“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”
When we say the Houston music scene is amazing, as many of us do with bordering on annoying frequency these days, are we believing what isn't true? Are we refusing to believe that the industry here may not be as robust as we'd like? Practically anyone reading this article has some vested interest in seeing music business thrive here. You're in a band. You manage acts. You own a venue. You book shows. You're selling print and Web ads in your weekly rag for those shows. We don't just want the Houston music scene to be amazing, we need it to be amazing.
We’ve got a fever, Houston. And the only prescription is more chatter about how incredible the music scene is here. The question is, how many of us are truly swallowing this pill? What if it's just a placebo?
That's what I've been thinking about recently. Last week, the enthusiasm was through the roof, and rightfully so, with the stunning lineup reveal for Day For Night. But the week before last, I was in Europe. I was there an entire month and talked with a lot of people about a lot of music things (more on that in days to come). I was not at all alarmed by how many Europeans knew about Austin's music community. I wasn't alarmed that many were unaware of Houston's own music boon, but I was a little discouraged by it.
When I got back, I saw several posts and heard some podcasts that were nearing hyperbole in terms of how much ass Houston music kicks. It didn't jibe with what I'd heard from afar from people with no dogs in the fight.
We’re allowed some self-preservation, of course. It’s Darwinism. We have evolved from the murky depths of the music ponds and our scene is rising to the surface with successful and promising acts and events. We‘ve transmuted into something better, but it’s worth asking ourselves if we’ve taken an overly optimistic view of our evolution. The danger is that refusing to see how we can further grow might stifle us or even lead to our regression.
Or our extinction. The largest ape species in human memory was Gigantopithecus. By all accounts, these Great Apes were 10-foot-tall, thousand-pound majestic beasts. These herbivores crunched more berries than that cereal Cap’n. Climate change forced them to eat grass when berries were hard to come by, and eventually their inability to adapt led to their demise. Fooling themselves into believing they were eating berries when they were just nibbling on crabgrass was a bad move.
If only some naturalist had been around to help them out. Thankfully, we have a way to ensure we won’t go the way of the uber-gorilla. If the music scene in Houston is as strong as it is alleged to be, then let's test it. Ask someone you know, maybe a handful of people, to answer the following few questions honestly. The only caveat is they can't be musicians, music writers, show promoters and the like. Depending on their answers we'll know if we're all tasting delicious berries or just gobbling grass:
- How many of The Suffers not named Kam Franklin can you name? Can you attach those you name to the instruments they play?
- If some make-believe entity asked me to recommend a Houston music lobbyist for some make-believe reason, I’d have them vet the very real Free Press Houston music writer David Garrick. Weekly, he’s at numerous shows and recommending more than he can attend. How many of the 96 shows he’s recommended in the last 30 days have you attended?
- Several Houston-based acts have drawn national coverage over the last year in Web outlets like Huffington Post Music, Noisey, Dying Scene, NPR’s All Songs Considered and The Needle Drop. Can you name two Houston acts that earned these honors?
Raven Tower and White Oak Music Hall are two of the most enthralling Houston music venues to open in recent memory. Do you know a half-dozen people who have been to a live music event at either?
Of course, there is the possibility that we actually are now a Kong-like force to be reckoned with. I admit, I have strongly argued this point for at least half the time I’ve been covering music here; but, I’m forced to look hard at why I’ve made that argument when I meet people outside the city who haven’t heard much about Music City Houston. I love my city. Born and raised here. I’ve come to know many of its music people. These artists and behind-the-scenes players are talented, hard-working and good people. I want them to succeed.
If we are as amazing as we say we are, then is it really necessary to keep saying so? At what point does our advocacy morph into a sad kind of insistence? If we are as badass as we believe we are, do we have to keep reminding others? Or ourselves? Can’t we just rest comfortably and confidently in the knowledge that we’ve finally arrived instead of repeatedly blaring the trumpets to hail that arrival?