Great and/or Shitty Moments in Houston Music History, 2003-2013
By: Joe Folladori
Ten years is a long time. In the past 10 years, the Houston scene has come a long way – significantly, most people finally agree that there is one. Here’s a look back at some significant events in local music history. Nostalgia is totally killing the scene.
March 8, 2003 – David A. Cobb’s Houston Calling blog publishes its first post – a listing of the 2003 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo concert lineup, followed by an invitation to readers who didn’t give a shit about those bands to stick around and watch him shine a light on local music the larger media outlets ignore. Blogs turn out to totally be a thing; Houston Calling is still going strong.
April 2003 – Fatal Flying Guilloteens release Get Knifed.
November 2003 – A citywide lack of enthusiasm for quality local bands kills the Houston music scene. A memorial service is held at Rudyard’s.
December 2003 – Linus Pauling Quartet releases C6H8O6.
December 4, 2003 – With the grace of an eagle, Bucky Thuerwachter subtly steers a teenage Sound Waves customer towards purchasing Fugazi’s The Argument instead of Limp Bizkit’s Results May Vary.
April 12, 2004 – Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin’ (featuring Slim Thug and Paul Wall),” the shot heard around the world, is released. For the next few years, Houston is the sound of rap music.
June 2004 – The proliferation of skinny dudes wearing white belts kills the scene. A memorial service is held at the Proletariat.
December 2004 – Houston gets its own No New York when I Hate It Here, I Never Want To Leave is released. The compilation, featuring twelve of Houston’s most abrasively tuneful art-punk bands (including Bring Back the Guns, The Jonx, The Kants, and Fatal Flying Guilloteens), is not just a vital document of a scene and sound, but one of the best local albums of all time.
January 22, 2005 – Sideshow Tramps (then known as The Medicine Show) play the first verse of “You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound Dog” for five solid hours. All panties within a two-mile radius of Helios disintegrate.
February 6, 2005 – Local booking collective Hands Up Houston puts on their final show (MC Chris / O Pioneers!!! / By The End of Tonight) at Mary Jane’s/Fat Cat’s. Before promoting indie rock concerts was remotely profitable, HUH brought countless touring bands to town that otherwise would’ve passed Houston by. The scene Hands Up fostered lived on for years via a thriving BBS-style message board, currently home to several dozen spambots selling Michael Kors handbags.
September 2005 – Paul Wall’s The People’s Champ debuts at #1 on the Billboard 200. Grill sales skyrocket.
October 15, 2005 – First Westheimer Block Party, a revamped, music-centric incarnation of the Westheimer Street Festival, is held in Montrose. The Block Party runs biannually for four years and plays host to dozens (if not hundreds) of local bands, national acts (including St. Vincent, Dead Prez, HEALTH, and plenty more), and a 2008 Cop Warmth vs. B L A C K I E guerrilla set that leveled three city blocks.
October 2005 – Bun B releases debut solo album Trill.
November 5, 2005 – Danseparc presents first “Mustache Night” at Numbers.
March 2006 – After over 30 years at the same location, Cactus Music closes. It reopens just down the street in November of the following year, with new ownership but much of the same staff.
May 2006 – MySpace kills the scene. A memorial service is held on the Hands Up Houston message boards.
July 22, 2006 – The first DJ Screwfest is held at the Pasadena Convention Center and Fairgrounds with performances by Slim Thug, Chingo Bling, Trae, and more. DJ Screw’s legacy continues to grow; next year’s event is held at Reliant Arena. DJ Screw is eventually named an official Texas Music Pioneer by the office of Governor Rick Perry, along with Blind Lemon Jefferson, Dimebag Darrell, and (for some reason) Elliott Smith.
August 2006 – The Jonbenet releases Ugly/Heartless.
September 2006 – After a half-dozen releases and about as many name changes, the loose gang of art-noise oracles revolving around Erika Thrasher and Tex Kerschen release the Invasive Exotics LP under what would become their permanent name, Indian Jewelry.
