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Hates Singer Looks Back on 35 Years of Houston Punk Rock

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As the singer, guitarist and chief songwriter for the Hates -- Houston's most enduring punk rock band and a local institution -- Christian Kidd (nee Christian Arnheiter, Christian Oppression and Christian Anarchy) has seen a lot.

And with the band nearing its 35th anniversary (with Kidd as the only constant), the man known even among non-music fans downtown as "the guy with the huge Mohawk" has put pen to paper for a memoir written with wife Alexis Kidd, Just a Houston Punk.

More a series of snapshots of his and the Hates' musical careers than straight bio, it offers a lot of recollection and reminiscences of the city's music scene of years gone by, from clubs like the Axiom, the Vatican and Pik-n-Pak to bands who once gigged across the city with names like Legionnaire's Disease, Jerry Falwell and the Vibrating Crosses, and Chernobyl Sunrise. The book takes the Hates story right up to the band playing recent Free Press Summer Fests.

"Some books are really boring that have all these details. I think people want to read about my time in the Hates and the city," Kidd says from his home on a recent Sunday morning.

"I think it's really special that Houston had its own identity and underground scene for punk," he continues. "I mean, I'm not trying to slight that the Ramones and the Sex Pistols got big record deals, but they eventually became pop stars.

"We had this melting pot in Houston that were all artists and way-out people. And that's what was great about the Houston punk scene," adds Kidd. "It wiped the slate clean."

Now nearing 60 years of age and retired from his day gig working for the City of Houston's Building and Permits division, Kidd enjoyed looking back for the book, but is always on the hunt for the next Hates gig. The group's current lineup also includes Michael Dauzat on bass and occasional Rocks Off contributor David Ensminger on drums.

But, as he points out, those in the punk scene could be just as strict in their outlook as fans of any other music genre, as Kidd saw when the Hates veered toward rockabilly at one point.

"I could go and on with so many stories of people who had bad reactions to that. People are territorial. You have to look and act a certain way," he says.

Of all the big names in punk, Kidd says the Sex Pistols -- who he saw in San Antonio on their infamous Texas tour right before they broke up - were the best. "They took it to the hilt. They created the fashion, the politics and the sound," he says. "No one could top them."

In the book, he also laments the passing of the old-school Westheimer street festivals of the '70s and '80s, where curious suburbanites would descend on Montrose to see in person Houston's other cultures of gays, drag queens, weirdos, space cases, burnouts, and half-naked guys with iguanas or snakes on their shoulders.

"It was really a unique time. It's a shame that someone hasn't capitalized on doing something like that again," he says. "I guess it wasn't family-friendly enough; there were too many elements over the boundaries of good taste. But you clean it up, and you lose the environment."

Christian Kidd will sign copies of Just a Houston Punk, followed by a live show by the Hates at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth, www.cactusmusictx.com. Free.

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