Look, we all know Houston has a lot going on, and a lot to be proud of. As one of America's biggest and busiest cities, it offers an almost infinite array of diversions and amusements to go along with world-class shopping, restaurants, universities and medical care.
But some of us also believe that Houston is one of the best music towns around, and has been for a long time. Seems like we've been beating that particular drum forever. (Yes, it is our job.)
Lots of other people know it too, from the Europeans who line up to see to some of our venerable blues and R&B musicians on tour to the indie-rockers shocked at the packed houses and enthusiastic crowds that greet them here and the city of Austin, which sometimes seems like it is entirely populated with former Houston musicians.
So Rocks Off was a little dismayed (and a little shocked too) when this week we started poking around the city's official visitors site to see what kind of musical assets Houston was touting to the world in its quest for those prized tourist dollars. There wasn't much.
Right up front, the site, www.visithoustontexas.com, is (almost) first-class all the way. It would take a smarter computer person than us to identify the specific software used by the Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau, which maintains the site, but they have to be happy with the results. The site is easy to load, graphically rich and aesthetically pleasing, packed with information, and even fun to explore.
It's just really difficult to find anything about music on there, even more troubling considering many of the people in the GHCVB's current "My Houston" ad campaign are musicians like Beyonce, ZZ Top and Lyle Lovett. (Two out of those three still live here, we might add.) If you click on each one's ads you'll see a quick interview about Houston, and in ZZ Top and Lovett's cases their TV spot.
Across the top of the homepage are several tabs divided into "Travel Tools and Info," "Things to Do," "Coupons & Discounts," "Hotels," "Restaurants," "Shopping," and "Nightlife." Cactus Music and sometime music venue the Orange Show (primarily a visual art space) get singled out in the "Insiders Guide" under "Things to Do," but let's go straight to "Nightlife," shall we?
Here you will find four "Insider's Guide"-style tip-sheet essays, two of them potentially music-heavy: "Signature Sips," (choice cocktails), "Mix Masters" (more drinking), "Happenin' Hoods" (more like it) and "Houston After Hours" (surely there must be something here).
Sadly, no.The "Happenin Hoods'" piece glosses over if not omits entirely the principal music venues in the highlighted neighborhoods of Downtown/Midtown, Montrose, River Oaks/West U and Washington Avenue. House of Blues rates a mention in Downtown/Midtown, but not Warehouse Live, Walters or the Continental Club.
A couple of dance clubs squeak into Washington Avenue, but Rudyard's and Mango's (Montrose), Fitzgerald's (Washington... sort of) or the Armadillo Palace (West U.) are nowhere in sight. Where's Numbers? Blanco's? The new MKT Bar?
As for "Houston After Hours," well, this is one hungry city. Under "Entertainment," you can choose between the River Oaks Theatre and two bowling alleys.
The news is a little brighter navigating the site's labyrinthine events database, which at least has an an option to search for "live music." It turns up 25 results. We know there are more than that, which you can see on our own Houston Concert Calendar (try "select venue" under the "Find Any Show" box).
Rocks Off took our concerns to the HCVB, and talked to A.J. Mistretta, who works on the Web site and helps maintain that database. To his eternal credit, he admitted as much instead of giving us a "no comment" or hanging up on us entirely.