Houston music fans are a unique breed. We’ve been called every name in the proverbial fandom critique book, from flaky to enthusiastic and downright rude, and it’s an undeniable fact that Houston fans are a rowdy bunch. And while being in a venue with several thousand crass, boorish, inebriated Houston fans can feel like the trappings of a bad marriage for the evening, know that when the show is over and the afterparty starts, there will be no slowing of their raucous good time, even well after HPD arrives and hauls several Houston fans downtown for the evening. To love Houston fans is to know Houston fans, so if you’re new around these parts, here’s a peek at what you’re in for when attending local shows. Sure, we have our faults, but when we love a band, we love them loud, hard and sloppy. Here are five lovable yet ultimately predicable traits about Houston's music audiences.
5. HOUSTON CROWDS ARE FICKLE
This has long been a complaint against Houston. Many local — even national — bands can’t figure why venues don’t sell out on weeknights and holidays. Fans here seemingly leave early or just show up late to see the headliner. There are a few reasons for this, but the most important one to understand is that Houston is enormous. Without the public-transportation facilities of many comparably sized cities, fans often have to drive miles upon miles to reach your favorite band’s show. Don’t think just because everyone in the fast lane of our maze of freeways is doing 85 mph that people arrive anywhere on time, either. And, consider this: We are a working city of vast suburban sprawl, meaning fans usually have an eight-to-five job looming the next day.
4. PHONE'S OUT, POT'S OUT
Houston fans love their bands, so when they spend money on tickets and drive miles upon miles to the venue, it's easy to tell they genuinely care. Yet that sacrifice can make crowds a bit defensive. It's not unusual to see local audiences aggressively press themselves to the front of a stage, pull out their cell phones with total disregard for their neighbors and, of course, smoke a lot of pot. In fact, you can accurately predict when a headliner takes the stage not only from the roar of the crowd but the density of THC in the air, or the swarms of people pushing past one another as if someone has pulled a fire alarm. Just remember what Jesus said: "Sharing is caring."
3. THEY BITCH TOO MUCH
Having been in and around the music scene both now and in the '90s, I’ve witnessed some of the best times in local music history. That said, there are always naysayers. Best advice: Don’t Be That Douche. You’ll hear it from people for a variety of reasons that only their psychologist can uncover, but the bitching all rings with the same sour tone: “Houston will never be Austin” or “There’s no centralized scene here” or “No one famous is from Houston.” Besides being total, easily refuted bullshit, what these Houston Haters' statements really do is discourage other artists. But even if they were true, why would those things necessarily make it any more difficult for someone with real talent to become a superstar? (Cough, Beyoncé.)
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2. THEY HAVE SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY WHEN IT MATTERS
Perhaps the best aspect of Houston's collective music scene is the camaraderie. Band members and fans create bonds and friendships that last for years, connections that can become more like an extended family. Whether it’s a world-class sound engineer looking for a job or a booking agent looking for new talent, or a dozen bands coming to the aid of their peers whose equipment was ruined in a flood, Houston's musicians and fans support their own; it’s what we call H-Town Pride. You’ll see fans clad in local band T-shirts and caps, banging local music in their cars, and attending their fellow musicians' shows all the time. There is a strong sense of community here, because promoting the entire scene means you’re promoting yourself too.
1. MANNERS ARE OPTIONAL
When basic decorum flies out the window, this enthusiasm is Houston's music culture; we make no apology for it. It may seem rude in other cities, but here, we own our fandom experiences at the expense of others. This shouldn’t be a surprise if you’ve seen us drive, argue over restrooms or even try to evacuate for a hurricane. While that grabby, selfish, me-first stereotype may ring true from time to time when fights break out or security forcibly removes some drunken asshat for unbridled, obstreperous behavior — stage diving, rough moshing — etc., Houston fans are a committed class of people. Sure, they can act like a room of feral cats that have been sprayed with a hose on a cold day, but at least they’re loyal cats.
But they're never disrespectful, which is important. This past week in San Diego, someone spat on Slayer front man Tom Araya while he thanked the crowd for coming out to the show. The offending fan was escorted out, but it’s a good thing he didn’t pull that shit in Houston; fans here would likely have thrown his boot-stomped carcass in Buffalo Bayou. This is Texas, after all. And when we host Slayer at Houston Open Air in September, rest assured the dark-metal thrash gods will be treated to some obnoxiously loving fans.