Rave Against the .38 Caliber Machine
Westheimer Road will, for Sunday at least, become the crossroads at which art and politics meet when Space City Records and PAX, an anti-gun-violence group, host a rave-style event at Numbers.
The event is called "Cease Fire," and Space City Records is celebrating the release of its CD by the same name. It's a DJ compilation with contributions from locals Chris Anderson, Andri Morant (who has probably sold more records than any other Texas electronic artist), Rebel Crew, Steven Vogel's Isosceles Popcycle, Daniel Taylor, Lunatex, DJ Mir (from the former Soviet Union) and others.
PAX will distribute literature and ask partygoers to sign its anti-gun-violence petition. The book already holds, according to Levon Louis of Space City Records and Lunatex, about 300,000 signatures. Once the name count reaches a million, Louis says, PAX will present it to Congress.
PAX isn't for gun control per se; rather, it's against violence. The group hopes to rewire Americans, to undo decades of programming that says violence sells movies, violence solves problems, violence is cool.
Gun violence indirectly created the organization. An incident two years ago spurred PAX founder Dan Gross to action.
Gross's brother, Matt Gross, and a friend, Cris Bermeister, both played in a popular New York act called the Bushpilots. The two were admiring Manhattan's skyline from the Empire State Building observation deck when a man wearing a long coat opened fire with a .38 caliber semiautomatic handgun. Bermeister was killed almost instantly; Matt Gross sustained a gunshot wound to the head. The shooter, Ali Abu Kamal, then placed the gun to his own temple and pulled the trigger.
At the time, 26-year-old Dan Gross was a star and partner at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency. He'd never been "political" until the time of his brother's shooting. That, of course, has all changed. He quit the advertising company and started PAX almost at the same time, in 1997.
Space City Records' Louis got involved for two reasons. He is a cousin of the Grosses', and, he says, he has seen gun violence and felt its aftershocks first-hand: "I've lost too many friends growing up in the harsher areas of Houston."
What's exceptional about Cease Fire, which Louis engineered and produced, is its tone -- perfect for waging peace.
"It's really interesting," says Louis of the CD. "Here are these [DJs] selling thousands of techno records worldwide, and they had the opportunity to contribute anything they wanted to, and they all sent lots of what I call 'daytime' music. Lots of dub, reggae and stuff with a real peaceful quality to it."
Proceeds from the event and future sales of Cease Fire will go toward funding further projects between Space City Records and PAX.
And yet more music-with-a-message news. HART, Houston's Animal Rights Team, will be the sole beneficiary of the "Metal-n-Pedal Fest," which happens Saturday, October 9. Poor Dumb Bastards, Dig Dug, Sore Loser, Force Fed, Pretty Little Flower, Finer Truth, Will To Live, Spare Change, Quick Step, Maneuver, The Guns of August, Eye Against, Ni Olvido Ni Perdon and Tie That Binds will perform. Pro and amateur BMX riders from across Texas will, umm, ride. And Erik Marcus, author of Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating, will be around to spread the meatless gospel. The event will be held at the Outback BMX Track, 8900 Willowbrook Mall, and will begin at noon. Ten bucks gets you in the gate.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! That's the sound of an alarm going off. It was set about 15 years ago for the guys from Buckcherry, Warrant, Nevermore and all those other "metal" bands now trying to regurgitate '80s metal. Not that '80s metal wasn't great. It was. Intense yet hummable. Inane and not too self-serious. One of the last great pop artistic movements of the century.
Cut to 1999. The '80s are over (hel-lo!), and so is everything that went with them: trickle-down economics, the Cold War, neon-colored earrings and, obviously, "hair" metal. It's a wonder most of today's metal torchbearers (nostalgicus metallicus), each scarier than any Night of the Living Dead zombie, haven't already moved on to other things like infesting drug rehabilitation centers.
Buckcherry, a Guns N' Roses ripoff, was in town last weekend. (Yawn!) Warrant, which cut some decent pop-metal tunes, is playing Friday, October 8, in some guy Mike's backyard. (Seriously, the band's performing at, ahem, The Outback. Remember: This is a band that has sold more than six million -- SIX MILLION! -- records, playing at a restaurant/bar known more for its chicken fingers than its live music.) And the progressive metalheads of Nevermore will play the excellent-sounding Cardi's 2000 on Saturday, October 15.
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The only thing more frightening than reanimating a dead genre and fooling people into believing it's relevant is the number of people willing to be fooled. Whatever it is Buckcherry or Warrant or Lynch Mob is doing today, it ain't metal. It may look like it on the surface, but it's as shallow as a kiddie pool. Save your money.
Only a handful of Houston acts scored showcases in the South by Southwest schmoozefest last year, which can mean either one of two things: 1) Only a couple Houston acts sent their press kits and demos to Austin in time; or 2) There's a conspiracy in Austin to keep Houston bands out of SXSW. If you or your band is interested in performing in front of lots of drunk and/or otherwise debilitated A&R folk on Sixth Street, send material to P.O. Box 4999, Austin, TX 78765 before October 15, or call (512)467-7979 for more details.
E-mail Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.