The Rocks Off 100: Dwight Taylor Lee, the Wandering Bufalero
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.
Photo by Jim Bricker
Who Are You? "I'm Dwight Taylor Lee, singer/songwriter/producer," Lee introduces himself. "Member of Lazlo (RIP), then The Literary Greats and Finnegan, currently Don't Poke the Bear." He also lists "The Wandering Bufaleros," which our editor originally thought was a typo. Make sure you read until the very end.
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I'm a native Houstonian," he explains. "I went to Sharpstown High School and the University of Houston. I have lived elsewhere, but Houston has always been home to me.
"I think there are a lot of opportunities here and I prefer to be plugged into the cultural growth of a city, rather than move to a place where that growth is established," Lee continues. "Why be part of a tourist city when you can be part of making a city tourist-worthy? This city has so much to offer besides art. Now is the time to get plugged in."
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Lee didn't just give us one home base, he mapped out his entire nightlife:
Bars: Double Trouble is my favorite right now and the people that work there are great. I followed the Robins from Poison Girl and I couldn't be happier for them.
Food: Tacos A Go Go, 1308 Cantina, Revival Market (really, anything Adam Dorris is involved in), and of course Pass & Provisions.
Music Venue: Continental Club and Fitz are both local institutions. I hope to see more clubs this size pop up in the next couple of years.
Top 5 Desert Island Discs
"I can't decide on the order," Lee admits.
- Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin III
- Robert Johnson, The Complete Recordings
- Ryan Adams, Cold Roses
- Stevie Wonder, Songs In the Key of Life
- The Beatles, The White Album, "but it might actually be Dr. Dog's Fate. This is a tough question."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Passive or insecure interactions," Lee says. "Not that I haven't been guilty of this myself, but sometimes it's a lot easier to be onstage with a microphone in your hand than it is to see other artists at the grocery store, to stop and have a normal conversation with them.
"Sometimes acquaintance interactions are strange," he adds. "I used to take it personally but then I realized, I just don't care."
Good War Story:
Two gig-related war stories come to mind for Lee:
"One was a friendly fire accident," he says. "Years ago I played in a band called Lazlo. We were a bit more aggressive than what I'm doing now."
During the last song, I jumped off the drum riser just as my bass player was turning around and caught the bass's headstock square on the nose. We finished, screaming, with blood gushing and people in shock. Luckily, it was the last song, I went backstage and set it. It's actually straighter now than it was before.
The other one was with the same band at AvantGarden, when it was actually Helios. We started playing our set to a full room expecting a good night when someone started dancing upfront like a wild man. It seemed way over the top and by the third song, it was a distraction.
I could tell the crowd thought it was annoying. We didn't do anything until the guy got onstage and started bumping into the gear and rubbing on my leg. I was singing and reached one arm back, grabbed a hand full of dreads and threw him off stage into some tables. As he tried to get back up, our bass player put his foot on his butt and pushed him back down.
We didn't miss a beat, the crowd loved it, and the guy went and sat down at the bar for the rest of the show. We chalked it up to just being another anything-goes night at Helios.
Best Show You Have Ever Been a Part of or Seen: "The best big show I've been to is a tie between Arcade Fire at ACL in 2007 or Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band at what was the Summit back when. Both spanned the spectrum of being very intimate at times and then larger than life at others.
"The Arcade Fire show was borderline spiritual," he adds. "There was a connectivity in the atmosphere. I've only ever felt that onstage while playing with Finnegan. That group of people and the music has something in it that tugs at the heartstrings."
What do you have planned for 2013, and what are you looking forward to? Lee practically tells us another war story. "Two thousand eleven was packed with record releases and touring with Literary Greats' Black Blizzard and the Finnegan record, both getting great radio play and licensing and whatnot."
Then in 2012, Darin and Ginny from Finnegan had a baby, Sara Van Buskirk had a baby, Brandon Elam just had a second kid, and Russ and Andie -- also from Finnegan -- got married.
All my bandmates were creating and doing great things, it just wasn't recording and playing shows. So I spent my time writing, playing solo shows and putting together a project called The Wandering Bufaleros.
The Wandering Bufaleros is sort of a Houston experiment. Songwriters submit songs that are recorded by other Houston musicians. When we play shows, the band members change, even though we play the same songs. We are currently tracking a record which will hopefully be out in early 2013.
"Also, with the downtime, my brother and I have put in the legwork on opening up a bar in the Heights," Lee concludes. "We are very close to signing a lease and if so, it will be open hopefully by mid-'13. Of course, it will feature local talent of all kinds."
See who else has joined The Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.