Back when Craig Kinsey wore an “I’m not moving to Austin” shirt at Summerfest it was, I guess, a mildly amusing poke at our good neighbors in our fair capital. Then, oddly enough, I began to see the shirt on a few more bodies – decidedly lame. Turns out, what I didn’t realize at the time was that Zen Hill Kinsey was, at least at one point, selling these shirts. Yes, that’s right! For $15 plus S&H, you could get your own “I’m not moving to Austin” shirt, in either black or white – small to 2XL for men and small to XL for women. E-mail them and maybe they will still fill out an order. Woo!
Now, I’m sure that the folks as Zen Hill Kinsey had only the best of intentions here in boosting hometown pride but ironically, the shirt only succeeded in making Houston look like a fox complaining about grapes. So please folks, put them away.
The funny thing about this is that when a city like Houston (with its relatively small indie music scene) compares itself to other cities, it only highlights how poorly it thinks of itself. Consider this, would you ever see a person from Austin wear a shirt saying “I’m not moving to L.A.?” or “I’m not moving to Nashville?” Of course not because Austin is, generally speaking, pretty confident about itself. Houston, on the other hand, now has people advetising its insecurities and sense of inadequacy and it only cost them $15. Let me spell it out for you – if you wear a shirt saying “I’m not moving to Austin,” it suggests that, well, a lot of people ARE moving to Austin! Why is that? I dunno, maybe more venues, a city that doesn’t arbitrarily shut down shows and actually promotes music as a source of civic pride, a large body of students who want to get wasted to music, a nicer climate, geography… Hey wait, Austin is sounding pretty good now that the folks at Zen Hill Kinsey brought it up.
Here is the thing, Houston is a wonderful breeding ground for bands – some stay and others leave. Am I now supposed to think more highly of bands that stay when compared to bands like Ume who did move to Austin? Should I think worse of Beyonce because she and Jay-Z have homes in New York, Florida, and California – not Houston? Of course not! Stay in Houston or leave – that’s your business, homie. My only suggestion is for Houston to just be comfortable with itself and celebrate what it is and what it has on its own terms; that’s real hometown pride. Or as Frank Zappa once explained it so eloquently: “Do you know what you are? / You are what you is / You is what you am / A cow don’t make ham ”
*Update – the original version attributed the t-shirts to Zen Hill. This was based on the fact that a Zen Hill employee was using a Zen Hill e-mail address to process orders. As per the comments below, the employee was Kinsey’s girlfriend and while she was using the company’s e-mail for the T-Shirts, she was not acting on behalf of Zen Hill. The article has been ammended to reflect this but to be clear I take no blame for the confusion as most companies will have a policy of not allowing personal business to be handled on their company e-mails as this can lead to exactly this type of confusion. I stand behind the critique of the T-Shirt: OK for Kinsey to wear, lame for everyone else.