I'm a Believer...

I love hate mail (with all this practice, how could I not?), but in the week or so since my article on Pink Floyd came out in this paper, I've had to explain to too damn many people that no, I'm not the Antichrist, that yes, the article reflects only one person's experience, and that no, you shouldn't take the damned thing (the band, what I happen to think of the band) so friggin' seriously. Fielded one late-night home phone call from a disgruntled reader who concluded by asking, in what sounded to me like a sniper's voice, if I was going to be at the show. Don't know what buttons I pushed, but the call tweaked me so bad I changed my number the next day. No, it's not listed. Call the office.

But I more or less expected to get raked for that one. After all, the Floyd's following is too huge -- and hugely fervent -- to settle for anything other than fawning. What I didn't expect was that I'd get a phone call the Thursday following the show from the Floyd's people at Columbia. Seems bandleader David Gilmour had picked up a copy of the Press in the lobby of his Four Seasons digs, read it, brought it to the attention of Columbia and the band's manager, and requested that they find out what I thought -- after having seen the Rice Stadium show -- of the band now.

Well hell, what can you say? My own Floyd fantasies, and associated disappointments, remain intact, but I went to the show looking for the state of the art in stadium spectacles and left happy as a dead, umm, pig in the, umm, sunshine. Given the almost insurmountable strikes against the band coming in (no discernible post-Waters musical direction, sub-par new material, astronomical fan expectations, pissy critics), I'd say the Floyd put on the best of all possible shows. The sound was extraordinary. The set selection struck a considerate balance between new and classic. And the laser show, inflated pigs and high-tech lighting design of the stage itself were enough to keep anyone happy through the worst kind of dreck -- never mind that the musicianship throughout was superb. When the band kicked into "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and a cold wind blew through the stadium, I wasn't the only one who felt the chill (and I don't think I was the only one who looked over my shoulder, half expecting to see some giant Floyd-operated wind machine at my back).

I'm not sure what they do in the rest of the world, but here in Houston we're not in the habit of staying in our open-air seats for anyone -- even a band we once worshipped -- when a cold, drenching rain comes pouring down. But an awful lot of us, myself included, did just that. Good money for good product is what I always say, and Floyd at Rice was the best stadium value I've seen, even if God hadn't pitched in with the crowd-pleasing lightning. And if it sounds like I'm eating my own words, well, maybe just a few of 'em. I spent one paragraph expecting a disappointing show, and on that count I plead guilty to faulty prediction. So call me a pessimist. Just call me a pessimist satisfied.

Moving on to more pressing (local) matters... Show of the week may well turn out to be the Bash the Blockade shindig at Toad's Saturday night. Members of de Schmog and the Presidents converge for a one-time-only jam to start off, followed by Kasama, Dinosaur Salad, the Afro-Cuban Drum Ensemble, Dune, Happy Fingers Institute, Ethnic Rain, The Suspects, Constant Buzz and the Presidents. This one's billed as "benefiting a humanitarian aid caravan that challenges the U.S. embargo ... banned by the U.S.A.," so dance your heart out, but don't let any men in shiny black shoes take your picture.

Elsewhere, Toy Subs brings it back inside the Loop for a Thursday night show at Fitzgerald's on the 14th. Noodle and Sugar Shack share a bill at Rudyard's on the 15th, Blueprint's at Zelda's, Dixie Waste plays the Abyss, and Humungus and Cross Eyed Agnes share a stage at Laveau's. They aren't from Houston, but you should try to catch Austin's Sincola when they open for Milk and Run Westy Run at Harvey's, also Friday. The band handed over a copy of its eponymous Rise Records CD debut last I saw 'em at Fitz, and it's a keeper. Saturday night, it's de Schmog at Rudz and Vice Grip and Dead End at Escondido (whose management desperately wants you to know that, rumors to the contrary, they remain open). Sprawl, in what if rumor is true will be its final Houston performance (at least with guitarist Joey Salinas, who recently flew the coop), plays Fitz, also on the 16th, and Willis, featuring this city's most noxiously accurate send-up of glam-rock costuming, opens for Daddy Longhead at the Abyss. And if that's not enough for you, head back to Harvey's Saturday night for The Mike Gunn's record release party for Almaron (Double Nought). They're playing with Dallas' Lithium Christmas, who are selling their new Helldorado, and local noise upstarts Linus.


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