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Comin' Back Around (or, A Late-Night Epiphany at Rudz) [4/21/2007 02:59:00 AM]:
I don't get out much these days. In fact, I've only gone to see shows sporadically for quite a while now, long enough that I can count on one-and-a-half hands the number of times I've caught a live show this past year. My evenings these days consist of coming home from work, eating dinner, playing with the fuzzy-headed midget who lives down the hall & calls me "Daddy!" when she's not punching me in the head (the wife says it's because children, like dogs, can sense who the alpha animal is, and she knows I ain't it), getting ready for bed, and then either hanging out and chatting with a couple of friends, watching TV, or working on this site or work for my day job.

It's a comfortable little routine, if a bit sad, comfortable enough that on the occasion that somebody comes through town that I really, really want to see, I'm hard-pressed to pry my homebody ass off the couch. After all, the Sci-Fi Channel's always re-running either The Dresden Files or Stargate: SG-1, and the Discovery Channel's pretty enticing most nights (Dirty Jobs, Mythbusters, The Deadliest Catch...). Lame, lame, lame, I know, but there's something weirdly nice about just hanging at the house. Ergo, that's what I find myself doing, most nights.

There was a time, mind you, when I would've been out the door at 10PM, off to see whoever the hell was playing at Emo's, Rudz, Mary Jane's, The Blue Iguana, The Mausoleum, or The Abyss (for the non-historically-minded, in order: dead; still Rudz; dead; now The Proletariat; now sometimes Helios; and dead). I was in a band, of course, which meant that I was pretty much guaranteed to see somebody else I knew wherever I went. Band people, then as now, tended to stick together, both out of a sense of scene loyalty and at least one-sided respect for one another's music. I lived down near Rice, a 20-minute walk to Cactus and a quick car ride to either Montrose or the Heights; music was always pretty close at hand. Those were good times.

Things change, though, so here I am. I now live on the outskirts of Meyerland, down in SW Houston (whenever you hear the words "fatal shooting in Southwest Houston" on the nightly news, it's usually within a half-mile of my house) and even on the rare occasions when I do make it over to Montrose, so many of the landmarks of my relative youth have either changed or vanished that I feel like I barely know the place. Usually, I just run whatever errand I've got and then flee back to the safety of the near-'burbs.

Now, lately I've been attempting to get out to shows more often. It's been rough, 'cause I really do have a lot of other shit to do, between the day job, the e-zine, and my real life. But tonight, the love of my life's out of town on a company retreat, the munchkin's having a sleepover at Grandma's for the night, and I'm on my own. So what do I do? Well, hell -- why not hit a show or two? Staying in an empty house all night is damn depressing, particularly if you're used to the constant companionship of two other people (I love my dogs, yes, but they don't really count, I'm afraid). I made a plan: I'm getting out, if only for the night.

I had hoped to catch Sharks and Sailors opening for The Appleseed Cast up at Walter's, but when I checked on the Super Unison site it looked suspiciously like the show was sold-out (anybody know if it was or not?). Plus, I was running late from an after-work goodbye party for a former coworker, so by the time I got my shit together, it seemed pretty likely that I'd miss S&S entirely. (Melissa, in the unlikely event that you read this: I swear I'll make it out to see you guys soon. Honest.)

So I opted to shoot for just the second stop on my little jaunt: Rudyard's to see Something Fierce play. I swung by Diedrich's on the way for some coffee (it's been a looooooong week at work), reveling in the warm, syrupy waves of nostalgia that seem to hit whenever I cruise through my old 'hood at night. It's like the darkness hides the fact that it's not the same place I used to know, covering up the holes where my old haunts once were and lighting everything up in that neon glow. Nighttime's a good time for a little time-traveling, at least for me.

When I got to Rudyard's, though, it all evaporated. The place was packed, but I was dismayed to find that I only recognized one person, Bring Back the Guns guitarist Erik Bogle, who gave me a warm "hey, how's it going?" & handshake as I pushed through the plastic flaps at the upstairs entrance. Honestly, I'm amazed the guy remembers me at all, esp. with the haircut -- thanks, Mr. E...

