Never Mind Arcade Fire: Bands Who Fit Other Houston 'Burbs
Gabriel Jones/Merge Records
Tonight's the night. Win and Will Butler of conquering indie heroes Arcade Fire finally return to the town that indirectly won them a Grammy, The Woodlands.
On last year's The Suburbs, the Butlers and their Canadian compatriots reflected on the brothers' restless Montgomery County days in songs such as "The Suburbs," "The Suburbs (Continued)," "Month of May," and "Sprawl (Mountains Beyond Mountains)," and were rewarded with the biggest Album of the Year upset since Herbie Hancock beat out Amy Winehouse and Kanye West in... 2008.
Although they seem to be still in touch with at least a few people from back home, such as Pale singer Calvin Stanley, the Butlers have been pretty mum about their Woodlands beginnings since claiming to have "fled Texas" in the liner notes of the album that started it all, 2004's Funeral. Their almost-interview with Rocks Off's predecessor John Nova Lomax before the band's previous Houston-area show, January 2005 at
Pearl Bar Mary Jane's Fat Cat, is a Houston Press classic.
Since then, Arcade Fire has shunned Texas outright except for ACLs 2005 and '07 (and now the past five days), while becoming one of the biggest bands in the world. The Woodlands has kept right on sprawling, while curiously neglecting to erect a statue in the Butler brothers' honor. At Dallas' Gexa Energy Pavilion last Saturday, Win told the crowd he thinks Houston is "depressing." Should be an interesting evening.
Rocks Off Sr., ourselves a more or less proud son of Friendswood, asked our staff to reflect on their own suburban origins and come up with an artist or band they felt best exemplified their own upbringings. Turns out Arcade Fire let The Woodlands off easy.
Why? Because this band reminds of every bad thing that happened in Pearland while I was growing up. And also because the band reminds me of everything I love the town for to this day. Disgraced cheerleaders, bad cocaine, misguided tattoos, rich kids, gross bars, hot wings, huge trucks, small minds, great Mexican food, bastard children, drunk drivers, and that was just 2007.
Also, come on, "Lit Up" is kind of a jam even today.
JEF WITH ONE F
Suburb: Jacinto City
What band and album could sum up the East Houston suburb I spent my formative years incarcerated in? Nickelback. Only Nickelback. Chad Kroeger and Co. have written exactly one decent song in their entire career. That song is the 2000 single "Leader of Men," a song that should've warned us all. In it, they blatantly tell us that forging a trail of their own is too hard, and they'll be content to be stuck forever. Whenever I drive through the bit of I-10 between the East Loop and the East Beltway, I always have the feeling that I am somehow going down a steep valley, and that the only was to escape is to speed as fast as possible to maintain escape velocity. All but a small, hardy handful of the people I grew up with there have let their orbits slowly decay until they are once again stuck back in Jake City. Only the acme of mediocrity that is Nickelback could do my hometown justice. The apathy towards learning in "Photograph," the pot-soaked pseudo-spirituality of "If Everyone Cared," the brutish lust of "Animals"... if they could harness all of these concepts to the casual, lazy racism and petty violence that peppered the air with impotent small-arms fire on Saturday nights then Jacinto City would be done perfect justice.
I've lived in the Suburbs all my life, and I've always resented it.
Driving is such a drag, especially in a city like Houston. Nonetheless, I still feel that I've been able to enjoy this city to the fullest. And to be honest, I don't have it half as bad as my friends who live in Kingwood, Texas City and The Woodlands... You know what? Now that I think about it, Meyerland isn't all that bad.
Now, If someone were to write an album about my neck of the woods, I would assume they would talk about the city, its bright lights in the not-too-far-off distance and nightly shenanigans being just out of reach. In high school, at least, that's how I always felt - as though there was so much going on, but I wasn't a part of it.
When I visited the Montrose area, the Heights and Downtown, I just felt like a stranger. In hindsight, it's probably because I was out of my comfort zone and didn't know how to deal with it.
Woe is me.
Marilyn Manson and Eminem come to mind, since they're both so famous for being societal outcasts. But Manson's a little too morbid, and Eminem is just too... well, angry. Maybe in high school, I would have loved him to write a song about my neighborhood, but now I'm thinking, "Dude, calm down. Lots of old folks live in these parts, and if it's past 9 p.m., you'll probably wake them. So chill."
So yeah. Scratch that.
Truth be told, as much as I truly do like music, it would just be nice to hear Houston name-dropped in more genres of music. Hell, don't we have a Katy Perry somewhere in this city? If so, she's probably hiding.
And now that I think about it, Just Out of Reach could work as an album name. I'll get to work on the music. Feel free to give me pointers.
Suburb: Moore, Okla.
Artist: The Flaming Lips
Not because they represent Oklahoma per se, but they exactly illustrate the kind of internal life a bored weird kid with little artistic stimulation in Oklahoma has to come up with on his or her own. And just like The Lips, that bored kid gets shunned all his or her life until finally someone in the state decides they're famous enough to merit attention.
Oklahoma is scrambling all over itself to name streets, state songs and other honoraries after that band when 15 years ago the only thing the radio stations would play was their novelty hit.
Suburb: Sugar Land
Artist: Heidi Montag
When I was growing up in Sugar Land, my mom, brother and I lived in a modest one-story house in a modest neighborhood. There was no mall, no movie theater, only a Randall's and Los Tios.
By the time I was in high school, there was a mall and movie theater, plus a Botox clinic, and a "Town Center." It wasn't until then that I noticed the frozen-faced titterati driving Bentleys and pretty much controlling everything taking place at my school and in the 'burbs.
By the way: Peace to you, Mommy, for staying trill. Love you.
My artist for Sugar Land is Heidi Montag. She pretty much encapsulates everything that Sugar Land wants to represent. There was a time when Heidi was normal-maaaybe. However, now she has the means to make a shitload of money off of her appearance alone; she doesn't need to have any substance or culture inside of her plastic shell.
Her last album was appropriately titled Superficial-she resembles the majority of the moms who run the 'burbs: They're in their 40's and they look younger and healthier than me.
ARCADE FIRE SET LIST
The Backyard, Austin/Bee Caves, TX, May 3, 2011
Month of May Rebellion (Lies) Neighborhood #2 (Laika) Haiti City With No Children Rococo Intervention The Suburbs The Suburbs (Continued) Suburban War Keep the Car Running No Cars Go Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) We Used To Wait Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Ready To Start Wake Up Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Note: Unlike most bands, Arcade Fire's Austin set list is significantly different from the group's two previous shows in Dallas and Memphis.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.