Remembering The Island: Where R.E.M. Played, but XTC Wouldn't
Despite the dust of time that usually befalls venues and lore from punk's rambunctious past, The Island has remained a steady icon of Houston's underground movement that swept to the surface as classic arena rock and cosmic country choked the FM airwaves.
Photos courtesy of Ben DeSoto The Dead Kennedys at the Island
"The Island was ground zero, where my idea for a punk band came to its fruition," outlines
Christian Arnheiter of The Hates, Houston's longest continuously running punk band.
"While other musicians still used the blueprint of the 12-bar blues, I was thinking outside the box," he adds. I feel sometimes I have to pinch myself on how fortunate I was to have the youth and energy of drummer Glen Sorvisto and the intelligent creativity of bassist Robert Kainer for my vision."
In this light, the Island (also known at various points as Rock Island and Paradise Island) was a subcultural meeting ground where outside rules could be bent and new visions sustained.
"It really did fall that easily into place for me," asserts Arnheiter. "It was exciting to see the transformation of the fans and a scene that didn't copy somewhere else. We were definitely under the radar and that was the beauty. It was a special time that so many people from different backgrounds came together and created something unique."
At Rock Island, the future really did seem unwritten, which the bands attribute in large part to the owner.
"Phil Hicks was on another planet," asserts Bob Weber of Really Red and Anarchitex. "He was perfect man for the job and concentrated on keeping the club going - that was his mantra. I don't recollect his reaction regarding the bands or the fashion or the hysteria or lack there of.
"By the late '70s, Ziggy and Elton John had numbed us to glam-rock, so rock fashion or anti-fashion was not shocking," he adds. What I really enjoyed about the indie scene at the Island was all of the black humor
"Jerry Anomie of Legionnaire's Disease hopping around on one leg with a stump sticking out the other side," continues Weber. "Legionnaire's roadie, a big ex-con biker dude named Frankie, added some tension too.
"The Big Boys came in from Austin," he adds. "They were skateboarders that did some hilarious stuff, especially with Biscuit [singer Randy Turner], a large man out front dressed as a Christmas tree one time with lights that lit up!"