Christian Kidd & Alexis Kidd, Just a Houston Punk

Christian Kidd & Alexis Kidd, <em>Just a Houston Punk</em>

I don’t know Christian Kidd, not really; we’ve exchanged emails a few times, sure, but we’ve never met in person, never had a conversation longer than a sentence or two.

I think the closest I’ve come to introducing myself to the guy — who over the many, many years he’s spent in the Houston scene has also gone by Christian Arnheiter, Christian Anarchy, and Christian Oppression, and possibly a few other monikers of which I’m unaware — was at Free Press Summerfest a few years ago, when I felt compelled to tell him I thought his band, The Hates, played a great set in spite of the furnace-like heat. It was just kind of a “hey, man — great set!” kind of thing, and then we both kept moving.

Okay, I’ll admit that there is a reason I was stupidly, shamefully nervous about saying “hi” to the guy: he’s, well, a little scary. Every time I’ve seen him play, Kidd’s always been this big, imposing force up there on the stage, seemingly glowering at the world at large beneath that larger-than-life Mohawk. And for me, a kid bred in Central Texas who’d never seen a punk rocker outside of Repo Man before moving to Houston, yeah, he is/was a little intimidating.

Beyond on all that, this is The Hates we’re talking about, here. If you’re into punk in any form or fashion, odds are good that you’ve heard of them, and if you’re into punk and you live in Houston, that goes double — hell, if you live in Houston and like punk rock and you don’t know who The Hates are, I’m sorry, but you need to turn in your denim vest and Doc Martens right now.

To take things one logical step further, if you’ve heard of the band, well, Kidd pretty much is the band. He’s the guy behind the longest-running band of any kind in our fair city — ZZ Top aside — a punk band that actually started when punk started, not in one of the subsequent waves over the past couple of decades.

The man has 35 years of experience playing in punk bands, mostly his own. So add that baggage, that weight of history, and yeah, I’ve always been a little afraid of going up and just chatting with the guy.

After reading Just a Houston Punk, Kidd’s newly self-published memoir of his life as a punk rocker, however, I’m wishing I knew the man.

Throughout the book, Kidd is unfailingly affable and warm, continually downplaying his own work while dragging friends and bandmates over into the limelight with him. He comes across as a genuinely nice, down-to-earth guy who himself doesn’t really understand how he’s made it this far — but never takes any of it for granted, in spite of that. Even in the later sections of the book, the ’00s and ’10s, he’s flattered every time The Hates get asked to headline a showcase or special concert, never quite seeing how big he, his band, and his music are in the minds and hearts of a lot of people out in the world at large (and yeah, that includes this writer).

The early years are the truly fascinating part of Punk for me, primarily because it’s the part I myself missed — venerable punk clubs like The Island, and even the Pik N Pak, which came quite a bit later, were all dead, gone, and bulldozed by the time I started venturing out to shows here, so all I got were secondhand legends about the shows that went on at those places.

It’s also interesting to read Kidd’s own tracing of the evolution of punk, not strictly in Houston but as a whole; seeing what was happening in the late ’70s and early ’80s through his eyes, even as he’s only semi-aware that something momentous is happening, is pretty damn compelling. He’s no sociologist, to be sure, but he lived through it, and his memory is amazingly solid for as long ago as that now was. Me, I’m lucky if I can remember college, most days.

Of course, as with nearly any self-published work like this, Kidd could’ve used an editor, not to reassemble the text in any way but merely to clean things up. He repeats himself at a few points, although honestly, when I noticed it happening, I truly didn’t care — I was already enthralled by the book as a whole.

My only real complaint is that I ended up wanting more. Clocking in at a mere 64 pages, Just a Houston Punk jumps into Kidd’s life when he’s already on the road to becoming who he is now, when he’s already listening to the music that would define his life, and I found myself wishing the memoir went further back than that, at least to those formative teenage years. It would’ve provided a fuller picture of the man, rather than just the man already headed into adulthood. In a lot of ways, the book reads less like a history of Kidd himself and more like a history of The Hates.

To further push that theme, I’d point to the sections of the book where Kidd talks about dealing with the illnesses of the two most important women in his life: first, his mother, and later on, his now-wife Alexis (who is also the co-author of the book). Those sections are truly the most poignant, most wide-open parts of the book, with Kidd in a rare moment of fragile uncertainty; it’s beautiful and heartfelt, and it shows more about the writer than the tour stories or memories of great shows gone by (although yes, I do like this, too).

Happily, Kidd and The Hates aren’t done with music, not by a long shot, and he promises as much by the book’s final chapter. And after reading, I’m damn glad that’s the case, because I can hardly imagine the music scene in this city without him. In the end, Kidd isn’t “just” a Houston punk — he’s the Houston punk, the archetype, the one who’s become an icon seemingly without even realizing it. And no, it doesn’t get any more punk than that.

[Christian Kidd is appearing at a book signing at Cactus Music 3/9/13 at 3PM, along with an in-store performance by The Hates, and The Hates are also playing 3/8/13 at Fitzgerald’s as part of the FPH 10 Free Press Houston 10 Year Anniversary show, along with a ton of other awesome bands.]
(self-released; The Hates --; The Hates (Facebook) --; The Hates (Myspace) --; The Hates (ReverbNation) --
BUY ME: Amazon

Review by . Review posted Friday, March 8th, 2013. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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