City Under Siege
Last week we brought you the story of, as they would say in a movie trailer, one man with the courage, the passion, the desire to take the law into his own hands and get all of his stolen musical equipment back from the band that stole it from him. This week we have a whole batch of stories about musicians and crime.
If only more of our musicians would listen to and heed the words of Leadbelly, the blues and folk legend. Leadbelly also lived here for a time, taking a job for a car dealer after winning release from the prison farm in Sugar Land. Way back in the mid-1930s, in one of the first songs to mention Houston by name, the King of the 12-String Guitar had some sage advice for the people of our fair city, words of wisdom that run like this: "If you're ever down in Houston / Boy, you better walk right / And you better not squabble / And you better not fight / Bason and Brock will arrest you / Payton and Boone will take you down / You can bet your bottom dollar / That you're Sugar Land bound."
It's too bad Messrs. Bason and Brock et al. couldn't have stopped Tony Shore sooner. For those of you who have been under a rock for the past couple of weeks, police arrested the 41-year-old local tow truck driver and pianist- guitarist in connection with four strangulations of women and girls dating back to 1986. Shore has confessed to the murders -- and he now joins former recording artist Charles Manson and Texas rapper Big Lurch (the guy who butchered a woman and then ate a portion of her internal organs while high on PCP) in the ranks of the most truly depraved musicians of all time.
Moving on to lawbreaking musicians of a much less evil variety, we have Houston "slip-hoppers" I-45, who on November 8 will be playing their first show in Houston since some time around last Christmas. Rapper Tony Avitia hesitates to use the word hiatus, but that's just what it's been for his group, which was awarded the Best Rap trophies in our Music Awards in 1999 and again in 2002. (In 2000 and 2001, the Best Rap award went to Carlos Coy, a.k.a. South Park Mexican, who also has had no small trouble with the law.) Avitia is working full-time and taking 15 hours of classes as he works toward a finance degree over at UH, all of which keeps him too busy to perform or get into trouble, which is important because he will finally be off probation in two months for assault.
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Avitia is also dealing with another less-than-desirable side effect of the hip-hop life. "My ex-wife is being a total prude about me seeing my child, which totally sucks," he says. "Another rapper with babymama drama and issues with my daughter. I wonder who that sounds like."
Fodder for the next I-45 record? Come to think of it, will there be a next I-45 record? "That's always my place to vent," he says. "And we still have a bunch of stuff sitting around the studio, but whenever we try to do something with it, somebody ends up in jail or we don't have enough money or whatever. It will come out, though, and when it does, it will be the shit hitting the fan. We're never gonna go away. We're not one of those bands that sends out that press release that says, 'Well, we tried, but we're shutting it down forever.' We're like the Geto Boys, dude. We can't be stopped! Bullets to the eye, jail time, babymama drama, it doesn't matter!"
Another band that can't be stopped is Pimpadelic, the Fort Worth rap-rock group that bills itself as the "Most Hated Band in Texas." And from HPD's view of things, they were certainly the most hated band at Fitzgerald's on October 26. The band is no stranger to trouble -- Pimpadelic rapper Dirty K. barely escaped going to jail in 1996 when his involvement in a robbery led to a second-degree felony charge and a guilty plea. Fortunately for Murphy, he got off with probation. And his cohort on the mike Easy Jesus has "motherfucker" tattooed on the side of his neck. But this time around, it wasn't exactly their fault.
No, according to Fitzgerald's talent buyer Jake Fisher, we could kind of pin this one on yet another band with a lengthy rap sheet, specifically Scottish punk ne'er-do-wells the Exploited, who played Fitz's on September 28. These would be the same guys who were turned away from the Canadian border by customs officials a couple of weeks after the Houston show, and whose subsequent nonappearance at a Montreal gig caused the worst riot in that city's history since Les Canadiens last won the Stanley Cup in 1993. The Canadian officials denied them entrance because, as reported in The New York Times, some members of the Exploited had criminal backgrounds and some had lied, saying they were coming to the country as tourists. This didn't seem plausible to customs officials since they arrived with a truck full of equipment, the Times said.
