35 Years of Numbers Memories: The Titans of Local Goth

The week, Numbers turns an impressive 35 years-old, making it one of the oldest clubs in Houston to stay at the same location. It's an institution; there can be no argument about that. To celebrate, we're bringing you three solid days of memories related to the old girl, who continues to move forward providing Houston with it's one-of-a-kind dance and concert experience.

I'll start.

Despite now being the unofficial journalistic spokesman of the Houston goth scene, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the club. I'd gone as a young, angsty teenager, but teenagers in dance clubs suck even when you are one. It was only as my wife and I were winding up our time as members of a Rocky Horror Picture Show cast and looking for a new place to haunt that she finally convinced me to go spend a few nights at Carmina Bell's Underworld nights.

Honestly, it took a lot of time to find a home there. As the song says, Kompressor does not dance, and I only took up drinking seriously when I started writing because it's like a law. Still, I made friends, most of whom I still have to this day, and all of whom made it a point to paint the night with dark fascination.

REWIND: Daddy, Why Is Numbers Called Numbers?

I still remember the first time I saw a truly amazing concert there... it was Halloween 2001, and Flowers and Machines was playing. I still think that Ken Gerhard is the most thoroughly underrated Houston front man of all time, and much as I enjoy his new career hunting Bigfoot, I miss his particular brand of goth.

Soft blue lights and ethereal dancers backing him as his baritone belted out "Breathe." That, and the image of Sisters of Mercy's Andrew Eldritch singing in the rain on the big screens at Numbers cemented for me everything that I wanted to be. Elegant, dark, and a little bit scary, that's what Numbers lured me in with and I've never let go of it.

This was the tail-end of a really tremendous scene when Houston was a definite bright spot on the dark map of goth, and a solid group of bands could be counted on to hold regular performances as part of events. Flowers and Machines, as mentioned, but also Bamboo Crisis, M87, Violet Blue, Asmodeus X, Provision, Morgue City, and regular visiting Texas acts like CTRL.

Of all those hardcore mainstays of the Numbers concert scene though, nothing could compare to the spectacle that was Bozo Porno Circus, who always lived up to every aspect of their name.

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"Small-town girl just moved to Houston," says my former Black Math Experiment bandmate Christi Lain. "Bozo Porno Circus opened for Thrill Kill Kult. I immediately fell in love with dildo spankings and metal crotch sparks."

BPC always drew good crowds, what with the spooky over-the-top-edness and all the pretty half-naked girls, but the reputation of Numbers as a haven for homegrown Houston dark art wasn't limited just to a handful of industrial, EBM, and darkwave acts, excellent and invigorating as they may have been. Numbers also established another act that has gone on to national acclaim... though not for music.

Constructs of Ritual Evolution, the multi-media piercing and suspension troupe got its start here in Houston, and the birth of what established itself as CoRE began on a Numbers stage in January of 2001 as part of a show featuring Erik "The Lizardman" Sprague. "On this most seminal of nights, Constructs of Ritual Evolution is brought into being through the conjuring of fire, earth, air, and water," is how the section on past performances on the group's website calls it.

Though they would play other local venues, as did the bands they so often accompanied, supported, and worked with, Core would find a regular home and audience at Numbers that endured for years until they established a new base of operations in California. The strong center of gothic performance art and music endures to this day, and is one of the most powerful legacies of the club.

Celebrate 35 years of Numbers history at the club on Saturday, September 28.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.


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