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Burning Down the House

Arson at the Goat's Head? The latest hippest club, and more.

Much remains to be said about the explosion that leveled Goat's Head Soup in the early morning of June 12, as evidenced by the claims of everybody who's ever been in the club, and a good number who haven't, to have the inside scoop on who blew the Soup and why. The unanimity of opinion (that everybody has one, not that they're all the same) is matched only by a universal unwillingness to say anything on the record while the Houston Fire Department's arson division takes testimony and sorts out the details of an ongoing investigation.

The side doors of the eight-month-old venue were found across the street in a convenience store parking lot, unburned, and the building's front facade was blown forward onto Westheimer. "Rock and roll clubs don't just explode," says Goat's Head Soup general manager and minority partner Joe Claytor. Especially when, as he notes, the building's gas had been turned off so long that the city had taken away the meter.

There are widespread rumors that some of the venue's equipment was removed from the premises the night of the fire, and speculation as to the identity of possible culprits runs far and wide -- for the time being, anyway. Claytor says he had recently filed a police report detailing an extortion attempt on the club, but denies that the incidents are related.

One nasty rumor in common currency in the days after the blast deserves to be addressed, simply to keep it from going any farther. The logic, such as it is, holds that local punk band Dixie Waste, which opened for touring act Rancid the night of the fire, got in a fierce argument with Claytor over money, and that led, presumably, to the arson. Dixie Waste vocalist B. Brady was worried enough to call to tell me that yes, there had been an argument, and that yes, Dixie Waste is a hardcore sneer punk sort of band, but no, they are not in the habit of torching clubs, and furthermore, they really don't need the bad publicity. Claytor, in turn, confirms, "I've known those guys for a long time and we're good friends. That's stupid. They had absolutely nothing to do with it."

Meanwhile, Pace Concerts' Brad Roosa, who booked Goat's Head, is scrambling for rooms to hold his schedule, which was booked through the end of July. He reports that area clubs have been helpful in picking up the slack when they can, but Pace's latest calendar is still spotted with "To Be Announced" where the venue ought to be. "It's the local bands that really get hurt," says Roosa, explaining the significance of losing a venue that regularly handed opening slots on national tours to local talent. "There aren't that many clubs left, and to lose another one leaves a real void."

Better news... If you haven't yet had a chance to check out the two-month-old Soulstice, downtown at 910 Prairie, make some room in your schedule. Sunday night's as good as any to start, with drummer Malcolm Pinson -- who's toured with Arnette Cobb and recorded with Dizzy Gillespie -- and his four-piece band. Fusion guitarist Randy Razz's four-piece is there on Saturdays, and Friday nights DJ Andre Sampson spins acid jazz. It all happens in a narrow little second-floor room with arched windows looking out over the urban-scape and with an inescapable sense of metropolitan cool, so if you're one of those people who wish there were more places to hang out downtown, you're in luck.

Local Stuff: Thursday night, locals Banana Blender Surprise open for Austin groove phenoms Soul Hat at the European Tavern, and Spunk does the same for the fetchingly named Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black at the Abyss.

Java Dogs plays Rudyard's Friday night, and Monster Soup is at the Abyss. Clarence Green and the Rhythmaires with Guitar Shorty is slated at the Shakespeare Pub, and Planet Shock! bids adieu at Laveau's before embarking on a West Coast tour. Also on the Laveau's bill is Houston's own 23-year-old rapper Papa Chuk, who recently released Badlands, his fine debut on Pendulum/EMI.

Saturday night it's David Rice returning to the showcase stage at Rockefeller's, and Skillit is scheduled at Rudz. Emo's has Pillow, and Laveau's hosts Chem Town. Over at the European, local blues boys Sunset Heights celebrate the release of Texas Tea (see "Deja Vaughan" in this issue) mere days after returning from a promotional tour through Europe.

Sunday night's got the Blunt Family at the Blue Iguana and Pearl Murray and the Jewels holding court at Billy Blues. Songstress and poet Marienne joins poets Carolyn David and Lindsay Kayser for a collaborative work called "Secret Languages" at Cafe Artiste, a program presented by the Republic of Texas Literary Consortium. Take your pencils; the napkins are free. Also Sunday, the European hosts a Rock for Literacy benefit featuring, in order of appearance, Bill Ward, The Swamis, Pearl Murray and the Jewels, Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Shake Russell and Jack Saunders, Feo y Loco (offering what they call a "family" set), Herschel Berry and headliners The Rounders. Z-107.5's Eric Leikam hosts, and music runs from 1 p.m. until midnight.

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