But we digress, and it would perhaps be more accurate to say we could blame the Pimpadelic raid on the Exploited for attracting the kind of fans who: a) stole a woman's purse; and b) hurled a beer bottle at the uniformed policewoman who came to investigate the theft.
The bottle-thrower was not apprehended, leaving the police with an unsettled score. The cops aren't accustomed to taking a ration of shit like that lying down, and this case was no exception. They reacted the only way they know how: They arrested a couple of people they knew had nothing to do with it.
Last Sunday, three plainclothes policemen came to the Pimpadelic show and infiltrated the crowd before the raunchy Metroplex peckerwoods took the stage. Later they returned with a few uniforms, shut down the club for about half an hour and arrested three people, one of whom was a customer and two of whom were Pimpadelic members Easy Jesus and DJ MIA.
"They got 'em for public intoxication," Fisher says. "They never even made it to the stage. They were getting all their stuff set up, and one of the police officers and one of the plainclothes guys walked backstage and came out with the lead singer and the DJ."
Fisher says Easy Jesus's crimes were no worse than what you see just about any weekend night at Fitz's. "He was just being a loudmouth at the bar, and drinking all crazy, kinda putting on a show, just playing the rock star in front of everybody. They arrested the DJ when he went over to the cops and asked them why they were arresting the singer. So they asked him if he wanted to go to jail too and he said, 'I didn't fuckin' do anything wrong,' and they just got him right there for being drunk."
Chances to see a bona fide legend in a small club are few and far between. We'll have one on November 9, when Leon Russell appears at Fat Cat's. For those not in the know, Oklahoma-born Russell got his start playing keyboards behind Ronnie Hawkins, before moving on to tour in support of Jerry Lee Lewis. He later learned guitar from James Burton and was in the studio band of producer Phil Spector. Russell helped produce and arrange and/or played on Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep, Mountain High" and the Byrds' "Mr. Tambourine Man," among others, including sessions by people like Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Sam Cooke. He's also on "Monster Mash" and Pet Sounds...Later, Russell opened his own recording studio and launched a solo career, which spawned the classic rock staple "Tight Rope." Around the same time, Joe Cocker had a minor hit with Russell's "Delta Lady," which was written for Russell's ex-flame Rita Coolidge. In 1976, Russell's tune "This Masquerade" won a Grammy for its performer, George Benson, and was also the first ever No. 1 record on the pop, jazz and R&B charts. Russell spent much of the early '80s touring with bluegrass supergroup the New Grass Revival, and also has a side career under the alter ego Hank Wilson as a Nashville country artist. No question about it -- Leon's a heavy cat, and where better to see him than Fat Cat's.
For the first time in ten years, legendary British post-punkers New Model Army will be touring America, and there is a Houston date. The NMA that is coming to town is just a duo -- Justin Sullivan and Dean White -- but they promise to bring "all the passion of the full New Model Army experience, just a little quieter." The show is November 19 at the Axiom, and Infernal Bridegroom Productions' Troy Schulze reports that NMA fans from as far away as England will be flying in for the show The Woodlands-by-way-of-Bolivar troubadour Hayes Carll is completing his follow-up to his attention-grabbing debut, Flowers and Liquor. Carll plans to shop the finished product to labels after the fact, and he hopes to have either Gurf Morlix or R.S. Field as a producer. Meanwhile, Carll is touring the Midwest with fellow northsider Jack Ingram. His next local gig is November 14 at the Mucky Duck Roll over Beethoven, indeed. Houston radio legend and big band musician Ronnie Renfrow -- long a mainstay on AM golden oldies station KBME -- has jumped to the other side of the dial. Now he is on classical station KRTS, which is on FM, where as all good Steely Dan fans know, there's no static at all. It's a bold move for both Renfrow and KRTS, especially the radio station. It has dubbed the swing and jazz and old-time rock and roll and country that is Renfrow's on-air stock-in-trade as "America's classical music" and is offering up a heaping helping of the stuff on Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
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