Bayou City

Music Makes Texans Tailgating Second to None

“So, this song is about a guy who wants to bust a move on the dance floor. But he can’t, because he’s got gum stuck on his shoe.”

That’s the story behind “El Chicle Se Me Pego,” the Fito Olivares song, as explained by Houston Texans fan and Blue Lot tailgater Santiago Villarreal. Never mind why he’d be explaining the Spanish lyrics of a song to someone with a Mexican surname; that’s another story and one you’re not particularly interested in. But you may be intrigued by the fact that the song was being played out loud over a block speaker for anyone to hear at Saturday night’s preseason game.

The Houston Texans have long held the honor of hosting the best tailgating experience in the NFL. A lot of that has to do with the fervor of its smoking-hot fan base and the culinary wonders tailgaters cook to five-star perfection on an open-air parking lot. But, some of it has to do with the diverse music choices Texans fans share at their pre- and post-game parties. That’s what we kept an ear out for at Saturday night’s contest.

Villarreal is a season ticket holder who was enjoying cold Bud Lights from a Yeti cooler, with his wife, Gisela and their friends, Amanda and Ivan. His sound system was a “block rocker,” a portable speaker with Bluetooth capability, a rechargeable battery that’ll hold 75 hours of charge and more watts than No. 99’s family reunion. Before the game, the group’s playlist vacillated between 1990s-era rap (Bone Thugs; Notorious B.I.G.) and 1990s-era punk (blink-182, Green Day).

The game was mostly an uninspired exercise that only revealed Chandler Worthy, Khari Lee and Kourtnei Brown as hopefuls and saw DB Darryl Moore getting torched like those angry villagers in Frankenstein. That didn’t matter to Villarreal, whose post-game playlist was a dance party that border-hopped so furiously it probably rankled Donald Trump, wherever he was. From Monterrey’s Liberacion to Edinburg’s Bobby Pulido and back to Nuevo Leon’s Tropical Panama – good stuff for a Saturday night of easy beer drinking with friends.

Music is so important to the tailgating experience that football season is something of a boon to local for-hire DJs. One who is routinely posted up at Blue Lot’s sparse green space, a patch of grass near the main drive, is DJ Rene. The party he was spinning for was for one of the larger regular tailgate groups. Passers-by heard his selections heading into and out of the stadium. When we chatted, it was after dark and his selections were what his clients ordered, he said. Can’t-miss, old school hip hop gems like Kriss Kross’ “Jump” and Snoop Dogg singing about his mama not being at home on “Gin and Juice.”

Further south of the lot, DJs Jazzy J and Freaky Fred were playing for pay, too and, as with DJ Rene, were cognizant of their audience’s needs. The crowd at this party was a little younger and a little slicker, so the duo tried to emulate a club experience for its crowd, with lights and high-wattage hip hop. Like DJ Rene, Jazzy J and Freaky Fred were adorned in Texans gear, but true to the groove they were providing, they broke out the bling; in Texans form, of course. When we finished pleasantries and a snapped a couple of photos, we hung out for a second to get hype to “HYFR,” Drake’s 2011 duet with Lil Wayne.

Inside the stadium, the music is the tried-and-true NFL soundtrack. Heard year after year, they’re still ear-bustingly blaring House of Pain’s “Jump” and Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” between plays and during timeouts. The prospects for hearing Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” is more predictable than the outcome of a Texans game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

(One curious note: during the halftime scrimmage between youth football teams from Friendswood and Galveston, NRG Stadium’s music maestro played Stone Temple Pilot’s “Plush.” Hopefully there weren’t many fellow music geeks sitting there also wondering why they’d choose to play a song about a dead girl during a midgame youth football exhibition…)

These foreseen selections make the choices out on the parking lot all the more enjoyable. For instance, we spoke with a group of revelers only a few parking spaces to the east of the Villarreals. Without an official tailgate team name, they identified as “Ashlea, Rachel and The Two Travises.” Like many who visit the lot, they simply cranked their playlist from their vehicle’s car stereo. And, fortunately for those of us who were within earshot, their choices were largely local and quite varied.

We asked whether one person in the group had music duties or if it was a joint effort and one of the Travises said he picked the songs. While we talked, he said he loves Houston music, especially anything blues-oriented and started professing his love for The Big Easy. Our kinda guy. He dialed up a favorite artist, Mandeville, La.’s Eric Lindell, and we grooved to some soulful roots music. Both Travises said they’re big fans of The Revivalists.

You might think your tailgate is good, Kansas City or Green Bay. I’m not here to dispute that; but, if your tailgate tunes are all Van Halen and AC/DC and no New Orleans swamp-water music or cumbias about chewing gum, come down to NRG sometime this season and take notes. We’ll even keep a Lone Star cold for you.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.