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Progress Report

Taking stock of the Houston music scene on the eve of the annual Houston Press Music Awards Showcase.

What aspects of the scene are most improved?

Bishop: It seems like bands are touring more. I think that is a direct result of their having rec­ords and CDs available. It's the next step.

Medina: On the promotion side, I think it's great to see graphic artists and bands uniting on making posters. For a long time, it seemed like the arts community and the music community were separate entities; now it seems that they are more united.

Katial: Online reach.

Wettergreen: There are a couple more bands on the scene that are demonstrating the positive effects of leaving Houston for a bit. Wild Moccasins are a perfect example of getting it right from the start: put out an album, release it with a tour kickoff and go on a three-week tour. Repeat. Something Fierce was signed while on a show in the Northwest by a rep who was told by fans that he needed to attend the show. B L A C K I E is talking to Vice ­Records because he went up to NYC and playeda show.

Workman: Touring is getting better if you don't mind no-frills travel. Gas prices are back down, shipping is better. I've heard of guys who are FedExing their clothes and instruments to the venues so they can travel lighter.

What aspects could use the most improvement?

Bishop: Venues. There are many fine venues in Houston, but there are some gaps that need to be filled. On the lower-­capacity level, we are missing venues that are attractive [to] mid-level national acts.

Medina: Promotion. I think there is too much of an emphasis on Facebook and MySpace.

Katial: Hard to say. I think we are in the process of having a cultural shift. People are starting to go to shows again.

Wettergreen: We still have no national press, which is a personal point of ire when I travel up to Chicago and talk to national music reporters. I still chalk this up to not enough bands touring. I say to the bands, "I'm working on it, you work on it too." We've focused two of the Bandcamps on booking, one with a how-to manual for booking shows in Texas. I'm currently writing a guide to playing the Houston market for visiting bands.

Workman: We need to quit dicking around with our Facebook pages, our wardrobe and our musical gear and start writing better songs. Seriously. If Houston musicians just spent more time at our songwriting and storytelling craft, audiences would flock to experience their excellence. Designing a Web page, buying a better guitar or booking more studio time is dead easy compared to writing a compelling, magical song.

In your eyes, what makes our scene unique?

Bishop: Diversity. Always has been.

Medina: It's young, it's fun, it's not mean or exclusive. It's just a very friendly, inviting environment for bands and people to be in so you see more cooperation between bands than you do competition. Even when bands compete, as in the HPMAs, it's friendly and supportive.

Katial: That it's not a cakewalk. People are supportive, and we do not have a traditional"big city" atmosphere.

Wettergreen: Our bands' almost complete disregard of national music trends. For better or for worse, this allows us to innovate completely outside of the bounds of what's hot, what's not. It also makes Houston a great staging ground to incubate a band. Look at the dead tech releases this year [cassettes, 7-inches] or guerrilla shows — these things just aren't going down with such regularity in most places. Here, it's the standard.

Workman: We're teaching each other how to be creative and do business. At the studio, we have hit on a formula for making records that is totally unself-conscious, relaxed and unpretentious, which is leaving an indelible mark of "Houston-ness" in our sound. Our clients recognize what's going on, and their music sells. I hope that Houston hangs onto the humble self-confidence that seems to be built into all of our music. And yes, that includes the rap scene, although the humility has to be defined a bit differently :)

See y'all Sunday.

chris.gray@houstonpress.com

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