Your new favorite open-mike night was born on Tuesday night, and you probably weren’t even there to join in the fun.
Now, it’s easy for these things to fall by the wayside, especially given the amount of things to choose from on any given day. Houston’s music scene manages to find its way into every nook and cranny within this large, sprawling metropolis, yet it's still easy to miss a thing or two — like the way Wonky Power Records has emerged as much more than a new record label.
Instead, the company started by Mario Rodriguez — whom you might know from local acts Tax the Wolf and Bang Bangz — aims to be more of a “musical institute.” Its formula is less about setting up a the perfect acoustics for laying down a new guitar part and more about getting local musicians together in a creative setting, and it’s something that I am totally on board for — especially an event like Tuesday, when Wonky Power invited the community to come play their favorite Radiohead songs.
Walking in, I immediately felt like I was hanging out with friends in some swanked-out version of a garage. The stage was open, and instruments were set up for people to jump in and join in the fun. I caught the better portion of an acoustic version of “House of Cards,” and before the guitarist could put his instrument up, he agreed to jump back onstage to play for the next singer.
As solo musicians or two-piece acts continued taking the stage, I realized how much fun everyone was having. Sure, there are plenty of places around town that will let you jump on stage and sing karaoke, but there are also a lot of places around town where you can sign up for your 15-minutes onstage to play an original song.
What made this evening so much different was how Rodriguez was able to take the best aspects of karaoke and mix it with an atmosphere that fostered the kind of creativity it takes to cover some of the most beloved songs in indie-rock. But most appreciated was the easy camaraderie among the Houston musicians on hand.
As the evening went on, members from the crowd of about 40 people teamed up to piece together what they needed for a punk version of “Creep." Crowd favorite “Karma Police" had the entire room singing along about losing themselves. At one point, Bang Bangz drummer Vik Montemayor even joined Rodriguez onstage for “Weird Fishes.”
If you’re feeling like you missed out, well, you did. It’s not every day you get to see a band like Radiohead come to life. And for musicians, constantly playing their own songs every week to the same crowd can become a little monotonous. Then there’s always the issue of disconnect for an audience who can’t sing along as you play.
Wonky Power, however, allows musicians a space to meet other musicians who share a common interest, yet still allows everyone to bring their own style to the stage. And what’s best, is that you never know who will show up – and in turn, whom you might meet. It seems that this fun, original concept will actually serve a purpose to help Houston musicians find one another more easily, all under the guise of a fun evening covering well-known musicians.
Rodriguez seemed pleased with the turnout as well.
“This was the trial run, but it seems like everyone is really enjoying themselves despite the cold,” he said. “We’ll most likely be doing this again in two weeks.”
Rodriguez is currently throwing around a few ideas, like Nirvana and the Pixies, for the next installment. If you’re interested to find out what the next band will be, keep an eye out for news on Wonky Power's Facebook or their official Web site.
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