Mike Schoolcraft is a local promoter, blogger, visual artist and musician.
But maybe more than anything, he's a student of the music he loves best; so, he knows there's a long history of social activism associated with punk rock. From Fear to Pussy Riot, he can tell you everything that's right and a lot about what's wrong with movements associated with the music.
He's trying to cull from these lessons learned for his own advocacy. He'll get another chance when he rolls out Fuzzy Fest IV: A Benefit for Pugs, this Saturday at The Compound (2305 Wheeler).
"I first thought of doing Fuzzy Fest back in 2009 because there were benefit shows going on but none of them were for animals," he says. "It wasn't until I was living in a punk house that I decided to try again and on November 12, 2011 the very first Fuzzy Fest took place at the now-defunct Ghetto Blaster."
That first attempt was a success in many ways. From afternoon until early morning, band after band shook the small house in southeast Houston. The first 25 people through the door got a free 40-ounce beer and, anomaly of all anomalies, there were free nachos and hot dogs for all the party-goers and bands.
The one aspect Schoolcraft was a bit disappointed in was the main reason he held the event to begin with: its fundraising effort.
"The day after the first Fuzzy Fest, I met up with a lady named Sharon who operates the Feral Feline Retreat (the event's first beneficiary)," he recalls. "She came in to my work to pick up the money we raised for her and I was a bit embarrassed that we only raised a little over $250."
"She told me that she truly appreciated what I had done and that the money could easily pay for five or six cats being spayed or neutered, with a little left over for food or other supplies," Schoolcraft adds. "Her reaction made me want to keep doing these shows, because it's hard enough for these rescues to operate on donations and I know that every dollar counts to these groups whose vet bills are piling up."
This installment will benefit PugHearts of Houston (pughearts.com), a rescue organization which focuses on this designer breed of dog.
"Pugs are very time-consuming and expensive, but people usually get them because they're 'silly looking' or 'adorable' without even realizing they're getting a 12- to 15-year commitment," says Schoolcraft. "Medical problems are not uncommon with pugs and some people abandon them once they figure out just how much of a commitment they really are."
The organization's mission is to rescue and rehabilitate abused and abandoned pugs and adopt them out to pet lovers who have the patience and heart to care for them.
PugHearts volunteer Kara Ogletree says this is the first time the organization will benefit from a music festival. She's not sure whether pugs are music fans, but says she leaves the radio on for her own pug every day.
"Our goal always is to find forever homes for our pugs," Ogletree says. "We hope to encourage people to adopt and not shop for a pet, whether pug or non-pug, and to get the word out that there are wonderful pets available through adoption."
Ogletree says PugHearts volunteers will be at the fest to answer questions and provide information about pugs. Schoolcraft added them to Feral Feline Retreat, They're So Fluffy and the Animal Liberation Front, all organizations he's teamed with in past Fuzzy Fests, once he got wind of their work with "Harold."
"Harold was thrown from a moving vehicle, causing his eyes to rupture," he says. "These are the types of cases they handle and they never refuse any pug regardless of medical condition. It is important for Fuzzy Fest to help raise funds for them because of the expense needed to help these little dogs."
Aside from all the advocacy, there's the music. Every Fuzzy Fest turn has featured more than a dozen bands on its bill and this year's lineup includes locals like Garbage Dump, Warhounds, Black Coffee and Funeral Horse. Visiting bands include Marla Strange, Troothless and 2 Buck Drunks.
"There are seven bands from all over Texas coming to play, which is the most out-of-towners we've ever had, and six bands from Houston including some Fuzzy Fest veterans," says Schoolcraft. "All of the bands are really amazing. Many of them I've never seen play before so it's going to be exciting to see new bands performing."
"We've never played Fuzzy Fest before but we played in Houston at East Side Social Center back in May and had a blast," said Walter, a singular-monikered member of Shfux, which is traveling from Waco to play the show. "I think fests like this are great. It's benefiting something we support and everyone in attendance wins 'cause they get to check out a bunch of bands they might not otherwise know anything about. Same thing for the bands playing -- a new audience to play for."
As the event gets closer, Schoolcraft will begin to worry more about how everything will go. He said he's grateful to have the support of Doctor V, the proprietor of The Compound, but he's experienced enough turmoil over Fuzzy Fests I-III to expect some stomach-churning moments this time, too. From bands complaining about time slots to others not showing at all to people ignoring the advocacy piece altogether, he knows plenty can go wrong.
But, Schoolcraft says, the objective is important enough to keep rolling these events out and he now plans to do them quarterly, with the next installment set for October.
"I've always been interested in helping animals and this is my way of doing that," he says. "I find it highly disappointing that this is the only benefit going on right now for animals in the alternative scene."
"It's worth the hassle because of the end result," Schoolcraft adds. "There have been times that I wanted to give up because sometimes the show does make me depressed and the stress can really get to me, but the one quote that keeps me going is, 'The kindness one does for an animal may not change the world but it will change the world for one animal.' That's really stuck with me and it's why I continue to book these benefits."
If everyone doesn't get that, plenty of music fans and bands get it, according to Shfux's Walter. He said his band will bring "the best kind of chaos" to the night and hopes to help grow Fuzzy Fest's fan base.
"We are participating 'cause it's a show, first off, but more importantly, we are all animal owners of various kinds and it's nice to know that people are still attempting to help out causes that they believe in," he said. "It's easy to be passionate about something but it's harder to take the next step and do something about it."
Fuzzy Fest IV: A Benefit for Pugs begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, July 27 at The Compound, 2305 Wheeler. Admission is $5.
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