Mixed Messages

Houston charts go national -- but at home it's hard-luck stories

Don't know if you've noticed, but if you've yet to take a look at the charts page in the back of the April 21 Rolling Stone, you might want to check it out just for the shock value. There, in the "Alternative Music" countdown dominated by Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain at number one, you'll see the Austin-produced Live at Emo's CD in the number-four position, local Dyn@mutt's Handbook for Young Scientists debut at number five, and Tempe, Arizona punk band Horace Pinker's Power Tools, released on local Justice Records' new punkrawk subsidiary Earwax, at number seven.

Sure. Once the buzz wears off and you notice the small print -- "This issue's alternative chart is based on sales at the Sound Exchange [God bless 'em], in Houston" -- what seemed like a total surprise takes on its proper proportions. But don't they look nice all lined up in a row like that, in front of over a million people? People like me have wet dreams about exposure like that.

I know, I know. I'm on this kick about the Houston music scene and why it remains relatively feeble in all but artistic components. When I took this job I swore I was gonna ignore the business and just listen to the music, but this industry crap sucks you in and suddenly it seems like it matters whether the talented ones make something of it, and when it's quite clear that virtually nobody is, you wanna know why.

I was hoping to gain a little insight into why when I talked to Sector II Records honcho Ron Goudie last week. Between Rap-A-Lot and Justice, there's a wide open space in Houston for a rock-oriented label to operate, and Goudie, who'd spent 11 years at or near the top of L.A.'s Restless and Enigma labels, imported himself from the West Coast to run Sector II from its offices on West Gray, right next door to Cecil's. Sector II's fledgling roster already includes the hard rock of New Jersey's Cycomotogoat, Austin's Pushmonkey (formerly Hatter), Dallas' Ice Cold July (all of whom have records in the can), and Wisconsin's Dead Fly Boy, who released their Self Titled Debut earlier this month. Holding down the roots-rock side of the Sector II lineup is San Diego's Paladins, whose Ticket Home has a street date of April 12.

Goudie says he's facing two problems in running his label out of Houston. First is a dearth of Houston-based business professionals to staff the office -- "with a few exceptions, the business just isn't here," he says. Second is the quality of Houston bands. Goudie says he's looking hard to find a signable act here in the hometown, but just hasn't had any luck. After failed attempts to reign in dead horse, Goudie says, he's at something of a loss. "There's not a lot of competition here, and you've got bands in Houston that may be on top of the scene here, but that are essentially B-level bands." What we're talking about here is professionalism, and according to Goudie, it's a quality sorely lacking in the local scene.

So what's an upstart label, with the money and the connections to push a new act, to do? I hate to report what's turning into the same old story, but near the end of our conversation Goudie revealed that, come July, he's moving the Sector II office out of Houston and into -- that's right -- Austin.

More Bad News... Last week, locals Bleachbath were on their way into the Francisco Studios rehearsal space they share with Blender to record a track for a proposed split-side single with a Minneapolis band when they ran into their own private nightmare. Seems someone or several someones had slipped into the space and liberated almost $5,000 worth of equipment belonging to both bands, including Bleachbath guitarist Tyler Peck's Stratocaster, three amp heads and a rack full of effects. "It was good equipment that we've been working real hard to get," Peck told me. There's talk of organizing a benefit sometime in May to help the bands replace the equipment, but in the meantime, anyone with information ought to get in touch with Bleachbath or me.

Shimmy Shack R.I.P. Cancel those plans to see Pavement, Bailter Space and Dry Nod at the Shimmy Shack April 13, cuz it ain't gonna happen. Alice Donut last Friday night was the Shimmy's swan song, and that's all she wrote for the Washington Avenue club. Manager Danny Flaim didn't have a definitive comment at press time -- "I can't decide if I wanna bitch or be gracious" -- but it's easy enough to surmise that the venue went under for the standard reason: the crowds just weren't showing up.

Local Stuff.... Sprawl takes its show to the cozy confines of Rudyard's on Friday the 8th. Also on Friday, Dyn@mutt starts the show for aMiniature and the Meices at Harvey's. Poppeacocks headline Fitz on the 9th. Blueprint opens for Naked Soul and Big Drill Car at Goat's Head Soup on Sunday the 10th. That same Sunday, Dive opens for Eugenius and Urge Overkill at Numbers, jazz songstress Mignon Rae sets up camp at Billy Blues, and the Third Annual Epiphany Feed the Hungry Jazz Festival, hosted by Paul English and Joe LoCascio, sets down on the grounds of The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany at 9600 South Gessner (774-9619). The Festival features performances by Angelucho's Copacabana, the T-Tones, Sebastian Whittaker and David Caceres, SwingSet, the Conrad Johnson Big Band and the Cary Richards Band. Bands perform from 2 to 9 p.m., and admission is one full bag of groceries or a $10 per person donation, with all proceeds going to local food banks.

 
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