Is Parkway punk dead? For now, it appears that punk's presence around Allen Parkway Village will vanish along with most of the Houston housing project. Over the last year, the APV Room, located in the Allen Parkway Village Community Center, became the unlikely weekend host to some noisy, fairly high caliber hard-core entertainment. But with the razing of the project's apartments comes the sad realization that the APV Room's days as a hip alt-rock venue may be over for good. The punk shows began in spring 1995, took a break for winter, then started up again this March before the city shut down the operation on June 9, the Sunday before the rest of Allen Parkway Village was vacated. The concerts were overseen by a loose structure of volunteers with support from the Allen Parkway Village residents council, which received any profits the shows made. Featured acts ran the gamut, from Celindine, Blueprint and other local groups to touring bands such as Decay, Inquisition, Suppression and Propagandi.
"At that Propagandi show, the residents probably got about $1,500 out of it, and that was after we paid the band $1,000," says Eddie Johnston, a volunteer with Friends in Defense of Allen Parkway Village who helped organize the events. "That was our most successful concert. The kids loved those guys."
Why punk bands? Johnston -- who also helped book an occasional jazz, blues and Latino band at the APV Room -- says it had to do with the punks' self-starting, D.I.Y. attitude. "These kids have got their own scene together; they've got their own P.A. We just had to open the place up for them," says Johnston, who adds that local musicians handled most of the booking chores -- even when it came to finding out-of-state acts. "They knew what they were getting into. They were ready to do the work."
Between the residents helping out with concessions and crowd control, the bands writhing around on-stage and the youngsters moshing in packs in front, the APV Room scene was unique, to say the least. "Sometimes, you'd have parents dropping their kids off, and there would be 15-year-olds walking around with Mohawks," recalls Johnston. "I'd be telling the parents, 'Don't worry, this is a great place.' "
Now that Allen Parkway Village is sealed off indefinitely, Johnston is searching for a venue to accommodate the shows that were scheduled (a little too optimistically) for the APV Room well into the summer. So far, it looks like the Commerce Street Arts Warehouse may be the best bet.
In the meantime, Johnston and his fellow APV volunteers are working to get the APV Room back. "I think the chances are pretty good. There's no reason to tear it down," he says. "We'll get it back, and after that, it's just a matter of opening up the gates and letting the people in."
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Raves and wave-offs... There goes Ezra Charles again, motoring down the same well-maintained road he's been traveling for what seems -- to any Houstonian with an eye on the nightclub circuit -- like the dawn of time. Their desire to entertain overshadowing all else, Charles and the Works are nothing if not reliable in that department -- bland and uninspired, maybe, but reliable. On the new ten-song Drive Time, Ezra's boogie-woogie piano leaps and bounds its way through formula rock and soul, as it always has; the brass sparkles and projects without being intrusive, as it always has; and Charles' singing lacks conviction, as it always has. Drive Time may come closer to capturing that vintage, cologned-over Ezra sweat than last year's Modern Years, but all in all, nothing much has changed, including Charles' derivative originals. It's the same old, same old, which should be fine with Charles' long-time fans. But for the rest of us -- yawn.
Department of clarification... Last week, in our story about Waylon Jennings' recent Justice Records release Right for the Time, Jennings was quoted as saying that Justice owner Randall Jamail didn't like giving his new artist creative control, even though he eventually did. After reading that, Jamail called us up to make sure we understood that what Jennings was talking about was the normal creative struggle that takes place in the studio between a producer and a strong-willed performer, and not about any conflict that took place when Jennings was signing with Justice. From the moment he first approached Jennings, Jamail notes, the agreement was that the Nashville renegade would have the final say concerning his music. It was the guarantee of artistic freedom, he adds, that lured Jennings away from the majors. Actually, our writer, Jim Sherman, knew that, and was trying to convey just such a notion in his story. If the message wasn't perfectly clear then, it should be now.
Etc.... Houston's Orphans will perform at the Urban Art Bar Friday to celebrate the release their new 15-song CD, Homecoming, a feisty debut that admirably straddles the Wilco-ish line between the new and the familiar. His finger-style guitar method recalling Leo Kottke and Michael Hedges, Richard Johnson holds a workshop Saturday afternoon at the Guitar Gallery of Houston. Adding an electric guitar to the lineup, Acoustic Alchemy (Nick Webb and Greg Carmichael) performs Thursday at Rockefeller's.
-- Hobart Rowland