The Rocks Off 100: Nick Gaitan, Upright Bass-Plucking Umbrella Man

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.

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Photo by Lynn Lane/courtesy of Nick Gaitan
Who? The Umbrella Man's Nick Gaitan, "native son of Houston Town," grew up in Southeast Houston's Pecan Park. He began playing upright bass in college at U of H. Gaitan has been a working musician since 1999, playing with Los Skarnales, The Octanes and Billy Joe Shaver as well as Umbrella Man.

"There have been many more bands and musicos I have played with, for gigs and sessions," he says. "Music has taken me through so many parts of the country and a several parts of the world."

Home Base: "I perform very much in the downtown area, but will have a residency more times than not on the 3700 block of Main," says Gaitan about the home of the Continental Club, Big Top and Natachee's Supper & Punch. Currently Umbrella Man plays Thursdays at the Big Top, and one Friday each month at the D&W Lounge in Second Ward.

Gaitan, named Musician of the Year in the 2010 Houston Press Music Awards, also enjoys playing Discovery Green and shares a rehearsal space with two other bands in a Chinatown studio.

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Photo by Marco Torres
Gaitan toasts his 2010 Musician of the Year HPMA win
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I stay in Houston for so many reasons," Gaitan says. "It's a hard, hard city that knows diversity from its origins. It has a rich history and all that diversity still exists. Working-class roots in Houston will never die, either.

"It's a friendly place," he continues. "One of the friendliest places I have known. But, it's also a place where you can get your ass kicked real good (or worse) if you get out of step with someone. Houston will always be my home."

War Story: "Well, let's see..." he mulls. "I played with Los Skarnales for around seven or eight years. I had to do this a few times, years ago but this one I remember the most. Some asshole promoter that thought he was hot shit and wanted to bring a band into town did so without securing his guarantee, promoting the event or even having a decent sound system.

At the end of the night, he was taking so long to pay us and I saw him huddled in a corner with his partner squirming. I went over to ask,"What the hell is taking so long?" and he came up with a thousand excuses and started pointing fingers and getting shitty with me. He wouldn't even tell me how much we made at the door or how short he was!!

Since he was so rude, I just grabbed the money right out of his hand and counted it. Now he was only short a few hundred. I guess he felt the pressure cause he started getting pissed and nervous at one point asking me "What the fuck do you want me to do?" That's when I noticed there was an ATM in the room.

I got him to pull his ATM card out [and] get our cash from his personal stash. I didn't care where it came from. As this was happening, I saw his weasel-ass friend trying to slide out the door. I look up and told him that I would catch him if he took off, so he decided not to run.

We got our cash and went on our way. I used to have to watch out for bad business all the time. Now, I can see it coming a mile away.

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Nick's pet peeve is one that should be mentioned by way more people! 

Great article!

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