When We Ruled H-Town
It looks like the wheel of musical nostalgia has finally spun all the way around to the '90s. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Nirvana's Nevermind, groups like Better than Ezra and Soul Asylum are back up to full touring speed, and others such as Marcy Playground, The Refreshments and World Party are hoping to make a big re-entry splash at SXSW this year. (See "News Feed" for more SXSW news.)
In Houston, things were a little different. A cross-section of colorfully named punk, funk, thrash, metal, ska and downright unclassifiable bands like deadhorse, Sprawl, Manhole, Crazykilledmingus, Wishbone Bush and Spunk drew large crowds to venues like the Axiom, Fitzgerald's and the Vatican. Sometimes they fought, sometimes they borrowed each other's gear at decrepit East End rehearsal space Francisco Studios (lovingly dubbed "The Maggot Colony") and sometimes they formed friendships that endure to this day.
J. Schneider of Taste of Garlic had already been talking about making a documentary about the scene, but the overwhelming response to his band's 2009 reunion show at Rudyard's convinced him to really get going. Saturday, Schneider and co-director Brent Himes will screen a 30-minute preview of When We Ruled H-Town before and after the six bands listed above play. Another reunion party is being planned for when the film is completed later this year.
Chatter spoke with Schneider, who now works for New Orleans's PBS affiliate, last week.
Chatter: It was cool to see all that old footage.
J. Schneider: Yeah, I had to restore a lot of stuff. Some people sent it on DVDs, and I actually had stuff on 8-millimeter. A lot of the Spunk live footage I shot when I was a student at the Art Institute.
C: In the screener, several keywords kept popping up — "camaraderie," "community" and "brotherhood," but also "attitude" and "aggression." How did that all play out in the scene?
JS: As far as the camaraderie and the family, yeah, we were all there. Of course we had our differences sometimes. Probably the biggest fights each band got into with each other was like, "Hey man, you banged my girlfriend. That's not cool." Something dumb like that that we thought was so important back then and is really nothing now. We laugh at it: "Dude, you banged my girlfriend back then." She was gone the next month anyway. Who cares?
What you don't see in there, which is going to be in the full-length, is that there were people who were just there. I can tell you from my own experience, Taste of Garlic was playing a show one day, and I had two basses and popped a string on both of them. Lee from Planet Shock/Aftershock just ran out of nowhere and threw his bass at me: "Go ahead, man!"
C: In the part that talks about why these bands didn't have much overall success outside the Loop, how much of that would you say was due to the bands' lack of ambition, and how much was due to external factors?
JS: For the most part, I think most of the bands, like Garlic and Tread and Dinosaur Salad — well, Dinosaur Salad actually moved to San Francisco to try and do something there — but we didn't care. All we wanted to do was get high, get laid and rock out to our friends. And hey, mission accomplished there.
That's what we did, and we didn't really have any ambition of making it big. If it happened, I'm sure we would have gladly taken the money, and we would all be in debt right now. But most of us didn't care. We just wanted to play and have fun and hang out and party.
As of last week, the following Houston performers had been accepted into the music portion of the SXSW festival, scheduled for March 16-20 in Austin: Roots-rockers Buxton, underground rappers Fat Tony and The Niceguys, Swisha House don Michael "5000" Watts, punk rockers Something Fierce, string quartet Two Star Symphony and noise/drone collective Indian Jewelry. Several other groups with strong Houston ties will also play SXSW, including indie-rockers UME, Lower Dens and The Eastern Sea, as well as reunited San Antonio band Bubble Puppy, who had one of Houston label International Artists' biggest hits in the late '60s with "Hot Smoke and Sassafras." Stay tuned to our music blog Rocks Off for the latest SXSW news.
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