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Swaying back and forth in front of the Cardi's 2000 stage is an unidentified white male, wearing a T-shirt with Mercyful Fate inscribed on the back and punching his fist -- neatly wrapped around the neck of a beer bottle -- into the air. He "stands" among four or five others, all apparently fans and/or relatives of the performers from Extreme Caution, one of those "power trios" that by virtue of its loud, raunchy sound must think heavy metal-ness is achieved merely by turning up every amp to ten. The band plays, the fan sways. The scene's sheer camp overwhelms the senses.
Yet this spectacle, however low-rent, does make for some top-notch television.
From 5:30 p.m. till 6 p.m. every Friday, taped performances like this from bands like Extreme Caution, Frizbee and Flashback are cablecast to the rest of Houston on Channel 74. Now in its 17th week, Houston Rocks, Space City's answer to Wayne's World, has grown in popularity. The host, Lonnie Posey, is rumored to be receiving second glances from passersby in supermarkets and malls. The bands, mostly metal acts, are reportedly attracting the heretofore nonexistent attention of booking agents and record label folk. And Houston Rocks is looking like it's one power chord away from becoming a threat to the Home Fishing Channel.
The mastermind behind Houston Rocks is former rock star Rick Eyk.
Eyk's fantasy goes down like this: "It'd be real nice if Mr. Levin says, 'You've been paying us enough money for this show. Why don't we have MTV pick it up. Here's a big check, Rick.' "
Unlike Wayne's World, which was (fictionally) cablecast on public access, Houston Rocks is cablecast on "paid programming." In that regard, Eyk is more of a for-profiteer like Bud Paxton (of Home Shopping Network and PAX TV fame) than a nonprofit hobbyist like Wayne Campbell. Since Eyk must pay to play, he has been soliciting advertising to offset some of his expenses. He says getting advertisers has been difficult, but things are picking up.
The episode on which Extreme Caution appeared featured two ads, one for the Red Carpet Inn, which boasted "unique rates," and another for High Times, which in and of itself was worth enduring a half hour of Extreme Caution in the first place. (The ad's jingle is brilliant.)
Straight-talkin' Eyk will tell you Houston Rocks is a shameless self-promotion device for his company, INT TV Productions, which produces the show with partners R&R Video. Almost completely lost on the man is the fact that his brainchild has the side effect of helping local (read: struggling) artists gain exposure.
Rick Ward of Midnight Circus, a band featured in the first installation of Houston Rocks, says the program "has been helpful in Houston with [getting] shows." He adds, "People saw us, heard the name and connected the band with the name. Anything like that -- I know it's access -- but any media is better than any advertising you can get. Publicity like that can't be bought."
Like that Midnight Circus show, much of the Houston Rocks material comes from a pre-existing library of taped performances. R&R owner Rees Perkins has been filming local bands for the past couple of years. His company's catalog, footage of more than a couple hundred bands, provides the basis of the show's programming. Taping of current bands takes place every Wednesday at Cardi's.
Eyk, a Houston resident the past 12 years, is a music biz lifer. He got his start as front man for Little Eddie and the GMen, a rather successful outfit that toured with various marquee acts, including Steppenwolf, Peter Frampton and AC/DC. After leaving the G-Men, blowing most of his savings and relocating to Houston, Eyk began recording and producing. He created a label, Intrepid Records, almost the moment his body landed in town.
INT TV followed, and his first foray into Houston music -- and one of his first attempts at cable programming -- came by way of Backstage Live. Like Houston Rocks, the short-lived show was recorded at the club that is now Cardi's.
As for his Ted Turnerian vision, Eyk says he wants Houston Rocks to grow into Gulf Coast Rocks, featuring bands from Florida to Alabama. His investment, he says, has been huge up to this point, about $1,000 per show. His reward? "It's on, in and of itself," he says. "We continue to pay our bills and stay on. That's how I know we're doing well....When we started this show, Rees and I agreed it was gonna be like throwing money down a sewer grate. At least for the first eight weeks. 'Cause that's what it's gonna take to get credibility and get advertising."
Eyk, recalling his halcyon days with the GMen, is confident his well will never run dry. "Lot of people don't understand, I lived pretty damn well....I've been blessed. I continue to keep having good things happen from time to time. I don't worry about money. I live on faith, and it seems to work well."
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