Rhythm Room Boom

Chicks who rock and Tourbaby take the Washington Avenue stage

Washington Avenue's Rhythm Room is stepping up to the plate with two big festival-like shows, both of which come complete with a bevy of bands, not to mention high ideals and noble causes. A total of 15 bands will take the stage in the Sixth Ward bar/dancehall over the course of the next two Fridays. Chicks who rock, hepatitis C sufferers, independent local musicians and you will all benefit if you attend one or both of these shows.

This Friday, November 1, the Rhythm Room hosts Tourbaby, the performance arm of The Oregon-based Web site that sells CDs direct from independent artists to their fans with no middlemen has become the second-largest seller of CDs on the Web, trailing only

Even though Houston is the 37th stop on Tourbaby's U.S. circuit, don't go expecting to find a bunch of sweaty roadies, idling tour buses and crank-fueled guitarists. In fact, to say Tourbaby is coming to Houston at all is something of a misnomer. Only the idea is traveling; the bands have been here all along. In each of the 54 cities on the itinerary, local musicians sign up as many of their friends as they can and put on a show. It's something like the Wave -- different musicians in different cities rise up at prearranged times and do their stuff.

Each city's "stop" takes on that town's flavor, and Houston is no exception. Tourbaby's local lineup is as amorphous, zoning-free and fusion-filled as the Bayou City, with the sprawling jam/blues/country/rock sounds of local organizer Guy Schwartz's New Jack Hippies, pop/jazz/funksters the Buddhacrush, E.P. Vallejo's blues rock, hard rockers Tin Henry and Beryl Grady, rapper/street poet Kool B., Austinites True Audio Outland, and two Houston bands with roots in Jamaican sounds: progressive ska band Secret Agent 8 and the dancehall lover's rock of DubTex SoundSystem. In other words, it's a little like a Press Music Awards stage, where rap follows rock follows ska follows blues.

So far the tour's been jinxed. Four days after a Tourbaby show at a club called the Hurricane in the Florida Keys, the virtual tour was hit by almost the real thing when Tropical Storm Hannah drenched the show in Tallahassee. In the deluge, the Florida rock band Poynt's tour bus skidded and crashed, sending the driver to the hospital in critical condition. Three weeks later, in Detroit, singer Tony Gioia of the band Fine Bone China was found dead the day before the show, which quickly morphed into a memorial service/benefit for the fallen rocker. Let's hope Houston's installment goes off without a hitch.

Next Friday night, November 8, belongs to "Chicks who rock," who want you to "Get Hip to Hep C," to (respectively) paraphrase and quote directly the slogans of Madalyn Sklar's Sugar Land-based national organization and its annual benefit. GoGirlsRock's mission is to aid women rockers and assist worthy causes along the way. Sklar founded the organization in 1996, and this will be their third hepatitis C benefit in Houston; nationwide they've held more than 30 of the liver-loving concerts.

The lineup consists of local renegade country sextet Cowboy's Nightmare, ferocious Memphis hard rocker Carol Plunk, eclectic L.A. rockers Kelly's Lot, local pop/folk/rocker Elizabeth White and Rhythm Room regular Mandy G. Smith.

According to Sklar, Plunk in particular is not to be missed. "She's the one you really, really want to see," she says. "She was in town this past June, and it was her first time in Houston, and she had the crowd on their feet in front of the stage for the whole set. It was pretty amazing."

As the founder of the world's oldest online community of independent women artists, Sklar is something of a story herself. "I grew up playing guitar," she says. "I wasn't really a professional or in a band, but it was something for fun. I always wanted to be involved in the music business, and I always figured one day I would be. It just wound up being this way: the head person of an organization that promotes women in music."

End of an Era

By the time you read this, three-year-old downtown dance mecca Hyperia will have only three more days before it shutters for good. In a statement posted on the club's Web site on October 22, owner Neil Heller announced that the club's last day would be November 2. "We still have a few more tricks and treats up our sleeves," he added, "so be sure to stay tuned in for info on the closing parties, which will be going every night till we close." Hyperia's excellent resident DJs, including Michael DeGrace, Jimmy Skinner, Andy "Champa" Moore, Sean Carnahan, Mike Snow, DJ Classic, Audio Three, UNT, Chocoholick, SDF-3, G-Wizz, Blaze and MC Swift, were one reason it was widely considered one of the top clubs in America. The fact that it regularly hosted guests such as Danny Howells, Timo Maas, Dieselboy, Goldie, Marley Marl and DJ Skribble didn't hurt, either.

Rock Around the Doc

Local blues harp ace Sonny Boy Terry has signed with Georgetown, Texas, indie start-up label Doc Blues. The label has plans to rerelease Breakfast Dance, Terry's two-year-old studio record, as well as his upcoming live album, roughly half of which he has already recorded at Third Ward juke de luxe Miss Ann's Playpen. Terry plans to finish up the raw tracks at another Miss Ann's show on November 10. "The last time we played there, it was the best crowd they ever had," says Terry. "You could cut the soul with a knife."

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