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Good Neighbors

A look inside the local house-show circuit.

ONLY IN HOUSTON

House party or house show...which are you at?

There's a difference, just as there's a difference between the Grand Canyon and a chuckhole. One inspires awe, creativity and a sense of oneness with humankind. The other is just a chuckhole.

A typical Houston house show mirrors this scene imagined by Virgina artist Liz Suburbia.
Courtesy of Liz Suburbia
A typical Houston house show mirrors this scene imagined by Virgina artist Liz Suburbia.
A typical Houston house show mirrors this scene imagined by Virgina artist Liz Suburbia.
A typical Houston house show mirrors this scene imagined by Virgina artist Liz Suburbia.

If Kid N' Play is around, you're at the former and also, quite possibly, in a time warp. To determine if you're at the latter, look for: free-roaming dogs; tattooed chain-smokers; fire-twirlers; vegan food; activists; the police (only at certain intervals in the evening); naked models covered in body paint waiting in line to use a bathroom with no toilet paper (and maybe no running water, either); and, of course, bands on hand to set the evening's captivating events to music.

Matt Trimble is one of the residents of DownTogether House, one of a handful of Houston homes regularly doubling as house-show venues. He and his roommates have hosted about 15 shows at their Third Ward home over the past year.

"I love house shows, both as a host and as an audience member," he says. "As a host it's great, because it transforms your boring old living room that sometimes you start to take for granted into this special space where people are pouring their hearts and talents out and having fun together.

"It's gratifying to help provide a space for that, and you get to meet interesting and sweet folks from all over," he continues. "I like going to house shows because the personal nature of the space influences the way I experience the music, and I like being in a small space without clear boundaries between musician and audience."

Bands enjoy these spaces, too, particularly traveling bands, since they're essentially one-stop hospitality shops. Get to town, play the gig, meet and make fans and sleep all in the same place.

"One of the roommates, Adam [Wolfson], is a musician and he's toured around a lot, and knows lots of people in the folk-punk community, so naturally house shows started to happen," Trimble says.

Boby Kalloor is a familiar face on the house-show scene, not solely because of his extraordinary mustache, but also because he frequently hosts shows at his space, The Jenner House.

"It's a lot of fun to let other people have a lot of fun," Kalloor says, summarizing why he hosts shows. "Just being able to promote creative expression is an honor. And it means a lot to us to be able to host local acts." The appeal of house shows for Houston groups is simple. More stages to play means more chances to play on almost any night of the week. Add bands visiting from elsewhere to the bill, and the shows become underground networking events.

Kalloor's space always seems to be in a state of flux, so playing The Jenner House is like never playing the same venue twice. It began in 2009 with what appeared to be a traditional stage in an oversized room; since then, walls have gone up, the stage was demolished and bands now play in any nook or cranny they can fit into or in its spacious backyard.

Kalloor enjoys the shows and has only one complaint about them: "cleaning up afterwards."

Over in Third Ward, Doctor V. chucks beer bottles into a recycle bin while the bands play. He noodles around a bit on his laptop, adds fuel to a citronella fire and discusses the show occurring at his house venue, The Compound, with the show's promoter.

The good doctor lives on the property, which includes a quartet of apartments. Shows take place in a huge space secured by more than a half-dozen shipping containers he purchased and hand-placed, always with the idea of using The Compound for shows and community events.

"This is my backyard, you know; I invite people over to my house," he says. "Basically, the concept is I have space and so I'm trying to get people to use the space."
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TV PARTY

WOKE UP THIS MORNING
Five killer musical moments from The Sopranos.

CHRIS GRAY

People are still in shock at the news of actor James Gandolfini's passing last week, no doubt even those without HBO, Italian ancestry or pretensions to an angst-ridden suburban-Jersey gangster lifestyle. Many cultural tastemakers believe at least parts of The Sopranos — and especially Gandolfini's role as Tony — rank at the very top of the 21st century's great works of art, regardless of the medium; this one just happened to be premium cable television. Rocks Off has seen all the episodes and owns a couple of seasons on DVD, and we see no reason to argue with that.

For us, shockingly, we loved The Sopranos because of the way it treated music. It's no surprise to us that the only notable project David Chase has done since the series went off the air is directing 2012's Not Fade Away, his film about a fledgling '60s garage band starring Gandolfini as a disapproving dad. For the series, its music savvy extended to the casting, where E Street Band alumnus Miami Steve Van Zandt turned out to be so much more than a stunt and the guest cast was littered with names like Frankie Valli and Lady Gaga; can you name the Season 3 episode where the postmodern pop star has a cameo? (Hint: it takes place in an indoor pool.)

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