The Rocks Off 100: Anna Garza, Girls Rock Camp Houston Guru

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.

Who? Very busy Victoria native Anna Garza grew up in Houston and, she says, "I have been involved with the local punk scene longer than some of my friends have been alive."

Early on, Garza says she made zines and put together local shows. The first big one, at the Wade Rd. Skatepark in Baytown, she called "The Anti-Oppression Show"

"There was something like 20 bands, on the bill," Garza recounts. "All different types of bands peacefully co-existing, people selling records and zines from their distro, tables set up for people to pass out info on various political causes."

She became part of the famous local booking collective Hands Up Houston and organized the first Hootenanny and the second Noise & Smoke Fest. Now Garza plays in three bands -- The Busy Kids (guitar), Vivian Pikkles & the Sweethearts Uber Alles (bass) and the Ex-Girlfriends (drums) -- and is the engine behind Girls Rock Camp Houston, the local branch of the nationwide nonprofit music camp for girls ages eight-18.

"My unofficial mission statement for GRCH is that we are a self-empowerment camp disguised as a music camp," says Garza. "We provide all the instruments and musical instruction. The girls form bands and write original songs which they perform live in front of an audience at the end of the camp week." (GRCH takes place in the summer; watch its Web site for announcements about 2013 enrollment.)

Home Base: Garza works as a professor's assistant at the University of Houston, and her bands practice at The Docks near the new Walters. "When I'm not at work or at band practice, I hang out at Michael's Outpost and sing at the piano bar most Wednesday and Thursday nights," she adds.

Good War Story: "A friend and I went to see Sonic Youth at Numbers," begins Garza. "Unwound and Polvo opened. Hardly anyone at that show knew who Unwound and Polvo were, so there wasn't a lot of crowd interest.

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Of course, I was in the front row and stayed there for SY. As soon as Sonic Youth started the opening riff to "Teenage Riot" (their first song of the night) the kids started going wild. People started moshing to the slow intro!

Of course, when the song kicks in, everything got crazier and poor little me got caught in a mosh. Some dude noticed I needed help and asked if he could assist me. He leans over and tells me to jump on his back. I happily obliged, thinking he would carry me to safety, but instead he flips me over his shoulder and I am crowd surfing.

The audience starts cheering wildly at the sight of this wee girl crowd surfing and all I could think of was, "Put me down! Kim Gordon just saw me crowd-surf."

Yeah, I'm a pussy.

Garza actually wanted to tell one more war story, and we saw no reason to deny her. Here she is.

I was working a Hands Up Houston show alone. It was a hardcore show at Silky's. This punk guy showed up, completely shitfaced, and attempted to weasel his way into the show for free.

Of course, I wouldn't let him in, and he started to become really aggressive. I asked him to leave but he wouldn't. Finally, I started pushing him out the door. He called me every name in the book, then he pushed me back.

I fell backwards and landed on the table where I was doing the door and where our money box was. I'm on the ground and dollar bills were flying everywhere. This group of skinheads (male and female) were at the bar and saw what happened.

They got up and chased the guy down the street and beat him up.

Why Do You Stay In Houston? "In the gayborhood," Garza says cryptically.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Tall people who stand in front of me at shows."

5 Desert Island Discs:

  • Bikini Kill, "every record"
  • Black Flag, Damaged
  • Fugazi, Repeater
  • Frankie Smith, Double Dutch Bus
  • The Descendents, Milo Goes to College

Best Show Ever: "Lightning Bolt, 2003 at Mary Jane's," says Garza. "I still get goosebumps when I think about it."

First Song You Fell In Love With: "The Bee Gees, 'Stayin' Alive.'"

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