Lotta people shit-talk Fitzgerald's for not caring about the local scene. But when some sturdy local labels wanted to put together a stable showcase, where'd they go?
"Fitz seemed like the natural place to have it," says Joshua Mares of Pinche Flojo Records. "They're the only place for all-ages shows.And we're making sure everyone benefits this time, including Fitz's. If they don't make any money, there aren't gonna be any local shows. In all reality, where else you gonna go?"
A little hyperbolic, Mares's opinion, but mostly true. At least for those born after 1978.
The showcase this Saturday, October 2, will feature acts from Mares's label, Fuzzgun, Dope House and Broken Note. Other labels were supposed to be on the list, but they either failed to heed the call or are continuing to hold out. If you'll recall, Fitzgerald's was the target this summer of a local "boy"-cott, which still seems to be in effect. Led by Good Guy Records, this refusal to play Fitzgerald's hasn't really done much -- except make the "boy"-cotters feel righteous and draw people to some smaller, cooler clubs like The Oven, which often hosts Good Guy productions. Fitzgerald's is still hosting local, adventurous acts, and it is still one of the best-sounding places in town. No one, least of which the bands on this weekend's showcase, had any complaints about the venue.
Los Skarnales and Thanx But No Thanx (Pinche Flojo), Grimm (Dope House), Simpleton (helped out by Broken Note) and I-45 (Fuzzgun) will be performing. The show will mark a return to Houston from months on the road for Los Skarnales and I-45. The hip-hop trio will also use the showcase as a video release party.
In fact, the date was originally just an I45 show, until Mares and other label heads got together about four months ago and decided to join forces.
The reasoning is simple: Over the years, each label has always had its built-in following. They all had their fans. And they all had their CD release party people (e.g., groupies). Though most of these loco local label lovers all had a similar interest in non-mainstream, in-your-face music, they may have also all been so involved with trailing their faves that they never had time to listen to any other band. A mini-package tour, like this weekend's showcase, appeared to have been a good way to change this, a good way to "cross-pollinate fans," according to Mark Reed of Fuzzgun.
At the mention of a local label showcase, people on the scene became interested. Lots of bands wanted a piece of it. And local promoters started running off flyers. If all goes well, according to Mares, this event will be only the first of an annual happening.
"If you look at the lineup," says Mares, "you'll see there are a lot of really good bands. They all kinda got their own little buzz that helps. And I'm sure all the bands will be encouraging people to stick around for the next set."
That cross-pollination makes sense. Not too long ago, once-big local acts 30-Foot-FALL and riverfenix (now fenixTX) both left the Houston scene in search of the national spotlight. Soon as they were gone, lots of smaller bands suffered. They didn't have the draw themselves to keep venues like Fitzgerald's happy.
"What is the 'local scene'?" asks Sara Fitzgerald, owner of the club with her surname on it. "It's not my job to feel one way or the other about it. I'm not in business to do that. If it feeds into my work in some way, yeah, that's fine. But I want to have a big mix. If a local band brings in 700 people, I'm thrilled.
"And it's nicer when they're local, here in town," she continues. "We're looking for some bands that can draw some people. Right now, I dunno. There's this whiner attitude going on now. Bands come in and they say, 'Where's my crowd?' Like it's my job to get people in the door."
This weekend, that shouldn't be a problem.
Local white-girl rapper Surabian seems to got it all goin' on. She has just cut an EP for Body Head Entertainment, boxer Roy Jones Jr.'s record label, and is getting major-label interest. She's attractive, ready for MTV and BET at the drop of a bra. And she got good flow. The only thing goin' against her is the birth date on her driver's license. Surabian, in her early twenties, is obviously not a teenager. She's not what's hot now.
And that's a shame.
Surabian (a.k.a. Karen Surabian), originally from Florida, says she started rapping about eight years ago. Once in Houston, she performed at clubs like Boomerang and High Rollers. Gangsta rap was the thing.
She signed a deal with Body Head in February. Jones Jr., who's a friend of Surabian's from her days in Florida, wanted her to record for him but with pop appeal in mind.
Surabian started getting songs together. Her producer, Derrick D. (a.k.a. Derrick Wermig), would send her tracks from California; she'd pick out the ones she liked and tweak her lyrics to fit. In May she flew down to Body Head in Pensacola to record. The process took all of two weeks.
"I'm hungry," says Surabian. "I just wrote what was in my heart. I wrote all day, every day. I wrote that album in two months."
The CD will be out after the holidays. In the meantime, Surabian is performing. "You'll see me," she says. "I'm gonna start doing shows around town. You'll see."
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Kind of goes against common sense to promote a big show without mentioning who the big show is. But leave it to Jack Daniels to throw common sense three sheets to the wind and keep its "birthday party" bash performer at Fitzgerald's Wednesday, Septemebr 29, a secret.
Err, a semi-secret.
Word on White Oak has it that the performers will be rockabilly stalwarts Old 97's. The party is supposed to celebrate Mr. Jack Daniels's birth, though, according to the press release, "the exact day and year remain a mystery." (The statue near the distillery in Tennessee says he was born in 1850, month and day unknown.) September must have seemed like a reasonable time (after Labor Day, in between the holidays) to give people yet another reason to get sloshed, 'cause that's the time of the season the folks at Jack Daniels plan on having these birthday bashes from here on out. Now, if they can only find a way to get people in the door...
E-mail Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.