Houston Makes Great Strides in Selling Its Own Music Scene

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A few months ago, Rocks Off wrote an article expressing our surprise and disappointment at the paucity of musical content on the City of Houston's tourism site, visithoustontexas.com, the Texas-friendly smiling face it officially presents to the Web and thus the world. There wasn't much at all, just a few live-music listings buried in the bowels of the site.

Even officials at the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates the site, admitted that acknowledgment of our music scene was a little lacking. But to their eternal credit, they did something about it, and then some. Some weeks back, they added a guide to 20 prominent local music venues to the site's "Nightlife" section.

They didn't stop there, though. The bureau's "Houston 2.0" marketing campaign, which started two weeks ago, is placing fancy-pants ads touting the Bayou City's abundance of culinary and artistic talents in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Texas Monthly and Forbes.

Best of all, the materials the GHCVB sent out to these 500 or so media outlets (even us) come with a CD featuring Houston artists fans can go see in local venues most weekends, including this one.

The disc is called H-Town Presents, and features 19 acts that, taken together, offer a better-than-average representation of what our scene actually sounds like, curated by photographer-turned-promoter (and former Houston Press contributor) Mark C. Austin of the Convoy Group.

Thus it is flush with Houston's indie scene -- the Tontons, Featherface, Wild Moccasins, The Manichean, Young Girls, The Handshake -- but not exclusively, and also features DJ Sun, Come See My Dead Person, Shellee Coley, and now-honorary Houstonian Robert Ellis, among others.

Such an eclectic range of sounds is second nature to those of us who live here, but probably not what your average tourist coming from Fargo or Fort Lauderdale would be expecting. Bun B and friends' recent NFL playoff-drive single "Here We Go (Texans Anthem)" is included, as well as a curse-free version of Fat Tony's "Hood Party," but most of Houston's better-known rappers are absent. Whether that's because of a money issue or the bureau preferred to leave off strip-club anthems, we may never know.

Furthermore, only Ellis and Folk Family Revival approach country, so the CVB should consider its knuckles rapped for not including at least Mike Stinson. (Houston is still in Texas, y'all.) And sadly, but sensibly, it skirts the more noise/psychedelic/fringe elements of our scene, so there's no Rusted Shut or Black Leather Jesus. But this is after all a marketing endeavor -- and hey, Venomous Maximus made the cut.

But overall, the CVB and Austin, and of course the performers, have done the city a great service by helping the national media get a clearer picture of what "Houston music" means today.

It's certainly nice to have Beyonce, ZZ Top and Lyle Lovett -- featured in the bureau's previous national campaign, "My Houston" -- as proverbial feathers in our cap, but the H-Town Presents artists are all on their way up, and likely to be acting as Bayou City musical ambassadors for years to come.

The feedback has been encouraging, according to Lindsey Brown, the CVB's Director of Marketing.

"The wine editor from Travel + Leisure told me he listened to it," she says. "A lot of the chefs in the campaign really like it. I'm glad people are responding to it so well."

H-Town Presents is only destined to become a collector's item, though. Due to various copyright, publishing and licensing issues, is for promotional use only, and not commerically available. About 800 copies are left over from the production run of 2,000, and Brown says the bureau plans to give the remaining copies to its sales team and use in goodie bags for visiting media.

But, she adds, the public can hear the music on the Houston 2.0 pages on the CVB site, and the remaining copies will be offered as "takeaways" at events the bureau sponsors. So there's still an outside chance off snagging a copy yourself.

"It's just a really nice gift for anyone we may be working with," says Brown.


The Tontons, "Golden" Buxton, "Boy of Nine" Wild Moccasins, "Gag Reflections" Young Girls, "Noches" Featherface, "I Saw You Dancing" Benjamin Wesley, "Gretch, You Just Wait!" Robert Ellis, "Friends Like These" Poor Pilate, "Sundowning" The Handshake, "I'll Take Mine" The Manichean, "The Swan" Shellee Coley, "The Trees" Grandfather Child, "Can't Seem to Forget" Folk Family Revival, "Unfolding" Come See My Dead Person, "Another Goodbye" Venomous Maximus, "Moonchild" Teddy Rose & Bun B feat. Bobby Lamar, "Here We Go (Texans Anthem)" Fat Tony, "Hood Party (Radio Edit) DJ Sun feat. Leah Alvarez, "Heart Seed" Tyagaraja, "We Will Meet Again"

The Tontons perform "Golden" and a few other songs at 3 p.m. Saturday at Cactus Music, 2110 Portsmouth.

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