Like most years, 2011 has been...complicated. We've heard some great music, seen some killer shows and lost some amazing people. We also nearly lost one of our own. That's how it goes in this world and it's why the things we are thankful for take on added meaning as the year begins to wind down.
The truth is, no matter how tough it gets, the world just keeps surprising us.
Fitzgerald's and Band Camp
I'm thankful for two things in Houston: The Fitzgerald's open mics on Wednesday nights and Bandcamp's Houston search tool, because I like to feel like I am Al Percolo from The Scout, that 1994 movie with Albert Brooks as a minor league baseball scout. The Fitz open mics always have someone fun, interesting or cringe-worthy, but mostly they are all hardworking and unique. Mostly, I said. My favorite right now is solo act Ross Puryear, who does these really grungy ballads on a keyboard. His takes on Townes Van Zandt's "Waitin' Around To Die" and even Joan Osborne's "One Of Us" are worth the hassle of looking for parking around White Oak on busier nights.
The fun thing about Bandcamp is that you can find these weird musical projects from people who have little intention of anyone besides themselves and their friends hearing what they recorded. It also makes me happy that so many people are actually making art for themselves in their spare, or probably even company, time. With the boom in iPad-aided home recording, I can only expect to keep finding more gems. CRAIG HLAVATY
I'm thankful for Dan Electro's Guitar Bar and Bob Edwards, who provide a venue for unique local treasures like Beans Barton and Teri Greene; Pete Gordon, John Smith, Tomas Escalante and Donna LaMel, and The Big E at the Continental Island; Omar and Jagi for the reinvigoration of Fitz; Roger Wood for being like a perfectly calibrated compass to the rich blues and zydeco history that if you aren't celebrating, you should go to confession and repent for ignoring; and Tom McLendon and the Big Easy for keeping the door to the blues open in this town and for treating the musicians right.
I'm thankful for the Miller Outdoor Theatre, for the quality and diversity of its always-free shows; little venues like West Alabama Ice House, Under the Volcano, Blanco's, Leon's, Brasil, Anderson Fair; the hula-hoops and Mexican food at Last Concert Cafe; the Houston Blues Society for its unquestioning support of blues music, blues musicians and Houston's blues heritage; and amazing sidemen like Wayne "Animal" Turner, William Hollis, Little Joe Frenchwood, Sparetime Murray and hundreds of others who are the best players in town but who are never mentioned when we do the Music Awards, because they don't campaign.
Finally, I'm thankful for the two-steppers and swing dancers who show up at the little joints and keep them alive and enjoyable; and to KTSU for keeping the ocean of soul alive. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
A Strong Year
This year, local musicians gave Houston Press music writers great content, all year long. Anyone who says that the local music scene is comatose must not be attending the same shows as me. 2011 was a year of releases and victories for Houston bands and artists. There were a few record releases that are still in my regular rotation: Something Fierce's Don't Be So Cruel, Cop Warmth's Die Slow, The Mahas Dead Of Night, and The Energy's Get Split. There was even a cassette comeback with White Crime and Noguey releases through the genesis of the tape label, Bummertapes.
There were a number of firsts for myself as well as the Houston Press, including the inaugural BestFest. I was also introduced to a few new bands over the past ten months. Psychic Palms, Mikey & The Drags, Noguey, and Peloton all dependably played shows all over town, most for free. Thanks, guys, for making it fiscally possible for me to come to at least three shows a week.
I feel a strong tide coming in for local music, strengthened by a force full of booking agents, promoters, venues, graphic artists, blogs, fans, musicians, artists and labels. For this, let's join hands and give thanks. Everyone deserves it. ALLISON WAGONER
Did You Hear?
Did you hear the dusty, salt-of-the-earth aggression of Delo's Hood Politics Vol. 2? Did you hear the syrupy chomp of Killa Kyleon's Candy Paint -N- Texas Plates 2? Did you hear the agro freedom rally of B L A C K I E's True Spirit and Not Giving A Fuck? Did you hear the anything that Jack Freeman did? Did you hear MC Beezy and Rai P's "Swagged Up I Be Killin'"? Did you hear Mr. Wired Up (Oh Boy)'s Inside My Mind? Did you hear hasHBrown's Relationsh*t? Did you hear the nonsensical fury of Dante Higgins' "Blow Up"? Did you hear Kyle Hubbard's "It's Making Sense"? Did you hear Doughbeezy's "Pass The Swisher"? Did you hear Slim Thug and the suddenly unstoppable Boss Hogg Outlawz? Did you hear Rob Gullatte's "Trill Hip-Hop"? Did you hear Kirko Bangz's "Drank In My Cup"? Did you hear the belligerence of the super-villain Propain? Did you hear Show? Did you hear Thurogood or The Niceguys or Tana? Did you hear Tawn-P's The Wakeup Kiss? Did you hear Trae's Street King or Quis's 16 oz? Did you hear Preemo's The Magic Bullet? Did you hear Killa Cal-Wayne? Did you hear T.H.E.M.? Did you hear MisFit Crazy8? Did you hear Eskabel? Did you hear H.I.S.D.? Did you hear Fat Tony? Did you hear O.N.E.? Did you hear DJ Mr. Rogers or OG Ron C or Candlestick or Ebonix or Xplicit? Did you hear... SHEA SERRANO
As a Texas transplant (native New Yorker and former Chicagoan), I am continuously surprised by how many non-Texans don't realize Houston is the nation's fourth largest city. But our recent surge of music festivals and events has finally helped garner the city some deserved national attention. Free Press Summerfest and the Houston Press's own BestFest have boasted impressive headlining and local acts, and local-centric events like the Houston Press Music Awards and countless shows at venues around town such as Fitzgerald's and the Continental Club bolster the city's musicians, fans, and general music scene.
I am thankful for my favorite venues and their staff, promoters, and bookers, including Warehouse Live and Fitzgerald's--both of which, in my opinion, consistently book some of the city's best shows. To say Houston Press music writers "frequent" local venues is an understatement; we live and breathe live music, and therefore easily recognize and appreciate the movers-and-shakers that help build and maintain the city's music scene.
Lastly, I am thankful for the local music-writing community. While we each gravitate toward our own particular music realms, we appreciate and learn from one another, while sharing a single passion -- music. NEPH BASEDOW
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The New Optimism
I'm thankful our festival scene is growing, and that promoters use that scene to make sure our bands get some exposure. Reinvestment into our own musical infrastructure is running high right now, and it can only pay off. There seems to be a lot more optimism around. Bands are releasing more material and going on big tours, and new musicians with startling, original visions pop up every month. It's a new, exciting time to be a rock star in Houston.
Nothing kills your creativity like being in a band in a town where there's no sense of hope. It's a constant, uphill struggle against apathy and negativity. When I ended my career in the Black Math Experiment it was the result of too many lethargic crowds, too many unprofessional promoters and venue operators, too many bands tearing down the city's music scene, and too many prophecies of doom.
Interviewing bands now, I don't hear that. I hear, "Let's do this!" I hear, "The world is ours!" What am I thankful for? I'm thankful to be a part of a scene that is coming into its well-deserved spotlight. I'm thankful to be among such talented artists. You'll see, this town is going to play down the sky. JEF WITH ONE F