Inquiring Minds: Is Houston the New Austin?

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But more importantly, do we want it to be? And, God help us, what if it already is?

When Rocks Off polled a cross-section of Houston music insiders for his "dead-tree" column this week - thanks for the term, Jeremy at Space City Rock - he was forced to omit one question from the final version for space reasons. It was a question he didn't even really want to ask, but given Houston's tenuous relationship (especially from a musical point of view) with our neighbors to the north and northwest, he felt like he had to.

As someone who spent nearly 15 years covering the Austin music scene, professionally, Rocks Off is well shut of it. (Personally is another story.) Like the Traveling Wilburys sang in "Handle With Care," at this point it's been "sent to meetings, hypnotized/ overexposed, commercialized." Watching its fledgling counterpart in Houston practically reinvent itself from scratch over the past two years, however, has been a revelation.

As long as Austin keeps calling itself the "Live Music Capitol of the World" and as long as it's not even 200 miles up the road, it's going to cast a shadow. But what Houston does within that shadow is entirely up to us. As for Dallas, it's not going anywhere either. Dammit.

Rocks Off: Is Houston any closer to losing the Austin/Dallas chip on its shoulder?

Quinn Bishop, Cactus Music: I don't think that is likely to change for several reasons. We have the worst radio of any of the larger Texas cities, with stations that are consulted to death that don't play emerging artists or regional favorites. We are geograpically challenged in that artists would rather have a day off in Austin or New Orleans than play Houston.

With bands not able to make money in New Orleans anymore, tours seem to be routed through Dallas and Austin without coming near our part of the state. Ultimately, as long as it is hard for independent artists to get some traction here, they'll move on to where they can. There are some good things going on. Having a festival like Summerfest really helps. I hope it goes well.

"Eggs," Breakfast on Tour: That's hard to tell. I've never really felt much of a problem between Houston and Dallas, but it's hard to compete with the "Live Music Capitol of the World." We shouldn't think of Austin as competition, but more of as a musical role model or older brother that we can use to learn things from, to grow off of and to make our own scene even better.

Jagi Katial, Pegstar Booking Agency: What chip?

Ramon Medina, 29-95.com/ Free Press Houston: We got over it years ago, but writers still like that angle so it will exist on paper until the end of time. If anything, we've gone past the chip on the shoulder and have gone to reaching out. One thing I've seen is Houston and Austin working pretty well together.

Bands like the Strange Boys and Eastern Sea are always welcomed here, and exports to Austin like Papermoons, Ume and The Jonx only strengthen that connection.

As for Dallas... we really have never thought that much about Dallas. Why do writers always forget Denton, which is just south of Dallas? Denton is so much cooler. I swear if that crappy soap opera had never existed, no one would give two shits about Dallas!

Matthew Wettergreen, Caroline Collective: Well, as fertile ground for innovative bands trying out new sounds, release media and genres, I think we only need like three more HTX bands to start touring regularly before people start asking "Whoa. Where the fuck did Houston come from?"

But as a city for concertgoers, we still have a long way to go before nationally touring bands begin playing here to larger crowds. There's no short-term fix for this, unfortunately, but some headway could be made by promoting outside the Montrose area, even promoting to cities outside of Houston and high schools.

Dan Workman, Sugar Hill Studios/ Recording Academy Board of Trustees (Texas Chapter): Here's a secret revealed: I do a lot of work in Austin, and a bit in Dallas. Austin has a wonderful music scene, BUT... it's becoming inbred. The music community - heck, the whole city - is actually pretty small by Houston standards. The cliques are difficult to penetrate. Austin is getting sleepy, congratulating itself on its own clever success.

Houston, on the other hand, has tons more diversity, more venues (really!), and there is a creative urgency in the air. We're hungry. Houston is going to be recognized as the place to be over the next year because we are getting busy in our art and music scene, and because there is still a lot of money here to fuel the effort.


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