They came, they spun, they all kicked ass, but in the end, there could be only one winner of the Houston Press/South Beach Ultra DJ spin-off, and that was Andy Champa Moore.
Let's review the basics: Over the past few weeks, we asked Houston's house DJ community to send in their music, and the community responded. We received dozens of entries, from which Press staffer and house fanatic Michael Serazio and I selected the nine best -- those of Mr Bristle, DJ Alex C, DJ Madd Maria, Blaine Hummel, Andrew Lawrence, DJ Cubanito, Little Martin, Moore and Henry Chow. This talented nonet got to spin at South Beach last Sunday, where they played sharp, super-short, 15-minute sets. They were judged on crowd reaction, physical presentation, track selection and mixing skills by a panel consisting of Serazio and I; local DJs Gracie Chavez, Randall Jones and Sean Carnahan; and New York-based DJ Steve Porter, who had played the night before with Carnahan and Jones at the Gatsby.
The first hour of the competition -- during which Mr Bristle, Alex C and Madd Maria spun -- was marred by fits and starts and the fact that it was a little too early in the evening and the crowds had yet to show in the huge numbers -- about 800 or so -- that would come later. Nevertheless, Alex C and Mr Bristle provided some early highlights. "It was cool to finally see him on a big system and a big stage," said Carnahan. "I thought he had the best presentation of anybody," said Chavez. "He was really into it in the booth." Porter, the New York DJ, liked the aggressiveness of his beats. "He was really high-energy and he had a good plan." Porter also dug Mr. Bristle. "It was unfortunate that there were so few people in the club when he played," he said. "It was really funky, interesting stuff. I think I had him second or third on my ballot." Of Madd Maria, Porter spoke for much of the panel when he said that more work is needed. "She needs more gloss," he said. "There were some pseudo train wrecks in there. The beat-matching skills aren't there yet."
Blaine Hummel kicked off the second hour with an excellent set that raised the bar high for the next five DJs. "Blaine picked the perfect music for the room," said Chavez. "It was really disco-y. The floor filled and pretty much stayed that way after his set." Andrew Lawrence followed with disco-infused electro styles. "He has a lot of potential," said Carnahan. Next, a huge intro -- including recordings of NASA guys talking to astronauts -- ushered in a set of somewhat minimalist Latin house courtesy of DJ Cubanito. "He was my second-place guy," said Carnahan. "He was rockin' it up there, but it was all one style." "He knows how to rock a dance floor and I could see him going over real well in New York," said Porter. "My problem was that he kind of leveled off, kind of flat-lined."
Little Martin filled the seventh hole with one of the most memorable moments of the evening -- a set-closing Nirvana/Destiny's Child mash-up. "I really liked it," said Porter. "And whatever you thought about it, you had to admit it was the ballsiest maneuver of the evening." Next came Champa, who quite simply tore the roof off the place. Now, those of you in the DJ community would assume that Carnahan would go to bat for his DJ partner and longtime buddy, but Carnahan wasn't the only one knocked out by Moore's set. I was astounded by his masterful buildup to a salsa-based crescendo, and so was Chavez. "That was the best I've ever seen him," she said. "The sun, moon and stars all aligned for him." Porter gave Moore his top score for the diversity of his set. "It was the most eclectic set of the night and there was great flow. There was a lot in there for people to chew on -- oranges and reds, and purples and greens. He was able to go all over the place but keep continuity and he seemed to me to be the most ready for Ultra." "He had a lot of friends in the house," adds Carnahan, "but that dance floor was full of people who didn't have a clue who he was."
On top of everything else, Moore graciously set the table for Chow, whose contest-closing techno set was the most dangerous music for this house-accustomed club. "Andy set him up really nicely and Henry had an uphill battle, but he took to it like a duck to water," said Chavez. (Indeed he did. I had him second on my ballot -- as it turned out, his final position overall -- and the energy and bodies on the dance floor didn't show any marked falling-off from Moore's set.)
