Scene Reportage: A Mixed Bag of Stuff, Some Old(-ish), Some New
Sadly, while I get a fair amount of H-town music news-like stuff sent my way, lately I’ve been having a hard time keeping up. There was a time when I tried to post every damn bit of Houston-related news I could find up here, but these days, there’s just too much, and I’ve got too little time to digest it all, y’know? So the murky, shark-infested depths of my Inbox currently has a whole bunch of stuff floating in it where I’ve looked at it and thought, “ooh, yeah — oughta post about that!” And then…well, there’re only so many hours in a day.
Happily, these days it’s not on my head alone to post about stuff like this — hell, it hasn’t been for quite a while now, really, although I was feeling the weight when Houston Press has had the ever-talented Brittanie Shey doing her excellent “Magnolia City Mixtape” roundups of anything and everything Houston music-related under the sun (basically, anything that gets sent to her, I think), and now HP Music Editor Chris Gray‘s stepped into that particular ring, too, with his “Bayou Beat” stuff.burned out & closed up shop. Lately the
Plus, there’s Houstonist, where new Editor (congrats again, man!) Marc Brubaker sorts through his own pile of news-y stuff and posts it online as his column. And then, of course, there’s a ton of less-centralized scene news on/in 29-95.com, IndieHouston, Free Press Houston & Houston Calling.
(And yes, I know there’re a ton of other local blogs/zines/etc. out there right now, but these seem to be the ones that focus the most on the local stuff. Matthew Wettergreen did a cool two-part rundown on local media types right over here and here.)
Step back and think about that for a second, folks. Right now there’re at least six (well, seven, if you count SCR) well-known online outlets — two of which are Big Media (no offense, New Times, but you are Big Media these days) endeavors — posting what could, at least in some instances, basically be characterized as Houston scene gossip. And that is fucking awesome.
What that says to me, y’all, is that Houston’s really and truly to the point of taking its own music seriously — thanks to the hard work and diligence of a lot of people in bands, in media, and in booking groups, I should add — even if the rest of the world barely knows we exist. Every time I see some squabble on a message board/comments list about how local coverage here sucks because paper/magazine/site X doesn’t write about band Y, I have to shake my head and laugh; trust me, folks, where we are right now is light years from where we were just a decade ago, and that’s a very, very good thing. Seriously, there are days when I wish I could do the Freaky Friday thing and be in a band again right NOW, instead of having to look back with nostalgia-smeared glasses at the late ’90s and early ’00s.
Anyway, with all that said, I still feel really, really lame for not posting about the stuff that gets sent in to the faithful “gaijin” at “spacecityrock dot com” mailbox, so I’m going to attempt to be more on top of things from now on. (No, really. Stop laughing, dammit.) Here goes:
- DAN AYKROYD, GRAND MARSHAL OF THE ART CARS: Yeah, this has probably been trumpeted from the rooftops by now, but what the hell, it makes me grin from ear to ear just thinking about it, so y’know… According to The Orange Show, none other than Blues Brother #2, Dan Aykroyd, will be the “Grand Marshal” for this year’s 23rd Annual Art Car Parade on May 8th. He’ll be kicking off the parade and then hanging out in the VIP area with, um, whoever else hangs out in the VIP area at these things (Houston has VIPs — who knew?). Now, I’m not generally the fanboy type, these days, but I’m sorely, sorely tempted to try to sneak in, just so I can shake the hand of Elwood Blues/Dr. Peter Venkman/Grocer. How burly & mean could Security at the Art Car Parade actually be, right?
