This week in the paper edition of the Press
(remember that?), Rocks Off examines the state of the local music scene on the eve of the Houston Press Music Awards showcase and awards ceremony
. There are a lot of reasons to be encouraged - a bumper crop of fine local releases across all formats, new venues opening up, local artists actually touring beyond Texas and an overall sense of community and possibility that has seldom if ever been there in the past.
But even though he lives on one, no man is an island, so Rocks Off reached out to a panel of insiders with a few simple questions about the state of the scene. One who didn't quite reply in time for the print edition, but who Rocks Off definitely wanted to hear from, is "eggs," one of the founders and editors of peripatetic Houston music blog Breakfast on Tour
. "My focus is on all types of different music and sizes of bands," eggs told his readers earlier this week, "but hopefully I can do a better job in helping Houston command the respect that it deserves."
Rocks Off: Do you think the local music scene is better or worse than at this time last year? Why?
Eggs: Hands down better. Houston's local music scene is finally starting to pull together in efforts of bringing more people out to shows. The best example I can think of is Free Press Houston
's bi-annual Block Party. I have been attending these events for years, but just within the past year, attendance has at least doubled in size. While the addition of several big-name headliners certainly helped the increase, it was many of our local bands that were truly drawing the masses in.
It's also better in the fact that the entire scene is much more united than it was a year ago. Many of the newer acts - The Wild Moccasins, B L A C K I E, Buxton, the Tontons, News On The March, Young Mammals, etc. - have now played together on numerous occasions, and have formed a very communal feel whenever they perform. It's not uncommon to attend one of these live shows in Houston and be surrounded by several members of my favorite local bands. It's that type of support system that is allowing Houston's scene to establish itself, and grow beyond its Montrosian epicenter.
RO: What aspects of the scene (promotion, touring, production, media, venues) are most improved? What aspects could still use the most improvement
E: All five aspects listed have greatly improved over the past year due to several different outlets. First off, the reopening of Cactus Music & the Record Ranch has done wonders for our music scene: regularly hosting local bands during their in-store series, putting new local releases on their shelves without question and using their established name to promote said releases are just a few of the things Cactus regularly does to allow our scene to flourish. They are dedicated to our scene, and can't be thanked enough by any and every Houston group out there trying to make a name for themselves.
It's nice to see groups touring more often as well. The Wild Moccasins just returned from a massive tour of the eastern portion of the United States, and not only made a name for themselves nationally, but also did a good job of representing their hometown. The Young Mammals are on tour, B L A C K I E just played the Afro-pop festival in NYC, and many other local bands are poised to follow in their footsteps by hitting the road within the next year. In the four years I've lived here prior to this year, I don't recollect many Houston bands playing shows anywhere further than San Antonio.
I won't comment much about the state of the media - being a member of that field - but all I can say is that the quality of today's media has increased tenfold. With Rocks Off, 29-95, Indie Houston, Dryvetyme Onlyne, Space City Rock, FPH
and myself, people are now getting more and more local coverage than ever before. We, as Houston's only real source for local music coverage, have to continue what we've built on by getting the word out about our local scene.
Finally, venues have changed a bunch in the last year. Avant Garden has become a regular music room again, hosting several live shows weekly. Mango's is now open and offering live music nightly from a host of great local bands. Established venues, like Fitzgerald's, Rudyard's, the Mink and Walter's On Washington are regularly offering
up local performances on top of national touring acts. Also, bigger venues like Warehouse Live, Meridian and the new House Of Blues are giving up prime showcases to several local bands, almost on a weekly basis. While I could take or leave some of the venues I've listed, we finally have several places offering many different choices of live music (non-cover bands) on a nightly basis.
RO: In your eyes, what makes our scene unique?
Our scene is unique because nobody outside of Houston really knows much about it. It's unique because it's young, fresh and can only go up. We were lucky enough to witness somewhat of a rebirth of Houston's music scene over the past year, and are fortunate to see the early stages of what could become huge. The next year will be pivotal to Houston's music scene, and events like Houston Press
' Music Awards Showcase, Free Press Summer Fest and the Block Party will only help in the growing process.