According to Tobin Anthony, co-founder and organizer of the upstart EndHipEndIt Music Festival, the event lost more than $100,000 last year in its inaugural season. In spite of the financial hit it took, he and his business partner Darr Nieuwoudt decided to bring EndHipEndIt back for a second year. After all, they'd accounted for some growing pains.
What they couldn't have planned for was the hurricane-induced historic flooding in Houston that diverted their interests and resources to more critical endeavors. No one would have blamed them for cancelling the sophomore outing in the storm's aftermath.
"We never give up," Anthony said, just days ahead of EndHipEndIt's return this weekend. "It's never been in us to give up."
And so, the festival is back, with a 2 p.m. start tomorrow at Sigma Brewing Company and a Sunday show at Walter's. Because of all that's happened to Anthony and the city he loves — including one significant quadrant of the city — the event has been re-fashioned into a Hurricane Harvey benefit. Since he expects 1,000-plus guests for Day One and half as many at Walter's on Sunday, some from as far as Florida, Massachusetts and the Czech Republic, he feels there's a good chance the event will be a successful fundraiser.
"Easily, probably around $15,000 to $20,000 I could see us raising, if everything plays in our favor," he says. "I'm expecting a great turnout, I'm expecting us to raise quite a bit of money."
According to Anthony, EndHipEndIt will donate the bulk of those proceeds to Greater Houston Community Foundation's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund. He does plan to allocate some money to communities close to home, however. He and Nieuwoudt live in the Spring area and Anthony's parents reside in Kingwood. He saw that northwestern portion of the city devastated by the storm. Anthony says he and his father traveled to Rockport to help residents evacuate, but they didn't foresee having to do the same in life-or-death circumstances in their own community.
At the height of the flooding, he adds, Anthony and his dad "were in the truck, treading water up to my chest, getting people out. Once we couldn't get a truck into these areas, I coordinated about 1,500 boats in, from anywhere from Washington State to Boston down here. I was working with FEMA and [the] Texas Rangers."
He claims there was 45 feet of standing water in some parts of Kingwood, with three-story buildings completely submerged. He was part of several rescues and recalls giving life jackets, air mattresses, boogie boards — anything that would float — to flood victims just to give them a chance to hold onto something against the rising waters. He documented many of those moments on social media and in real time.
"None of the news teams could get out [to] Kingwood so nobody had any clue what was going on," says Anthony. "My dad was up for it and I was with him because he has a big truck. I was like, 'If you're down to risk your life, I'm down — let's go.' We started reporting and letting people know what was going on and that just helped people out so much, just sharing posts of neighborhoods so people would know what was happening, taking pictures, taking video."
Anthony said he was able to do this thanks to his professional work in logistics. He's developed a network and framework for large-scale projects thanks to his day job, but notes "It started with music. When I was like 14 years old I started booking shows and then it went on to doing logistics."
That background gave him and Nieuwoudt the confidence to unveil EndHipEndIt last year as something wildly ambitious for a first-time event. Then, it was located in Old Town Spring, far from Houston's routine music-fest setups. It featured three dozen local and national acts, an assortment of food and beer vendors and a very novice group of festival promoters.
"I've never been to a festival where everybody was happy," he says. "By the end of the night everybody had a smile on their face. It was great. We were like, 'We don't care if we lost [money], this is what it's about and we can grow from this.'"
By Anthony's timetable for success, EndHipEndIt should be well on its way to longevity and notoriety by next year.
"It's three years for a festival. Especially the style of music we're doing in this city — if we would have done this in Austin, it probably wouldn't have profited, but we would have been way closer than here," he says. "It's kind of like trying start this whole new — well, not starting a whole scene, the scene's already here — it's kind of like getting all of the people here who like the music we do, the psych-rock and the doom, finding the people here who don't know where to find it."
This weekend they'll find it at Sigma and Walter's. The festival is more than two dozen acts strong. Each night's headlining acts are female-fronted, something in which Anthony takes great pride. For locals, he suggests not missing Warlung.
"They are on the rise right now. This band is probably one of my favorite bands right now in Texas. It's hard to describe them; they have a lot of just, like, evil melodies. They remind me of a band called Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats from the U.K. There's something real special about those guys."
As for headliners, he touts Acid King, a band that is considered doom-rock innovators. Formed in 1993 by vocalist/guitarist Lori S., the band has released new material and is all over the festival circuit thanks to a resurgence in the music.
"She made a huge sacrifice to come out here for the benefit," Anthony says of Lori S. "She was calling us Day One of flooding. She wanted us to know she wanted to be a part of [the benefit] no matter what."
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"Elder is the next big thing. Over the summer when their new album dropped — Reflections of a Floating World — they were No. 30 on Top 50 vinyls sold over the summer, like up there with Prince, Mobb Deep, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin," he adds. "They sold some major vinyls this year. They're the next Mastodon. They fall in that whole realm of prog-rock metal. They've got like that doom tone. Elder's the next big thing coming out."
With so much drama behind him, Anthony is looking forward to finally taking in the music, something he says was always going to happen, come hell or high water.
"We knew we were gonna do a benefit because no matter what, we're already organized and we can do something real special," he says. "Even though we're gonna have to give to make it happen, we can make something really awesome happen."
EndHipEndIt Music Festival happens 2 p.m. Saturday at Sigma Brewing Company, 3118 Harrisburg, and 2 p.m. Sunday at Walter's Downtown, 1120 Naylor. Saturday tickets are $20 and admission on Sunday is $15.