For what seems like months now, Rocks Off has been seeing emails and posts about Team Houston, Ford Fiesta, Backseat Jukeboxes, and the battle of the bands this Saturday at Warehouse Live. To clear up any confusion, Rocks Off recently asked local photographer and music lover Mark C. Austin what it's all about and why you should go. Rocks Off: I have been hearing a lot about Team Houston and the events you have been throwing recently. What exactly is the Fiesta Movement and how did you get involved? Mark C. Austin: Fiesta Movement is a nationwide competition that includes 20 teams of 2 individuals aimed at showcasing their particular city and generating buzz around the upcoming launch of the Ford Fiesta this summer. Amber Roussel and I are "Team Houston." We are competing against every other major market, and the team that does the best job of showcasing their city through four unique creative missions will win two 2011 Ford Fiestas. Although the cars are nice, we are not in this to win cars. We want people to see and hear about how awesome Houston artists, musicians, attractions and businesses are in comparison to these other cities. So, to further show our commitment to this cause, we committed to donating one of the cars to a local nonprofit called Noah's Kitchen if we win, and we are currently in the lead. Noah's Kitchen is basically a local "meals on wheels" that prepares and delivers food to Houston's homeless population. Donating a car or anything is not a requirement to participate in the Fiesta Movement. It's just something that Amber and I decided early on. In fact, we are the only team of all 20 who have pledged a car to charity. Besides, who really needs two Ford Fiestas? RO: The battle of the bands is at Warehouse Live this Saturday. How did the bands get to this point in the competition?
MCA: For Mission No. 2, we were asked to identify one band in Houston and throw a concert to promote the Fiesta Movement. The team that scores the most points by way of RSVPs, text-in codes, and Foursquare check-ins wins and their band will get to play the Ford stage at Bonnaroo in June. Collectively, Amber and I are friends/fans of many local bands in Houston, so we knew off the jump that we wouldn't be able to honestly pick just one band to give this opportunity to. So, we chose to have a Battle of the Bands and open up the nominations to all Houston bands. We had quite a few apply. We supplied the information of the nominees to a panel of local music professionals and asked that they independently judge those nominees and through a scoring process pick the top bands to be finalists and get the chance to play in the Battle, plus there was a guaranteed fan pick. Our judges are Gina Miller (SugarHill Studios), Andrew Green (Dote School of Music/ShowMetheStage.com), Joey Guerra (Houston Chronicle/29-95.com) and Jason Price (Rise Up Agency). The bands that were selected to play the show are Black Queen Speaks (fan pick), Peekaboo Theory, Robert Ellis & the Boys, The Tontons, Tyagaraja, VerseCity and Wayside Drive. RO: Wait, the winner gets a chance to play on a side stage at Bonnaroo? MCA: We aren't sure of the stage or the time slot this band will get. Ford is a headline sponsor of Bonnaroo, so we are hoping for a really good opportunity for our winner, should Team Houston win. Amber and I both photograph on assignment at Bonnaroo, so we are pumped to be there should a Houston band get this opportunity. Bonnaroo is easily the biggest festival in America, and I've never seen a stage there that wasn't packed with people regardless of the location or time slot, so this could be a very big opportunity for one lucky (and well-deserving) Houston band. The winner also gets a prize package that includes free photography sessions, recording time from the Dote School of Music and a side stage spot at Sam Houston Racepark "The Showgrounds" before a national touring act. RO: Last thing I heard, the team in Dallas was beating Houston as far as RSVPs for its battle of the bands. How can Rocks Off readers keep that from happening? It's just an RSVP, right - or is that just part of it? MCA: You are correct. It's a very, very close race right now. Team Houston won the first mission of the Fiesta Movement, so we are even more determined to win this one, too. Here are the ways that Rocks Off readers can help us win Mission No. 2 and send a Houston band to play Bonnaroo:
- First, RSVP (plus three) to the Battle. Even if you are unsure if you can make the event, please RSVP. Each RSVP is a vote for Houston and the event is "first come, first serve," so we are encouraging people to come out early.
- Then, text "rockstar" to 44144. Normal text rates apply and there is no need to opt in further or text multiple times. Your unique text casts a vote for Team Houston and our bands.
- Finally, tell everyone on planet Earth you know. Hit up Twitter, Facebook, you name it. We need your support.
Also, be sure to sign-up for Foursquare before heading to the event. There will be a specific Foursquare location set up for the event and we are going to ask that people check-in to that location. Each unique check-in that night will be worth a vote.
