HPMA 2016 Spotlight: Best Fan
Before she was tragically killed by a hit-and-run driver in June, Paige Balinski (far right) was the biggest supporter Houston musicians could have hoped to find.
Photo courtesy of Dave Tama
When the Chicago Cubs won the World Series two weeks ago, it would have been unfortunate had no one attended a victory parade 110 years in the making (millions poured into the Windy City's streets for the Cubbies). When Donald Trump won the presidency last week (sorry, but it did happen), he would have looked like a huuuge loser had no red-cap-wearing supporters been there for his victory speech. What monumental feat is complete without fans?
Houston’s music scene has proven itself a ticker-tape-worthy winner. Day For Night was just proclaimed one of the world’s top music festivals and globetrotter Anthony Bourdain recently visited to talk SLAB culture with Slim Thug. All the attention may be helping bands in this strong, diverse music community gain some new fans...who are already late to the party. The ones who earned HPMA 2016 nods for Best Fan have long touted their favorites, unconditionally and sometimes vehemently. No matter which is voted to an award win, every band in the region owes these folks a debt of gratitude for their pride in and promotion of the city’s music offerings.
Balinksi’s nomination is posthumous. The Crosby-area 23-year-old was struck by a hit-and-run driver while riding her bicycle in June. She died days later, but not before her wishes to serve as an organ donor were honored. Her passing sent friends, particularly in the punk community, into a tailspin but started the conversation of what an avid Houston music fan she was. She wasn't a musician or a journalist like many of her fellow nominees. She simply enjoyed the thrill of live music and she sought out those thrilling moments with regularity. At the time, her friend Dave Tama gave Houston Press some insight on what local music meant to Balinski:
I, being the lover of music I am, would always ask all of my friends to go to shows, and none of them were ever down as much as Paige was. She loved the music for what it was and always supported the scene with all of her heart,” Tama said. “I know this because we'd spend countless hours just driving around listening to various Houston artists before the shows we would attend. We knew every lyric to our favorite bands and would always be front and center when they played. Nothing else in the world matters when you are watching musical artists live that you love, and she understood that to the fullest.
Broussard described himself as “a music dork” for a Rocks Off 100 piece back in 2013. His work is definitely the delight of music dorks across the city. His Blues In Hi-Fi program airs Mondays at 6 p.m. on 90.1 KPFT. He possesses a massive record collection, which he shares with fellow Houstonians at special events and, more recently, on his new podcast called A Day in the Life. Broussard noted in the podcast’s first episode that its origins were rooted in wanting to write an autobiographical book that melded with his love of music. The result is now 26 broadcasts strong and remains true to the initial idea, with Broussard waxing philosophical on subjects like family and why acts of kindness and love should always prevail, all set to the music that has helped fashion his unique, music-centric perspectives. As Houston Press music editor Chris Gray wrote earlier this year, “Broussard has the instincts and the library on hand to create segues that retrospectively seem like they were always waiting to pop into existence, mixing the familiar with the obscure with more skill than most commercial-radio programmers could hope to muster.”
Houston Whatever Fest's fans in action
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.
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Garrick is a little like that commentator on your favorite sports-talk show, the one who knows every statistic and player profile by heart, sports almanac be damned. Only Garrick’s sport (besides skateboarding) is music. As a Free Press Houston music writer, he’s able to share a vast background in the industry with readers, one which includes stints as a musician, in advertising, in radio and now covering the city’s music beat for FPH. He’s lived in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, all big-time music markets, and believes Houston’s scene is as strong as those.
“It doesn’t get better unless people know about it,” he once told Dead Dialect Podcast, explaining the simple theory behind his devotion to Houston music. His Best of the Week blog is required reading and lists dozens of shows worth attending. And, if you take him up on any of those shows, you’ll probably see him because he literally walks the walk, frequently taking in several shows in a single night. Yes, he is a music-business professional who draws a paycheck from these endeavors, but anyone who’s spent some time talking with Garrick knows his devotion to Houston music and its makers comes from fandom first and business second.
Hart built one of the city’s most important music-oriented Web sites, Space City Rock, back when you had to endure the bleeps and bloops of dial-up modems to get to the good stuff. When he started the e-zine in 1995, its purpose was to introduce readers to local acts that deserved their attention. While the site has grown to include a listing of upcoming shows, a regularly updated “H-town Mixtape,” and a healthy selection of features and reviews, the intent hasn’t changed. With only a few exceptions, the focus remains squarely on Houston music. From his years at Rice University writing music articles and deejaying for KTRU, Hart got to know the players in the scene and became a key figure along the way. He appreciates the music, but as he told Houston Press last year, you forge bonds with people in the scene when you’re around them so much.
“It's beautiful to me that I can soon take my daughter to see The Last Place You Look or introduce my kids to the Jealous Creatures folks," Hart said. "They'll make the connection that these are actual people making music that they're listening to and love, and they're right there in front of them, in real life. That's a cool thing."
Artwork Courtesy of DonKee Boy
Before he took on the role of social-media manager for The Suffers, Jackson got to know Houston’s best-loved acts the old-fashioned way, by attending shows, hearing the music and meeting the people who made it. Those encounters were frequently captured in words and images the writer/photographer pieced together for his own blog, listenyoungman. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Billboard and on Buzzfeed, to name a few. He’s described as a “music evangelist” on his author page at Bearded Gentlemen Music, where he continues covering Houston music with a passion reserved for fire-and-brimstone preachers. Lest anyone see the local scene as anything less than “awesome” — as at least one Houston Press writer recently learned first-hand — Jackson will take to the pulpit, denouncing the heathen’s words with a list of links to the city's best acts, all strung together like convincing books in a bible for any non-believers.
A peek at Wylie Lechoir’s Facebook page — which is apparently as open, inviting and funny as its namesake — is enough to convince spying strangers that this nomination is spot-on. For starters, there’s the Music section, where Lechoir has curated a gallery of some of this area’s best acts. Here, the Monets aren’t segregated from the Picassos; every artist is thrown together in a sprawling, adoring collection. The Ancient Gods share space with Children of Pop while The Guillotines hang near Dollie Barnes and Jon Black. Some local music fests don’t have this much across-the-board diversity.
But, the former Doomsday Wrestling champion known as Lil Dickens is also the best kind of Houston music cheerleader, one with a sense of humor and flair. For instance, when Vodi headlined a chili cook-off at Ladybird’s earlier this year, Lechoir promoted the band as “one of the best new bands in the world right now” (As for the food, Lechoir simply wrote, “CHILI!” because, really, what more needs to be said about chili?) There are lots of posts like this, with Lechoir inviting anyone who can read them to join along at this show or that, all are welcomed, everyone's a friend. That’s the kind of hospitality you find only in Houston music fans.
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