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That Was the Year That Was

Looking back on the local scene in '06

On other fronts, there was lots of bad news. Cactus Music and Video closed down on March 31 and has yet to reopen elsewhere, despite rumors that it will soon. After years of ladling out cheap drinks and funky music near the Med Center, the Gallant Knight shuttered in the fall, though it is said to be reopening on Morningside in the Village early next year. Elsewhere, noise complaints made lots of headlines. Who can forget the noise complaint-induced Great Walter's On Washington Two Gallants Taser Jamboree? Meanwhile, NIMBY-ism also closed down Helios as we knew it, though that club's demise was offset by the recent reopening of No Tsu Oh.

In other bad news, Blue October had a huge hit with "Hate Me," thus disheartening all of the better bands from Houston that haven't made it nearly as far. (Once, decades ago, some music writer or other wrote this about Uriah Heep: "If this band makes it, I'll have to kill myself." That's kinda the way I feel about "Hate Me.") Also, Los Skarnales called it quits and Hayes Carll signed a major-label deal (Hey, great!) and moved to Austin (Waah!). And after sweeping several of our major prizes at the Houston Press Music Awards this year, the mighty Spain Coloured Orange seemed to lose some momentum.

Meanwhile, look for either Scattered Pages or the precocious kids in the Dimes to break nationally with Pitchfork Nation next year. And Million Year Dance might just make it on Buzz-type stations from coast to coast, if the band can come up with the perfect single that matches their vibe and if those stations pull their heads out of their collective asses.

Houston noise/psych rockers turned in their strongest year in recent memory. One year after legendary local recluse Jandek came out of seclusion, Daniel Johnston played a spate of local shows in the aftermath of the well-received Infernal Bridegroom Productions rock opera Speeding Motorcycle. Charalambides reunited and came back to town for a show at Rudz, and after moving to Los Angeles, Indian Jewelry -- the current name of the discordant musical universe that revolves around Tex Kerschen, Erika Thrasher and Rodney Rodriguez -- started to turn some heads nationwide. So it was a pretty good year for the people you used to see in Rudyard's every week, and next year don't be surprised if you hear from Aaron Loesch -- another former Rudz regular -- in a big way. (In the meantime, don't miss Loesch's band Jug O' Lightnin' at Rudz on December 30.)

In addition to Big Hawk, there were a few other notable deaths on the Houston music scene this year. Big Robert Smith, best known recently for his co-lead vocals in Grady Gaines's Texas Upsetters, died in April of prostate cancer at 66 years of age. In addition to his work with Gaines, Smith also lent his almost frighteningly powerful pipes to his own band Big Robert and the Ravens and had worked with the El Orbits, Bobby Bland, Ernie K-Doe, Millie Jackson and Joe Hinton. Former local blues stalwart Jerry Lightfoot passed away shortly after playing a memorable gig at Fitzgerald's. And LaMarque-bred David Schnaufer, a popularizer and reinventor of the mountain dulcimer, passed away in Nashville of cancer at 53 in August.

john.lomax@houstonpress.com

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