Beyond that one guy, though, I felt like a party-crasher at a family reunion. Everybody seemed to know one another, meandering from table to table shaking hands, hugging, high-fiving. And there I sat at the bar railing, wondering what the fuck I was doing there. Where were all my friends, all the faces I used to see when I went to watch, say, Schrasj or The Suspects play? Long gone, it seemed; like me, almost everybody who was part of the H-town music scene when I was has packed up and moved away, becoming teachers, real estate agents, big-shot music journos. What the hell was I doing there? Rudz wasn't my home, not anymore. I was on the outside looking in.

So I sat there, feeling pretty fucking sorry for myself, 'til a nice lady named Deborah sat down on the next stool over and asked me who had just finished playing. She'd come to see Something Fierce, too, because she knew frontguy Steven G. from the Daily Grind and had promised to come see his band. She quizzed me on where I lived, wincing when I said I had once lived right down the road, at Willard & Morgan, but now lived in the Land of Meyer. She'd lived "out," too, in a house with a pool, a yard, the whole nine yards, 'til her husband passed away. Then she'd decided to move back in, to an apartment right around the corner from Rudz.

She was a regular, and she shook her head disapprovingly at the crowd, noting that she only saw one other Rudz regular. "I think most of these folks are from elsewhere," she said, to which I responded that I couldn't really complain about that, seeing as I was technically from elsewhere, too. "Yeah, but you're from here," she told me, "you've just moved away for a while." It's funny, but the comment was strangely reassuring. Maybe my old home wasn't dead & gone, just different? I dunno.

We talked a while longer, discovering to our mutual surprise that we both worked as tech writers and happened to at least know of some of the same people. This city really is a small place, sometimes. Then, after a lengthy band change (I missed Born Liars, unfortunately, but DC's The Points were pretty damn good), Something Fierce came on.

I'd wanted to see the band for a while now, even before I fell head-over-heels for Come For The Bastards, their only album, and I have to admit that I was stunned at how good they were. Roaring, right-on-the-edge of collapsing guitars, solidly catchy yell-along choruses, a ridiculously tight rhythm section, Ramones-style pop songs dressed up in vitriol and distortion -- they fucking rocked, and the crowd did, too. The only other time I've actually felt the floor at Rudyard's move up and down like that was the last time The Suspects played there.

After a few minutes, I was smiling and air-drumming. By about a third of the way through the band's set, I was beaming from ear to ear. And it was then that it hit me: who cares if things aren't like they used to be? I can't resurrect the past; even if I could, I'm not the same person I was back then, and neither are the people I knew. What really matters is the moments like tonight, when the music's loud and good, the people are friendly, and for a little while, at least, the city feels like it's smiling right along with you.

It's those moments that drew me to the music in Houston in the first place, way back when I was a shell-shocked kid from central Texas; it's been a long time since I felt them, so long that I'd nearly forsaken the H-town scene altogether. My guitar's gathering dust in the closet, my old show-going friends have grown up & moved away, and the bands I used to love were gone, so why bother paying attention? Why go to the effort of listening to some local band, when I just got the new Dntel in the mail? Somewhere along the way, I'd lost the connection I used to feel to the music made here in our fair city.

Tonight, though, felt like I'd come full circle. I was an outsider, sure, but it fit; I'd been gone a long time, after all. The bands I grew up with may be dead & buried or in hibernation, but recent months have shown me just how good the bands that are around really are -- just take a listen to folks like Something Fierce, Sharks and Sailors, The Western Civilization, Arthur Yoria, Blades, The Jonx, Listen Listen, Georgia's Horse, Casino, .belville, Ryan Scroggins and the Trenchtown Texans, The Jonbenét, Paris Falls, Jana Hunter, Spain Coloured Orange, Tody Castillo, Sinews, Clouseaux, The Dimes, Million Year Dance, The Scattered PAGES, Black Math Experiment, Co-Pilot, Ume, Radio Pioneer, While You Were Gone, Buxton, Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers, Program, Thee Armada, Another Run, Ragged Hearts, Antarctica Starts Here, Satin Hooks, The Finalist, Fatal Flying Guilloteens, LOW.Z, Bright Men of Learning, Blaggards, Mansion, The Ka-Nives...the list goes on for fucking days. There's so much good music going on out there right now that I can barely begin to wrap my arms around it. And the strangest part is that knowing that makes me very, very happy.

So thanks, Deborah, Something Fierce, and all you people who came out to see the bands at Rudz tonight. Because of you, tonight made me feel like I was home again, for the first time in a long while.

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