The Rocks Off 100: Christian Kidd of the Hates
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. It begins today.
Who: Christian Kidd, who until his marriage last year was known as Christian Arnheiter, is one of Houston's living treasures. The punk-rock elder statesman has fronted the Hates for longer than this reporter has been alive. While never making it as a breakout success, the band has an unbroken string of fabulous albums, legendary concerts, and undeniable punk rock cred that you simply cannot acquire anymore.
Some people grew up listening to punk get started. Kidd was along for the ride when it happened. If you haven't seen him tooling through Montrose on his endless collection of mopeds, mohawk cutting the air like a shark's fin breaking the ocean water, then I refuse to believe you are from Houston. Currently, Kidd is finishing up a much-anticipated biography about his long career.
Retired from working for the City of Houston since 2005, Kidd spends his days improving his guitar skills, writing poetry (He has written a poem for his wife every single day since they were married), playing with his dog Lucky, and hosting a must-hear Internet radio show dealing with the evolution of '70s music. He is also a regular lecturer on that decade of music at the University of Houston.
Home Base: "The Hates have been at Francisco Studios since the '90s," Kidd says. "Ah, if those walls could talk. As far as venues go, I've had the honor of playing just about any and everyplace that Houston's had to offer for the better part of three decades.
"I have to say that my favorite right now is Rudyard's," he continues. "Joe, the sound man, is always so good to us -- he makes us sound brilliant. It's an intimate setting that's perfect for the kids who want to get up front and run a pit and perfect for the old punks who want to sit back in a chair and have a beer while enjoying good music."
Good War Story: I've shared this story before, but it bears repeating...
Few stories are as touching as the one told by Christian Arnheiter, Houston's punk senior statesmen and leader of The Hates. Their family always struggled to make ends meet, and Mrs. Arnheiter was always busy working on the weekends.
She never seemed to have time to catch one of her son's concerts, but always said that seeing his band's name on marquees as she drove to her night job at the Harris County Court House made her feel proud.
In the '90s, Mrs. Arnheiter was hit with a massive stroke that left her paralyzed down her left side. She was admitted to a nursing home, but would stay with Christian on the weekends so he could be close to her and take care of her. Christian decided that since she had never gotten to see The Hates decimate a stage before, he would take her himself on one of their weekends.
Arriving early, Christian parked his mother's wheelchair in a safe spot with a good view of the dance floor before going to start the show. With the bright lights in his eyes, Christian was unable to see his mother, and began to worry about her. As he called out to her over the PA, the packed club below him turned their heads to look at her.
"One of the audience members pushed her out in the middle of the floor, where the crowd opened up to admit her," he says. "A circle of Mohawked attendants gathered around her, almost like an honor guard. She laughed, and since she did not have the ability to speak, she raised her good arm and gave two fingers up - a sign of her approval.
"I consider that show one of the highlights of my career."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: Kidd's main complaint is lack of punctuality, especially when he plays in a genre where it's not unusual to have a six- or seven-band bill. Going over time, taking too long to set up or breakdown, or worst of all refusing to go on because there's no crowd there yet, drive shim up the wall because it carves minutes out of everyone else's set.
Why He Stays In Houston: "Houston's been my home since I was young, and always will be my home," he says. "My heart is here. Sure, there was a time where I could have packed up and left for Austin, or even L.A.
"Especially in the early '80s when I found out that they were playing 'All the Whites' on the radio in San Francisco and L.A., and it eventually went to No. 1," continues Kidd. "But I feel like there's something about this town that keeps me honest.
Houston may love you or hate you, but she won't tell you pretty lies like L.A. will," he admits. "And at this point of my life, I have to admit that being a decent-sized fish in a Texas pond is better than being krill in the ocean."
Top 5 Desert Island Discs: Generation X, Generation X; David Bowie & the Spiders from Mars, The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars ; The Damned, Damned, Damned, Damned; The Saints, Know Your Product; Hatfield & the North, The Rotter's Club