Letters to the Editor

Michael Gray

From Lomax's biggest fan: This is bad writing. Ultimately, the article is a fabrication, an opinion piece passed off as news (and I believe it was printed in the news section of the Press, not the music section). John Lomax shapes this story to what he wants to say about the "Houston scene" without giving any credible examples or even a good reason for doing it. Sure, there might be a story in Michael Haaga's aggressive attempt to make something happen for himself, but in truth, the story just doesn't have the angle Lomax presents.

Like him or not, promoter Tom Bunch is a polarizing figure in the Houston music business. To pass him off simply as the "real deal" is naive. To put in his quote that Sprawl was "just okay" is amateur. I blame Lomax for that, because Tom Bunch may have said it, but Lomax doesn't back the quote up with anything. It's just kind of plugged in there like a bullying punch in the gut. The history behind it is that Nick Cooper of Sprawl was essentially a rival of Tom Bunch, if not a bona fide enemy. In the '90s, both Nick and Tom could pack a house in Houston any day of the week. Sprawl consistently sold out places like Fitzgerald's, where they could pull in more than a thousand kids even on a weeknight. But Nick's scene was organic and decidedly DIY. Bunch opened the vacuous, obviously money-driven Vatican. The editor of the fourth-largest city's leading alternative paper shouldn't present such a one-sided case and casually slight the biggest act on the Houston scene during that time period.

One argument people have been using against the Lomax piece is that his idea of 'making it' is distasteful. Well, let's assume for a minute that we all believe in Lomax's idea of "making it," which he implies is the big-time L.A.-style major-label U2 idea. Okay, fine, and your argument is that the Houston scene screws people's chance of making it. Where has Lomax been for the past ten years? You don't have to be the music editor of the largest alternative paper in the fourth-largest city in the country to know that the industry is in crisis. You just have to read Business Week (see "Rockers, Keep Your Day Jobs," by Jon Fine, February 6). Arena rock is now a form of corporate executive entertainment, and musicians are better off steering away from the illusion of a major-label deal.

My band de Schmog won lots of awards and got good press from the Press and Public News. I spent ten years in the Houston music scene. Throughout that time I always heard lamenting about the lack of a scene and whatever. I remained a staunch defender, as did the Sprawl guys and most everybody who was actually doing something. The biggest fault I always saw in the scene, if you want to call it that, was that the press would fall into this trap. At the Houston Press specifically, they would continually hire freelance writers who hated Houston, knew nothing about it and were just using the job as a stepping stone. When de Schmog went out on the road, I started seeing that this is a culture that can actually be changed, and it can start with the way you tell the story. A good music editor would find importance in the fact that he is writing about a specific place and respect that place. He would respect his audience's intelligence and desire to be a part of a culture, not lectured to or pitied. What Houston got was a damaging, senseless article. What it deserves is a good music editor.

Kilian Sweeney

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