The proprietor of Randall’s BBQ pulled a pork rib from his barrel smoker and walked it over to us. The smoke that emerged from within the pit seemed to envelop him. It followed him and gave us the illusion that he was some sort of barbecue angel from on high, emerging from the clouds to deliver this righteous culinary goodness.
We were at Eastdown Warehouse, and its pit man outside the building was serving up the good stuff. Inside there was good stuff, too, namely a new act, The Real McCoys, treating us to a Houston-brewed blend of Junior Brown meets NOFX. Good music and good eats chased by a cold beer — and all on a Monday night. Welcome to Houston. Welcome to Eastdown.
This weekend the venue is celebrating its second anniversary with a mouthwatering bill that puts Houston tastes first — Los Skarnales headline a show that includes local R&B soul legend Archie Bell. As it turns out, spotlighting Houston music has been a considerable strength of Eastdown's over the course of its young life. National and international acts like reggae superstar Sister Nancy, Girl In A Coma’s Nina Diaz, Brit-punks The Vibrators and, most recently, horror-ska punks The Independents have played the airy room. But according to the man who brought those acts to the space, Adam Rodriguez, some of the venue's best nights thus far have involved acts Houstonians know, love and share ZIP codes with.
“As far as some of the biggest shows we've had, well, it's hard to say which show was the biggest and most successful show; that’s really kinda hard to answer because I don't want to feel like I left someone out,” says Rodriguez, who founded the venue with his cousin, Steve. “A lot of local events I booked ended up doing a lot better than some national acts.”
If there’s a reason for that, it may be because Eastdown Warehouse has proven amenable to all sorts of events. Some of the best have been festivals, like this summer’s Bayou City Bonanza or last winter’s Winterfest. The local talent on those two bills alone showcased beloved locals like Paul Wall, Fat Tony, We Were Wolves, A Fistful of Soul and Gio Chamba. The venue's spaciousness — both indoors and out — has made it a favorite for promoters who appreciate the roominess, the venue’s location and the upgrades made since Eastdown’s early days as a converted mattress warehouse.
This particular Monday night, the music sounded nice and I mentally Rolodexed through the bands I’ve seen here, literally dozens in two short years. Some are personal favorites I already had some awareness of, like Beaumont’s Purple or Houston-by-way-of-SoCal rapper Jon Black. I’ve also been introduced to others via shows there, like Austin’s Wonderbitch or Kloanoa or Biz Vicious. The thing is, there’s probably live music happening at Eastdown more than half the nights of any given week, so just getting there means you’re going to stumble into some amazing music.
It’s hard to believe any Houstonian might need an introduction to either the Vatos Rudos or the man who taught us how to “Tighten Up,” but now is the time to catch them both in one setting, according to Rodriguez.
“As far as our second-year anniversary show, I have Los Skarnales as the headliner, because you can't go wrong with them," he says. "They're a very good band, one of my all-time favorites, and I think a lot of Houstonians can say the same. Adding Archie Bell to the bill was my brother Isaac Rodriguez’s idea, and I totally agreed with him. Archie Bell is a Houston legend and you can't go wrong with that. DJ Simmer Down & His Tejas Got Soul Sound System will also be in the house spinning a nice mixture of Texas and Jamaican soul. I also have a special guest opener on the bill, La Skandaloza; they're a Mexican ska band from Mexico City.”
Rodriguez turned his attention to what happens after the anniversary show is another one for the books, added to Eastdown's ever-growing list of solid shows.
“My goal for the future of Eastdown is to keep upgrading the room," he says. "We recently made a major upgrade to our sound system and have hired an amazing sound engineer, Gregory Waligorski. He's already helped out with so many upgrades as far as stage and lighting, and we are not finished yet. I really love having him on our team. He's a guy that doesn't know how to fail.”
Also impervious to failure — pit-smoked pork ribs. We headed off to find more, but thankfully didn't have to move too far from the music to enjoy them.
Eastdown Warehouse hosts its second anniversary celebration featuring Los Skarnales, Archie Bell, DJ Simmer Down and La Skandaloza, 8 p.m. Saturday, October 3. Presale tickets are $10 on Stubwire and $15 at the door. All ages.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.