Sooooo... The Daily Beast has compiled its second annual list of the dumbest cities in America. Houston came in fourth from last (out of 55), just ahead of our neighbors in San Antonio. The list is compiled through a great many things, such as the number of libraries, cultural investments and college degrees per capita. Rocks Off has no beef with the way the survey was conducted, but...
Actually, no. We have no beef at all. Here in the music scene, Rocks Off has seen some pretty dunderheaded doings since we started as a journalist. We're not sure how representative some of the mishaps we've reported on are of the Houston music scene as a whole, or how they stack up to what's happening in these allegedly smarter towns, but they do stand out enough to give us some pause.
Maybe we do deserve the designation a little.
For instance, we've noticed a lot of Houston bands pick names without ever bothering to find out if another group is already using it. The most notorious example of this was when, a couple of years ago, HPMA Award winners The Dimes were forced to switch their name to Young Mammals after an established Oregon act contacted them threatening legal action.
The Dimes were already aware of the other band, but laughed off the idea that anything would ever come of it. That seems to be the most basic response. As far as we know, Glasnost also has no back-up plan for what would happen if any of the several other bands using the name were to challenge them. The Abyss is also apparently unconcerned should the long-running metal band have a problem with sharing.
"We've checked, and the name's not trademarked," The Abyss has previously stated. Trademarked or not, when you've been releasing albums for 16 years there is no doubt who is going to win that lawsuit.
It's not like you can't type the name you want to use into Goog'e, add "Myspace" after it, and find out posthaste whether our not you're late to the party with your chosen battle cry. Rocks Off has wanted to front a band called The Tonberries since we were a small child. Well, too bad. Someone else has it.
We can either pout about it, or we can put on our big-girl panties and move on. At least Light Parade was smart enough to change their name to Castle Lights so Bright Light Parade wouldn't have to write them an angry letter.
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It's not just bands we've seen pulling some lobotomized stunts. A few of the promoters and clubs around here deserve some of the blame. When the minds behind Summer Fest bought Fitzgerald's, the one thing everyone could agree on was how wonderful the death of the doomed pyramid scheme that the club had taken to using on local bands was.
Basically, they were making bands buy their own tickets to resell them before the show. You can chalk that one up to greed, but it's absolutely ridiculous to think that that model was ever going to work long-term. Or what about Jess Wilson's plan to book bands at Mango's by paying them in free drinks instead of folding cash?
Sure, it beats paying to practice, but there is no way that it beats getting paid to play. Rocks Off certainly isn't going to play there for free, and we have a hard time imagining any real name bands are going to go for it either.
Our music fans are not without sins either... and we're not just talking about the ones who stormed our castle with pitchforks and torches after we had the gall to say we didn't like Adam Lambert. Or the ones who prefer talking to their friends instead of watching the bands at every single goddamn show we go to. No, we're talking about fans exhibiting the most basic sign of impaired mental faculties - namely, the inability to not wet themselves.
At Slayer/Megadeth/Anthrax last month at Verizon, a man was thrown out after taking a leak beside a trash can near the stageside bar. Not in the trash can - beside the trash can. A week or so later, House of Blues security would not let a fan whom they had previously ejected from the Cult show back inside to relieve himself, so he did so (pants on) in front of the box office. Meanwhile, other drunken fans were downstairs brawling with the venue's parking valets.
Of course, the real WTF going on in town at the moment is Black Congress's very public retirement from the ranks of Saturday's GhoulsFest. We're not saying that Black Congress doesn't have a legitimate complaint worth some thought. The no-compete clause that that most festivals use can at times seem a little fascist, and our own John S. Gray has commented on what a gyp he thinks it is.
Regardless of that fact, announcing your departure from what is sure to be our city's biggest fall festival via Facebook with "fuck them" cannot possibly be seen as an intellectual gambit. A private communication leaving all parties some dignity would surely have been the best way to ensure the continuation of the momentum that Black Congress has built and so richly deserves.
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They really are a good band. But are they a smart band?
Do we think that Houston's musicians are smarter than San Antonio's? Yes, by virtue of the fact that we don't live in San Antonio. However, a cold, hard look at some of our actions might be in order.
If we're gonna represent this city, let's make sure we don't do it by acting like we're barely trainable.
Jef With One F is the author of The Bible Spelled Backwards Does Not Change the Fact That You Cannot Kill David Arquette and Other Things I Learned In the Black Math Experiment, available now.