinawan Dance Festival in 1956. Although held at the same time of year as Obon, this Eisa competition is open to all community Eisa groups in Okinawa. The festival has since evolved into a festival representing the Okinawan culture as a whole.
Okinawan Eisa Dance was brought to the world stage by Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko (Ryukyu Kingdom Festival Drums). Since the early 1980s, RMD has elevated this religious and festival dance into a performing art. The choreography is created in Okinawa and is a dynamic blend of traditional Eisa and Karate forms with contemporary influences incorporating both traditional folk music and modern rock music. Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko is now a worldwide organization with chapters throughout Okinawa, Japan, Latin America, and the United States – RMD Texas being one of those.
In traditional Japanese costumes — with Jikatabi’s (calf-high white cloth shoes) flashing and arms swinging in synchronized movement, rhythmically pounding drums — this high-stepping, high-energy drum and dance troupe has performed worldwide, including at venues like Carnegie Hall in New York City.
In 1995, in association with Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko, the people of Okinawa incorporated the Eisa dance into a celebration of summer itself. The “Summer Festival in Naha” now has the world’s spotlight shinning on five days of Eisa being performed in the streets of Okinawa’s capitol city. The last day is capped off with the unbelievable “Ten Thousand Eisa Dance Parade.” Up to 10,000 Eisa dancers process down Kokusai Street, lighting up the city with their colorful costumes and jubilant dance, all proud to be part of Okinawa’s most internationally recognized performing art.
Join HMNS for its first-ever World Trekkers festival celebrating the art, culture and cuisine of Japan and see authentic Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko performed up-close by RMD-Texas.
World Trekkers will take place in the Grand Hall on Friday, Feb. 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Attendees can opt to buy a passport to track their cultural comprehension through each World Trekker festival, spotlighting Egypt (May 3), France (Aug 9), and Russia (Nov. 15). Tickets are $9 for the public; $7 for members. Click here for more information or here to purchase in advance.