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.
If you are under 30 in Houston and grew up going to punk or hardcore shows off Washington Avenue -- when it was still scary for the right reasons -- you were probably there because Willow Villarreal of Hatetank Productions booked the gig.
His booking and promoting work helped bring tons of national acts to town before they got too big for their britches, and helped a lot of local bands play their first shows. Check out the Ozone City blog and see the flyers for some of the stuff Villarreal brought to Walter's On Washington and Mary Jane's.
Hatetank's hits keep coming this week at Walter's with Title Fight and Power Trip tonight, and FallCore is still going strong entering its twelfth edition, with Will to Live and Pride Kills indoctrinating the new kids. Catch that show on Saturday.
Who? Willow Villarreal is 34 years old and originally hails from Victoria. As Hatetank Productions, he has been booking and promoting hardcore, punk and metal shows in Houston since 2001, he says.
"I actually started booking in my hometown in 1998, and when I moved to Houston I continued booking here," adds Villarreal. "The first show I booked was a benefit to raise money for the local food bank after the Guadalupe River flooded Victoria in '98. The only bands that would come to town were rock and roll, Tejano and country, and I wanted to bring music that I listened to.
"It was the first time Eyeagainst ever played Victoria and I ended up paying them in sausages," Villarreal says. "They still give me hell for that."
Home Base: "I do most of my shows at Walters, but I also book at other clubs when needed," says Villarreal. "When I moved here in 2000, bands were still skipping Houston. I started contacting bands and agents." His first show in Houston was Curl Up And Die at SPJST Lodge No. 88 on July 31, 2001, he adds.
Good War Story: Besides paying Eyeagainst in sausages, Villarreal can think of a few more.
"All these stories are from when Washington Avenue was a lot more dangerous and seedy," he begins. "One time I had a show where over 600 people showed up to Mary Jane's, so we had two shows in one night."
While the first show was going on, all the kids in line started trying to rush into the building, and I was like what the fuck? Turns out some of the kids were shit talking to a local gangster from the neighborhood behind the club that was up to no good. He threatened them and said he would be back later with some friends, and later when he showed up he pulled a shotgun on the crowd outside.
I had 36 Crazyfists playing at Mary Jane's, and one of the guys from the band got really fucked up. He ended up taking a shit in the urinal. Someone walked in right after he had finished and said if that wasn't taken care of quickly he would kick someone's ass.
So, the tour manager stepped in and cleans up the mess, walks outside and cold-cocked the guy that took the shit. The other band members noticed what was going on and after learning about what he did, they all got a few kicks in.
We were supposed to have Leftover Crack play at Mary Jane's; however, on the way from Dallas to Houston one of the band members overdosed and died in his sleep. So all the fans were outside the venue waiting for the show to begin and being completely irrational over a situation that we had no control over.
One of them went back to his car and brought out a sword from his trunk and swinging it around. Very quickly the security working the show came over, took the sword from him and kept him restrained until the police were able to take him away.
Thankfully, all of these incidents ended with nobody getting hurt with the help of the great security working these shows.
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "Houston is a great city," says Villarreal. "It has museums, theaters great food [and] numerous shows going on on any given night. The weather leaves something to be desired, but it's South Texas. I know it's kinda messed-up, but I like the harshness, grittiness and the urban city vibe that Houston has. It's not a bro-jock college town like Austin."
Biggest Music Scene Pet Peeve "Local bands who do not promote their own shows and can't show up on time to load into the venue," he says. "Just because it's my show doesn't mean you can't help promote the show as well... and then they want to get paid afterwards."
5 Desert Island Discs (+3): "Sorry, I've always hated this question, but..."
- Slayer, Reign In Blood
- Roy Orbison, The Very Best of Roy Orbison
- Bad Brains, Bad Brains
- The Doors, The Doors
- Tori Amos, Boys For Pele
- Danzig, Danzig II: Lucifuge
- Suicidal Tendencies, How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today
- Iron Maiden, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
Best Show(s) Ever "The best show I ever went to was my first real show in 1995," says Villarreal. "It was Slayer, Biohazard and Machine Head. I moshed the whole time until 4 songs into Slayer's set when my legs started cramping up and I could barely stand up.
"In 1996 I saw Sepultura, with the original singer Max Cavalera, opening for Type O Negative and Ozzy," he continues. "It was one of the most violent pits I've ever seen. This huge Mexican dude with locks through his nipples was attacking all the white kids in the crowd until a bunch of them banded together and took him out.
"I also saw Slayer and Unsane in a club in San Antonio the same touring for their punk covers album Undisputed Attitude," he concludes. "I still can't believe I saw Slayer in a club."
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FallCore begins at 5 p.m. Saturday at Walters, 1120 Naylor, www.waltersdowntown.com.