It's no great secret that the live-music scene around Houston can be a little, well, dead around the holidays. There are enough "thank God we're off tour" shows by local and regional acts to make it worth fans' while, but because the music business is generally among the first to shut down for the year and the last to get going again, in late December you almost never see a genuine A-list star venture this far from either coast.
Saturday, one does. Twice in one night. Most of our readers probably need no introduction to Kendrick Lamar, the 25-year-old Compton rapper who has been tapped by no less than Dr. Dre as a once-in-a-generation talent. Both VIBE and Pitchfork named Lamar's moody, sensual debut LP g.o.o.d. kid, m.A.A.d city (released on Dre's Aftermath Entertainment) their album of the year, and he has been anointed music's top 2012 newcomer by just about everyone else with a trophy on hand.
Those lucky enough to go to TSU's homecoming in October, shortly after m.A.A.d city came out, might have seen Lamar perform with Erykah Badu. He was also supposed to perform at Warehouse Live earlier that week, but postponed that show until Saturday "so that he could give the city of Houston something special," in the words of Mike Meegz, Houston ground-operations manager for ScoreMore Shows.
ScoreMore, the Austin-based company founded by then-UT student Sascha Guttfreund, has brought dozens, even hundreds, of hip-hop shows to Houston in the past two years or so. The "something special" turned out to be two separate performances Saturday night, Warehouse Live early and House of Blues late. Rocks Off couldn't think of something like this ever happening on our watch, and we know it doesn't happen often anywhere, so we emailed Guttfreund earlier this week to see what was up.
Rocks Off: When did you realize you needed a second show?
Sascha Guttfreund: We had a feeling this was going to happen once we found out we needed to postpone our original date. Kendrick has so much momentum right now... He's making incredible music and people support him for it. Just the way it should be. I had the idea of announcing a second show and I asked Kendrick's manager about it, and he liked the idea.
RO: Are there any tickets left for either show?
SG: Right now both shows are SOLD OUT. With that being said, there is a total of 20 tickets left for both shows combined, and we'll make them available over the course of the week leading up to the show. We like keeping our supporters engaged.
RO: Is ScoreMore offering any last-second giveaways or anything?
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RO: Why do you think there's such demand for Lamar right now?
SG: Kendrick has talent that we (as hip-hop fans) have never seen before. He's a breath of fresh air. He released a classic album... With a lot of acts today, there's some kind of gimmick. With Kendrick, there is no angle besides pure talent, great stories, timeless music. People like that, and I'm thankful for that.
RO: How excited are you guys to be doing this?
SG: Incredibly excited. Kendrick is a close friend. So is the whole TDE [Lamar's Top Dawg Ent.] crew. We've been doing their Texas shows for three years, dating back to the first Houston show we did, which had 300 attendees.
This guy is never going to play rooms this small again. He's an arena act for the rest of his career... So to be able to bring the city of Houston two intimate shows with a superstar like Kendrick Lamar is truly an honor.
RO: It seems like both venues would have some kind of non-compete clause that would prevent an artist from performing across town the same night. Was that an issue here?
SG: No that wasn't an issue because we, as the promoter, assume 10 percent of the risk for the shows. We rent Warehouse Live and House of Blues in order to produce these events... Kendrick's performances are contracted through Scoremore rather than the venue.
The issue was making sure everyone involved (venues, consumers and Kendrick) was happy -- and we worked hard to make sure that was the case. None of this is possible without the loyalty and hard work of TDE and Kendrick to ScoreMore. They make it go. We just cross T's and dot I's.
RO: Why not just do one show at Bayou Music Center or somewhere else? Was it an availability issue?
SG: Not an availability issue, but this is a great question. The first thing is about loyalty. Warehouse Live has been very good to us - I'm very close with the owner over there - and to take away a sold-out show would have been completely out of the question.
Second is about the consumer experience. I started making calls. First three calls I make regarding anything in Houston are Bun B, DJ Mr Rogers and Teresa from SF2. They loved the idea and all gave me great advice, like always. Then I chopped it up with Mike Meegz, our Houston captain on the streets... Everyone was in.
So the issue became fulfilling the idea. We could do two shows at Warehouse, but that would have been very difficult logistically to clear out the venue and then have another 1,650 people waiting outside in line while the first show was happening. It wouldn't have felt right.
The other thing is that I've worked so hard with House of Blues and Live Nation's team here in Texas that it felt like doing one show with them would be the perfect nightcap to the evening and an incredible 2012. Two shows at two similar-sized rooms. Both great venues.
So I looked for the first weekend night that both venues had a night available; it was December 29th... And here we are!
I gotta say... People thought we were a little crazy, but again we sold out two shows a week in advance, which tells me something about how crazy our show will be in Houston with Kendrick in 2013!!!
RO: What steps are you taking to make sure that Lamar goes onstage on time at both venues?
SG: Ohhhhh that's all on the queen! Claire (@ClairellaDTrill) runs everything at our shows. Logistically she's handling the entire day... Wish her luck or hit her on Twitter.. Or something.
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Kendrick Lamar performs Saturday at Warehouse Live (doors at 7 p.m.) and House of Blues (10:30 p.m.). Both shows are technically sold out, but it's the music business... there's always a way in if you're crafty enough.