- KTRU LIVE, VOL. 2 IN THE WORKS: Cool, cool, cool. I picked up the inaugural KTRU Live comp a few months later than most of the in-the-know crew, I think (had a hard time actually finding a copy; thank you SoundEx!), but even given the lateness of it, I was mightily impressed. Ian over at KTRU did a brilliant job of culling the best damn recordings from some of the high-flyers of our little scene. And yes, know he and his KTRU cohorts are reportedly currently working on Vol. 2, which will apparently be a double album (woo!) with performances by folks like Roky Moon & Bolt, The Literary Greats, & Robert Ellis, among others. Hot damn. Gonna have to try to grab hold of that a little quicker, this time…
- ASH WILLIAMS — ER, I MEAN BRUCE CAMPBELL ROLLS INTO TOWN!: How did I not hear about this ’til yesterday, when a coworker randomly mentioned it? It seems that at this year’s Comicpalooza comics/sci-fi/horror/etc. convention (coming March 26-28 at George R. Brown), one of the featured guests on Saturday, March 27th will be none other than Bruce Campbell, of Evil Dead/Army of Darkness/Briscoe County, Jr./Burn Notice fame. Wow. From what I hear, he’s not only a hysterically funny actor but a genuinely nice, down-to-earth guy, to boot. Oh, and other guests include Nicholas Brendon, aka Xander from Buffy, and two of my favorite nerdboy heroes from my D&D-loving, Dragon Magazine-reading youth, Phil Foglio and Larry Elmore. Might have to let my inner geek go play…
- WHILE YOU WERE GONE GIVES AWAY A SONG: Okay, so they don’t really “give it away” so much as “trade it for your email address,” but eh, I’m okay with that, personally… Local emo-ish rockers While You Were Gone are offering up a free MP3 of the song “Pretty Lights,” off the band’s stellar 2009 release, Winter/Summer, so long as you sign up for the band’s mailing list. Which, hey, isn’t a bad trade, at least not to me. Head over here to sign on & grab the MP3.
The band also recently started working with Restless Management, who’ve worked in the past with quasi-big-namers like Forever The Sickest Kids, Ivoryline, & Sick Puppies. Hopefully that’ll give the band a bit of a leg up.
- LATCH KEY KIDS RECORDING: My favorite back-from-the-dead pop-punk-core band of the ’90s, the Latch Key Kids, have been busy bees lately, working this past January & February on a brand-freaking-new full-length over at SugarHill. Frontman Tim Guerinot can’t say yet when the album’ll be out, but he swears it’ll be soon. In the meantime, they’ve played a few shows here in town and are headed up to the Key Bar in Austin on 3/20, then back down here to Walter’s, on 3/27. Calendar-marking time…
- I-45′S STILL ALIVE? WHOA…: Speaking of back-from-the-dead bands, I’m heartened to see that “slip-hop” boys I-45 are out and about yet again, playing shows here & elsewhere. I knew Techronious/Tech Ron B had come back from Cali a while ago, but then it seemed like things fizzled out yet again — apparently that wasn’t the case. The band’s playing tonight, Friday, March 12th, up at Rudyard’s, and after all the SXSW madness they’ll be heading out on the “Legalize the Nation” tour, with Reason To Rebel, bringing word of the joys of cannabis legalization to the South, the East, the Midwest, and the West (where they honestly probably already know, but hey).
Keep an eye out for ‘em — I haven’t seen ‘em lately, but their shows back in Ye Olden Days of Houston Music were damn entertaining. And hey, check the still-entertaining video for the insanely old-school-sounding “56 Airline” on over here.
- THE PHLEGMATICS GET A DO-OVER (PLUS, GREYTOWN RESURRECTED): Got to talk a bit a little while ago with Jonas, the bassist & backup vocalist for The Phlegmatics, who says that even though their latest album, Billy the Starfighter Pilot vs. the Phlegmatics, hasn’t been out all that long, the band’s already planning on remixing their first two albums (Alumnus and the aforementioned one), in the process including songs that got left off the original releases. While I dig the albums the way they are, hey, I’m all for new stuff. And yes, they’re also hoping to get going a real-live third album, as well.
Beyond that, it turns out Jonas used to play in yet another old-school band I recall fondly, Greytown — my own lame-ass band actually played with ‘em once, at our one-and-only gig at The Abyss. The Greytown guys are apparently kinda-sorta reforming, too, and are starting work on new stuff for that band. Sweet.
- THE NEXT BIG H-TOWN SUPERGROUP?: I’ll admit to being bummed when I learned that quasi-Nordic-themed, heavy-ass metal trio Kvalla had officially imploded when drummer Danny Mee fled to parts northwestward, but I’m happy as hell to hear that Sam from said band is now channelling his need for heavy-as-fuck, head-crushing music into new project Omotai, which also includes — dum-da-dee-dum — the ever-cool Melissa from Sharks and Sailors and newly-found drummer Anthony from now-dead metallers Subjugator.
The trio are releasing their debut EP, Peace Through Fear, sometime around late April or early May, and judging by what’s up on the band’s Myspace, at least, it’s going to be fucking epic. Heavy, sludgy, doom-y metal with thundering drums, menacing bass, and monster-stomping guitars, the kind of music that makes me want to grab the guitar and crank the amp up to 10 and pretend I’m in Helmet or something. Think Neurosis, The Ocean, Isis, or a nastier, meaner Pelican with a ridiculously better drummer. Seriously, I need to hear more.
