Reflections '95... Now that I'm a five-month veteran of the Houston scene, I feel that maybe I have the minimum experience required to mouth off a little; perhaps in a year, I'll mouth off a bit more. So, as we usher in 1996, I hold these bounded musical truths to be self-evident -- or, at the very least, readily apparent. Who knows? This time next year, things might be different.
*"Scene" is a term so generic at this point that you might as well slap it on a label for supermarket-brand creamed corn. And Houston doesn't have a "scene" anyway.
*This city has a surplus of talent. It's just locating it on a consistent basis that can be perplexing.
*With a few Richmond Strip exceptions, such as the Magnolia and Billy Blues, most decent live music can still be found inside the Loop.
*The Fabulous Satellite Lounge is booking the best selection of out-of-town talent. Now, if they could only insulate those chilly cement walls and get the mix right.
*Band members who play together don't necessarily stay together. RIP: Spridle, Wishbone Bush, Banana Blender Surprise (maybe), S.W.A.G., Planet Shock!, Bleachbath.
*Band members who play together don't necessarily stay together; but sometimes they reconcile. Back from the dead: Moobar, Crazykilledmingus, Tardy Boys, Manhole.
*Ovations is not the only great jazz venue in town -- as was so eloquently pointed out to me in a correspondence a few months back from Cezanne.
*The climate inside the Abyss and Fitzgerald's is just as stifling in December as it is in August.
*Miss Molly says she did not -- as rumored -- crack another woman over the head with a beer bottle in the Rockefeller's restroom at last year's Houston Press Music Awards.
*Urban Art Bar owner Skip Rudsenske used to have more hair and less worries, but his last name has always been a nightmare for journalists.
*Houston -- home to Rap-A-Lot and Suave records, as well as a few smaller rap labels -- has become a mini gangsta-rap empire, its hotbed of creativity peaking in '95 with a pair of powerful, unflinching takes on ghetto life: Bushwick Bill's Phantom of the Rapra and the 5th Ward Boyz's Rated G.
*There are other indie labels in Houston producing relevant music, most notably the hard-core/thrash-punk oriented Fuzzgun, Broken Note and Sound Virus labels.
*Trish Murphy is doing just fine without that Darin fellow hanging around, thank you. But does anybody know of a good guitarist/backup singer/fiddle player available to work nights?
*Most Dallas bands hate playing Houston. Could it be the humidity?
*Unfortunately for us, Dallas' Deep Ellum is home to some of the best new bands in the state, including the Toadies and Spot.
*The stretch of Washington Avenue between Mary Jane's and Rockefeller's ain't no Magic Kingdom. The last time I checked, Mickey Mouse wasn't mugging pedestrians for a living. Walking to clubs anywhere in Houston is not advised.
*My picks for the best Houston releases of '95 cover an impressive amount of stylistic territory: country/roots rock (Jesse Dayton's Raisin' Cain); blues rock (Carolyn Wonderland and the Imperial Monkeys' Play with Matches); jazz (David Caseres' Innermost); modern rock (Clover's Jessica EP and the Surrealtors' No More Milk); folk-pop (Trish Murphy's Driving Home); and metal-edged punk (30footFALL's self-titled debut). If Houston is really the city of second-rate imitators that some outsiders claim it is, these acts have certainly outgrown their influences.
Springsteen's Texas... With such a subdued outing as Bruce Springsteen's new The Ghost of Tom Joad, it's nice to have a few local references to keep things interesting. Toward the end of Joad's rather lifeless acoustic experiment, Springsteen follows his Woody Guthrie fixation to Seabrook, where, in "Galveston Bay," a Vietnamese shrimper's livelihood is threatened when the "Texas Klan" comes to burn his boat. While defending his vessel, the shrimper guns down two of the perpetrators. A trial ensues, and he's acquitted. The song ends with the shrimper going about his life, while a vengeful Vietnam vet waits in the shadows with murder on his mind. Sound familiar? A Springsteen spokesperson denies "Galveston Bay" is based on any one incident, but it's pretty obvious that the Boss borrowed liberally from several years of well-publicized racial tensions in a handful of small Gulf Coast fishing villages, including Seabrook.
Trouble began when Vietnamese refugees began migrating to East Texas after the war, and hostilities reached a boiling point in the early '80s when the Ku Klux Klan got involved. Several Vietnamese shrimp boats were burned, and an American fisherman was murdered in Seadrift by two Vietnamese shrimpers (the subject of the 1985 film Alamo Bay). As in Springsteen's "Galveston Bay," a trial resulted in an acquittal, but unlike the song's open-ended finish, reality brought some degree of resolution to the problem. A U.S. district court's restraining order against the Klan pretty much quelled the violence. Guess Springsteen isn't one for happy endings. -- Hobart Rowland
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