There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear…
Perhaps it’s the gentle shift from Houston’s brutal and persistent summer to the crisp chill we woke up to these last two mornings but there’s definitely a new energy in the air.
What started with a Houston Press blog written by He Who Shall Remain Nameless led to an inspired and spirited discussion on Facebook after Sarah Hirsch of Jealous Creatures shared it among her friends and fans.
Sure, the threads had plenty of heated criticism of the blog in question but what was more striking, and reassurring, was the spirit of collaboration, of community…there was a “We Can” spirit throughout the discussion that was really quite inspiring.
There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Within a matter of hours, writers, including myself, quickly logged into their dashboards and wrote. We wrote about what defines a music scene, what makes it great, what helps it be “awesome.”
The Houston Press quickly followed with two terrific pieces. One, by writer/musician Eric Smith, gave a very unique assessment that was greeted with immense praise. You can read that article here.
The Houston Press also published another well-received article shining a light on 10 local groups that should be at the Austin City Limits festival this year and it’s exactly the kind of piece most of us, if not all, like to see. With links to videos and informative bits about each group, it provided both the connoisseur and anyone just dipping their toes in the water of independent local music everything they need to start digging deeper into some very noteworthy groups. Read it here.
Shortly thereafter He Who Shall Name Nameless posted a follow-up article essentially claiming “mia culpa.”
With a fiery, inspired passion she sounded the most intense call-to-arms since “Workers of the World, Unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains!”
It immediately sparked fervent discussion and frantic sharing which has energized my beloved community in a way I’ve not seen in years.
I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
So where do we go from here?
First I think it’s amazing how things work today. Just 20-25 years ago, I would have read an article like that one that got all this juice flowing and I would have mentioned it to my band and we would have talked about it, shrugged our shoulders and gone to practice. Hundreds of bands and musicians would have read the article over coffee around town, argued its merits and gone about their day…but that’s not the way things work anymore.
The internet has connected us to such a degree that within an hour we can all be talking and brainstorming and sharing ideas and making plans.
But again, where do we go from here? All this energy…all this talk of “we should” and “we totally could” and “Yeah we need to.”
Will it lead to action beyond clicking “like” and “share?” Or…will the next cool meme pull our collective attention? Or our next gig or our day job or those plans we made to hangout with our buddy?
Let’s not let this die.
Organizations like Musicians’ DIY Fight Club and Cathedral Records, HAAM, and Houston’s Songwriters Association are just a few of the places aimed solely at providing songwriters and bands whatever they need in the way of support, information, guidance, and a platform from which to let their music be heard…and for audiences to find artists.
I’m so inspired this morning because the scene I came up in twenty-some-odd years ago was a much colder place. Bands seemed to be so critical and condescending towards younger groups.
There was a machismo that seemed to drench a lot of bands that felt they were “higher up the ladder” and venues seemed all too happy to take advantage of as many bands as possible by charging them to play, refusing to pay out even when these groups drew the “minimum” crowd requirements, refusing to help promote events, or even supply the minimum back line equipment any self-respecting venue should have if they’re going to offer live music.
Back then I remember my little band, my first “real” band performing at the Oven over off Montrose and Westheimer. Most of you will probably remember this place.
We played there several times but one night in particular was special. We were on a bill with Japanic. I had heard the legend and knew Josh Barry from being close friends with his brother but had yet to witness their glory in person.
We were taken to school that night. Japanic was everything we weren’t. Confident, proficient, sexy, intelligent, talented…haha.
But you know what? There was no snark. There were no “good effort guys.” We were congratulated on our set, were asked to hang out for their set, Josh even borrowed my snare drum when he had a problem with his.
They were so humble, so willing to share their experience and knowledge that it really made an impact on me both as a player/performer but as a member of the community.
Aside from performing with my father, sharing that bill with Japanic is about as perfect a memory as I have in my musical life and it helped shape who I am now and why I wanted to establish Cathedral Records.
So this is what I want:
I want to see this wave carry all of us further into an era of even more collaboration, support, cross-promotion, and cooperation.
I’m currently trying to put a schedule together where I can begin booking sessions for the Cathedral Records Podcast Series. I’m looking for bands, songwriters, retailers, amp techs, service providers, enthusiasts…all members of the community who want to have their voices heard.
I’m actively seeking community members who want to write columns here on this site…no boundaries. Write about your band, write about your favorite records, whatever. My voice should not be the only one featured here.
The third big project I’m hoping to launch as we head into the new year is a series of educational sessions. I’d like to bring community members, be they players, instrument techs, retailers, bands, or venue owners into the Cathedral to hold information group sessions targeted towards the younger, aspiring musicians and songwriters.
I want to provide kids with what I think we all agree would have been very useful when we were kids: knowledge gained through experience.
If we can let these kids know about how to network, how to negotiate with venues, how to self-promote, how to get better at their instruments, how to take care of their instruments, how manage their time, what to look for in instruments/effects/home recording equipment…WHATEVER.
I think doing these things contribute to the overall community. It keeps us connected and provides us with opportunities to network but also to provide a service and blessings to the larger community, particularly the younger members who, just like we did, are walking blind in what can be a very complicated, stressful, and intimidating environment.
So there you go – that’s my piece for today.
Really and truly everyone – let’s keep all these good vibes going and turn it into real action.
Be well and kind,