Earlier this week, as Rocks Off reported, Free Press Summer Fest partners Omar Afra and Jagi Katial bought Fitzgerald's from the historic Heights venue's longtime owner Sara Fitzgerald. This is exciting news for many fans and local musicians, but some are worried about the nightclub's possible change in direction.
"Omar Afra and camp are making smart moves," says Otenki lead guitarist and backup vocalist Fausto Padilla, saying Houston's music scene needs a good backbone like Afra.
"With Summer Fest and more venues that are open to new music and underground sounds, we may have a shot of this city becoming a new music hub," Padilla adds. "I think if they remember to treat the artists with respect and take care of them, he can take the competition. After playing all the big venues here in town, I actually am looking forward to a breath of refreshed air."
But other local artists are hesitant to endorse the club's changing hands until it plays out a bit.
"This is the place where I popped my stage cherry," says local rapper Kyle Hubbard. "I just hope it still provides a stage for younger and newer cats to get some stage experience under their belt."
The Last Place You Look's Justin Nava is wary, too. He feels that his band's genre of music is overlooked by the likes of Afra and crew.
"Bands like us have not been negatively affected by FPH but altogether ignored," Nava says. "I hope that the doors stay open to us and bands like us who have history there, but it won't surprise me if a club we have packed regularly no longer returns our calls."
"[I mean] no disrespect to Omar or Jagi, both of whom I have been acquainted with for years [and] are nothing but polite and cordial people," Nava adds. "I just have seen where their tastes and strengths for music booking and promoting lie and it just doesn't seem to be [with] bands like us."
"But I think the indie scene has definitely outgrown the Montrose venues, and I hope to see it thrive at Fitzgerald's," says Nava, who is also happy that the doors of a Houston musical icon of more than 30 years will stay open.
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"Overall, I think some great things for music will happen," Nava says. "[It's] just a little bittersweet that my band and brethren bands may be left out of it."
Rocks Off Sr. spoke with Afra earlier Thursday, and he seemed to confirm what Nava and others already suspect. Los Skarnales and 30FootFall are still welcome at Fitz's, he says, but without naming other names, it looks like most of the club's current regulars might want to start making other plans.
"There will be a fundamental sea change in the type of bands and attendance at Fitz," Afra says. "Sorry, guys. Scout Bar's still open."
Afra says he is planning to release the first list of upcoming shows since buying the club in about ten days to two weeks.