Under the Volcano has announced new bookings for March. Owner Pete Mitchell is launching what he hopes to turn into an annual month-long series to run during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
"I haven't come up with a name for it yet - the Anti-Rodeo Series, the Real Country Series, something like that," says Mitchell.
"You'd think the Rodeo would at least have one token country music day in a whole month, but all they've booked is the same old tired, stale country-radio acts or stuff like Pat Green," Mitchell adds. "It's like the Rodeo and Music Row are codependent frauds, like the addict and the pusher. One has to have the other, and what the public gets is this glitzy sham of country music at the Rodeo. I think guys like George Jones, Gene Watson (above) and Johnny Bush would be really depressed about the state of country music at the Rodeo."
"I look at that lineup for the Hideout and it's just stale and trite. I don't get it. It's like they're on auto-pilot over there," says Mitchell.
Mitchell's lineup, which runs every Wednesday at 8 p.m., starts March 4 with Miss Leslie and Her Juke-Jointers. "She's not playing the Hideout? Come on. Her record's great, all kinds of attention from the FAR [Freeform Americana Radio] radio people, stellar band, and she works hard keeping her band out there. Not booking her at the Hideout seems almost criminal," says Mitchell.
Mitchell has Mike Stinson March 11. The top honky-tonk act in Los Angeles has just finished a new album produced by Jesse Dayton, a guy with some local ties who used to pack 'em in at the Hideout, but wasn't invited this year.
"We had Mike solo a few months ago. One of the best shows we've had. "This is the first time he's been to Texas with his full band," Mitchell notes. "Who knows who'll drop by to play? Jesse Dayton was here last time."
"That's another thing that puzzles me about the people booking the Hideout. If you're going to import talent, why wouldn't you get a guy like Stinson instead of the same old acts we see at every Texas music festival?" Mitchell theorizes. "They asked Willie Nelson on NPR not long ago if he'd heard any new young artists of interest and he said he was listening to Mike Stinson. Now that's a country-music endorsement that's about as Texas as it gets, but I'd bet there aren't three people on the rodeo committees who have a clue who Mike Stinson is."
March 18 features the regular Kevin "Shinyribs" Russell residency, and Mitchell believes Russell will do an "all country" set.
"Kevin is so steeped in country music," he says. "I'm sure that set will be amazing. He never plays the same set twice anyway. And he covers Waylon, Willie, Merle Haggard, Tom T. Hall, all kinds of vintage country, and always puts his sort of Gourds-style stamp on it."
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The March 25th show will mark Nashville outlaw Phil Lee's first appearance in Houston. "I just discovered Phil recently, but he's great," says Mitchell. "I was shocked he's never played Houston before."
"There's a story in Nashville that Phil was pitching some songs to Waylon Jennings and apparently Waylon says to someone, 'That little fella needs to start drinking decaf.' The guy is just a ball of fire and another one of those amazing artists who lie around in the weeds in Nashville and never get any notice on Music Row."
"The Rodeo may not sit up and take notice of what we're doing or saying with this series," Mitchell says, "but they should, because what they're doing in the name of Houston just doesn't seem right."