Only in Houston
Last week Free Press Summer Fest announced most of the artists who will play its fifth edition, scheduled for June 1 and 2 at Eleanor Tinsley Park near downtown. At the top of the heap are punk godfathers Iggy Pop & the Stooges and reunited electro-pop swooners The Postal Service, followed by EDM artists Bassnectar and Calvin Harris, indie-rock chanteuse Cat Power, Brit-rockers Arctic Monkeys, Houston rap legends the Geto Boys and Devin the Dude, dreadlocked rapper 2 Chainz, R&B/gospel grande dame Mavis Staples and alternative-soul groups Grace Potter & the Nocturnals and Alabama Shakes.
Several Houston acts will be joining them, including many FPSF first-timers: the Beans, Black Market Syndicate, Infinite Apaches, Orents Stirner, Otenki, Mikey & the Drags, Uzoy, The Niceguys, Midnight Norma Lane, Nick Greer & the G's and Rivers, as well as local veterans A Sea Es, Young Mammals, American Fangs and DJ Sun. More artists will be announced in the coming weeks, festival officials have said.
FPSF is promising a third main stage this year and a banquet of offerings from some of Houston's finest eateries, and is seeking artists to create large-scale installations. Tickets are on sale now.
Since the lineup (thus far) was posted late February 27, our blog was retweeted more than 150 times and drew more than 30 comments, including the following:
H_e_x: "Huzzah Uzoy and DJ Sun, not so sure on Kitty Pryde and Macklemore. I say replace Pryde with some other, you know, real act. Anything, like Weird Al."
Nosa Edebor: " I hope Iggy Pop doesn't melt in the Houston sun. I'm pretty sure he's like 93 percent action figure."
Judith Cruz Villareal: "Good lineup, but still too hot for me to attempt. They should make a Free Press Fall Fest!"
Casey Sloop: "I want to go to there! But my lily-white skin quietly tells me, 'Calm down, you'd burst into flames in that sun.'"
Cyndi Garcia Villegas: "FPSF had me at Paul Banks."
Booger Boogerson: "Too bad it's usually hot as balls."
Shannon Whitlock: "Well, I guess I'm going to have to get over my irrational fear of heatstroke and go check this thing out."
What's in a Name?
The weatherbeaten Westheimer club has a silvery past.
Jef with One F
One thing has always bothered me whenever I attend concerts and dance nights at Numbers, and that is, "Why the hell is it called Numbers, anyway?" Now, I know that I have something of a fixation on the meaning of names within the Houston music scene, but I've also had several readers ask me to look into it over the years.
Well, I finally did so, and what I got back was something strange and wonderful to behold. The source of this information wished to remain anonymous so as not to reveal his or her age, but was vouched for by Numbers owner Robert Burtenshaw.
Dad, why is Numbers called Numbers?
"Well, son, the building at 300 Westheimer was not originally called Numbers. It had a few names. The building actually opened in 1975 as The Million Dollar City Dump, a dinner theater where people could see Las Vegas-style shows. In 1978, during the disco rage, it was turned into Numbers. The word 'numbers' at that time referred to someone who was a cute guy or girl. Like, 'That's a cute number.'
"You see, son, back before cell phones, people would exchange home phone numbers and write them down on what were called 'trick cards.' Then there was the silver wallpaper."
Silver wallpaper, dad? What silver wallpaper?
"Yep, silver wallpaper. The upstairs bar and balcony, during The Million Dollar City Dump days, was originally an office that had solid walls. The windows were put in to open the space and so people could look down on the dance floor. The wall was sort of blank-looking, so it needed something to make it look cool.
"While shopping, someone found some silver wallpaper with numbers printed all over it, thinking that the silver paper was flashy and cool. The silver wallpaper became a symbol of the club, because if you were looking down on the dancing crowd, you were searching for a 'number,' and if you were on the dance floor and looking up, then you were looking at..."
Wow, dad. I get it. You were looking up at NUMBERS.
"Right, son. So there you have the story. It's too bad that the silver numbers wallpaper, along with a lot of other things, got painted over with black. The paper may be painted over, but the numbers are still there in spirit."
Dad, then why does the sign in front of Numbers say "#'s 2"?
"Well, son, that is a story that has two parts. In 1980, Numbers was at the top of its game. It was doing great, but some of the people involved as investors felt it could do more and there was a disagreement.
"A few of the parties involved thought it best to step away and let the others, who thought they knew better, take over the club.
"The parties who stepped away went on to work on other projects and take comfortable vacations in what was then a new vacation spot in Mexico called Cancún. That was in May of 1980. By August, the managing group that thought they could do a 'better job' had run the club into the ground. They didn't pay a lot of bills.
"That managing group in control of the club decided to throw a theme party, not knowing the power would be turned off because of non-payment. The theme was Gone with the Wind. On the Friday night of the party, the managing group went into the club and there was no power. Numbers One was truly gone with the wind.
