Diverse Bands Sound a Grace Note for Homeless Youth

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Mayor Annise Parker declared July 5, 2013 "Doomstress Alexis Day," in honor of the Project Armageddon front woman's dedication to Houston's LGBT community.

"Immediately after, fans, friends and both music and LGBT community supporters were asking what I was planning for 2014," she says. "I truly felt that Doomstress Alexis Day stood for the whole transgender community and the hope of things we could achieve, and not just me."

So, a year to the date, the Doomstress, her band and some of the city's best-known acts from a variety of genres are coming together for Grace Note, a festival-styled concert benefiting the Montrose Grace Place homeless shelter.

"As a transgender woman, I definitely wanted an organization that was inclusive but not necessarily limited to the TG & LGB communities," Alexis says. "I consulted [community activist] Lou Weaver and he immediately referred me to Montrose Grace Place. I attended a board meeting and discussed the concept of having a concert and donating the proceeds to them and they were thrilled at the prospect."

The Continental Club and Shoeshine Charley's Big Top host tomorrow's show, with doors at 6 p.m. and music beginning an hour later. A full schedule of the dozen acts hitting the stage for Grace Note can be found on the event's Facebook page. BLSHS, the Wheel Workers and Chase Hamblin and the Roustabouts are just a few of the groups donating time to the show.

In Hamblin's case, he's donating more than a music set. He co-organized the event with Doomstress Alexis. He said he got involved at the request of Rally Terill, his band's bassist, who is also an openly transgendered woman.

"As a straight, white male, the only prejudice I have experienced is being harassed as a kid for being a 'long-hair,' says Hamblin. "I am free to be who I want to be and I want the same for my friends.

"Rally has been harassed on the way to gigs with me," continues Hamblin. "She was followed, verbally abused and nearly physically attacked at her own apartment one of the first times she left in a dress. Luckily, she didn't end up homeless but she did have a falling out with her family, who were not accepting of who she is. I was lucky to have great parents and was never homeless, so I want to do something to help those who were not as fortunate."

Hamblin and the Doomstress are two people to entrust any charitable event to because they're a couple of the city's hardest workers, in the music scene or outside of it. Combined, they play dozens of shows each year and attend even more as fans and stalwarts of the current Houston music community. But, their bands are wildly different.

Alexis says she's been in bands since she was 17. Her tastes lean towards Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, influences that have been on full display over Project Armageddon's five years together. Hamblin started writing songs after seeing the film La Bamba as a kid. His psychedelic pop-rock sound is largely patterned after British Invasion bands.

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According to Alexis, that diversity was attractive and helped round out the Grace Note show roster.

"We wanted a mix of bands that had roots in the LGBT community as well as bands who could be supportive of that community and who could also really embrace the objective, which was helping homeless youth," she says. "Being in different genres between our own bands, we wanted there to be vast diversity in musical representation. This helps us draw from a broader fan base but is also symbolic of the different circumstances and people that make up the homeless youth populace."

"I am really touched and excited that we got so many talented and busy acts to take time to play for this important local cause," Hamblin adds.

The statistics suggest the cause is critical. Hamblin shared stats that say one out of four youths who come out to his or her parents as LGBT will become homeless, and is seven times more likely than their heterosexual peers to be crime victims.

That's the sort of sobering news that makes a place like Montrose Grace Place necessary. The nonprofit homeless shelter's mission is "to provide a safe, welcoming environment for vulnerable homeless youth of all sexualities and gender identities, providing nourishment, healthy relationships and hope for the future."

Both musicians say the first objective of the fundraiser is to raise awareness of the shelter. Beyond that, Alexis says they've tried to "keep reasonable expectations" about monetary donations. Hamblin adds the shelter needs other things too and lists items including clean clothing in good condition, non-perishable foods, toiletries, art supplies and -- perhaps for the future music stars of Houston -- a karaoke machine.

Alexis says it was important to bring others to the table, so Rockin' Robin Guitars was tabbed for a raffle guitar. Nearby eateries Natachee's and Tacos A-Go-Go will be contributing a portion from any meals purchased by eventgoers to the proceeds. Houston Zombie Walk and Seen, Heard, Lived are two of the event's premier sponsors, and other local artists and artisans are providing auction items.

"Just last week I was contacted via message on my official Doomstress page by a woman whose teenage child just confided that they wanted to transition," Alexis says. "The child is living with another relative for school but they both told me that due to this relative's beliefs the child would be immediately forced out of the residence.

"Luckily this child has a place to go," she continues, "but, this is a prime example of who Montrose Grace Place is there to help."

Continental Club and Shoeshine Charley's Big Top (both 3700 Main), host Grace Note, Saturday, July 5. Doors open at 6 p.m., $10.


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