Here's to You, Pam Robinson: Musicians Rally Around Beloved Walters Owner
The Freakouts at Walters downtown, shortly after the new club opened in early 2012
Photo by Larami Culbertson
Texas has a lot of history, and for better or worse, we're damn proud of it. So it's no surprise that Houstonians grow attached to their places and things, and Walters is no exception.
This past Saturday, August 10, news began to spread that Walters owner Pam Robinson had been diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, according to an update on the venue's Facebook page. But if Robinson has taught us anything over the past couple of decades, it's that she's a fighter, and this is just another battle she's going to win.
And thanks to Robinson's supportive family, Walters' staff and the help of Houston's music scene, the downtown club will host a three-day benefit from Sept. 6-8 to help raise money and take off some of the financial burden.
Earlier this morning Rocks Off had the pleasure of speaking with Robinson, who shared that she is currently undergoing chemotherapy and "very aggressive" gamma-ray radiation.
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"I had no symptoms," Robinson says. "I went in for a bad backache, and they told me I had arthritis, but none of it was working. Around the end of June my doctor told me, 'Well, Ms. Robinson, it seems you don't have arthritis, you have cancer.'"
According to Robinson, she had "tumors everywhere," including her ankles, knees, arms and back -- which explains the back pain.
Leave it up to Houstonians to stand up and join the cause.
In a little under 48 hours, Walters' Facebook status had already reached 15,000 people through shares, likes and comments.
"It's been overwhelming," says Kat Keeter, who works on the booking and management team at Walters. "We've had so many people step forward to offer their time or to donate to the benefit, and it just reiterated what an impact she's had on the Houston music scene."
The Suffers' front woman, Kam Franklin, agrees.
"She put bands on bills when no one else would. When other venues banned punk and hardcore acts, she welcome them with open arms," says the singer. "While the opportunities have opened at other venues since then, Pam and Walters have remained consistent."
Franklin has a point.
Walters and Robinson -- who started Walters as Walter's On Washington around 2003, the latest in a line of Robinson-owned venues including Silky's and Mary Jane's -- have a reputation of taking a chance on people. Or rather, giving them a chance to shine. For a long time, it was the only venue booking shows that represented every age and genre. For instance, that weekend in June when they were the only venue willing to host a Juggalo Gathering the same weekend as local rapper B L A C K I E. And truth be told, it might still be.
"We wouldn't be where we are without the help from Pam and Walters, and I'm sure a lot of Houston bands feel the same," says Mikey Seals, lead vocalist of Bury the Crown. "Pam and Walters have done so much for us without even batting an eye, and she has treated us with the utmost respect. When we found out about Pam, we wanted to do what we could to show our appreciation."
But as excited as they are to offer their time, the Suffers and Bury the Crown aren't the only ones.
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Walters' old location on Washington
Because the benefit is being spread out over the course of three days, 20 bands have stepped forward to contribute their time and talents to the cause, which Walters is labeling "Keep Calm//Fight Cancer."
On Friday, September 6, many of Houston's top indie acts will be playing together, from the Tontons and New York City Queens to Second Lovers and Featherface. Saturday, September 7 is reserved for hardcore and punk bands such as Pride Kills, Black Congress and Peloton, before Sunday's show welcomes acts like The Last Starfighter, Pbearadactyl (sic) and Safe Haven.
But it wouldn't be a benefit without eats from some of Houston's delicious food trucks, as well as a silent auction, where benefit-goers can bid on things like Fun Fun Fun Fest passes, local artwork, salon gift certificates and more.
Each show will cost $10 for entry, and 100 percent of the proceeds from both tickets and the silent auction will go towards paying for Robinson's medical needs.
"I think Pam has done as much for Houston's music community as anybody," says Jeoaf Johnson, guitarist and singer for Knights of the Fire Kingdom, and former member of Walter's on Washington/Fat Cat's staff. "She's been tirelessly helping the local scene for years by giving bands a chance that wouldn't otherwise have a venue to play at.
"Beyond that, she's always been so gracious about working with outside promoters who brought national bands to town at a time when that element was so desperately needed to revitalize the scene here," Johnson adds. "Now, it's better than ever, and Pam helped that happen."
And Robinson certainly hasn't lost that passion or drive.
On top of fighting her own battle with that positivity that only she could muster, Robinson is still involved in Walters even if she "can't hang out long," and will return to the venue in full force once her treatment is done.
"I plan on kicking its ass," she says. "But there's also a project I wanna work on when I get out -- bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. It's $50,000 for a bag of chemo!"
Still, Robinson says that she she's supported and she's "gonna get through this" with the support from her community.
"My hair hasn't fallen out, but I don't care if it does," jokes Robinson. "But I told my doctor, the only thing that bothers me is that I came in with a pain in my back and I still have it."
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