Local punk legends 30footFALL are undoubtedly one of Houston’s most beloved musical institutions. A predecessor of the gritty punk scene that was borne of long-gone clubs like The Abyss, Pik N’ Pak and the Axiom of the ‘90s back when Houston had only a handful of punk-friendly venues and even fewer festivals.
Yet 30footFALL still calls the Bayou City home and to fans' delight, the band still performs regularly and is currently recording new music. And, as tradition dictates, 30footFALL are ready to celebrate another annual Christmas-night show at Fitzgerald’s this Friday with special guests Bickley, Holder and Khobretti. It's something of a Space City music-history lesson, finding its genesis in clubs and bands who are mere ghosts of Christmas’s past.
“We picked it up after seeing Spunk and the Suspects do a Xmas night a couple years in a row at the Abyss," recalls 30FF front man Butch Klotz. "One of those Spunk Xmases there was a tiny trampoline onstage. I just so happened to be wearing floaties and goggles, you know, for stage-diving. Anyway, the next year nobody had booked a show so we jumped on it.”
The 30FootFALL boys have been doing a Christmas show at Fitz every year since 1994, with 1999 being the sole exception. So, you know naturally they're a bunch of grown-up delinquents, class clowns and fun-loving gutter-punks (which makes for the best kind of musician, actually). It takes Klotz a few moments to recall all the Christmas shows,
“I can't think of too many that stand out, minus the one year when a Ryder truck showed up and about 20 drunk Santas fell out of the back," he says. "Other than that, the Christmas show is always a reliable good time.”
This year is no exception. Klotz recounts the bands on the bill.
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“Well, Bickley is guaranteed to blow everyone out of the water," he says. "I love them like I love the Vindictives or Screeching Weasel. I don't know a lot of their words. I just know that it's fun. Lots of fists in the air, gang vocals, beer spillage. Holder is a band made up of a bunch of guys who have remained friends through the years and had a bunch of great bands in the '90s…Khobretti is Donnie Reyes' latest band. I just heard them for the first time. I hope they don't mind if I call it skate-rock. It would be pretty badass to hear down at EZ-7.”
Badass indeed. Punk is a purist genre that for the most part, employs a timeless, definitive lo-fi quality. The sound doesn’t feel dated or affected by trends and styles — in that respect, a punk album from 20 years ago shares many of the same qualities as a punk album from today.
For new, young fans, that’s a very attractive attribute. As long as lyrics embrace rebellion and teen angst, the kids will keep buying tickets —and so will you. Tell me you didn’t slam-dance with your friends to the Descendents' “Parents” on your boombox when you were 14 and I’ll call you a liar.
"Lots of kids come to the shows now — I mean, elementary and junior high," he says. "I'm glad that happens. We are and have always been a family band. Not necessarily 'family friendly,' but hugs and high-fives have been as important as rocking out, and I hope that the young ones get that from our shows — Xmas or otherwise...but I mostly remember [Xmas shows as] smiling faces and playing until at least two or three band members threaten to quit.”
Far from quitting, 30footFALL are tracking new songs and currently looking for someone to help with mixing and mastering the new material. Klotz and guitarist Chris LaForge elaborate on the new recordings
“We have about 13-14 songs ready to roll. We have played four or five of them out [live] already," they say. "We really like them. They are comfort food for the 30footFALL fan — some humor, some darkness, with the lyrics definitely coming from a more advanced stage in life.”
Waxing mature, 30footFALL recall their place in the folklore of the Magnolia City music scene.
“We, as a band, are very proud of our history and of the Houston music scene in general," Klotz says. "Before 30footFALL was even an idea, Houston had tons of great music. I thought that the fact that many people from local bands were working at Star Pizza or Record Exchange was a very big deal — it meant that normal people could rock, and it made playing music feel very accessible to me. As for carrying a [historic] reputation, we usually get someone else to do that for us, as it takes both hands to get around with a walker.”
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Don’t let the geriatric hilarity fool you. 30footFALL was one of the premiere bands of the H-Town music scene when it was populated with kids from across the Bayou City who shared a unified vision on a Saturday night: mohawks and mosh pits. The ‘90s in Houston is a bygone era when the Heights were dangerous after dark; we called ourselves "Clutch City," and parts of Beltway 8 were just blueprints on an engineer’s desk somewhere. But most importantly, it was a time of musical importance.
Today, Klotz reflects on Houston’s recent musical renaissance with dozens of venues and nationally-recognized festivals.
“I like that there is so much available to Houston music fans," he says. "Shows everywhere, lots of people in several bands. I'm not sure I like the festival scene all that much. Somehow it has become normal to spend $50 to $100 to see bands play, pay for water, whatever. We as a band enjoy playing the festivals, but for me I like seeing music happen in clubs, record stores, and practice space. Maybe I just don't like portapotties.
“Where does [30footFALL] belong?", he wraps up. "Anywhere that's happy to have us. We are playing because it's fun, it's what we do, and also because nobody has the guts to quit.”