- CITYSEARCH HOUSTON LIVES AGAIN: Recently got an email from Nikki Metzgar, who’s the new editor of Citysearch Houston, a Website that used to be pretty dang neat way back in the early days of the Internets but which I’d thought had died a quiet, unnoticed death years ago. It turns out the site had still been around all along but was really dormant ’til this past October. As of now, the site’s looking promising once again, Nikki promises lots of cool stuff to come.
- PARIS FALLS, ON VINYL & DIGGING THROUGH THE VAULTS: Finally, finally, finally got to see the amazing Paris Falls live and in person for the first time recently, opening for the Gold Sounds CD release (which I swear I’ll blog about here soon, assuming my memory doesn’t vanish completely…), and was suitably impressed. Also got to meet Ray & Jen Brown, the husband-and-wife duo who kinda run the PF show, and they were very cool folks. Ray emailed afterwards to say that the band’s actually just finished up a brand-new two-song 7″ single that they’ll be releasing real soon — not sure what songs are on it, though — and that after that there’ll be a really-super-limited edition free(!) album of unreleased songs and alternate takes of existing Paris Falls songs. Gonna have to keep an eye out for that…
- HANDS UP HOUSTON, TEN YEARS ON: Wow. Hard to believe it, but earlier this week it was officially ten years since the first show put on by the now-legendary pointing it out. HUH died something like five years ago now, with members moving on to things like and Noise and Smoke, and in its wake it left a scene much, much improved. The HUH gang came in at a time when music in Houston was at a real low point, with touring indie bands routinely blowing past us on I-10 (which, yeah, they still do, but they do it less these days, trust me) and local bands getting zero respect from, well, pretty much anybody. They put a lot of work into making Houston’s scene the cool, vibrant, astounding (yet still secret, somehow, to anybody outside of the Houston ‘burbs) beast it is today. Thanks, y’all. booking gang — kudos to founding members Bucky for
- AND TAMBERSAURO FANS BREATHE A SIGH OF RELIEF…: Okay, that’s a relief. When I heard math-rock heroes Tambersauro were “on hiatus” that that was code for “we’re pulling a Guilloteens and just never playing a show ever again” — especially since the non-Myspace Website for band’s own label, , has been taken down — so it makes me happy as hell to learn that their fourth album, From The Last Day I Saw You, is coming out real soon on Esotype. It’s a digital-only deal, at least for now, and I can’t fault the band for that — with the economy in the toilet, it’s hard to justify pressing a whole bunch of CDs/LPs/whatever. Either way, it’s damn good news. 2008′s Theories of Delusional Origin is/was freaking great, seriously…
- BANDS WIN AWARDS, NOBODY NOTICES: I’m hardly the biggest fan in the world of local (crap-)radio station The Buzz, but it still makes me somewhat sad to see that their 2009 Texas Buzz Music Awards went just about unnoticed (that I saw, anyway) in the local non-Buzz media. The one story I saw basically shrugged and said the awards were lame because they didn’t include anybody but alt-rockers or metal bands (although that’s not strictly true), but hey, who cares? Don’t those bands need love? The Houston Press Music Awards aren’t typically handing out awards by the dozens to the alt-rock bands scraping it out in this city, and that’s just as discriminatory, in my book. Houston’s got multiple “scenes” — it makes sense, then, that there should be multiple awards to accomodate ‘em.
Rant notwithstanding, the main reason I wanted to mention all this is to offer belated congratulations to the bands who won, which include one of my ultimate favorite bands in town right now, the last place you look, who took both “Best Alternative” and “Best Guitar,” promising-sounding melodic emocore band Adelaine, whose singer Stormy took “Best Vocalist,” and poppier rockers The 71′s, who I also like and who took “Best New Band”…although, uh, I could’ve sworn they’d been around a couple of years now, like since 2006 or so. Am I confusing ‘em with a different “The 71′s”? Dunno. Aaaaanyway, SCR would like to salute all the winners and hope that next year’s awards get more attention outside of the radio station’s own airwaves. Congrats, folks!
