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Heavy Neglect

Metalmad.com is more than a heavy metal Web site. It's a way of life.

It's not exactly a garage, but it's a big, uninhabitable space you could park a car in. It's about 22 feet by 22 feet and padded all around -- to keep any noise in. It's attached to a house, so, technically, if you had to call it something, you'd be correct in saying it is an "addition." Not a garage. This is an important distinction, because this structure will be packed this weekend with particular types of musicians, making a particular type of music, and particular types of music fans, neither too fond of being referred to as garage acts and/or garage act fans. You could very well call them that, though, because for the type of music in question there aren't many venues around, other than house additions that stand in for the arenas that were once packed with these fans.

The music is heavy metal. The fans, metal heads. And the addition, a piece of property owned by local metal musician Bobby Williamson, is where an as-of-yet-undetermined local metal act will be performing Friday, December 10. (Williamson's band, Outworld, was scheduled to play, but its guitarist and his wife had a baby.) This small performance is important for three reasons: One, it's free. Two, it's needed, as melodic, loud, technically proficient guitar-based music is dying, giving way to either poppish rap-metal amalgams or indecent, unlistenable metal variants (e.g., speed metal, black metal, thrash metal, kill-your-sister metal, whatever). And three, it represents another step in creating grassroots metal awareness in town, a movement spearheaded by Metal Mad, a Web site and on-line community based in Houston.

Metalmad.com was created by Houstonian Steve Jones this summer. Jones, in addition to being a dedicated metal fan since the '70s, is a techy employee of Compaq, where he runs an intraoffice Web site, among other things. Creating metalmad.com, says Jones, was a good way to practice operating HTML, the programming language behind sites. "I figured if I was going to do something," he says, "I might as well do something I like." Heavy metal was an obvious choice.

And what began as a national heavy-metal information site has become a focal point for Houston metal, though it still retains much of its national scope. Around the time Jones first started building the site, he had a conversation with Rick Ward of Midnight Circus, a local metal act. From that conversation, Jones decided to tack on a Houston section, replete with booking and club information and direct links to more than a dozen Web sites of local metal acts. The site exploded and has already registered more than 12,000 hits. Not bad for six months' time.

Jones, who says he dedicates about 20 hours per week updating the site with help from in-house graphic designer Brad Ivers and wife Lynn Jones, has also seen the metalmad.com e-mail list expand. It's up to 100 members.

Addition owner Williamson got turned on to metalmad.com a few weeks after the site went up. He, like Jones and most others on the site, was disappointed that Houston's metal scene lacked so much, and was glad many others shared his grief; strength in numbers and all that. "I mean, you see big-time metal acts," says Williamson. "[T]hey go through Dallas, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, but not Houston."

The first step the Metal Mad community took in rekindling some interest in heavy metal in Houston was co-sponsoring Quiet Riot's performance in October. With the financial help of SideCar Pub owner Peron Einkauf, Metal Mad brought the renowned '80s act to The Warehouse, which isn't much more than a spacious, vacant...ummm... warehouse. A garage for tractor-trailers.

The show bombed. Fewer than 50 people shelled out for Quiet Riot, which played hard anyway. The lack of support for this national act mirrors a trend in the local market.

"There's no local radio support," says Midnight Circus's Ward. "There are a lot of bands making good original music. It's a shame."

"I'm a big supporter of local music in itself," Ward continues. "[Jones] had a good concept, in a way to push local music and get everyone together. Bands support each other now, instead of [fighting] against each other."

If anything, paying to see a pal's band perform (i.e., supporting the scene) is fun, whether at Compaq Center or the limited number of popular metal spots such as the 19th Hole in The Woodlands, Bobby's Extreme or Forgetta Bout It. Or even at Williamson's house. Of this weekend's gig, he says, "I'm in the woods, so it's not a problem. People can get radical. There's plenty of room to fall over and go to sleep."

For more information on the performance, contact Bobby Williamson at yngwie@ flash.net.

Bronx Legend

Before it became fashionably derogatory, rap was party music. In New York City during the early '70s, Bronx River Projects residents and Black Spade gang members would convene in the project's green areas to listen to the sounds of one DJ. He would make these gigs by borrowing his mom's records and hi-fi, which he would plug into a lamppost. His name: Afrika Bambaataa.

When the wind would blow the needle off a record, Bambaataa would talk in rhymes over the microphone, just to placate the partygoers. Though what Bambaataa was doing wasn't technically called rap (yet), that's exactly what it was; and it predated the work of Kurtis Blow, LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee and all those other denizens of Disco Fever nightclub, which was -- contrary to its name -- the place rap music was first legitimized.

Since his one brief commercial hit, "Planet Rock," in the early '80s, Bambaataa has been working steadily as a DJ in and out of New York. He comes to Houston Saturday, December 11, for a party called "Back to the Old Skool," which takes place at the Lone Star Arena, 5515 South Loop West, from 8 p.m. till 6 a.m. Other DJs spinning will be Audio 3, Tha Kid and DJ Brian from L.A. Call (713)226-2511 for more information. No telling what time Bambaataa will spin, but whenever it is, it'll be worth the wait.

Smooth Sailing

Speaking of rap, smooth jazz gets a bad one. It's often denounced as pop music without the vocals. Which may be what it is. But what's so wrong with that?

Nothing, really. Local saxophonist Shaakir plays this type of music, and quite well. His first single, "My First," is getting some airplay on KTSU/90.9 FM and KBCT/97.7 FM in Waco. He per-forms every Thursday at Club Uropa, 3302 Mercer (713)627-1132. Check him out. -- Anthony Mariani

E-mail Anthony Mariani at anthony.mariani@houstonpress.com.


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