Wigged Gigs

A selection of some of the wildest, weirdest, and most dangerous bands and shows in Houston history

At about the same time as the Silky's shows, Wood was also playing a run at St. Pete's Dancing Marlin downtown. There, amid all the gentrification, he put on a one-man freak show. He took off all his clothes at a few gigs, showing off the scars from his heart surgery and his less-than-svelte physique in all its glory, drank a shot of whiskey through a urinal strainer he found on the floor, and once took his saving grace -- his beloved microphone -- out onto Main and yelled "You fucking pigs!" at some police officers. And just like he figured, he didn't get arrested on any of these occasions.


Nightclubs are freak magnets. Not only do the clubs themselves attract their fair share of weirdos, but since many of them are in marginal neighborhoods, the areas around them often do, too. Moises Alaniz of Chango Jackson can verify that. "In Chicago a homeless man followed us around all day and into the night," he remembers. "When he was asked to leave, he said, 'What?…I just want to hang out and smoke some crack!' "

Mykel Foster of the Southern Backtones (who by day, and under another name, works at the Press) can vouch for the weirdos on the inside. "We were playing in Midland or Odessa. This old guy -- we think he might have been mentally challenged -- saw a picture of us in some ad and he drove in from a long way off. After the show, he insisted that our drummer was his long-lost son. He was like, 'Where've you been all these years?' Our drummer was trying to let him down easy, but he finally just had to say, 'Look, I hate to burst your bubble, but my dad's in Santa Fe, Texas, and you're not him.' "

It's not just kooks you run into. If you travel far enough, you start suffering culture clashes, such as this one told by Barry Hembree, a Canadian-born Houston violin shop owner. Hembree attended a folk music festival in Jasper, Alberta, where African-American Texas songbird Ruthie Foster played. Foster is on Hembree's good friend Denby Auble's local Blue Corn label. (Warning: This tale manages to be cloyingly sweet, appallingly ignorant and toe-curlingly embarrassing, all at the same time.)

"After the show was over, I went over to say hi to her and [collaborator] Cyd [Cassone]. This girl came up, about 18 or 19 or so, who had obviously played earlier in the day. She started telling Ruthie how much she loved her music, and how much she loved her voice and everything, so Ruthie was being kind to her and said, 'Well, you keep after it and you'll be able to do that too.' And the girl said, 'Oh, no no no! I'll never be able to sing like you, because black people have extra vocal cords. I'll never get your sound.' Ruthie was being real sweet -- she just kinda rolled her eyes a bit and said, 'Well, you keep workin' it, and sooner or later you'll get it, and in the meantime I'm just gonna call you "sister." ' And the girl was just beside herself. Just walkin' on a cloud. And then she asks Ruthie, 'What are you gonna call me when I finally do get it?' And Ruthie says, 'Well, then I'll call you "soul sister." ' After the girl left, poor Ruthie didn't know what to think, so I just put my arm around her and said, 'Welcome to the Great White North, baby.' "

Everybody knows that Los Angeles is full of freaks. Houstonian Dan Johnson, the steel guitar player in Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys, found out firsthand just how weird the Hotel California can get when he toured with Hank Williams's grandson Hank III.

"We were in L.A. filming the Craig Kilborn show, and we got done and I was hanging around backstage and Hank comes back, and there's this note back there that says, 'If you want to see the most evil, twisted thing you've ever seen, come to so and so.' Hank sees that note and he's like, 'I'm there.' Then he says, You've got one and a half minutes if you want to go.'

"So I think it was me and Hank, the drummer and the T-shirt girl, and we go off to where the note said to go. It was this shop on the Sunset Strip called the Odium. Even though it was afternoon it was still closed, but a sign said it would open later. This was right after September 11, but there was a mannequin in the window of Osama bin Laden -- with an AK and everything. We knew we would come back. So we go shopping for a couple of hours and come back after it opens.

"Turns out this shop was owned by Stanton LaVey, the grandson of Anton LaVey. [The elder LaVey founded the Church of Satan and was the author of The Satanic Bible.] He looked kinda normal at first, but if you looked into his eyes, you could see he was the grandson of Anton LaVey -- just real crazy. And he had this assistant that looked and talked exactly like Mr. Burns off The Simpsons -- he's like, 'Let me know if you need any help finding anything.' And the shop is just full of psycho stuff -- riot footage videos, the Faces of Death series, this thing called Hillbilly Psychodrama, with these dudes in the hills shooting morphine and sitting out in the snow, naked, singing…people taking band saws to live animals, lots of GG Allin and Mentors videos, that sort of thing. There were all these busts on top of the bookshelves, there was Hitler, then like Louis Farrakhan, then Mr. Rogers. Really crazy. There was lots of Manson stuff -- that Burns guy was a big Charlie Manson fan. ["Mr. Burns" was in fact John Aes-Nihil, a cult filmmaker/underground musician touted as the world's leading authority on the Manson Family.]

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