October 13, 2006 – HPD officer Gabriel Rodriguez responds to a noise complaint and tasers several people at Walter’s on Washington, including a member of the band Two Gallants and a 14-year-old.
March 9-10, 2007 – First Noise and Smoke festival held at Notsuoh and The Axiom. The Ka-Nives somehow manage to offer up the least coherent set in the band’s history. Everyone in attendance dies.
March 27, 2007 – Actor David Arquette shows up at the Proletariat to hear Black Math Experiment sing him their song “You Cannot Kill David Arquette.” Arquette survives.
March 2007 – Devin the Dude releases Waitin’ to Inhale.
May 2007 – Jana Hunter releases There’s No Home. Hunter promptly moves to Baltimore, eventually forming Lower Dens. Refusing to admit her departure, many Houstonians continue to stubbornly refer to her as “local musician Jana Hunter.” She’ll be back. They always come back. Bliss Blood is coming home any day now; we kept her room just like she left it…
August 7, 2007 – UGK’s double album Underground Kingz debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The single “International Player’s Anthem” goes on to earn a Grammy nomination. America’s love affair with Houston rap reaches its commercial apex. White journalists across the country write sentences like “America’s love affair with Houston rap reaches its commercial apex.”
August 2007 – John Sears begins the “Domy Bookstore” installment of his Grey Ghost series – a string of CD-Rs by local bands (often recorded by Sears himself) – released in editions of 13 and sold exclusively at the shop for $2 apiece. Highlights include EPs by Golden Axe, Cop Warmth, Hearts of Animals, Blades, and No Talk; an album-length collection of Something Fierce demos; and the first-ever Wild Moccasins recordings.
September 2007 – The urine puddles on the Number’s men’s bathroom floors reach critical mass; congeal into a single sentient glob of evil; rampage through Montrose; kill the scene.
October 6, 2007 – Black Leather Jesus handpicked by Thurston Moore to open for Sonic Youth (in Marfa, but still).
October 2007 – Bring Back the Guns release Dry Futures.
November 2007 – South Park Coalition founder K-Rino releases Book Number 7 (the album, not the book). S.P.C. celebrates its 20th anniversary.
December 4, 2007 – RIP Pimp C.
January 5, 2008 – The first Hootenanny at the Mink Backroom, featuring tribute performances by The Dimes as The Pixies, Papermoons as Pedro the Lion, a reunited Panic in Detroit as Jawbox, and many more. A second event (“Twotenanny”) is held in July; sadly, the Francophilic third installment (“Troistenanny”) never materializes.
January 2008 – Super Happy Fun Land is forced to close down its original Heights location. The exquisitely DIY operation eventually resurfaces on Polk Street on the East side of downtown, weirder than ever.
January 2008 – The Dull Knife label releases its first record, Hearts of Animals’ self-titled 7” EP. Dull Knife goes on to release a string of beautifully packaged limited-run records by the likes of Balaclavas, Rusted Shut, The Wiggins, and more.
March 2008 – B L A C K I E releases Wilderness of North America.
July 2008 – Gchat kills the scene. No memorial service is held, as someone screws up the Evite.
September 2008 – Z-RO releases Crack.
October 2008 – Sound Exchange co-owners Kurt Brennan and Kevin Bakos celebrate the store’s 10th anniversary at its current Richmond St. location by watching a crackhead set his mattress on fire across the street.
October 16, 2008 – Two Star Symphony premieres Titus Andronicus, their collaboration with Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. The Titus Andronicus album is released in 2011.
January 2009 – Wild Moccasins release Microscopic Metronomes EP. Final Wild Moccasin enters puberty.
January 2009 – Black Congress and Muhammad Ali release split cassette. Cassette tapes are a thing for a little while there.
February 2009 – Music blog The Skyline ends regular updates. Maintained exclusively by Ryan “ADR” Clark, the site was just as likely to offer-up thoughtful, in-depth criticism as it was tongue-in-cheek “gossip and rumor.” ADR later arrested in a Laredo, TX hotel room and charged with killing the scene.
