A few months ago, Kam Franklin attended a local music showcase held at a popular Houston establishment. That in itself isn't out of the ordinary...the Suffers' lead singer is a champion of Houston's music scene and constantly provides advice to other musicians in the city in need of such assistance and direction. What surprised her was the novelty of the lineup. Besides her friend Rob Gullatte, she had never heard of any of the acts. On top of that, the sound system at that location was subpar, which led to a less than exceptional evening.
"You can't just sit there and complain and then do nothing to remedy the situation," Franklin told me as we stood on the sidewalk last night, interrupted only by the horn of the MetroRail and the bevy of requests for photos with her. Kam is once again in the midst of a national tour, and with festival season soon approaching, this "Catch Up" show was equal parts for her benefit and for the H-Town music fans. So she made a list of artists she felt could benefit from this platform, and booked the show.
First up was rapper Mark Drew. He's a pensive lyricist with a smooth flow, and it was impressive and a blessing that he was even performing. Just two days prior, the Acres Homes artist was the victim of a rear-end auto collision that caused him to perform in an arm sling and in obvious pain. His latest project is titled "Red Lights at 3 a.m.," which featured Drew leaning up against a freeway overpass contemplating life. His previous effort, "Sleepwalking Through Reality," was also peppered with similarly contemplative tracks. Aided by the backing DJ sounds of Birdmagic, Mark opened the show with "Phone Ringing," which includes a chorus that pays tribute to Pimp C. He ended with the track "Day Ones," a thank-you letter to his true friends and fans.
Lita Styles followed with a set of moody, R&B-influenced tracks with hints of sweetness and lust. Combining a soft voice with an absolutely vibrant smile, Lita has been grooming her musical talents for the better part of a year, and is starting to feel and sound increasingly comfortable and natural as a performer. "I wanna get real high" she moaned as the opening lines of "Angels On Mars" rang out. Her brother, producer Bobby Earth, was by her side onstage, creating beats and vibing out with the tracks, most of which he produced. Lita lives in a dream world, and her music is seemingly derived from outside the normal realms of inspiration. She led a group of dancers in a Janet Jackson-like dance break, and also allowed an energetic Tim Woods to perform at the end of her set. I'm excited to hear more from Lita in the next few months, in which she promises to release new music soon.
Proclaiming himself "retired," Rob Gullatte is a dynamic performer. His set and energy are reminiscent of those of rappers half his age, and the moderate crowd in the room certainly appreciated his offering. "Close your eyes, this project is for your mind!" he told the crowd before delving into his musical arsenal. He also labels his music "Trill Hip-Hop," which is full of fierce and straightforward flows. He tells a story about being in the fourth grade and writing a rap poem, which wasn't exactly greeted with enthusiasm by his teachers. Gullatte also ended up on top of the venue's bar, which is quickly becoming the best new stage in Houston. I speak to him after his set, when he confides that he unsuccessfully attempted retirement, but the music keeps calling him back. "I think every artist goes through their low periods of frustration, which sometimes leads to surrender," he says. "It wasn't even writer's block; I was just done," he said. Judging from the sounds and force of last night's show, Rob is definitely back.
The night ended with the electro/dream-rock sound of Rex Hudson, a Wonky Power Records contributor. The upbeat music he performs is both pop and indie-rock, with a hint of dance. No matter where it fits, it certainly grabs eardrums and moves butts to the rhythm.
Thank you, Miss Franklin. You're not the only one who needed this tutorial of Houston music. Let's do it again?
When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond. Follow his adventures on Instagram at @MarcoFromHouston.