Houston's Recent Onslaught of Sold-Out Shows: What's Up With That?
The xx at House of Blues in February is but one of the dozens of sold-out shows Houston has already seen this year.
Photo by Julian Bajsel
Regular concertgoers in Houston have probably noticed more sold-out shows in the area over the past year. Just a few years ago, sellouts were generally reserved for the biggest marquee acts at Toyota Center, Bayou Music Center, and Reliant Stadium's RodeoHouston shows.
These days, though, it seems every giant hip-hop or indie show is selling out within a few days of the on-sale date. Nearly every big traveling Fitzgerald's indie show has sold out recently, most notably Tame Impala, Local Natives, Toro Y Moi and Alt-J the past few weeks. The April 26 Atlas Genius show has been sold out for weeks.
Other smaller acts have stirred up sellouts too. Those mentioned above are now what you would call festival bands at this point in their development. Even former club acts such as Muse, who played Toyota Center last week, are now arena bands.
Photo by Craig Hlavaty
Just a year ago, a band like fun. could play Warehouse Live to a decent crowd in the studio room. Earlier this week, fun. announced an October 6 Woodlands date after the band's successful Valentine's Day Bayou Music Center show, and will more than likely play both weekends of the Austin City Limits Music Festival this fall.
BuzzFest at the Woodlands is always a sellout one way or another, naturally. Other Buzz bands that do brisk business include Cage the Elephant and AWOLnation.
Warehouse Live and House of Blues both hosted sold-out Kendrick Lamar appearances late last year.
Mike Meegz with the Scoremore group has brought Lamar and a host of other hip-hop and electronic shows to Houston and Austin. He thinks that the tides are changing in terms of paying for the privilege of seeing live music.
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"Outlets such as iTunes and Spotify have made it 'cool' again to pay for music, or a subscription to a music service," he says.
Meegz adds that another important part of this boom is that some EDM artists will release music for free, and in exchange ask for fans to attend their shows and purchase merch while they're there.
"I feel this has set a standard for shows to be the revenue stream for artists instead of the record companies," he adds.
EDM shows always do big business in Houston, as you have no doubt noticed by our coverage here. Acts like Skrillex, Girl Talk, Major Lazer, Dillon Francis and Porter Robinson have all been hot tickets.
Porter Robinson at Stereo Live in January
Photo by Amanda J. Cain
Houston Press web editor Cory Garcia sees Robinson as a potential breakout EDM artist in the next year, pointing to a particularly hectic Stereo Live show in January. According to to press materials, that venue holds approximately 1,500 people.
Add to this the fact that EDM acts are offering a spectacle for young fans that mainstream rockers are not. Millennials love to fucking dance.
Warehouse Live's Ashly Montgomery has seen plenty of sellouts too, most notably Every Time I Die, Tegan and Sara and Silverstein. Most of the metalcore shows geared to mosh-happy teens are filled to the gills, she adds.
An upcoming Rodriguez show on May 5 is a good sellout candidate too. Between the Oscar win and the crowd at the Bronze Peacock gig last fall, Warehouse Live will benefit from the Sugarman's return to town.
Of course business is always brisk at Fitzgerald's in the Heights, with Pegstar bringing in burgeoning acts on the cusp of mainstream success almost weekly. Pegstar's Jason Petzold rattles off a large list of bands who have packed both floors of the venue that reads like 2013 who's who.
He reminds everyone to buy tickets in advance at the Fitz box office, the venue Web site, Cactus Music, Soundwaves, and the Pegstar site whenever a show is announced. Waiting only brings you tears and last-minute wrangling.
The House of Blues has been no slouch either, with Flogging Molly, The xx, Imagine Dragons, and YouTube sensation Lindsey Stirling selling out the main room, according to tweets from the venue's Twitter feed. (HOB representatives declined to comment for this article.)
Most shows selling out are what could be termed as cuddy indie-pop of the dancier variety. Prices aren't going down it seems either, with most of the Fitz shows topping out at around $25 after fees. Live Nation fare is pricier, obviously.
On the other hand, a few months back a Guided By Voices gig at Warehouse Live was canceled for what was rumored to be low ticket sales. One would think that they would be a hot-ticket item, but alas they were not. However, some older-skewing acts such as Eric Clapton and B.B. King have also drawn sellout or near-sellout crowds.
Is the average Houston indie-rock consumer so young now that he or she doesn't know who GBV is? Possibly. Shows from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Swans had a great turnout despite the artists' relatively boutique appeal.
I did overhear one young fan that night at JSBX say that it was his first club show, though, so the future is wide open.
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