A Blighted Slough of Smells, Steel and Chemicals

Touring bands sound off on Houston

The 2004 Proletariat show from indie rockers the Low Budgets was one of those typically depressing nights all struggling rock bands must endure. Only Chapultepec and a couple of isolated fans stood out from the gloom of this post: "Proletariat - typical dark Houston club, all walls painted black. Had some good Tex Mex food at a place next door. First band was a rap act with a Hispanic dude. They did one song in Spanish and a bunch in English. I cannot remember their name. We were playing pool. There was a pretty decent crowd. But when the second band, C'mon C'mon, went on, a good deal of the crowd left... We played to a few people. Dandrew's bass would not work at all so he borrowed a bass from C'mon C'mon. We played a short set. It did not seem like people were into us. Tom, the promoter, liked us, though. So did the girl whose bass Dandrew used. We went to Tom's apartment to crash."

In October of this year, San Francisco's Dodo Bird also passed through the Proletariat, where club booker Shawna Forney impressed band diarist Ben Mirov with a saucily-named cocktail. "The Proletariat [is] a pretty standard issue club in a quiet, neighborhood-y part of town. The booker, Shawna, was an angel. She bought us cold ones from the moment we stepped in the door and later she bought us a shot called 'Suck Cock in the Bathroom,' which, despite its potentially misleading name, was actually delicious. I think pineapple juice was involved."

Mirov, a non-musician whose brother Nick is Dodo Bird's singer, was underwhelmed by the others on their bill. "The first band was a one man show called the Wiggins. He played low-fi, industrial rock and made a whole lot of noise for just one guy. Next, Cry Blood Apache played. I plainly hated these guys. I wanted to hose them down with fire ants. I found this three piece electro-rock group so pretentious and talentless that I almost bazooka-puked all over them. The last band the Balaclavas played a tragically hip amalgamation of dancey, screamy, post-punk."

Maybe it was just his mood. This was the first time that Mirov, the poor, nave child, had ever spent a good eight hours in a bar. "If you have never spent eight hours at a bar, I recommend you never try it. The first few hours are pretty fun. You play a little pool, have a cigarette or two, talk to the locals. By hour four or five, if you are fortunate enough to have brought a book, as I had, you read a little. Maybe you have three or four more of those dollar Shiners they're serving in Styrofoam cups at the bar. You stare blankly at the jukebox selection for the sixteenth time. By hours five and six, you're soaked in bar. You smell like you've been smoking cigarettes through your T-shirt. If you have to piss, you actually think about saving it so you'll have something to do in the next ten minutes. By hour eight, you reach a Zen-like state of complacency and comfort. You feel at home in the bar. It's like you could take your shoes off and stretch out on the pool table or go behind the counter and pour yourself a drink and no one would mind because you've been there so long you've become a fixture, like Norm from Cheers."

We'll adjourn with a blast from the past from music journalist Jason Pettigrew, who accompanied Revolting Cocks -- led by Ministry psycho Al Jourgensen -- and Skatenigs on their pan-American orgy of 199091. This traveling horror show stopped in at Numbers. "The night features another audience from the State Hospital," Pettigrew wrote. "I think I'm beginning to understand the Jourgensenian concept of liquid courage. In the packed club, I wave to Billy SKATENiG and his charming girlfriend. Some Bon Jovi-Xeroxed 'rock dude' thinks out loud, 'Man, I'd like to fuck her ass.' Without a moment's hesitation I smash this guy square in the jaw. He is considerably larger than I am, and I don't think I'm drunk enough to withstand the severe ass-beating he will deliver when he gets up. To quote PRiMUS' Les Claypool: 'Later days, Willie Mays.'"

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