H-Town, Embrace Salt. And the Open-Mic. Seriously.

No, not talking about the Angelina Movie (really, really, really not, trust me). I’m talking, instead, about a bar, a bar in the Washington Ave. strip of fancy-shmancy trendy bars that are probably driving the Heights-dwelling NIMBYs more batshit crazy with noise and traffic and drunk people than any of the old-time punk clubs ever did.

I’d seen the sign across the street from Walter’s, right over where my own craptacular little band used to play when the place was called Mary Jane’s, but honestly, I hadn’t really thought much about the place at all ’til Jeff Balke of {Broken Record} posted about it on his personal blog, pointing to a story in the Chronic where the owners of Salt unabashedly and without any hint of sarcasm indicated that they were starting up an open-mic night to bring back the music scene that Houston’s been lacking for oh, so long.

And yes, then all hell broke loose, as well it should’ve. The Chron writer rightly got a smack for either not paying any attention at all to his own publication’s coverage of Houston’s very-much-alive-thanks music scene or just plain not giving a crap, and the owners of Salt got a fistful of outrage for trying to save something that doesn’t need saving in the first place.

Now there’s the latest salvo, courtesy of Chris Gray and William Michael Smith over at the Houston Press — which admittedly enjoys jabbing a pointy stick at this city’s lone “big” newspaper on a pretty regular basis, it should be noted. The pair apparently decided they needed to check out Salt’s open-mic for themselves…and found that it was really, truly awful. So they said so. And again, all hell broke/is breaking loose, at least in the comments section to that latest article.

All of which I find pretty damn funny, at this point. My initial reaction to the article was dumbfounded outrage, it’s true; as somebody who’s been writing about Houston-area bands for more than a decade now (holy crap; that long?), I tend to get irked when people step up and proclaim that Houston has no scene, no good music, no bands worth watching, whatever. I ranted at length about the stupidity of both the Salt folks and the Chron to anybody who’d listen.

Reading the Press piece, though, it occurred to me — why fight this? So the Comical and the owners of a bar I probably will never, ever go to screwed up; big deal, in the end. I’ll hand it to the Salt people and point out that, y’know, they are providing an outlet for local musicians to get heard, in a town where said outlets have the lifespan of a mayfly. And what’s wrong with that? Not a thing.

Folks, we don’t need to fight this, to rail against the open-mic and the people running it, we need to game it. Seriously; we can use this. Why do open-mic nights suck? Because, by and large, the people playing at them — and I say that having actually been one of those people, and yes, I probably did — suck. They’re open to all comers, regardless of actual talent or something to say, like a freaking American Idol competition. Give ten people a mic and a guitar, and odds are good that 8 out of 10 will probably be honest-to-God horrible.

What that means, though, is that if enough good musicians, musicians who can play jump up on the bill, then A) the open-mic night might not necessarily suck, B) the musicians in question get heard by a crowd that probably will never, ever go to the bars they usually play (I’m guessing there’s not a ton of cross-pollination between Mango’s and the Avant Garden and Salt, honestly), and C) the bar owners might get a fuller appreciation of what’s been out there under their noses, unnoticed.

I’m being totally and completely serious about this, y’all. I want to see some of H-town’s best and brightest show up at Salt the next time they do their open-mic thing and get up on stage prepared to blow people away. Lord knows there’re enough folk-y people in town right now; just a short list could fill the whole damn lineup for the night.

Robert Ellis would have to play, obviously, as would Sergio from Buxton, Gretchen Schmaltz, and Piano Vines. I’m not sure why Arthur Yoria hasn’t given it a shot already; same for Chase Hamblin. Marshall Preddy of Bright Men of Learning would be a sure bet, as would The Western Civilization, {Phillip Foshee} (assuming he’s back from France), listenlisten, Like Yeah, Sew What, and Elaine Greer. I’ve heard Marc Brubaker of Prairie Cadets (and {Houstonist}) doing some cool folky stuff — he could totally do this. And if somebody could coax Teresa of georgia’s Horse. into playing, that’d be freaking great, as would any semblance of a reunion by The Scattered PAGES.

On the more overtly country side of things, there’s always the excellent John Evans, and of course, I love Miss Leslie. I bet The Literary Greats and The Small Sounds could quieten down a bit for the evening; ditto for News on the March. And oh, God, if Joe Mathlete would relent and agree to play live again, even solo, I would be there in a heartbeat, I swear.

And Benjamin Wesley — oh, hell, yes. Wanna see some Washington Ave. bar-hopper jaws drop? Let him bring the setup where he can multitrack live on-stage like he did the last time I saw him; fucking incredible. And if minds truly need to be blown, get Mlee from Hearts of Animals to sign up. I know I’m forgetting a good dozen other bands/musicians who could rock the hell out of this, definitely, and I apologize for leaving anybody out, but you get the idea, hopefully.

I’m not trying to be nefarious here or anything, btw, in spite of the “game it” bit earlier on. These are all good, talented local musicians I’m talking about here, all of whom could benefit from getting exposure to folks outside of the usual Montrose haunts; why the heck shouldn’t they play an open-mic deal like this?

The Salt folks want to help out Houston’s scene; I’m all for it. Bands, musicians, whatever, do it. Prove to ’em that they have no idea what’s sitting right on their doorstep, ready to be discovered by a whole new crowd of people. Don’t just rail against the inanity of the open-mic, co-opt it and turn it to your advantage. It’d be so fucking easy it’s ridiculous.

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2 Responses to “H-Town, Embrace Salt. And the Open-Mic. Seriously.”

  1. Bru on June 24th, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    This is a thought that has crossed my mind as well.

    P.S. Joe IS playing live again. Whatever he’s doing isn’t called The Mathletes, though. He’s opening Somosuno’s tour kickoff at Notsuoh on Friday.

  2. Jeremy Hart on June 24th, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Dude, you *totally* need to do this. Bumrush the show, yo.

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