Cactus Music/New West Partner Investing In Local Musicians

Local businessman George Fontaine is another music-business player who is suddenly very high on the Houston music scene. And Fontaine is putting his money where his mouth is by investing in up-and-coming local artists.

According to Fontaine, part of the group behind the rebirth of Cactus Music and a partner in New West Records with Los Angeles-based Cameron Strang, he's been "giving some financial support to three local bands, Robert Ellis, Buxton and Wild Moccasins." Still, he cautions about calling this "a record deal."

"We haven't worked out all the details and legalities yet, so we don't really know what the vehicle is going to be," says Fontaine. "It most likely won't be New West. But we do expect to be involved on some level in producing and releasing the records these young guys are working on. And we're actively looking at other acts in town."

"I've lived here 35 years," says Fontaine, who spends lots of time in Athens, Ga., where he teaches at the University of Georgia business school, "and for most of those years it seemed like the music scene here was pretty below-radar, if not dead.

"But I think we're in a period of excitement and creativity that's not about to fade or go away. In fact, I almost wish you guys weren't writing so much about the local scene, because I hate to see the secret get out."

Fontaine revealed that most of the acts he's gotten interested in came to his attention through the free in-store performances Cactus regularly hosts. Fire-and-brimstone punk rockers Hollywood Black play the in-store stage Saturday at 3 p.m.

"That's been one of the hidden positives about Cactus that dawned on us over time, that the in-stores are an important part of the exposure mix for local bands," he says. "That was how I encountered Ellis, Buxton and Wild Moccasins.

"I'm really impressed with the work ethic of these young guys. They all seem like they know what they want to do, which is do whatever it takes and go for it," Fontaine concludes.

"It's very hopeful and encouraging to me. It's an exciting time to be in Houston."

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