It should go without saying: there are music events, and then there are events which may be enhanced by the added element of music.
This weekend in Houston, a pair of offerings illustrated this point quite vividly. Saturday's Yes, Indeed! festival in the Warehouse District was the former -- a music event, and a damn fine one too. The Houston Texans' halftime performance by Vanilla Ice (ne Robert Van Winkle) was the latter. Also -- don't laugh now -- not too shabby.
Yes, Indeed! featured more than two dozen bands in a trio of venues playing to hundreds of music fans, with all the things that make up a music festival: stages that ran on schedule at Last Concert Café, Houston House of Creeps and the Doctor's Office, plus plenty of beer and food. People shuffled up and down Nance Street, trying to decide which acts to catch.
My one thought was how much something like this means to people here who truly love music. There were no hugely famous headliners to draw the sort of lukewarm fans who attend big music fests just to catch a glimpse of some famed musician or to say, "I was there." This one was by and for music lovers.
It's the brainchild of promoter Phil Peterson, a.k.a. Bassman Pep, and Jason Smith, Alkari's bassist and a fellow music writer. Both know tons of Houston musicians through their respective work. The musicians they booked for Yes Indeed almost seemed under contractual obligation to thank and praise them, they did it so often. That's how grateful they were to have the chance to come together en masse to perform and network.
I caught a few acts in the early-evening shadows at Doctor's Office, where a pop-up tent nestled in a corner of the venue's smallish courtyard served as a stage. Friendswood trio Sunrise and Ammunition was grinding it out for those of us gathered under an I-10 off-ramp.
"I love it. I love seeing any kind of DIY network coming together, especially in Houston because a lot of people complain about bands' unwillingness to work together, so it's great to see 'em in a giant pool like this, actually working together," said Tyler Saucier, the band's guitarist/vocalist, following the set.
People already know or are learning the Houston music community works well together. Some out-of-towners are seeing this, too. Take Naughty Professor, for instance. The New Orleans-based instrumental funk act could be Free Radicals' blood brothers from down I-10 East. They did a "show swap" with 2013 HPMA Award winners, Electric Attitude, to get on the bill.
After making everyone groove to their airtight set, they were gracious enough to let me rudely hover over them and ask questions while they crunched on chips and salsa in Last Concert's dining area. Their collective assessment of their first-ever show in Houston, as well as the fest itself, was "Well-run, great venue, great town, cool people. It was a blast."
Story continues on the next page.
Once the three-quarter moon was up, we caught PuraPharm (vocalist Tessa Kole holds notes like first-time beer drinkers hold beer cans -- for a long time, letting all the goodness slowly seep from the container, eventually drained altogether); the uke-heavy harmonies of Say Girl Say delighting their face-painted followers; and Alkari, featuring Smith doing some serious damage on bass.
The distance between each venue was shorter than the bathroom lines at shows in bigger venues in town; but it was still long enough for me and the missus to become somewhat unwilling conversation participants with a pair of twentysomethings, easily the dominant age group at the event.
We were all walking to The Easy Credit Dance Theater's set at House of Creeps (complete with footage of Conan the Barbarian playing silently behind their self-described "trashy Texas cabaret" sound) when one guy asked aloud, "Why are girls so dumb?"
Not realizing he was actually asking me a question, I didn't respond until he asked again. His friend told him to hush, since Mrs. Sendejas was walking right next to me.
"You know, " I responded, "they do know that we sometimes think they are dumb. But, they know for a fact that we're usually dumber."
Neither argued that point. After enjoying a few Easy Credit offerings, we came out to music in the street. Undeterred by little inconveniences like official invites, one guy rolled out enough extension cord to make a Home Depot jealous to amplify his guitar and played on a street corner right in between all three venues.
That's the kind of night it was -- one for music fans, whether they're in bands or not. And there should be a lot more like them.
Story continues on the next page.
I left the fest earlier than I'd have liked because I had to be on the Reliant Stadium parking lot at 8 a.m. Sunday to grill kabobs and drink beer in advance of another Houston Texans win. Vanilla Ice was slated to perform at halftime.
No sooner than this was announced, the haters (we just call them "Cowboys fans") started ridiculing the whole thing. Is this the best the Texans can do, some wondered. Isn't Beyonce from Houston? Why not her? As if the woman who owned the global stage at the last Super Bowl halftime extravaganza was going to do five minutes at the half of a regular-season home game. Be realistic, haters.
So, why not Vanilla Ice? Now that he has full-circled from "lyrical poet" to oft-mocked has-been to harmlessly fun nostalgia act, he seems a perfect choice for this sort of thing. People weren't ashamed to show their excitement. I heard "Ice Ice Baby" blaring from at least a couple of tailgate parties before the game.
In the second quarter, when the Texans ran an odd promo for the halftime show on the stadium's "ours is bigger than yours" HDTV screen, people cheered (maybe in part because Ice was wearing Texans gear and is a Dallas resident).
The set was brief -- an abbreviated version of "Play That Funky Music," a.k.a. "that other song from that one album" was followed by "Ice Ice Baby" in its entirety. He sang the first stanza and chorus of "Ninja Rap," featured in one of those ninja-turtle movies. He gave them a shout-out at the end of the set and said he still loved those turtles, but probably meant he still loves the royalty checks.
As for "Ice Ice Baby," he cheesed it up through the whole song, grinning like he'd finally been let in on whatever joke fans considered him to be. The Texans cheerleaders danced, fans in the stands rapped along word for word and a few knuckleheads recreated the video's dance moves.
On the whole, it was great, silly fun, which is all it needed to be. We were at a football game, after all, not a concert. Anyone looking for music that really matters in the here and now in Houston would have found that at Yes, Indeed! a night earlier.
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