Houston's Island of Misfit Bands Briefly Resurfaces
While the hallowed ground of Fitzgerald's has remained steadfast, becoming a seemingly permanent fixture in Houston's indie, punk and metal communities, other clubs have receded into the dustbins of history. Fortunately, the fecund eras of two - the Axiom and the Island - are being celebrated during November.
Photos courtesy of Ben DeSoto The Big Boys at The Island
As the elder juggernaut of local lore, The Island is the one identified as the birthplace of Bayou City punk. From 1978-1983, and under three different names (Paradise Island, Rock Island, and finally, simply The Island), the former Mexican restaurant near Main and Richmond -- not far from the present-day Continental Club complex, itself nicknamed "The Island" -- witnessed the first wave of free-for-all punk diversity before the genre splintered and hardened into molds.
Hence, on any given night, political-savvy Really Red and kitsch-poppers The Judy's vibrated the walls of the dark, dank club, or Austin bands like the Big Boys and The Inserts invaded briefly, or touring icons like UK Subs, the Cramps and Black Flag thrilled faithful local fans with their incendiary brand of rock and roll dissent.
"It still had the cheesy palm trees covering the columns and the décor of a tropical Mexican dive," tells veteran Don Price. "We played opening night for Phil Hicks, the owner/manager. At that point, Jon Saxon and I were still playing mostly covers in a band called Crash Street Kids.
"It was a mish-mash of Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Mott the Hoople (from whom we lifted the name), and a spare Hendrix tune thrown in here and there," he continues. "We were just starting to write originals and had one or two per set."
The overall setup remained do it yourself.
"Bands had to provide their own PA, and I think the lights were a row of track lights like you would see on a patio," recalls Price.
Others, though, recall a more stellar sonic site.
"The Island always had amazing sound," recalls Trish Herrera, guitarist and singer of art-punk pioneers Mydolls, who were regulars at the club. "Bands from all over the world played there."