The Rocks Off 100: Tobin Harvell, Fitzgerald's Unflappable Floor Manager
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. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
If you spend any time at Fitzgerald's, you have most likely met or at least seen Tobin Harvell, who works at the venue, mainly keeping doors locked, gates closed, and making sure we are all on our best, reasonable behavior at shows.
For this edition of the Rocks Off 100, I reached out to Harvell, who has some amazing stories of his time here on Earth. Next time you're at Fitz, shake his hand and say hello, and bask in his wisdom.
Who? "Tobin Harvell, 62, if anybody cares..." he says.
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Home Base: "Fitzgerald's, the oldest live music venue in Houston, and possibly in the state," Harvell says. "Discounting the age of the buildings, as a continuously operating live-music venue, we are two years older than Gruene Hall. I know, I couldn't believe it either."
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "I'm a fifth-generation Houstonian, and I returned to my origins after retiring from SBC, where I worked for 30 years out in North Texas," he says. "A large extended family in the area keeps me grounded too."
Good War Story: "We were having a Sunday-evening show, a battle of the bands showcase, not a competition, but a showcase of past finalists," begins Harvell. "We probably had six to eight bands performing, mostly younger bands, which brings parents, relatives, schoolmates, siblings, even grandparents."
The third band into the show is a punk band that does their big hit single, "Asshole," and [the singer] proceeds to drop trou and and spread 'em wide as they mimic singing the song from their one brown eye.
I tell Lauren [Oakes, Fitz sound engineer] to cut the PA, which she has already done. I direct the band to exit, but they ignore my wishes, as any good punk band would do, and they play on.
I then proceed across [the] stage, unplugging equipment as I go. Madness and mayhem follows as we removed the band from the building. Fortunately for us, the other bands jumped right in to assist and help restore order.
The young man's parents, siblings, and grandmother were unable to calm him down, even as they drove away, cursing and flailing his arms through the sun roof of his dad's Escalade.
Punk rock will never die.
Five Desert Island Discs:
- A complete Beatles compilation
- Simon and Garfunkel, Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits
- Stevie Ray Vaughan, "a 'Live At Fitz' [bootleg] recording, just for ol' times sake too."
- Carole King, Tapestry
- "It's a tie for fifth": Jackson Browne, Late For The Sky and The Alan Parsons Project, Tales of Mystery and Imagination
Music Scene Pet Peeve"I don't like loud talkers during a show, especially those nice acoustic ones that people pay big bucks to see and hear," he says. "Some can be persuaded to conform to the standard and allow others to enjoy the show, and some will voluntarily step outside to the porch, while others have have been asked to leave the premises entirely.
"That's right, [I] kicked them outta Fitz for being 'too loud,'" Harvell adds.
Best Show You Ever Saw? "It was July 28, 1974 at Jeppesen Stadium on the University of Houston campus," Harvell says. "The Youngbloods, The Beach Boys, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. It was about 120 degrees that July afternoon, on AstroTurf, with no containers allowed."
See who else has joined The Rocks Off 100 this year on the next page.
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