- WANT TO DRUM FOR A BADASS POST-EMO BAND?: Speaking of the last place you look, it turns out that as of this week drummer Andy is bowing out of the band for personal reasons. Everything’s amicable, it sounds like, but yes, now TLPYL needs new drummer. Interested? Hit ‘em up on the Myspace…
- YOUNG MAMMALS STILL IN MOTION: Thankfully, while they released debut full-length Carrots last year to near-universal acclaim (from everybody but me, ’cause I can’t fucking find the thing in any store in the area…argh), those energetic youngsters in Young Mammals . Instead, they’re working on not one but two new versions of the Carrots album — the first’s a limited-edition deal with new artwork and whatnot, while the second is a limited-edition (again), hand-made cassette release with (again) new artwork that’ll include download codes for people like me who no longer have cassette decks in our cars.
Plus, they’ve got filmmaker/artist guy Mark Armes designing a new T-shirt, and they’ll be putting out a cassette single of two brand-new songs that you’ll only ever be able to get on tape. And yes, again, that’ll be a limited-edition deal. Which means you should probably just stake out the front counter at SoundEx right now to get your own copy, or else you’ll be one the several million people left out in the cold.
- NEW SOMETHING FIERCE TRACKS UP: Okay, so this one pretty much made my week — it always does my soul good to be able to hear new stuff from those crazy Something Fierce kids, who seem these days to be veering more and more away from straight-ahead punk and towards Brit-style power-pop. They’ve always had those leanings, but man, the Undertones-esque melodies seem to’ve bubbled up to the surface more than ever on the three new demos they’ve got up on their Myspace right now.
“Empty Screens” comes off friendly and rough-edged, charging into the room like a buddy you haven’t seen in years but who’s always welcome, “When You Hurt” is sweet and wonderful, with what sounds like actual keys in the background, and then “What We Need Now” throws a real curveball, tossing in Hold Steady-ish piano and a bumping, Cock Sparrer-sounding rhythm that feels like it was ripped straight off an old Peel Session or something. Sure, the tracks aren’t mastered and sound kinda raw and scratchy, but hell, that only adds to their coolness. This band does more with its demos, for crying out loud, than most bands ever manage to do with their whole damn catalogue.
- KIDS BEHIND CAMERAS @ AURORA: No, it’s not strictly music-related, but hell, I think it’s worth mentioning anyway. The Aurora Picture Show is doing a set of Filmmaking Boot Camps for kids and teenagers this summer, running in mid-to-late July (depends on the session and age), and it sounds pretty incredible — the Aurora folks will teach kids how to use digital video to make their own films and produce ‘em using various means, and they’ll expose the students in the class to all sorts of “less traditional” film and video, too. It’s not exactly cheap, but it still sounds like a cool deal.
- CELEBRATING THE MENIL COMMUNITY, TOMORROW: Speaking of Aurora, btw, they’ve apparently got a bunch of stuff going on tomorrow, Saturday, March 13th, as part of the Menil Community Arts Festival, which is an all-day festival thing going on at the The Menil Collection and which’ll include poetry, workshops, speakers, & music. Check out the site for the details…
- LOCAL VID-AGE FROM BEN WESLEY & PEEKABOO THEORY: The Houston Press has been featuring some cool, cool videos by local folks lately, and two of ‘em, in particular, totally bowled me over. Check out the video for Benjamin Wesley‘s coolly laid-back “People Will Never Stop Being Crazy” right here, and, on the flipside, go here to see the video for Peekaboo Theory‘s frantically badass (and heretofore unknown to me) “Immediate Hesitation”. Or, hell, just look below for the latter:
- ARTHUR YORIA, LIVE (ON CD) AT RUDZ: I swear, Arthur Yoria‘s got to be one of the most prolific musicians in town; it seems like every time I turn around — poof! — he’s released a new album, or EP, or whatever, spitting out songs like it’s nothing and then smiling as he walks away. And that’s definitely what’s happening here, although it’s not “new” stuff, per se; Arthur’s got a new EP, Live at Rudz, recorded back in June of last year by Joe Omelchuck and his wondrous Rudyard’s sound setup. I haven’t heard it yet, I’ll admit, but it’s bound to be good. Each disc reportedly comes with a unique watercolor cover painted by Arthur, and they’re either $10 via his Website or live and in-person for $5.
phew. That’s about all I can think of/write about for now, y’all. Like I said, though, I’m going to be trying to do this more frequently in the future, so if you’re in a band, work for a label, put on shows, do a zine/Website/etc., or whatever the hell else, and you’ve got some news you’d like to share, send it on over to me at “gaijin” at “spacecityrock dot com”. I’ll post it when I can, I promise…