I caught up with a worn-out but gratified Moore the next day. "I'm on top of the city of Houston, Texas, right now and I'm overwhelmed," he said. "But I'm ready to show my stuff. I've been waiting forever for a chance like this, biding my time and now, here it is. I think I'm gonna stay in Miami for a while and play some more gigs after the conference. This thing is going to open a lot of doors for me."
Carnahan knows about those doors opening. "I played the WMC years ago and after that it was tours to London, Europe, labels -- everything just happened, boom. If Andy does the same thing, he'll go all over the country."
So you better catch him while you can. He plays this Friday at the Social at a themed gig called For Those About To Rock The House, wherein he and his friends will rearrange the works of a certain Australian hard rock band house-style.
Won't It Make His Bright Eyes Black
At a show two weeks ago at Fort Worth's Ridglea Theater, Conor Oberst had this to say: "I don't know if you know this, but I hate your fucking state. I'd put a fucking gun to my head before I'd live in your state." Later, according to The Dallas Morning News, he tried to back away a little bit. He professed admiration for Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark and Bill Hicks (who were all Houstonians for a time, it should be noted), but then he returned to his original theme. "If you came to this show tonight, you're not a normal Texan. If you were a normal Texan, you'd probably be roping steers and raping Indians."
Okay, where to begin As a native Texan, I was insulted, but at first I thought it was a somewhat brave thing to do. Remember the Dixie Chicks fiasco, when Natalie Maines told a cheering roomful of Londoners she was ashamed to be from the same state that produced Dubya? I thought this was something like the opposite of that. Back then, you'll remember, the right-wingers all said that Maines lacked the nerve to say that in Texas, that she would never do that in the Cotton Bowl or, God forbid, Amarillo or Midland or something. And they were probably right. And as ashamed as I am of Dubya, I still think it's a little tacky to go share that shame with a bunch of funny-talkin' furriners, just to get some cheap applause.
So here I was thinking Conor was so punk and all that crap, and even a little flattered that he singled out three Houstonians, two of whom I have known all of my life, and then the more I thought about it the more I realized I was way, way wrong. First, slagging off Texas at the Ridglea Theater -- the Numbers of Fort Worth -- is not brave. Slagging off Texas at Billy Bob's Texas -- the world's largest honky-tonk -- now, that would have been brave. (As it was of Sid Vicious to spout off in places like Randy's Rodeo in San Antonio on the Sex Pistols tour in 1977.) And then, even though the likelihood of any one of his delicate, angst-ridden fans kicking his drunken, overrated ass was minuscule, he went out of his way to flatter all who were present. At best that's extremely passive-aggressive, and at worst it smacks of a messiah complex; i.e., "You are cool enough to heed my words, and buy a ticket to my show, and lots of merch, but the rest of your people are cow-roping, Indian-raping scum."
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And then there's all of this raping-Indians and roping-steers talk coming from someone who hails from a state (Nebraska) that Bush carried by an even greater margin than he enjoyed in Texas, and a city (Omaha) that is home to Omaha Steaks and Union Pacific Railroad, fer chrissakes. Is there any one private company that did more to "rape" Indians than Union Pacific? Many of the men on the railroad crews that built the damn thing were ex-soldiers hired to shoot Indians, and when they couldn't line up any Sioux, Cheyenne or Pawnee in their sights they turned instead to buffalo, and killed more than 15 million of them -- vast numbers of them in western Nebraska -- between 1865 and 1883. Union Pacific didn't need any great herds getting in the way of the Frisco run, so it encouraged both its employees and passengers to kill as many of them as they wanted, for whatever reason. And the end of the buffalo, my friends, was the end of the Plains Indians.
Nebraska was also the state where Crazy Horse was imprisoned and then bayoneted to death, shortly after most of his people had been "removed" from Nebraska and sent to South Dakota. Many of the rest of Nebraska's Indians -- all of the Pawnee and most of the Ponca among them -- were dispatched to Oklahoma at about the same time.
Hmmm Crazy Horse reminds me of Neil Young. Hey, Conor, at least when Mr. Young came out with "Southern Man" he was accurate about some of the people in the South and had the decency to be Canadian and not another Yankee hypocrite eager to offload the whole nation's sins onto one state or region.
And, oh yeah, then there's this: Neil Young is talented.