Nationally, the music buzz may be all about Kanye's somewhat belated discovery of Twitter, Justin Bieber on CSI and the "Teknoviking 2.0," but this week all anyone in Houston seems to be talking about is the impending Fitzgerald's takeover by Free Press Summer Fest partners Omar Afra and Jagi Katial. A few choice comments from Rocks Off's post earlier this week:
Kin Kade: PARTY AT MY HOUSE 2 BLOCKS AWAY!!!!
RadioZero: Lotta memories in that building...here's to many more!
Nathan: I love this. Not like, but love. I would hump this news, I love it so much.
Easy there, Nathan. But it is pretty exciting news.
Personally, although Rocks Off was hardly a regular - the last time we were there was for Billy Bob Thornton & the Boxmasters on our birthday last year - we certainly never held anything against the place. Judging by that calendar up there, if we hadn't been in seventh grade in November 1987, we would have gone almost every night.
Like a lot of other people, but unlike plenty of others, lately we just didn't particularly care for Fitz's musical bill of fare most nights. We expect that will change, at least somewhat, once Afra and Katial take over the reins. We don't hang out at Mango's every night either, but do stop by there more than Fitz's. We also live a lot closer.
But who knows? Rocks Off deputized our operatives Craig Hlavaty, Jef With One F and Marc Brubaker to poll their friends and acquaintances around town for their opinions on the biggest news to hit the Houston music scene in a long time. We copy-edited for spelling and grammar and whatnot, but otherwise their words are as is.
Rad Rich, KPFT DJ/One-Man Local Punk-Rock Encyclopedia:
If that is the case it can be positive and negative. With the power that he has with the SummerFest it can be a good thing. The problem with Fitz like a lot of venues - namely Walters - is that the community has changed. With the gentrification of the neighborhood there is going to be even more problems with parking, noise complaints and theft.
The new neighbors will not tolerate a loud club in there new pseudo-suburban home. I am happy to have grown up going to shows at Fitz and knowing Sara and all she has done for live music in Houston. Some of the greatest shows in Houston were onstage at Fitz. From Stevie Ray Vaughan to NOFX, a lot of great bands have hit the stage.
You can't run it like Mangos, though, because it's going to be a lot you will have to deal with.
Scott "Flash" Faber, Ex-Security, Warehouse Live; Multiple Other Venues:
I think Jagi and Oomar taking over at Fitz's will be phenomenal. It'll help with artist development here, and with them evidentlý doing some needed improvements, they'll be able to pull off some great local shows/mid-size tours coming through. While some venues will lose a few shows, it'll add to what Houston has to offer.
Nothing pisses me off more than seeing bands skip Houston. There are some really talented music-industry people here: Louis Messina, the Becker family all the Live Nation people (too many to name) and people like [Warehouse Live GM] Brent Silberstein. What Jagi and Omar are doing here as a whole is amazing. Free Press Summer Fest was awesome, and they're really getting plugged into the scene.
What I mean by plugged into the industry here... no one else had the balls to pull off the FPSF. So who can be critical of these guys? I didn't see anyone else paying large amounts of money to bring the Flaming Lips in. So shit, let them take a chance.
If people feel that they alienated by them, there's tons of venues to play here. And besides, bar sales are what seriously help promoters/operators. Concentrating on kids' shows would be a huge mistake in my opinion, so you've got to have a nice mix.
Props to them. Can't wait to go to Fitz's for a show.
Christian Larson, Guitarist, Hell City Kings/Talent Buyer, Warehouse Live:
I have always liked the building. It has been misguided for a little while, but I think it's really great they are taking it over. Houston was missing a room that size that has a good vibe. Its going to be great for the music scene.
I really haven't been there too often in the last five years and haven't played there in forever. I am looking forward to see it come back.
Justin Martinez, The Tontons:
"I think they're gonna have better stuff than what's going on [now]."
Jaime, Giant Princess/Davey Crockett:
"I don't know what to think. The idea of being back there makes me want to choke a dog, but it'll be a lot cooler now. I don't mind them pulling out of Mango's."
Collin Hedrick, Giant Princess:
"Will it be the same, except with country music instead of ska?"
Brett Taylor, sIngs
"Well, where is 30footFall going to play now?"
Asli Omar, The Tontons:
"I didn't know about that; that's pretty cool. I should say something like, 'that's wonderful, cookies for everyone!'"
"It'll be a better venue than [Mango's] for the big shows. It's entirely too hot in here."
Frank Soto, Indiehouston.org:
"It's kinda strange, but it might work. What I think is that it will open up a void for someone else to start booking medium-sized bands in this town. [Fitzgerald's] has the same problem that every venue in Houston has - parking."
Bill Curtner, Brown Dog Affair/Black Math Experiment:
It is obviously the end of an era. Quite possibly, the end of a reign of terror. If you have picked up an instrument in this town, you have cut your teeth (and emptied your wallet) playing at Fitz. The "pay to play" ethic that many a musician has had to endure was a flawed concept that hopefully the new owners will make go away.
Alas, a change in regime does not always mean the proverbial grass will be greener. It is my hope that the new owners take the time to work with local artists and also try to cultivate new or younger acts. At the same time, it is imperative that they lure national touring acts back to the famed stages of Fitzgerald's.
Fitz is our CBGB'S. This decrepit 100-year-old domicile is an alt-rock mecca. Hundreds of thousands of artists have graced those stages. Side note: I was there the night of the "foot falling through the ceiling" incident. I was downstairs watching Desaad while upstairs Faceplant was performing.
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Ben C. Huggins, Gristle/Ex-Galactic Cowboys:
I've always had a problem with Houston's "pay to play" mentality. Fitz was always the worst about that. There is a well-established formula for club owners: Hire a good band, sell tickets at your box office, sell drinks at your bar, collect the money and, last but not least, pay the band. This is not a novel idea, is it?
I'm not sure what the Free Press Houston is all about. If they can do better than Sara, which won't be difficult, i'll be all for it. Maybe they can simply do what clubowners have been doing for decades and ACKNOWLEDGE TALENT!
Don't put on bands that don't have it, and they may have a shot at doing something well. It would be nice to know that there are people with integrity who aren't afraid to run off "daddy's little boy's band" in favor of real talent. Bands should be graded on the singular merit of their music and the presentation thereof, nothing more.
Once that is established they should be compensated for their labours with cold hard cash. Good luck, Free Press Houston!
Keeton Coffman, The 71's:
We are pumped about the idea - there's not doubt we'll miss the old management. Sara and [Fitz's sound engineer] Tobin are amazing. Hopefully Tobin will still be there. But there's no doubt that Fitz's is the best sounding room in Houston... We can't wait to see what happens!