"The group that stepped away came back and started to redo the club in August of that year and reopened the club as the 'infamous' Babylon on December 8, 1980. That was the same day we lost John Lennon."
What a story, dad!
I know, son. No matter what, 300 Westheimer will always be Numbers, where all kinds of people mix: debutantes to factory workers, truck drivers to drag queens. Son, if the world were like Numbers, there would be no war."
Dad, when I'm old enough, can I hang at Numbers?
"I promise, son, I will take you there for your first concert just like my dad, your grandfather, took me. I promise."
Macklemore of "Thrift Shop" is a savvy businessman, just not an especially good rapper.
When I first heard about Macklemore, it was through the word of mouth surrounding the craze over his video "Thrift Shop," his No. 1 song with producer/collaborator Ryan Lewis. Memes make stars these days, and the song about wearing clothes from Goodwill (plus its kitschy, comedic video) really struck a chord with my young, hipster peers.
I was finally forced to listen to the damn song, just to understand what everybody was freaking out about, and in doing so, I stumbled upon a terrible secret Macklemore and his partner in crime Lewis have been hiding from all my friends and erstwhile hipsters around the world: He's not really that good.
I know, this revelation will come as a surprise to a lot of people who are really into what this guy does, but I'm going to have to put paid to that idea. It's okay if you like his music. Music is subjective, and I'm not here to say that your taste is, or even can be, wrong. But even if you like what he does, you can't possibly think this guy is actually a good rapper.
He's not even a rapper. He's a gimmick. He's in tune enough with pop culture and hipsters to understand what to rap about in order to catch people's interest; that much is true. But Macklemore isn't talented; he's smart. He's not an artist; he's a businessman.
He's latched onto a brilliant marketing scheme that literally anyone could think of if he or she tried hard enough: use clichéd indie hip-hop to talk about the things people want to hear about and can relate to in some generalized way. It's so obvious, yet so few people want to do it.
So why don't more people do what Macklemore is doing? For the sake of their art. Some people want to be artists and create something that matters to them, something that is inspired and has some kind of integrity.
Macklemore is not interested in that. He's interested in latching onto fads to make money. If this were the 1980s, "Thrift Shop" would have just had a whole lot of references to parachute pants and spiked leather jackets.
But "Thrift Shop" isn't all Macklemore is about. Let's be fair to the guy: He's also about serious business. After calling his integrity into question on Facebook, I was introduced to some of his very, very melodramatic work talking about the very, very serious subject of drug addiction.
The problem here is that this song, "Otherside," is also extremely calculated. From his heartstring-tugging minor chords on piano and choral backing vocals, to the part in the chorus where the music fades and it's just his broken voice, Macklemore takes all the tropes of indie hip-hop and mixes them in with modern indie-rock clichés to make the sappiest "my life is so hard" song in ages.
But forgive me for not buying it. The dichotomy makes it too unbelievable. Jumping fences between this and a song like "Thrift Shop" just shows the bare-bones mathematics behind these songs: It's designed to grab your attention and draw you in with something familiar and simple, with easy emotions that we've all felt before.
Since this blog was posted February 27, it has drawn more than 15 comments, including the following:
joshechols: "Finally forced yourself to listen to the No. 1 song on the radio? Then whine about it being 'hipster'? Wow, now that's hipster!"
April Dupree: "Is this what people said about Eminem? Not comparing the two, but almost every lead single from an Eminem album until now has been a 'comedic song' and people look up to him like a hip-hop god."
Wendy Browne: "UGH. I hate that song and how 94.5 keeps fucking playing it. Damn my Jeep for not having an iPod adapter!"
Ask Willie D
Can our columnist talk some sense into a reader with too many women in his life?
Dear Willie D:
My wife becomes really negative when I talk on the phone with other girls, especially when I talk with my ex-girlfriend. My ex-girlfriend and I still love each other, not in the romantic sense but as true good friends.
I tried to convince my wife that my ex-girlfriend and I are just friends, but she does not want to listen. She just wants me to stop my involvement with her completely, but this is not what I want to do. Please help me to resolve this situation.
Monkey in the Middle
I can tell you from experience, if you want to keep your wife happy, you better cut off all communications with your ex ASAP, unless of course a child is involved — which I assume isn't the case, since you didn't mention one.
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Cutting off your ex is easier said than done. If there were reconciliation and you learned to be friends and love each other again, albeit platonically. You can't blame your wife for being suspicious. You and your ex were attracted to each other once, so who's to say it won't happen again? How would you feel if the shoe were on the other foot?
I don't think you're going to be able to give up your friendship with your ex. So you have to ask yourself: What's more important, the relationship you share with your old girlfriend or the one you have with your wife?
Your honest answer to that question and subsequent actions may prevent you from being crushed by that rock and a hard place.
Ask Willie D anything at askwillied.com, and see Rocks Off Thursday mornings for more of his best answers.