“Why do y’all hate us?” was an actual question posed to me once by someone who knows I write about music for the Houston Press. The commenter was responding to me personally on one of the pieces written (by someone else!) about audience decorum in Houston; or the frustrating lack thereof, as it were.
I explained to my acquaintance that these admonishments were mostly respectful nods to the artists who work hard to bring us the music. I reiterated that, by asking show-goers to put away the smartphones, we were helping them not miss the powerful experience of being in the moment. And so, these suggestions came from a place of love and respect. Like concerned and caring parents, we see the promise of greatness in you, local crowds. That means applying a certain type of tough love when necessary, to bring out your best.
But, we must also acknowledge when our well-intended but stern rebukes begin to creep into a territory that creates the kinds of complexes that lead to eating disorders or porn-film money shots. We must counterbalance our tough love with some pure and deep affection. We promise you, Houston music audiences, we have the love like Church’s Chicken. Let us prove it with 20 reasons you’re awesome.
YOU ARE THERE
The biggest gripe about you is you’re preoccupied with conversations and smartphones during shows. But, you could converse and smartphone anywhere. That you’re doing it during a show is rude; but, it also reveals you have paid money, in most cases, to be there. Let us be clear – if you are not at shows, there is no music scene. And, if there’s no music scene, there’s no commentary on it either. So thanks for being there in the first place.
The musicians probably are indifferent about how much you imbibe. I don’t care all that much (though I prefer not to drink alone). But I guarantee the bars and venues hosting live music, sometimes for free, are happy you aren’t teetotalers. Cheers!
YOU’RE DEVOTED TO YOUR BANDS
You never miss a show. You share your allegiance to the band with others. Your devotion is etched into your skin as you brandish band logos permanently tattooed on your bodies. You are the reason these bands keep going and they love you, as do we.
“It certainly is a lovely summer this winter,” someone once said of Houston’s bipolar weather. This is the sort of observation you shrug off. If the music is good, you’ll plop your dry ass on Discovery Green’s turf, still soggy from the latest storms. You’ll stand in heat that would wilt lesser mortals to see your favorites on a clear, sunny and unmercifully hot day. Kudos to you for not allowing the climate from keeping you cool.
YOU’RE NOT SHEEPLE
How sad if a handful of music bloggers were able to control your music-going options. What if we truly were interested in only promoting the music of our good, close personal friends, as some jaded readers have suggested? This is an Area 51-sized conspiracy theory we’ve learned to brush off like lint. But, even if we did have these powers, your rebellious insistence that we’re nepotistic goons would usurp our efforts. This is actually remarkably admirable. When it comes to music, you have hearts and minds of your own, and that benefits everyone.
If you follow live, local music at all in this city, you know who Bob Lane, Chase Hamblin, Ricky Dee, Mikey Drag, Dave Tama and Whitney Flynn are. They’re all musicians with lots of projects, and just a very small representation of the many Houston musicians who attend shows, listening to locals and cheering on touring acts, even when their own acts aren’t booked. Respect.
YOU SPEND MONEY ON YOUR FAVORITES
T-shirts, koozies, custom-blown one-hitter mini-pipes with the band’s tiny logo painted into the glass — whatever the merch is, you buy it. Those purchases keep touring bands gassed up and help promote the acts you’ve come to love. Kudos to your free-spending ways.
YOU’RE CAT DARSHAD, RENEE VANDELINDER OR…
...others like them, these blessed people we all know who frequent shows with commendable regularity. Maybe you’ve seen these fine folks at shows if you too are often in search of any and all live music, the way they seem to be. If you don’t know Cat and Rene (you know at least their faces, I’ll bet) you probably know someone like them, the fearless music-seekers who stand out in a pretty solid music scene.
Winning you over at a show is a band’s job. From there, the job is all yours. Your Tweet or Facebook “Like” is what grows an act’s audience. From what I’ve seen, it’s a job you take seriously. For every band I’ve personally seen benefit from your work, allow me to thank you on their behalf.
It’s true, Houston would probably be better served by a central music district; but, this is a sprawling city. When your gas money won’t let you get to Notsuoh or Dan Electro’s, you scrape up enough to get to 19th Hole Grill and Bar or Union Tavern because you love live music. And, we love you.
YOU FIND THE MUSIC
The first place you saw the buzzworthy indie darlings Say Girl Say was at an etch-a-sketch venue called Jenner House, which is actually a creatives’ gem hidden in the shadowy streets east of downtown. Or, maybe you caught Sunrise and Ammunition years ago at the Doctor’s Office? Maybe you’ve seen bands play at Satellite Bar or La Playa? Yes, you also attend shows at HOB and Toyota Center, but if there’s music out there in the unheralded music crevices of the city, you don’t need a compass to find it. You just do.
YOU SPAN THE AGES
We’ve met many of you this past year who were bringing your kids to their first shows. That’s as important and a much more pleasant thing to share with them as the birds-and-bees talk. We’ve also seen gray-haired hippies blowing trees and grooving to drum circles just recently. You’re never too young or old to rock, kids, and you prove it nightly.
My wife and I appear to be someone’s grandparents (fortunately, we are not yet). You never question why we are there among you twenty- and thirtysomethings to see the new, hip band. You don’t look down on us when we skank and mosh at shows. Fellow mid-lifers, if you think you’re too old to party with these young, band-loving crowds, think again. You’ll be welcomed.
YOU LOOK OUT FOR EACH OTHER
You look tough in your back-patched vest, but we saw you pick that other guy up off the beer-sticky floor when he fell in the pit. You asked if he was okay. Later, some friends you were with helped a girl get an Uber home instead of allowing her to drive. This is what you do, Houston music crowds. Yer da best.
One of the best parts of being at a show is meeting new people. A live show is an art event, but it’s also a social gathering. There had to be some conversational grunting occurring when Oog and the Uggs were performing for their prehistoric brethren all those years ago. Socializing is part of the experience and, when you meet amazing people with shared musical interests, it can be one of the best parts.
YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR COMMUNITY
Last week, Houston’s punk community was shaken by the news one of its members allegedly beheaded a cat. This immediately became a concern that the whole punk scene would be judged by one person’s alleged drug-induced mania. The chatter I saw proved Houston music circles want the world at large to know we shouldn’t be judged by any single person’s deeds.
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We’ve seen you put money in the proverbial hat for hard-working but unknown touring acts. We’ve seen you buy beers and tacos for touring visitors. We’ve seen you house ‘em up. Even global superstars like Drake appreciate you, so of course these struggling musicians from afar also welcome your kindness.
You have seen some of the Houston Press slideshows of yourselves at various concerts and festivals, haven’t you? My god, you are some gorgeous creatures.
YOU’RE THE GAS THAT POWERS THE CLASSIC VEHICLES
Numbers. Last Concert Café. Walters. McGonigel’s Mucky Duck. Super Happy Fun Land. Fitz-freaking-gerald’s. They're all still running because you keep showing up.
YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO AFTER THE SHOW
Recently, I tweeted how one of my favorite parts of leaving a downtown show is listening to Coast to Coast AM on my hour-long ride home in the wee hours. Within minutes, many of you were commenting on George Noory and why Bigfoot could be a good option at left tackle for the Texans next season. Also, I know for a damn fact I have seen some of you at the Jack in the Box on Fannin ordering Monster Tacos at three in the morning. Long live Monster Tacos! Long live Houston music crowds!