Houston Band Cartography

The launch of our blog brings forth a quixotic attempt toward a local music atlas

All of these guys are traditionalists to some degree. Echoes of the blues, country, rockabilly, surf, Tejano, swamp pop and all rock up to and including punk and new wave can be heard from the CCC's original bands, and blues wildman Little Joe Washington is a bona fide living legend.

Principal clubs: Continental Club, naturally, but also the Big Top, Stag's Head and private occasions without number, in the El Orbits' case both here and in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. And then there's Los Skarnales, who play all over Texas and into Mexico. Most of the guys in this multiethnic clique are from the older parts of Houston, and virtually all of these people are H-town to the bone.

Most overlap with: Suspects in the Case of the 30footFALL; H-town Honky-tonk Confederacy

Suspects in the Case of the 30footFALL

Bands: the Suspects, Clouseaux, Three Fantastic, Sprawl, Magnetic IV, Janitor, Secret Agent 8, Zombilly, 30footFALL, Bickley, I-45, River Fenix, Latch Key Kids, Middlefinger, the Kimonos, Tread, I-Gents, Rugrash, Dragstrip Brothers, Les Saucy Pants, Michael Haaga, Joint Chiefs

Characteristics: Many of these cats hail from the city's north side, and many of the guys are Hispanic. Musically, this group ranges from the pure punk of 30footFALL to the Cypress Hill-meets-the-Beastie Boys "slip-hop" of I-45 to the "Tiki-lounge-exotica" of Clouseaux, whose singer Thomas Escalante also helps front the El Orbits. Also, "heavy mellow" pop-rocker Michael Haaga's multiple Press Music Award-winning album The Plus and Minus Show drew heavily from this group, as did the band that all-too-briefly showcased it last year. This is a heavily Sprawl-influenced tribe.

Principal clubs: Historically, Fitzgerald's for most. Today, a mix of Fitz's, Rudyard's, the Proletariat and the Continental.

(Adjunct group: gritty funk/punk/rap/ metal groups Dinosaur Salad, Simpleton, Faceplant and Taste of Garlic)

Most overlap with: Continental Club Crew; Montrose Front Porch Music Vanguard

Carolyn's Wonderland

Bands: Orange Is In, the Rehabiliteens, Jug O' Lightnin', the Green Beagle, Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys, Greg Wood Band, Horseshoe, Tab Jones, the Missiles, Fleshmop, Bloodfart, Joint Chiefs, Jimmy's Pawn Shop, the Good Luck Band, Opie Hendrix, Little Screamin' Kenny, the Hightailers

Principal clubs: Mainly Dan Electro's, Last Concert Cafe and Rudyard's, occasionally St. Pete's and the Continental. Formerly Mary Jane's, the Boatyard and Walter's.

Characteristics: Another roots-steeped bunch, similar to the Continental Club cats, but harder-living, more blue-collar and more oriented toward original material. (In some ways, this clique is like the Stones to the Continental Club's Beatles.) Wonderland moved to Austin a couple of years back and has gained some measure of fame in America and abroad, but too many of these people are unjustly obscure. Wood is one of America's finest living songwriters; former and current Imperial Monkeys Scott Daniels and Eric Dane and Jug's Aaron Loesch are elite guitarists; and the sidemen and women -- notably Chris King and Leesa Harrington-Squyres -- are also top-notch.

Most overlap with: H-town Honky-tonk Confederacy

Montrose Front Porch Music Vanguard

Bands: Medicine Show, JW Americana, Lowbrow, Two Star Symphony, Mod Fag, East Montrose Sterno Sippers, Bloodclot, West Alabama Candy Store Serenaders, Gun Crazy

Principal clubs: Rudyard's, Helios, Brasil, West Alabama Ice House, Candylicious

Characteristics: Where most of the other Inner Loop roots music cliques take their cues from the '50s forward, these guys often go for a more Prohibition-era vibe. If R. Crumb lived in Houston, he would frequent the Medicine Show's ongoing Monday gig at Helios, where the band treats an ever-growing crowd of tattooed young Montrosians to the music of people like Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt. Two Star Symphony brings punk spirit to classical strings, while Lowbrow and JW Americana infuse blues into their own brand of post-punk mayhem. Side projects abound, but it's probably safe to say if you see a punky-looking young freak strumming a banjo in and around the 'Trose, that person's probably affiliated with this bunch.

Most overlap with: Suspects in the Case of the 30footFALL

Fools for Britannia

Bands: the Jinkies, Westbury Squares, the John Sparrow/Inner Lights, the Cinders, Coterie, MenMechanical, Secret Sunday, Rubbur

Characteristics: Houston's Anglophiles -- Westbury Squares and the John Sparrow carried the mod banner for a few years, while the Jinkies were Houston's most Beatlesque original band. MenMechanical had more of a Bowie/Roxy Music feel. This group is not as active now as it was from about 1995 to 2002, and Houston's most prominent Anglophile band is probably Casino, which has never shared members with any of these other bands. That is, unless you count Spain Coloured Orange as full-blown Anglophiles.

Principal clubs: Historically, Mary Jane's. Today, the Mink (Casino) and Proletariat (Spain Coloured Orange).

Most overlap with: Indie Pop Posse

Indie Pop Posse

Bands: Sharks and Sailors, Lucky Motors, Panic in Detroit, Spain Coloured Orange/8Track Charade, We've Got Airplanes, Pop Deflation, Blueprint, Supermarket All-Stars, In Echoes

Characteristics: These are the more hook-laden indie pop bands. People like Gilbert Alfaro, Melissa Lonchambon, Ben Murphy and Ryan Chavez are among the heavy players, and the music ranges from Weezer-like power-pop of bands like the defunct Panic in Detroit to the '70s FM splendor of Spain Coloured Orange.

Principal clubs: The Proletariat, Walter's on Washington.

Most overlap with: Fools for Britannia

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