SMOM-my Dearest

Sound Exchange's David Wilcox hopes to plant a Montrosian colony in the Second Ward

Should SMOM thrive, it could help spur an eastward exodus of Houston's hipster community. All it takes is one successful venue for another and then another to open nearby. Pretty soon people start moving over to be closer to where it's at -- not to mention where the rents are about half what they are across town. But right now, except for landmarks like the original Ninfa's and the Maxwell House plant, for many westside Houstonians the Second Ward is a void, that space you ignore north of the Gulf Freeway as you drive to UH or the beach.

Wilcox is aware of the risk involved, but he believes he's ahead of the curve. After all, not so long ago, downtown was just Warren's, La Carafe, Power Tools and Cabaret Voltaire. Then came the deluge of high-end bars full of martini-sipping pretty people. And spots like the Axiom are already starting to entice clubgoers east of the convention center.

"In the next couple of years, I think that the Second Ward is going to become a lot more familiar to a lot more people," Wilcox predicts, citing personal anecdotes about several of his friends who have already moved there. "And I also believe that there is a demand for what we're doing, enough of one where people will venture out of their comfort zones."The SMOM Benefit No. 2 will be held Friday, April 18, at the SMOM Hall, 5809 Canal. For more information, call Sound Exchange at 713-666-5555 or visit SMOM's Web site at

While we're talking about the deeds of one Sound Exchange employee, we might as well discuss what the others are up to. Since February, owners Kurt Brennan and Kevin Bakos have been hosting live concerts the first Thursday of every month. After lengthy debates, they settled on calling this series First Thursdays, despite the stuffy PBS feel of the name. At any rate, don't expect Ernie Manouse to be chatting with any of the people on these Sound Exchange bills anytime soon. The series kicked off in February with Swarm of Angels, and in typical Sound Exchange fashion, the premiere First Thursday concert was held on a Wednesday. In March, Rotten Piece celebrated the release of its ten-CD boxed set (fo' real), The Rotten Decade:1990-2000, while last week the Kimonos performed. Next month's bill is still up in the air.

And while we're still on the subject of Sound Exchange, it turns out their ramshackle digs on Richmond have a somewhat sordid history -- as befits the catercorner neighbor of the notorious Skylane Apartments. Way back in the Otis Day, a joint called El Diablo's occupied Sound Exchange's mini-mansion, and that accurately named venue was where touring jazzmen went to play the dangerous games jazzmen were wont to play. Cocaine, prostitutes, heroin and dice were their toys, and El Diablo's was their playpen.

"They came here to do the unspeakable," Wilcox deadpans.

"Which is also what we want to do with First Thursdays."

First Thursdays will be held the first Thursday every month at Sound Exchange, 1846 Richmond. For more information, call 713-666-5555.

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