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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.
Willie D
Peter Beste
Willie D

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.)

Music also spilled over into the plotlines, like Christopher's short-lived Season 1 friendship/business relationship with the rapper Massive Genius in aptly named episode "A Hit Is a Hit." But in the end, the music supervisors at The Sopranos wound up choosing exactly the right song for whatever was going on in the script so many times, we couldn't help but just pick five of our favorites. A couple may be rather obvious, but that should just go to show what an impact they had.

5. The Kinks, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else"

The Davies brothers close the Season 5 episode "Cold Cuts," as Janice chases Tony around his kitchen with a fork, emblematic of a dysfunctional sibling rivalry perhaps surpassed only by Ray and Dave.

4. The Rolling Stones, "Undercover of the Night"

A politically charged track about South American intrigue from 1983's Undercover, this song was almost forgotten until it ran over the end credits of Season 5's "Rat Pack." Now the Stones are playing it on tour again.

3. Frank Sinatra, "It Was a Very Good Year"

Sopranos montages were not averse to using all three, four, five minutes of a song, often brilliantly, if that's how long it took to tell the story. Here, Ol' Blue Eyes croons his autumnal September of My Years masterpiece as Tony's mom languishes in the hospital, Uncle Junior is released from prison, Silvio gets fitted for typically natty new threads, FBI agents update their Tony-tracking corkboard and the Sopranos world spins into Season 2. Frank Jr. himself appeared (as himself) later that season in "The Happy Wanderer."

4. Alabama 3, "Woke Up This Morning"

There have been other opening-credits songs that have defined their series and even crossed over onto the pop charts (Friends, Cheers), but this track from the UK electronica trio with an odd proclivity for American roots music may be the only TV theme that still functions as an excellent time capsule from the groggy, paranoid post-9/11 United States. Never mind that it was originally released in 1997.

5. Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'"

Closing out the series in that enigmatic diner scene everybody understood to be about death, but nobody really understood, the surprising appearance of "Don't Stop Believin'" stripped the song of all the humdrum qualities drummed into us by millions of classic-rock-radio spins, and restored its status as one of the most melancholy, affecting, inspirational power ballads in rock history.
_____________________

ASK WILLIE D

TWO SETS OF KIDS
Money is tight and one dad needs some advice.

WILLIE D

Dear Willie D:

I have two sets of children: The first three are via my ex from a turbulent ten-year relationship; the last two are with my current wife. When the ex and I split, the kids went with her back to her home state. They left driving my only car. Seeing as she never held a steady job throughout the course of our relationship, I committed as much as I could to ensure their stability.

I'm now being demonized because I'm not in the same financial place I was as a newly single male, so the money I have to send is dwindling as I deal with my own income trials. I've always kept the courts out of my affairs, but I don't know what to do, as I'm tired of being told, "Well, you knew your responsibilities. You shouldn't have had any more kids!" What do I do?

Demonized Dad:

Paying child support is like making records; you're only as good as your last hit. Give them 100 classics in a row and the first time you miss the mark, you're a bum. Babies are expensive business. If you want to keep the courts out of this, the best thing to do is to humble yourself and have a candid conversation with your ex about your finances. Just like with the IRS, you may have to show her your financial records and work out a payment plan.

Personally, I think putting everything on record in a court of law is the best way to protect yourself. That way she can't come back and say you didn't pay. But know that the courts don't care that you have a new life, a wife and two more babies to take care of. Your ex damn sure don't care. All she considers is what you're doing for her kids. Contrarily, your wife probably feels the same way about your obligations to the children you share with her.

I feel for you, man. You seem like a good dude, but this is one of those situations where you made your bed, lay in it, had sex, fathered babies and now you have to pay for them, even if the money is gone.

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