RO: You're a big supporter of local music. How has your perception of local bands changed since you've been involved in the music scene? MCA: Absolutely. I moved to Houston 10 years ago and spent all of my extra money seeing bands like Dave Matthews and the Red Hot Chili Peppers every time they came to town, and I'd drop tons of cash to get out to these shows. About five or six years ago, a friend convinced me to go to Numbers to catch a couple of local bands. One of them was Million Year Dance. I couldn't believe that there was actually local music that sounded that good. I was completely blown away and hooked at the same time. So, I started exploring other local music. I remember seeing Tody Castillo and Arthur Yoria at The Proletariat, mostly because the Houston Press had written so favorably of their performances. After that, I started going to all local all the time. I'd much rather spend $6 to see Fat Tony and B L A C K I E at Mango's than $40 plus fees to see some national touring act play at a bigger venue and that will probably never come play Houston again. The level of talent is this town is remarkable, and that's why I'm so pumped about this chance for one of these bands to be seen by potentially thousands of festival goers at Bonnaroo. These bands deserve this chance. I'm proud of our music scene. I don't think another city can touch Houston.
RO: Those "Backseat Jukebox" videos are stellar and are a good way to help spread the word about Houston musicians. Any plans to continue doing that after this competition ends? MCA: Thank you, thank you, thank you. I absolutely love these videos. I've had this idea for a long time. When this car thing fell into our laps, it was the first idea that came to mind. I'm just hoping that these participating bands are getting some national viewership because of it. There is a consultant working with Ford that is a music manager/producer and he's commented about how much he likes them as well, and some might also be featured on CurrentTV soon. I totally have plans to keep doing this and possibly expand it a bit. As soon as we get to take a deep breath from all of this, we are going to ramp it up a bit. We've shot Buxton, Tyagaraja, Fat Tony, Benjamin Wesley and Wayside Drive. We've already got commitments from Robert Ellis, Lee Alexander, sIngs, Melissa Savcic, JohnQuintin, Kenneth Scott and Pete from Springfield Riots. If you know any local bands that are interested in taping one, please let us know.
RO: So there's seven bands and an after-party that features B L A C K I E. How much is this going to cost us? MCA: It's totally free. All you have to do is RSVP at our Web site. Be sure to max out the RSVP plus 3, as each counts as two votes for us to win this thing. [Ed. Note: By this math, more than 1,500 people have already RSVP'd, so get there early].
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RO: I read that there's also a VIP for $10 - What's the catch? MCA: We do have a VIP lounge set up to help raise some money for Noah's Kitchen. The cost is $10 to get in. All $10 goes to Noah's Kitchen. The lounge includes lots of cool stuff. Free Saint Arnold's beer, food from Raising Cane's Sugar Land, desserts from Dessert Gallery, refreshments from VitaminWater, a commerative poster print by local artist Jason McElweenie aka "DeneyTerrio", fun door prizes, a silent auction including music memorabilia, and exclusive bar/lounge access. While the event itself is "first come, first serve," VIP ticket holders will be guaranteed access and advance to the front of the line upon entry.
RO: Name your current five favorite local musicians/bands. MCA: Man, that's like picking my favorite child or five kids or whatever. I'm going to lose some friends over this, but here goes, in no particular order: Robert Ellis: I listen to The Great Rearranger more times a week than I care to admit. As I type this I'm listening to his Daytrotter session that just came out. Amazing stuff. Dude is super talented. Buxton: We've had more people tell us they are now a fan because of that BackSeat Jukebox video. That makes me so happy to hear. They are recording at Sugarhill right now with John, who is a pure pimp. Dude has put out some of my favorite local stuff. listenlisten: HUGE listenlisten fan. Those guys make some of the most complex and original sounding stuff I've ever heard. It's like a circus in my ears to listen to their stuff. In all honesty, it also scares this crap out of me. I tell Ben Godfrey all the time that I don't like listening to it alone. Super spooky and beautifully depressing. Tyagaraja: I've been a fan of Jon and Million Year Dance for many years. Vocally, he's unmatched in my book. I always compare him to Freddie Mercury and Jeff Buckley. And many other local musicians will tell you the same thing, which is impressive. I've heard some of his demos from his upcoming album and they are going to make big waves in the scene when its released this summer. Peekaboo Theory: I've been listening to their last album for a while and it only gets better. And their live show eclipses the energy you hear. Go catch them live and you'll agree with me. Also, go see Little Joe Washington, Come See My Dead Person, Runaway Sun and Andrew Karnavas, Wild Moccasins, Kenneth Scott, Benjamin Wesley, Springfield Riots and Young Girls, Black Queen Speaks, VERSECITY, Southern Backtones, B L A C K I E, Chase Hamblin, News on the March, Grandfather Child, Arthur Yoria, The Tontons, Nick Gaitan/Umbrella Man, Fat Tony, Wayside Drive and Young Mammals...lots of great music. Team Houston's Battle of the Bands is Saturday at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483 or www.warehouselive.com. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the music begins at 7. RSVP here.