The Press Surveys The Scene, in Time for the HPMAs
Nice, nice, nice. The Houston Press‘s Chris Gray has a piece in this week’s dead-trees version of the paper called “Progress Report”, where he marks the coming of this weekend’s Houston Press Music Awards Showcase by taking an overview of the scene here in our currently-overheated city.
For the most part, I think the article’s spot-on. Houston seems to be hitting this weird moment where there are A) a veritable shitload of great, great, wildly varied bands & musicians (see decidedly non-comprehensive personal list here), nearly all of whom seem to be B) releasing new stuff every few months (if not more), to the point where local music cover-ers like yours truly find themselves with a gigantic pile of excellent Houston-born albums/EPs/7″/etc. to listen to, and many of whom are currently C) touring the rest of the state and country like mad, trying to get their name (and Houston’s name in general) out there for all to see.
I do disagree with Chris on his assertion that “Houston has only relatively recently decided it even wants a scene” — anybody who remembers the late ’90s here knows that’s a goofy statement to make — but the rest of his article had me nodding and muttering under my breath in agreement, and he correctly notes that a “scene” isn’t made up solely of bands but of the labels, media, venues, graphic artists, booking agents, & the rest that work with and around those bands. H-town’s attempts at scene-dom in the past were hampered not by a lack of good bands (although as I’ve said elsewhere, no time since I’ve lived here compares to now) but by the lack of infrastructure.
And, maybe, by a lack of confidence. There’s a part of me that loves Houston’s screw-you-we-do-what-we-like attitude when it comes to promoting and pushing music made here elsewhere, but honestly, that’s an unsustainable model. You can only make music for your friends for so long before it becomes a pointless exercise. So parts B & C above feel like a huge step forward in this vibrant-yet-unknown scene’s life; bands here aren’t content anymore (well, not all of ‘em, anyway) to just sit back, play shows where most of the crowd is in another band themselves, then go home & play PlayStation. A lot of ‘em — the best of ‘em, in a lot of cases — are working their asses off to be able to play bigger shows to more people, sell more records, get written up in the press, and travel further & further from home. And that’s an awe-inspiring thing to be able to witness.
My hat’s off to all of y’all, seriously. I’ve blathered before about the great bands, but Gray & company are absolutely correct that they’re only part of the equation, the other parts of which are finally (finally!) falling into place. The Press piece is a good read, as is the companion blog post with Eggs of Breakfast on Tour.
Of course, a scene is only truly a scene if it has fans. Which makes this weekend’s Awards Showcase shows the perfect damn time for anybody and everybody who reads this (I know there’re a few of you, and you’re not all in bands) to get out & hit downtown, bouncing from venue to venue to see as many of the bands in part A as you possibly can. These bands, they’re us. They’re our music, from our city, and they deserve to be celebrated.
So skip hanging out at The Woodlands tonight trying to snag Coldplay tickets for too-damn-much money and spend that cash on a wristband this Sunday (July 26th, if you were wondering), instead. Roam the downtown clubs and bars, and I guarantee you’ll find at least one band/musician you’ve never heard before that’ll make your jaw drop. If you don’t, well, you should probably just carve your ears off now, Van Gogh-style, because you’re obviously not using them correctly.
C’mon, Houstonians — do it for your city.