While the sun may be finally out and blue skies grace us again, all is not well throughout the Bayou City. As people across Houston attempt to dry out, assess damage and rethink what it means to live in a floodplain, one thing is for sure: Natural disasters are a great equalizer. No matter your race, gender or income level, it seems every Houstonian was either affected by Monday’s downpour or knows someone who was.
Even some local Houston musicians felt the brunt of Mother Nature’s damaging wrath when at least a foot of water submerged Francisco Studios North off Little York and Beltway 8. Several local bands are facing thousands upon thousands of dollars in lost equipment, space and irreplaceable rare items.
“At first we weren’t concerned," says Todd Longenecker, bass player for Rev Skelton, of the heavy rains. "We had never heard of [Francisco’s] flooding.” Not until Longenecker went to check for himself did he realize there was plenty to worry about.
"Nothing but bad news…the water crested inside the studio at 13 inches," says Rev Skelton's lead singer, Kevin Admire, of Longenecker’s initial texts to the band assessing the damage. "What you see in the pictures is four inches. So, we were pretty much devastated.”
While Rev Skelton lost plenty of equipment, drummer Craig LeMay lost more than just practice pieces. The drum set pictured was a rare and exceptional piece of equipment. Admire explained the kit was built by Alex Van Halen’s personal drum technician, John Douglas.
Admire estimates the band’s collective losses at somewhere around $10K.
Word got out quickly, and many bands who share practice space at Francisco North learned they were also affected. Jeff Dees, manager of Hold On Hollywood, estimates his bands are dealing with losses into the thousands of dollars. When asked if any of his bands carried insurance, he admitted he had only considered a personal policy against theft.
“We just didn’t think about it flooding out here,” says Dees.
Longenecker and Admire echo Dees's sentiment.
“You don’t think about these things until they happen.” Longenecker admits.
We spoke with an insurance-industry insider who asked to remain anonymous, and were told each insurance case varies. If Francisco’s did carry flood insurance, it certainly would have covered the building and the damage.
A personal renter’s policy could have covered the musicians’ equipment if the policy included damage by flood. While the federal government insists on flood insurance in certain regions, it is not required in this case, nor does Texas require businesses like Francisco’s to carry flood insurance.
We wanted to know exactly what kind of insurance Francisco Studios did have. Longenecker says he spoke to the building's caretaker on Monday and was told, “We don’t have flood insurance; no one can afford it.”
Unfortunately, our calls and messages to Francisco’s went unanswered at the time of this article.
When asked if the renter’s lease at Francisco Studios included a renter’s insurance agreement or rider, Dees indicated the relationship between landlord and renter was much more casual. “We never signed any lease agreement," he says. "We paid rent and were given access to the room. The owner has always been very cool to us. We have no complaints against him.”
Dees went on to say that Francisco’s agreed to refund this month’s rental payment and would be repairing the rehearsal rooms so they could be used in the future.
If there was ever a time for the Houston music community to come together, it's now. Upon hearing about the devastation and loss of equipment, BFE Rock Club owner Frank Aluotto reached out to Dees with the offer of a benefit show at the venue, tentatively scheduled for June 11.
“He called me up and said, ‘How’s it looking, man? What can I do to help?’ He’s always been real supportive of the musicians out here [in the scene].”
The benefit will feature a range of local acts who will play to raise money for lost equipment and other flood victims. Longenecker expressed concern for other Houstonians who lost far more than amps, drums and guitars.
“I'm thinking of giving all the money we make from our show to the flood victims of Houston," he says.
Rev Skelton is considering giving their portion of the total proceeds to the Houston chapter of the Red Cross, adds Longenecker.
After speaking with Dees and the other band members, it was not surprising to hear these men put the needs of others before their own. Asked if the bands had yet started an account for donations to replace their lost equipment through GoFundMe or similar crowdfunding sites, Dees was adamant that wouldn’t happen.
“I would not be comfortable with that," he says. "I mean, a benefit where people can come out, you know, come together like a community, I could see that.”
These men recoiled at the thought of asking for money, perceiving it as akin to a handout. Dees absolutely refused to consider any outright fundraising. “We were hit hard, no doubt, especially Hold On Hollywood, but we will recover,” he says.
That recovery can’t come soon enough, as two of the bands have committed to shows this weekend: Rev Skelton plays BFE Rock Club Saturday night, and Hold On Hollywood plays Scout Bar the same evening. When asked what equipment the bands will perform with, Admire praised the local music community for the offers of loaned equipment and practice space.
“Right now we’re getting a lot of help from a lot of people," he says. "The guys from Theory of Thieves, some tribute bands, Escape. The rock and roll community of Houston is really stepping up. What we can’t replace or have repaired by then will be on loan.”
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Admire reflects on his losses but also his gains.
“We were almost not going to play [this Saturday’s show]," he says. "But when so many people came forward to help, we just said, ‘We’re not gonna let this bring us down.'"
"Fuck the flood.’”