5/29/2003

The scene - as in, the Houston music scene. Is there one?

I went to two shows this evening here inside the loop (that's Houston slang for "where the good stuff actually happens" ... the small innermost portion of the endless urban sprawl called Houston that actually has some culture, arts, etc.).

The first was a group called The Singles, a mod 80's rock outfit peopled by Brasil employees and regulars - we were invited by drummer Jonas, the red haired bartender (yeah, the one who keeps throwing people out of Drop Trio shows - he's a great guy, actually). It was at a spot called The Proletariat, a venue I'd not entered before, next door to our favorite 24 hour mex dive, Chapultapec. At the door, they were handing out flyers about "Commune Music". (More on that later.) All around, the show was well done and the band's nervous energy (it was their first show ever) evoked a great crowd reaction in the packed house.

The second show was over at Dean's Credit Clothing, a swank downtown joint that projects video on the high walls amidst racks of vintage clothing (tonight's feature, sadly silent, was Koyaanisqatsi). One John Egan, a gritty blues songwriter who Engineers at Tintern Abbey studios, held sway over a remnant of drunken revelers. He was a nominee for last year's Houston Press best folk music category, and well he should be. He's a great songwriter and performer (not to mention a friendly, approachable guy). The show was meekly attended, but it was also a last-minute substitution for the regulars (improv jam band Little Brother Project has been filling that wednesday slot for, well, years.)

So what's Commune Music about? From the flyer: "Tired of complaining, and hearing about the lack of a music scene in Houston? Commune Music is your answers. [It's] a showcase of local and touring of various styles ... an attempt to bring artists from various genres together ... the Proletariat's attempt to help foster the music community or 'scene' in Houston."

Which is great, laudable, and (apparently) working. Not unlike the weekly Houston music roundtable I've been hitting, headed by none other than John Nova Lomax, the love-him-or-hate-him music editor for the Houston Press (I'm in the former camp, personally). Attempting to foster the music scene in Houston might be an uphill battle, but that's not because there's no good music here. It's uphill, I suppose, only in the staggering ignorance of the teeming Houston masses when it comes to any music that's not being piped out of the clearchannel shill stations that clog up the dial. As I've been seeing in Drop Trio shows, people are hungry for good new music, outside of glitzy national acts. But like any kind of sales, you have to make people realize what they've been missing first. How to do that?

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