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Paradise by the Dashboard Light/Houston Music

Racket again ventures downtown in search of musical serendipity

On to the next adventure. Mitchell had to run back to his bar to do his payroll, so I talked local drummer Beans Wheeler into riding the train up to Preston with me. We took a couple of those little bottles of Gallo wine -- I call that stuff "Sneaky Pete" -- with us for our traveling enjoyment. We would need them. The doors opened, and we literally had to step over a hobo's jumbo bag of aluminum cans. The rest of the train was full of what looked suspiciously like a cargo of nonpaying customers. (This is what light rail is by night -- a multibillion-dollar stolen Fiesta shopping cart.)

They might have been freeloaders, but they were friendly. I gave the can-carrier two cigarettes; another wanted to talk to me about my Geto Boys T-shirt. As it happened, he was a cousin to, I believe, one of the Fifth Ward Boyz.

If there ever had been a show at No Tsu Oh that night -- a lineup of Bleubird, Filkoe176 and Babel Fishh was listed -- it was long over by the time we rolled up there. Instead, we were treated to Jim Pirtle's beloved vinyl copy of Japanese grrl-punk band Gitogito Hustler, while his partner Cheryl Pierce sported a sailor's cap, perhaps in honor of Turbojugend Humpday. Pirtle says business has been good since the Man shut down the thugged-out rap clubs down there. "I've got nothing against rap," he said, "but these people were all driving in from Humble and Channelview and clogging the streets and fighting. It was like lower Westheimer in the '80s down here. Now people can park close by, and there are much fewer thugs."

Notsuoh honchos Cheryl Pierce and Jim Pirtle love the new thug-free downtown.
Photos by John Nova Lomax
Notsuoh honchos Cheryl Pierce and Jim Pirtle love the new thug-free downtown.
Pirtle says he's stackin' that cake.
Photos by John Nova Lomax
Pirtle says he's stackin' that cake.

Wheeler and I knocked back a couple of brews. By then the train had quit running, so we called a cab, which was driven by an African guy. I asked him where he was from.

"Where do you think," he fired back.

"Um, Nigeria?"

"No."

"Ghana?"

"No."

"Sierra Leone? Liberia? Cameroon?"

"No, no and no. I am from Zambia."

"I don't know the first thing about Zambia," I said. "What's the music like there?"

He turned up his stereo. "Here's some new stuff," he said. And there was that boom-chicka-boom-chick beat familiar to anyone who listened to Mega 101 the last couple of years, seasoned with the jagged guitars of South African music.

Perfect. Zambian reggaetón. Serendipity at last.

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