Noise has spent the past four columns looking backwards and frankly, our neck is a little sore. With a new year and a new decade (cue Nina Simone's "Feeling Good"), it's high time we started looking ahead.
We asked a few of our friends, probably the people in Houston who spend as much time thinking about music as we do, to answer the simple (or not-so-simple) question, "What would you like to see happen for, or to, the local music scene in 2010?" But first Noise has a few of our own.
1. PLEASE stop talking at shows. Noise is not sure how many times we're going to have to say this, but we'll wager this isn't the last time. Actually, if you have the good sense to be reading this column in the first place, you probably also have the good sense to shut the hell up when someone you just paid between 10 and 50 bucks (or even more) to see is performing. So tell your friends. You might also want to let them know that if they absolutely have to communicate at such a time, there's this nifty thing called text-messaging, and it works especially well when you've been drinking. Trust us.
Houston music scene 2010
2. Go ahead and move already, Walter's. We're not really sure what the holdup here is, but the sooner Walter's vacates the land of popped collars and vulture-like tow-truck drivers, the better. Especially since what we've heard about the new, larger venue sounds super-sweet, not to mention a lot easier to get to from the MetroRail.
3. A new sound system at Fitzgerald's. Ever since Los Skarnales singer Felipe Galvan took over the booking at the venerable Heights music hall a few months back, Fitz's bill of fare has improved dramatically. Unfortunately, the muddy, borderline intolerable sound quality upstairs hasn't. We're not saying this is the only place in town plagued by subpar sound — cough, Warehouse Live — but a new PA system could instantly give Houston that elusive 400-600-capacity room a lot of people around here have been hoping for.
4. A new and improved Hands Up Houston. Noise is very proud of the progress our music blog Rocks Off has made in the past year, and continues to make, but until we get some new software that allows us to incorporate forums and message boards onto the site, we still rely on Hands Up as the Inner Loop music scene's main grapevine of information and gossip. Lately, though, it seems like it's becoming a bit of an online ghost town. Noise suspects a lot of ex-Hands Uppers have gravitated to Twitter with the rest of humanity, but with almost 1,400 followers and counting — please add us at www.twitter.com/hprocksoff — our Twitter page gets a little cluttered sometimes.
5. Someone start a Houston-based booking agency. With quite a few local bands ready to take that step into the great wide open (see below),we really need someone who can point them in the proper direction.
That's what we came up with. Now here's what our friends around the scene had to say...
Omar Afra, editor/publisher, Free Press Houston/owner, Mango's: "How about a city ordinance that protects music venues from egregious noise complaints? Someone can't move next door to a railroad track and start complaining about the noise. Then why a music venue? Is music not as necessary for a good standard of life as a train? For me it is. Additionally, property developers who build new homes (see: stucco townhomes) near loud noises like trains, music venues or factories should be required to adequately insulate for sound. The Houston music scene is a gem that needs the protections cities like Austin offer. (Fuck Austin.)"
Quinn Bishop, owner, Cactus Music: "Howzabout more records and CDs from local acts to document our fertile local scene?"
Jim "Eggs" Bricker, Breakfast on Tour: As an avid music fan who travels to see music quite a bit, I would love to see more Houston bands on tour. Some bands have already started to do so, but if we are to make a name for our scene outside Houston city limits, our bands have to play elsewhere. That, and we need to get Mayor Annise Parker to help revive the Westheimer Street Festival in all its closed-street glory."
Jay Crossley, guitar/vocals, Woozyhelmet: "I hope the music scene works with Mayor Parker to develop win-win solutions for noise, parking and supporting the arts equitably. Our youth culture is blossoming, and how the city makes a series of decisions will largely impact the strength and benefits of the future scene. Getting this wrong will drastically impact our economic development efforts in 20 years. By treating the local music scene as an asset and venues, promoters and musicians as partners, Houston could realize its potential as a leaner, deeper music city compared to that college town with that party every March."
Andrew Dansby, entertainment columnist, Houston Chronicle: "This is such an unquantifiable thing to hope for, but I suppose the music biz is mostly voodoo anyway. If it were math, we'd all be rich (well, not me). Anyway, I'd really like to see a regional sustainability and growth for some of our great local bands outside of town. Sure, a shout-out from Rolling Stone or Pitchfork would be nifty, but also fleeting. I'd rather see some bands get some traction in Austin and Dallas and then along I-10, and then northward (I hear Birmingham is hopping). Can we create some sort of exchange program with other cities with strong grass-roots scenes like Baltimore? Baltimore, are you in? Hello, Cleveland?"
Anna Garza, founder, Girls Rock Camp Houston: "2010 is my call to arms for all ladies, women and girls to join forces and organize an infiltration/takeover of the Houston music scene. This town is in dire need of a more visible presence of females onstage screaming into microphones, unleashing eardrum-bursting feedback and distortion on guitars and beating the crap out of the drums. Wouldn't it be nice to see ladies working behind the soundboard, too? Hey girls, forget about rocking your boys. Gather all your best girlfriends, form a band, write some songs, play lots of shows and get wild, wild, wild. In 2010, nothing can stop us now."
Craig Hlavaty, Assistant Music Editor, Houston Press: "For all these amazing bands in town to document and record the music that they are continuously blowing us away with. Rock and roll is a highway strewn with bands that never put down on tape what they did, meaning that their legacies are, in essence, lost. We know it isn't cheap to log studio time, but these guys and gals have to find a way to get this dynamite clamor on record, be it with an MP3, cassette tape, compact disc or shiny piece of vinyl. Oh, and everyone needs to not choke, punch or kick people at concerts."
Ramon "LP4" Medina, vocals/guitar, Linus Pauling Quartet/writer, Free Press Houston/29-95.com: "For Annise Parker to make good on her promise to work with organizers of the Westheimer Block Party. With her help, the block party can expand to a street festival and at the same time address the concerns of the community — a win-win for everyone. This biannual event has turned into one of the best events to showcase local and regional talent, and for it to die would be a huge blow to local artists."
Brittanie Shey, writer, Houston Press/29-95.com: "I am really excited about Summer Fest this year, since I had to choose last year between a free trip to Sweden or attending Summer Fest. I understand it drew a lot of people from Austin and surrounding states, which goes a long way toward giving people the impression that Houston is a landmark city in terms of music. If we can't have the Block Party, at least we have Summer Fest. My only request would be: Why in the hell does it have to be in the dead of August?"
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Matthew Wettergreen, owner, Caroline Collective/DJ, KTRU's "Revelry Report": "With so many stellar local albums released last year, it's only fitting that this year be the one in which some of our most popular acts start hitting the road regularly, building on their local popularity, showcasing what Houston has taught them and why the national musical ecosystem should annex Houston's talent. Venues could do their part by starting to enforce non-compete clauses, restricting popular bands from overplaying their audience. Bands could enlist the community's support as long as they are open and transparent about their goals for a musical career. Tying it all together would be Houston's government taking measures to stop a musical brain-drain by offering artist support in the form of increased resources, visibility and, finally, musician grants."
Dan Workman, owner/engineer, SugarHill Studios: "I'd like to see a bit of diversity show up in our local music scene, mimicking the European model of placing radically different acts together to create an editorial synergy between the fans and music. I once saw Joe Ely open for The Clash. At first, The Clash fans didn't get him at all, but by the end of the third song, Ely owned that audience. In Amsterdam, [my band] Culturcide played a show where a bebop jazz trio opened for Bad Brains, and we closed. The same audience stayed for the entire show. That blew my mind."
Noise would love to hear our readers' thoughts on this subject as well. Drop us a line.