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Talk to Mee

A dialogue with a local indie punker about the cultural cringe

And, what's more, Carll had already moved to Austin.

At any rate, a month later, the Chron gave what was arguably even more extensive coverage to Idgy Vaughn, an inexperienced Austin singer making one of her first appearances in Houston, one in which she opened for Carll. (Carll was featured prominently in the Preview pullout; Vaughn was page one, above-the-fold in the Star section.) If that's not the cultural cringe -- newbie from Austin vaults onto page one, local veteran waits five years for roughly equal coverage -- I don't know what is. (Last summer there was a whole rash of stories in the Star section about how cool things were in Austin. Fine, Chron-sters, we get it. Send your rŽsumŽs to the Statesman already.)

I'm not bitching about this just to kick the Chron around. I'm doing it because I really believe the scene needs their coverage. To some degree, we here at the Press are preaching to the choir about local music. Our readers tend to be the people who already have a pretty good working knowledge of the scene. That's not necessarily the case with the Chron's readers. Those people tend to be more settled and out of the loop, figuratively and literally. And thanks to the Chron's woeful local coverage, they will stay that way, to their detriment as well as that of all our local bands.

Texas is just about the worst place in the country to launch an unsupported tour from, because you're talking about a ten-day commitment to even get to the people you want to impress, not to mention the problem of actually getting those people to your show, which is next to impossible for most out-of-town bands going to New York or Chicago, even if you can get a show. At that point, if you're really serious about having a music career, you might as well just move to one of those places so you can play there all the time, because even Houston isn't cheap enough to make that kind of travel pay off. That's why Jana Hunter and Indian Jewelry left, I know.

But the thing is, plenty of bands have made it out of both Dallas and Austin in the past ten or 15 years. Again, being based here is an obstacle but not a brick wall. If you can build up enough of a buzz in the major cities of Texas, some label or other will come knocking.

Finally, I don't know who you talk to about these things, but I haven't encountered many serious musicians (i.e., in a non-joke act) who think that "regular rehearsing and showing up both on time and sober to gigs is somewhat bad form," other than the guys in [Brian] McManus's own band -- nothing against him or any of them personally of course.

Maybe that kind of stuff doesn't afflict the indie rock scene here as much as other subsets of the rock milieu, but I have seen plenty of examples of it.

Spain Coloured Orange and Million Year Dance come in for their share of mockery, but in my experience that's been from people who think their music isn't very good. I don't think it's reasonable to expect people to cheerlead for music they don't even like, and I don't hear people calling Insect Warfare or the Octopus Project or Satin Hooks sellouts because they're successful, although Satin Hooks has taken shit in the past for adding people to their mailing list without permission, as well they should.

Fair enough, but I do believe that, especially in the case of Million Year Dance, a lot of people are as turned off by the band's image and stage show as the actual music. And the Octopus Project reps A-Town, not Houston, at least on MySpace.

Regardless, if bands like SCO and MYD succeed, that's great, and I hope they do. If they don't, it may not be from their lack of effort, but it probably also won't be because they didn't get enough support at home -- it'll be because there's too much competition and too many logistical obstacles to what they're trying to do.

I would say that the easiest logistical obstacles to fix would be these: The Chronicle should give better and more extensive coverage to the local scene, and the Buzz should play more local music. Put these bands before more eyes and ears, and the rest will follow. Our ostensibly local mainstream media needs to quit cringing from our authentically local culture.

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