Houston Has a Great Music Scene. Just Keep the Musicians In and Hipsters Out.
Recently Rocks Off asked our writers if Houston could ever have a "great" music scene,whatever that means. The answers were so wide-ranging we had to divide them among several posts.
I want to preface this by saying that I am in love with Houston's music scene, and think it already is the greatest in the world, but no: it will never be New York, Chicago, Nashville, Austin, San Francisco, New Orleans or Seattle. Why? Several reasons, but the biggest one being Houston's lack of musical history. Yeah, we have ZZ Top, Lightnin' Hopkins' Destiny's Child and UGK, but I could name 20 acts from each of those cities that has as much or more cultural significance than any act from Houston.
Photo by Marco Torres Bun B: Thanks for staying.
Another major problem is that whenever anyone starts to get a little bit of nationwide exposure, they seem to leave Houston immediately. Robert Ellis lives in Nashville, Hayes Carll lives in Austin, Jana Hunter lives in New York. One major exception is Bun B -- he's a boss, and should be Mayor-for-life of our fair city.
The final issue keeping us from having a "great" music scene is touring bands' lack of stops in Houston. Every day, I get publicity emails announcing that so-and-so band announced a string of dates, but they're not coming to Houston. For many years, bands would play here and either have no one at their shows or a rudely talkative crowd.
Many of those bands never came back. Phish hasn't played here in 15 years. Arcade Fire, despite having roots in The Woodlands, played Mary Jane's in early 2005 and then not again until after their third über-succesful album The Suburbs came out.
Photo by Marc Brubaker Arcade Fire's 2011 "homecoming"
Hell, I can think of several bands who've never even played here -- here in the fourth-largest city in the nation. While I think that's starting to be a problem of the past, as Houston crowds have been noticeably swelling these days, it still hurt our scene for quite some time and we're still feeling the effects.
We do have a great music scene, though, and that is evident if you step foot in any of our local venues. On any given night, you can catch a bevy of talented musicians peddling their wares. Many bands from Houston are starting to get national recognition as well, and that is showing with their crowd sizes each and every time they play in town. The Tontons nearly sold out Fitz a few weeks ago, and the Suffers packed Cactus Music from front to back just the other day. Buxton play to huge crowds every time they take a stage; Wild Moccasins do the same.
Unfortunately, we'll never be known as a music city, especially with the smaller yet more musically proficient Austin just down the road. Wipe out Austin and maybe New Orleans, and we'll finally get our due. Until then, we'll just be known as that huge oil city where Beyonce is from. At least we're better than Dallas. JIM BRICKER