Hands Up Post: Honky-Tonk Houston's Done Got Out Of Hand

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A recent thread on the Hands Up Houston message board found poster "honky honk" complaining (and mangling the English language):

Dear Houston.

Why are you excepting [sic] this right wing, overtly white genre of music known as honky tonk or country? Why do we have to travel that far back in time to that level of thinking only to revisit the Reagan/Clinton/Bush era nostalgia we loathed so much as "punk rock/indi rock" youth?

Why have we two-stepped, hell, 30-year-stepped back in time to a genre of music that is explicitly honky? The masses may repel this retort maybe even call it unpatriotic but we need to consider our evolution at this point. You know those cowboy boots are just a trend.

That thread came up in conversation Friday night at Blanco's, where, once again, Lonesome Onry and Mean noted a dozen or more twenty- and thirtysomething Converse-wearing hipsters two-stepping and mingling with the regulars during the Derailers' show.

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Chuck HW/ myspace.com/arthuryoria
Arthur Yoria
LOM had been to Etro the night before and, frankly, it had not been a pleasant musical experience. Although we found the etiquette of not announcing the artist/band's names innocently charming (and frankly, many of the "musicians" at Etro Thursday night are probably better served by not announcing who they are), the seemingly endless stream of indie amateurs who crossed the stage made us wish we had been born with selective deafness.

What was immediately apparent was that, aside from Arthur Yoria, there wasn't a single musician in any of these bands who had the chops and discipline to play in a good country band.

That's where the conversation among musicians and fans went at Blanco's Friday night: The consensus was that honky-tonk is suddenly hot again in Houston because the most talented musicians in town these days play in country bands. Furthermore, what separates the top honky-tonk bands from the top indie bands is musicianship.

"I go see indie bands and the first thing that pops in my mind is that most of these guys haven't mastered their instruments," said one local bandleader. "There's some good young pop bands in town, and I'm sure they work hard and deserve the following they have, but almost none of those people could play in a country band around here, where you've got to be ready to do two or three sets a night.

"I think the last time we played Blanco's we did 50 songs - about 40 originals and 10 covers - between 8 and midnight. I doubt there's a single indie band in town that can do that, but there are half a dozen country bands that can do it six nights a week if they have to."

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"And look at the guitar players in country music in Houston - my God. Wayne Turner, Kelly Doyle, Ricky Davis, Geoffrey Muller, Davin James, Dan Kirby, Randy Cornor, those guys come from such wide musical backgrounds and they can play anything. But they primarily choose to work in country bands. What does that tell you?"

Another commenter, a longtime Blanco's regular, said he thinks younger people are coming back to country music because they are actually getting to an age where they get the trouble-and-heartache "reality side" of country music and find that it is valid, something that actually fits the circumstances of their lives.

"Hell, look at the divorce rate," he said. "It's the same for hipsters and Inner-Loopers as it is for the rest of the population. Same goes for cheating and drinking. It seems like a no-brainer that some folks who didn't necessarily get Kristofferson's 'For the Good Times' or Willie's 'Hello, Walls' when they came out would be affected by them later on in life."

"And find me one indie-rock song by a Houston band that approaches the depth or sophistication of 'Night Life' or 'Crazy' or even 'Pick Me Up On Your Way Down.' You can't."

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