April 5, 2009 – Jandek plays first local show, a late-afternoon performance at Rudyard’s fronting a funk band. It’s weird.
August 8-9, 2009 – First Free Press Summer Festival held at Eleanor Tinsley Park. Headliners include Of Montreal, Explosions in the Sky, and Broken Social Scene. America’s fourth-largest city finally has a proper music festival to call its own.
September 2009 – Everybody remembers cassette tapes are stupid.
October 2009 – After seven years throwing Houston’s premier cool-kid dance party, DJ collective Danseparc ends its residency at Numbers, officially killing the scene once and for all.
April 2010 – The Energy’s first album, The Energy’s First Album, releases.
August 17, 2010 – Rice University announces sale of KTRU’s broadcast tower and frequency to KUHF. C.R.E.A.M.
August 2010 – Bun B releases third album in his “Trill series,” Trill OG. Houston rap puns reach creative apex.
September 21, 2010 – Houston-based art collective Funwunce releases video for LCD Soundsystem’s “Home,” starring every local music fan ever, and also a robot.
September 23, 2010 – After years of decline and pay-for-play Battle of the Bands scenarios, legendary Heights institution Fitzgerald’s reopens under new management. Houston’s music scene is stronger than ever.
September 24, 2010 – Fitzgerald’s kills the scene.
October 2010 – Fat Tony releases RABDARGAB.
October 2010 – //TENSE// embarks on U.S. tour with EBM legends Nitzer Ebb.
November 2010 – Official Texas State Historical Memorial Marker for legendary bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins dedicated near his birthplace in the Third Ward.
November 12, 2010 – Catastrophic Theatre premiers the rock opera Bluefinger, based on the album of the same name by Frank Black/Black Francis, itself based on the life of Dutch glam rock singer Herman Brood. The play, which features lead performances by Sprawl/Middlefinger frontman Matt Kelly and Dead Horse/The Plus and Minus Show’s Michael Haaga, sells out its run at Diverseworks. Theatre is briefly cool.
December 16, 2010 – Delicious Milk make its live debut, killing the scene but saving rock and roll.
January 2011 – New West Records announces they’ve signed Robert Ellis, Buxton, and Wild Moccasins. Grandfather Child is snatched up later in the year. That skinny kid who rings you up at Cactus is now labelmates with Steve Earle.
January 2011 – Bun B begins teaching course on religion in hip-hop at Rice University.
July 2011 – Robert Ellis releases Photographs.
December 25, 2011 – After years fighting the good fight on the increasingly Jersey Shore-like Washington Avenue, Walter’s officially opens its new location on 1120 Naylor Street, just north of downtown.
January 2012 – Buxton release Nothing Here Seems Strange.
May 2012 – While California noise-rap carpetbaggers Death Grips become media darlings, many music fans (both locally and nationally) begin pointing out they’re essentially just adding live drums to the template B L A C K I E perfected years ago. B L A C K I E – who was at one point set to open for Death Grips on a tour they subsequently cancelled – abandons said template and releases his long-rumored “acoustic” album, the harrowing, uncompromising GEN.
June 2-3, 2012 – Free Press Summer Festival draws over 80,000 attendees in its fourth year at Eleanor Tinsley Park. In four years, the event has grown to the point where Willie Fucking Nelson is playing at four in the afternoon.
November 23, 2012 – A Pain Teens reunion is the highlight of The Axiom 25th Anniversary Show at Fitzgerald’s. A buncha punk-ass kids show up and decide they’re goth, which is fine I guess.
January 2013 – Linus Pauling Quartet release triple-disc greatest hits compilation/D&D module Assault on the Vault of the Ancient Bonglords.
March 2013 – Free Press Houston celebrates its tenth anniversary, publishing a list of significant events in local music history. It unconscionably neglects to mention your favorite band, in a calculated effort to brutally murder the scene once and for all.