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White By Whitebread No More

This year's South By Southwest makes room for plenty of local rap. Why can't our rockers get with the program?

But beware: Sonzala believes that a local rock fixer/facilitator/broker would have a tough row to hoe in dealing with the amateurism and lax work habits of far too many of our local bands. "Here's my fuckin' question to Houston rock bands," he snarls. "Austin's two and a half hours away. Why don't you ever play there? Those people at SXSW have to pick 1,200 bands out of 10,000 submissions, and I don't want to say they play favorites, but sometimes it's hard to distinguish one good band from another, and I don't think Houston bands hustle as hard as they should. Houston rappers -- from the first days at Rap-A-Lot -- laid the blueprint for how to take an independent record and make a life out of it.

"I haven't seen too many rockers here do that. These cats can play these local clubs every day, but that doesn't mean that anybody even two hours down the road even knows who they are. Most of these guys never go to Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and the few that do are probably on the bill. I just don't see too many of these cats making that trek to where our music business crap supposedly is. I don't think Austin's a music-business Mecca, but they got 10,000 fuckin' clubs. You can get a show."

Sonzala even has a theory about how this local lassitude has come about. "I think drugs are too easily available here," he says. "Weed is everywhere. You're never gonna not be able to get some weed. You're not gonna have a dry moment in this town, and that's fuckin' people up."

Agreed. I can just see some band sitting around their rehearsal space passing the bong around. The singer's saying, "You know, they say weed's all bad for you and shit. They say it'll lead to other drugs. What a bunch of bullshit. I'm the same guy I was when we started this band six years ago." The phone rings. It's their "manager," some dilettante who works at Kinko's and has poured all his spare money into this band for five years. "Have y'all finished that demo yet?" he wants to know. "Cardi's says they won't book you on a Saturday without a demo." "Naw, man," the singer drawls. "We'll get around to it." (He hangs up and says to his band mates: "Dudes, let's get out of here. Aqua Teen Hunger Force is coming on!")

Scuttlebutt Caboose

Lower Kirby denizens have no doubt seen the enormous stainless steel armadillo that has seemingly erupted out of the earth amid Jim Goode's restaurant empire. This weekend that sucker will come to life -- smoke will billow from its nostrils and its beady little eyes will burn coal-red -- and the building behind it will rumble into what promises to be a long and successful existence as the Armadillo Palace, the Goode family's first big venture into the music business.

Manager Craig Harrington took me on a tour of the Old West-themed joint and amid an army of contractors and clouds of sawdust, you could see a real Texas-size gem emerging here. It's got that sense of bigness we Texans all once prized; it is an oversized appeal to all of our senses.

There will be plenty to taste: The kitchen will offer an all-star lineup of Goode Company specialties -- everything from steak to venison chili to empanadas to the delectable seafood campechana -- and the bar will be well-stocked with Texas brews and western-themed cocktails. (My favorite: the Gunslinger -- Southern Comfort, Bacardi 151, cranberry juice and a dash of Seven-Up.)

There will be lots to look at: All four walls in the main room will be positively encrusted with first-rate Texana and western artifacts -- old revolvers and rifles, saddles, Victorian portraits and yellowing newspapers, such as the one Harrington showed me: a framed copy of the New York Tribune bearing the news of Custer's Last Stand.

And it will be a feast for the ears: Harrington and Davin James will book top-shelf Texas bands every weekend. Jesse Dayton will play the opener on March 5; other March bookings include James, Clay Farmer, Owen Temple, 1100 Springs and Scott Walker, with the likes of Shake Russell, Max Stalling, Hayes Carll, John Evans and Tommy Alverson later this spring.

As Houston gets more and more international and cosmopolitan, it's all too easy to forget we are, in fact, still in Texas. As Goode likes to say, we should all give some serious thought to thanking our lucky stars for that, and the Armadillo Palace will make it all the easier.

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