Anyone who has spent a decent amount of time in Houston punk-rock circles can recall one constant over the years —the iconic mohawked, scooter-riding, smiling face of the Hates front man, Christian Kidd (formerly Arnheiter), whose sweet demeanor and friendly candor has made him a favorite of many music fans in H-Town.
A long-time Houston institution, The Hates originally formed in 1978 when punk was still in its infancy. Carrying the proverbial punk-rock torch for Houston, The Hates’ earliest gigs found themselves alongside such legendary Texas acts such as the Mydolls, The Dicks, MDC and D.R.I. It's a pretty incredible history for a humble guy who says he just likes to play guitar and sing.
“I'm just a guy who likes punk rock," Kidd shyly admits. "I like it so much that I formed my own band, and I've been lucky enough to be doing what I love — playing my own music- for almost 40 years.”
Indeed, many bands and fans across the Houston scene have a Hates story, or a few of them. For Kidd, it’s always been about the music and the people. He's made it his mission to put a smile on the face of everyone who attends a Hates show, but now it’s time for Houston to more than return the favor.
“I've been diagnosed with Stage 3 squamous cell carcinoma.” Kidd explains, “It started with a sore throat and swollen glands after my shoulder surgery in January. After a couple rounds of antibiotics and then some tests, I had a biopsy. After they came back with cancer, they found a tumor about an inch long on the base of my tongue and it's spread to one of the lymph nodes in my neck.”
Pretty frightening stuff for anyone, yet Kidd has an action plan for care and recovery. “I'm scheduled for 5-7 weeks of targeted radiation Monday through Friday with chemo at weeks 1, 3, and 6,” he continues, “Then I get to rest for a couple of weeks before we test again to make sure we got everything. It's going to be a pretty rough road, but I'm very confident that we're going to beat this thing.”
Houston’s music scene is a tight-knit community made up of musicians, promoters, artists, and fans from all walks of life. You can find that in any city, maybe, but what makes Houston special is we care for our own.
When Hates drummer and Houston Press music writer David Ensminger got word of the devastating diagnosis, he immediately began organizing a series of fundraising activities to help Kidd out. One of them is the benefit event planned for this Sunday at Rudyard's, dubbed “Rock For Light.”
In a true communal effort, local print shop Copydotcom donated flyers and Jealous Creatures drummer Josh Barry designed the flyer. In addition to the numerous punk bands on the bill like No Love Less, Hollowbody, U.Y.U.S. and All Star Punk Squad, Ensminger has been auctioning punk memorabilia for weeks. When asked about his motivation to help, Ensminger is quick to point out how unique and special Kidd really is.
“Few people I have encountered have proven to be so utterly resilient, committed, earnest, and inquisitive as Christian, and I have been making fanzines and interviewing bands since the mid-1980s,” he explains. ”As his drummer, I know he is an unstoppable force, someone who will play gigs small and large, as well as take time to listen, encourage, and prod, plus he constantly makes new tunes and reinvents his music: he is a punk titan full of quick wit and burning ambitions, even in times of duress."
Many regulars around the scene have offered to help. From June 12-18, Free Press Houston music writer David Garrick is hosting a week-long series of events called “Houston Benefit Week,” with shows planned across the city to help Kidd's recovery. One of the many featured acts, local rapper Kyle Hubbard, will perform at The Secret Group.
“On paper, punk rock and hip-hop may appear to occupy different spaces, but the truth is that the genres are cousins," says Hubbard. "The independent hip-hop scene in Houston is building its monuments on top of the foundation acts like The Hates laid for us. This benefit week embodies that. Mr. Kidd's legacy embodies that.
"I hope Mr. Kidd knows what he's done for all the artists that came after him," he elaborates. "I hope he knows the fights he fought, the dice he rolled, the shows he played, and the things he did provided a platform for a four-eyed rapper from his hometown to be himself. Love The Hates forever.”
As if that’s not enough, more help is on the way. Mydolls bassist and guitarist Dianna Ray has plans for a massive garage sale to help Kidd and his recovery, too. She says she couldn’t be more delighted to get her hands dirty for the local legend.
“One of the things we do is help take care of each other. It's a pretty tight group of musicians and supporters, what I refer to as my tribe," Ray offers. "So I love seeing all these different people and venues reaching out to help our brother.”
The Mydolls and the Hates share quite the history, Ray adds. “Christian and The Hates gave Mydolls our first opportunity to play live opening for them at The Parade Disco," she says. "I have a lot of stuff I need to get rid of, so I thought, 'Why not have a punk-rock garage sale and turn the stuff we no longer need into a means to help support Christian while he goes through treatment?' People like to help because cancer makes [them] feel so powerless.”
Indeed, while help is in abundance, it has not gone unnoticed. “It's pretty amazing, right?” Kidd says. “I'm so grateful…To tell the truth, pretty much the entire Houston punk scene is made up of a bunch of very caring and giving people. We all stand up and help whoever needs helping.”
Missing work while recovering places a huge financial stress on the Kidd family, which needs all the support it can muster. “Let's be honest, I haven't worked since the end of January, and while I'm going through cancer treatment I'll be pretty sick so I'm not going back to work anytime soon,” Christian says.
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“All of the donations we've gotten so far are helping my wife and I keep afloat," he continues. "Same with the money from the benefit that [Ensminger is] putting together. To not have to worry about making rent or buying food while I'm not working lifts a huge weight off of my shoulders, and I'm so grateful.”
Kidd also has a caring wife by his side, Alexis, who has unfortunately been down this same road yet beaten the disease. He admits it’s truly a team effort. "[From] the amazing doctors and nurses at Kelsey-Seybold, and the support of many friends and fans, there's no way I can't win," he vows.
“My wife is helping me document my health adventures on Facebook, so if you want the latest updates feel free to follow me," Kidd says. "I just want to make sure everyone knows how much I appreciate all of the positive messages, good wishes, and prayers. The amount of support we've received has been overwhelming in the best kind of way, and I'll never forget it.”