February 2012
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Dance Partners

In my previous post, I talked about what I saw as the challenges for the Houston music scene and why it’s in the state it currently is. I also briefly discussed what we can do about it. I want to talk about that a little more here.

To sum up, you have to “dance with the one that brung ya.” In other words, the scene here is what it is, and we have to move forward and make the best of it. All of those other scenes I described previously happened naturally, at least initially. It wasn’t someone’s idea to create jazz, blues, country, or grunge. I think it’s also likely that Beale St., the French Quarter, and East 6th St started “accidentally” and then grew once people saw what was happening there.

I think Houston is best off celebrating what it has. If you plant a bunch of seeds, some will grow and some won’t. With music, there are all sorts of reasons some things take off and others don’t. To quote the great Del Paxton, you have to keep playing, no matter with who.

Fortunately, we have some really great people doing great things to support the Houston music scene. Dan Workman and Ross Wells are doing cool things with
The Houston Sound | Introducing Houston to its music and its music to the world and ZenHill Records | Sustaining Indie Music™. Houston’s blues heritage is about to be celebrated at Jones Hall. I know of at least three Houston groups planning to have their own Houston representations at SxSW week in Austin [1] [2] [3]. I’m sure there are many others doing what they can for the Houston music scene.

What can you do? Go support the music you like. It’s out there.

Thu, 2012 02 23 at 4:00 PM |Permalink for this entry

The Houston Music Scene

Howdy folks, and welcome to the Houston Music Scene, where we give ya the straight scoop on what’s happenin’ right here in H-town. So set yerself down, buckle in, and enjoy the ride.

I was reading a blog post by a previous bandleader of mine, where he was talking about the music scene in Houston and tried to figure out what was wrong with it, why it doesn’t work the way it should. After a while, I realized the issue was focus.

We actually have a very cool, interesting, and eclectic music scene here in Houston, and that’s the problem. It’s sort of like, “jack-of-all-trades, master of none” if you are familiar with that expression. We can compare it to other scenes in other towns.

When you think of music scenes in places like New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Austin, Seattle, and Chicago, usually two things come to mind. One is a style of music, and the other is a part of town where you can go hear the music. I am not saying that these places are merely one-trick ponies. What I am saying is that these places started with one thing and possibly one area that gave people something to latch on to. This is useful both for residents and out-of-towners. Then, from there, these places were able to grow into other styles and places as people were attracted to the scene and had the original for support. Nashville and Austin are really good examples of this.

What Houston did is the opposite. We have a ton of different styles, clubs all over the city with very few concentrated areas for music. In other words, here you either go to a specific club because you like the club or you like the band(s) playing there. If you’re just looking for a night out and you’re not sure what you want to hear, you have to be ready to split the first club, hop in the car, and drive to the next place you want to try. If you have to pay cover charges, you’re probably even less likely to do that.

Here is another way of looking at it. If someone asks you what the music scene is here in Houston, what do you tell them? I don’t know either. Like I said, it’s cool that we have a lot of choice, but it’s hard to narrow down when you want to tell someone what’s going on.

I have hinted at another problem when I talked about having to drive from club to club. Even if you’re going to one club, sometimes it’s a big hassle. There’s a club on 1960 that a few friends’ bands have played, but the location is so awkward to get to from here that we haven’t been out there yet. Other times, we’ve seen that a band we want to see is playing a club that we’ve never heard of in a part of town we’ve never been to. Most times, that’s fine, but sometimes it’s more than you want to deal with.

(It may sound like I’m complaining, but I’m not. I’m just discussing this and trying to suss out why the scene isn’t where it should be.)

What would it take to change this? I don’t know. I could say that if we had a group of clubs in one area that might help, but that’s been tried several times and it has never taken off. I’ve seen a few different areas named as that since I moved here almost twenty years ago, and none of them have developed to the point where the city would need them to in order to create a scene.

It’s unfortunate that two of our biggest universities don’t have a culture around them that could have made this happen. University of Houston is mostly a commuter school, and the area around it has nothing for college-aged people to do. While Rice University Village is a nice area, it’s a higher-end shopping center, not a place where there are a lot of late-night hangouts. Houston (the city overall) has a ton of college students (UH, Rice, TSU, HCC, HBU, etc.) but the impression is that they all scatter when evening and the weekend comes.

Wed, 2012 02 22 at 10:56 AM |Permalink for this entry