Houston Music

Aftermath (Literally): Area Musicians Remember the Days Following Hurricane Ike - "You Could Smell Rotten Stuff About 13 Miles Away from the Causeway"

Rocks Off originally meant to post this on Friday, but one thing led to another and if memory serves, on September 14, 2008, we were still without power, living out of an ice chest and wondering what the hell just happened. So were a lot of people, not least the entire Houston music community, many of whom seemed equally shell-shocked and relieved at the first two post-Ike show Rocks Off attended, Jana Hunter and Lesser Gonzales Alvarez at the Petrol Station in Garden Oaks and Silver Jews at Walter's on Washington.

Last week Rocks Off put out a call for local musicians to share their Ike stories with us, and thanks to all who did. Of course, it's not too late - feel free to post your own music-related Ike memories in the comments.

Teenage Kicks: The late local punk-rock trio, which broke up back in March, has perhaps the most interesting Ike story, if only because its main crux takes place a long, long way from Houston. Besides playing the late show at Walter's with the Queers (back September 30) the same night as Silver Jews, "the hurricane knocked power out of Musicol Recordings of Ohio, the record plant that was pressing the Teenage Kicks 7", screwing up the plan to have the Queers show as the 7" release," says TKs' Peter Lee. "Because of the delay, the Teenage Kicks' final show several months later fell on the day the 7" was finally for sale."

Sugar Hill Studios: The local recording hive known as the "Abbey Road of the South" only suffered minor damage from the storm, reports Sugar Hill Business/Marketing/Promotions Director Gina Miller, but a tree took out nearby power lines and left the studio without power for 23 days. No power, no recording, so the studio sweated through the longest fallow period in its history - electricity was restored October 6, the 67th anniversary of Sugar Hill's opening.

Darwin's Finches: Being (formerly) based in Galveston, Darwin's Finches has all sorts of Ike stories, so we'll let the eclectic rockers' guitarist/singer Justin Clay take it from here:

"We were all living in Galveston when Ike was coming. The general mood was pretty unalarmed. I was working maintenence at Moody Gardens at the time, and it did not close till Friday! We had gone to Austin that weekend to play a show, and the morning we left (Thursday), we drove to the Seawall and the waves were covering the entire beach and the wind was Charlie Chaplinesque.

"After being stuck in Austin for two weeks and not being allowed to return to the Island, we finally ran out of money and made our way back to the Island. The police were still keeping people out, and I had to use my Moody Gardens ID to get on.

"You could smell rotten stuff about 13 miles away from the causeway.

"I had to quit Moody Gardens because it was totally destroyed. I also came home to my garage appartment at a tilt, all the windows smashed and the side falling off. There had been six feet of water. It killed this huge magnolia tree by my staircase that must have been hundreds of years old. I had to leave and didn't have anywhere to go for a while.

"I didn't have hardly any possessions in my house so i didn't lose much, but a ton of my artwork and books got compacted into paper mulch by the water, and a bunch of lettuce and Rosemary plants I planted died.

"My landlord was an optometrist, so millions of contacts and glasses were all over the parking lot. Downtown was flooded severely [and] every single place we knew and frequented was submerged in at least eight feet of water (as the water line showed).

"Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe, where you could always go to hear some good folk music, was filled with sludge and mud, a friend of ours was inside shoveling out broken picture frames and warped acoustic guitars and the balcony was laying in ruins in front of the bus stop. It reopened a few months ago.

"A club we often played at with Come See My Dead person and others, "Gravity Bar," had 7-8 feet of water. Matty, our bassist's, bass amp-head was in this club and was destroyed, not to mention our good friend Eddie (the owner) went out of business. They had the most open minded open-mic on the island. It's still empty there.

"The Historic Balinese room was reduced to two rotten wooden posts sticking out of the ocean. We used to go play there on Thursdays with our good friend and mentor Trinity the Critter (one of the only other original musicians on the Island). His amp and guitar went down with the Balaniese; he left the Island.

"So did a ton of our friends. We still don't know where everybody is. Our friend Joey, who owned a bicycle shop, lost his whole shop. We saw him walking around carrying a toolbag and he said very hopefully, "This is my shop now." He's back and open again.

"Our friend Rob from the local music shop just bought a new store, and all his brand-new guitars and music equipment was covered in water, including some old awesome classic guitars that were up on a 12-foot shelf. We saw Rob selling waterlogged guitars in his yard for discount price a few weeks later. He let us pratice in his gutted building for a few weeks after power was restored, and he is finally back open as of last month.

"Our drummer's house was totally flooded and he had to move in with his aunt for a while. I was staying with family (in Houston), friends and in my van for six months, moving around on a daily basis. I finally relocated to Houston on the North side in an art studio I am living in. Our bassist stayed in Galveston his apartment made it out OK, but the town stunk for months and he had no power for weeks.

"We ended up doing a bunch of concerts in an abandoned building in the rubble hooked up to generators, provided by a very generous gentleman named Steve. He held a bunch of parties in the rubble of Galveston, and we played every single one. He provided food and drinks and people came flocking out of the ruins like zombies.

"Also, we started playing up in houston a lot more. So, like any inevitable natural disaster we couldn't really have any bitter feelings toward Ike. It did throw us around pretty good, but I'm a fan of unstoppable forces of nature."

Guitars: The local shoegaze/indie-rockers - who had only recently formed when Ike rolled through - were actually productive during the storm, reports guitarist April 5000 (or April 5K, if you prefer). "We actually did some recording sessions with battery powered amps and laptops which lead to the recording session for our album," she says. "We had a lot of fun."

April posted a pretty thorough blog, with lots of pictures of downed trees, her bandmates taping up windows and whatnot, here. She keeps trying to send Rocks Off some MP3s from Guitars' "Hurricane Sessions," but some gremlin apparently doesn't want us to post them. We'll keep trying.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray