Rocks Off doesn't know where you went to school, but Robert Ellis & the Boys' final Whiskey Wednesday at Fitzgerald's last night felt a lot like the prom/graduation party we always wanted to have. With maybe just a little more beer.
'Tis the season.
As the ceiling sagged from the upstairs antics of Japanese space-punk cadets Peelander-Z, Fitz's downstairs area and patio were swarmed with people not about to let the good times end without one more two-step or shot of that powerful stuff.
Besides members of Grandfather Child, Buxton and the Ton Tons - among many other local musicians and on-the-mend KTRU DJ Clint Broussard, fresh from signing off Blues In Hi-Fi for the last time on FM - Rocks Off bumped into at least a half-dozen of our own staff members and a couple of strays from the Houston Press newsroom.
We didn't assign the show to anyone, either; like us, they just showed up. Still, it would have been nice if one of them had remembered their camera. Ahem.
Like their hero Willie Nelson used to do, and may even do tonight at Verizon, Ellis & the Boys entertained from "9 'til overdose" with a high-powered barrage of outlaws, rebels and rogues like Buck Owens (a picture-perfect "Made In Japan"), Conway Twitty, Johnny Paycheck and a whole lotta George Jones.
Hilary Sloan fiddled around on some fine Patsy Cline, Mike Stinson got up to sing some "obscure Merle Haggard" ("Why Am I Drinkin'"), then the Sideshow Tramps' Craig Kinsey took Fitz's to 4th Street on some blistering Bob Dylan subterranean blues.
Rocks Off was surveying the room somewhere in the middle of all this, and a thought snapped into place in our head like a Lego: We don't know how, or why, any music critic anywhere could expect any more from their local scene than what we saw Wednesday. People were dancing, drinking, and laughing, and the band was smokin'.
The vibe in the room was, in a word, Houston - laid-back and rowdy all at once, and 100 percent free of any scenester bullshit.
In the year and a half or so we have been going to Whiskey Wednesdays, Rocks Off had come to expect nothing less. As we noted last week, it's hard to say how much of what Ellis & the Boys has built up over that span will translate to other places, and now it's probably safe to say whatever the first post-Whiskey Wednesday destination local gig turns out to be won't be quite the same thing.
But it was a moot point Wednesday. It felt like a moment - easy to savor while it lasted, and then it was gone. Turn out the lights, the party's over. But judging by what we saw last night, Rocks Off suspects both the band and the scene are going to be just fine.
"I don't see how Waylon in Phoenix could have been any better," one of our colleagues noted at one point.
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Indeed. The band lights out soon for a West Coast tour and returns shortly before Free Press Summer Fest, leading Ellis to jokingly refer to the festival as "Slumber Fest" in a brief Facebook conversation with Rocks Off yesterday. It's running out of "Fancy Pants" passes, by the way.
In the meantime, Wednesday night was one for the yearbook.