New blood... "What do you know about this guy? The whole thing sounds a little shady."
So went the gist of a recent phone conversation with a local music insider regarding a mysterious newcomer named Anthony Jackson. Judging from those suspicions and others, the local scene is a little on edge when it comes to the former San Francisco advertising agent, who has swooped into Houston and made himself conspicuous around the city's more established nightclubs.
Naturally, Jackson has a plan to rescue the Houston music scene from its doldrums -- and to pad his own wallet, in the process. His vehicle is Rockin Texas Style, a weekly TV showcase for local artists performing live at local venues.
Bluntly put, big-talking Jackson is more businessman than music fan, and it requires only the slightest prodding for him to cut to the chase. "Don't get me wrong, I love to see a band make it, but I'm in this for the money," says Jackson, owner and CEO of the newly established Jackson Marketing. "Where I'm from, they've got shows on cable access that look network quality, so I had to choose another city. Basically, I knew that Texas has a lot of large cities, and Houston is one of them. That's how I chose it; it's very simple."
Jackson's half-hour program is slated to air in the wee hours of Sunday morning (1:40 to 2:10 a.m.) on Channel 11 beginning July 4. Right now, Jackson is busy rounding up warm bodies and sponsorship for a proper Texas Style debut, which, barring unforeseen snags, will be shot on location at Instant Karma Sunday night. The public is invited, and a cover will be charged. "We control the venue; they get the bar, we get the door," Jackson explains.
His people will tape entire sets by the three artists scheduled to play, as well as interviews with the band members. For the final show, he will use approximately five minutes of live music per act, interspersing interview clips throughout the program.
By his own account, Jackson has already secured one of the maiden show's three acts -- Lavendula -- and two of its trio of hosts. For the third, Jackson says he'd love to land one of the DJs from recently defunct radio station The Planet.
As for nailing down top-dollar advertisers, Jackson says that ought to be no sweat. "We'll run ten minutes of commercials," he says. "I'm going after Camel, and of course I'm going after the beer companies. This is perfect for them."
As for the music, Jackson isn't all that interested in promoting Houston's remarkable diversity. "From a business standpoint, rap and rhythm and blues would not work for the simple fact that the clubs that book bands book live performances of rock bands," he says. "And to be honest with you, I hate rap music."
Also out are classic rock, rockabilly and country. "I always joke that I don't like rednecks -- which I don't, but that's beside the point. But the real reason is that classic rock and rockabilly have a strong tendency to be close to country, and I don't want to get into that debate."
Over the next few weeks, Jackson plans to continue holding auditions for bands and models to fill Rockin Texas Style's weekly talent quota. The next audition is Thursday at Live Bait, a locale that will also be featured in a taping later this month.
To his skeptics, Jackson responds: "If you don't want to be involved, don't be involved."
Talk about baiting.
Xceptional showing... OrchestraX's John Axelrod has every right to be relieved. It's not that his budding alterna-classical enterprise finished its first season in the black so much as that OrchestraX even lived to see its first anniversary at all.
"Overall, it was far beyond my expectations," says the conductor. "I recall the conductor of the Houston Symphony saying to me, 'There are plenty of people who zoom into town and have all these dreams and ambitions of starting an ensemble, and it folds before it finishes its first season.' Well, we didn't."
Granted, the audience numbers are modest by major city orchestra standards. On average, OrchestraX drew a few hundred people per event, most by way of single ticket sales. In fact, the organization has only about 60 subscribers. Audiences seemed pleased by some performances (the ensemble's up-close-and-personal interpretation of the classic opera La Boheme), but less than thrilled by some offerings (the disappointing turnout for the season-ending, three-day X Mix Dance Festival). Yet the public's response was consistent enough to keep OrchestraX coasting along. And it can only be a plus that Axelrod has generated loads of publicity -- good, bad and indifferent.
At the moment, he and his staff are planning what should prove to be an equally unconventional sophomore season for their interactive, Gen-X-leaning ensemble. Events will include the multimedia gala "Movies, Music and Masquerade," a rendition of Carmen that ought to be considerably different from the flashy, high-tech extravaganza just undertaken by the Houston Grand Opera, and a tribute to George Gershwin and Duke Ellington dubbed "Rhythm and Swing."
-- Hobart Rowland
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