Houston Makes Great Strides in Selling Its Own Music Scene
A few months ago, Rocks Off wrote an article expressing our surprise and disappointment at the paucity of musical content on the City of Houston's tourism site, visithoustontexas.com, the Texas-friendly smiling face it officially presents to the Web and thus the world. There wasn't much at all, just a few live-music listings buried in the bowels of the site.
Artwork by Chris Nolen/www.noleofantastico.com
Even officials at the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, which operates the site, admitted that acknowledgment of our music scene was a little lacking. But to their eternal credit, they did something about it, and then some. Some weeks back, they added a guide to 20 prominent local music venues to the site's "Nightlife" section.
They didn't stop there, though. The bureau's "Houston 2.0" marketing campaign, which started two weeks ago, is placing fancy-pants ads touting the Bayou City's abundance of culinary and artistic talents in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Texas Monthly and Forbes.
Best of all, the materials the GHCVB sent out to these 500 or so media outlets (even us) come with a CD featuring Houston artists fans can go see in local venues most weekends, including this one.
The disc is called H-Town Presents, and features 19 acts that, taken together, offer a better-than-average representation of what our scene actually sounds like, curated by photographer-turned-promoter (and former Houston Press contributor) Mark C. Austin of the Convoy Group.
Thus it is flush with Houston's indie scene -- the Tontons, Featherface, Wild Moccasins, The Manichean, Young Girls, The Handshake -- but not exclusively, and also features DJ Sun, Come See My Dead Person, Shellee Coley, and now-honorary Houstonian Robert Ellis, among others.
Such an eclectic range of sounds is second nature to those of us who live here, but probably not what your average tourist coming from Fargo or Fort Lauderdale would be expecting. Bun B and friends' recent NFL playoff-drive single "Here We Go (Texans Anthem)" is included, as well as a curse-free version of Fat Tony's "Hood Party," but most of Houston's better-known rappers are absent. Whether that's because of a money issue or the bureau preferred to leave off strip-club anthems, we may never know.
Furthermore, only Ellis and Folk Family Revival approach country, so the CVB should consider its knuckles rapped for not including at least Mike Stinson. (Houston is still in Texas, y'all.) And sadly, but sensibly, it skirts the more noise/psychedelic/fringe elements of our scene, so there's no Rusted Shut or Black Leather Jesus. But this is after all a marketing endeavor -- and hey, Venomous Maximus made the cut.
But overall, the CVB and Austin, and of course the performers, have done the city a great service by helping the national media get a clearer picture of what "Houston music" means today.