Electric Rodeo

Rocks Off, Age 4, To His Mom: "Why Is George Strait Only Playing His Radio Hits?"

For someone who would go on to enjoy fire and loud noises and the music of George Strait with a near-crazed abandon, our first concert experience with both was marked with tears and vomit. We are pretty sure that the latter happened but when we were four years old that happened quite a bit. Weak stomach, we suppose.

Rocks Off's very first Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, and live concert experience period, was George Strait in 1987 at the Astrodome. Strait had just released Ocean Front Property that January, so he was riding high on what would end up being a massively popular multi-platinum LP. The release had three singles including the title track, "All My Exes Live In Texas", and "Am I Blue." The setlist was probably bad-ass, but we wouldn't have known at that age, or cared.

We had to confer with Mama Rocks Off on the details of the event, which have now gone into comical lore as one of the most embarrassing moments in Hlavaty family history. Considering what Rocks Off would grow up to do for a living, the actions from that chubby four year-old are alternately prophetic and mind-boggling.

"We went to see George Strait, but you were more interested in seeing the Astrodome for the first time. You were really into all the animals in the exhibit hall, and you enjoyed the rodeo part with the roping and bulls," says Mama Rocks Off in a text message. "You complained that the seats were high up, and that you should be sitting closer. I reminded you that one day you would sit up very close but not tonight."

True enough. Twenty-two years later, Rocks Off would find himself ten rows back from King George for his gig last August at Reliant Stadium. But back to the rodeo.

"When the lights went down and everyone started screaming, you shoved your hands against your ears and sat down in your seat to hide from the crowd. Loud noises still scared you at this point, so the fireworks coupled with the screaming bothered you," continues Mama Rocks Off. "At this age, your current habit was throwing up when you were scared or nervous, so you ended up throwing up at the seat. We cleaned you up in time for George."

We haven't thrown up at a concert since 1987, to be clear. We have felt bile coming up from time to time at certain shows, but that was just due to us hating the music so bad.

"The kicker is that you complained that he was only playing his singles from the radio. You then asked me why we even came to the rodeo," continues Mama Rocks Off in another elaborate text message. [Ed. Note: Our mom doesn't even know what a text message is.]

This opens up a whole new can of worms in our long journey to being a music journalist. What's funny is that there were songs from Strait's past albums that we noted were absent from his last show here in town just a few months ago. So in essence, Rocks Off was complaining, even as a child, that an artist was catering to the fair-weather radio fans and not digging into his catalog for us die-hards.

It goes to show that Rocks Off has been an awful music prick his entire life. Now we understand years and years later that in country music you have to sate the live masses and aren't always able to did out something recorded ten years previously. Kid Rocks Off must have really wanted to hear "80 Proof Bottle of Tear Stopper" real bad.

Why we complained about loud music and fire is beyond even us. Now we only want to go to gig if there is at least one of those two things involved. We don't care for much that isn't loud or on fire at this stage in the game.

Our next rodeo trip wasn't for another decade and a half, when we returned in 2002 to see Bob Dylan headline the Astrodome in what would be the venue's last Houston rodeo go-round. We didn't vomit during Dylan's set, seeing that we were slightly drunk and with our dude friends who would disapprove. But we did complain on the way home that he didn't play anything from Blood On the Tracks.

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty