Houston Calling

Going off on local radio

November 9th, 2005 · No Comments

In this week’s Houston Press, music editor John Nova Lomax once again takes local rock radio stations to task for ignoring local musicians.

Here’s an excerpt:

…Near the stage, people are throwing their hands in the air like they just don’t care, and around the fringes, people are busting out giddy dance moves. No rock crowd would tolerate this noise, but the rap crowd is eating it up — tens of thousands have come and paid $10 to park and $25 to enter, and now pony up $7 for beer and $5 for Cokes. Every rock promoter in Texas would sell his own mother into Somalian slavery for a crowd like this, especially one that’s willing to tolerate such poor acoustics.

At which point I ask myself why. Why do hordes of people tolerate this?

The answer is, it’s fun. It’s a spectacle like no other, for starters. And even if the sound is abysmal, the concert is a blast.

You’ve really got to hand it to the event’s primary sponsor, the Box. For years, when almost no other commercial station of any format would give local music a chance, they would and did, helping make Lil’ Flip, Slim Thug, UGK, the Geto Boys, Destiny’s Child, Mike Jones and Paul Wall big-time, national stars. And they’re in the process of doing the same with Chamillionaire, Z-Ro, Trae and others. Today, Houston is the hottest provincial city in American music, and many of those guys could share the stage more or less as an equal with even a living legend of hip-hop like Ice Cube. The Box built this city on hip and hop.

Contrast that with the rock stations. Save for a ghettoized time slot late on Sunday nights, neither the Buzz nor the late KLOL has given local rock the time of day, even (for a time) major-label local bands like Blue October. And if you’re looking for the one factor that has held the local rock scene in check for lo these many years, this is it.

It’s not the clubs refusing to book the acts; it’s not the fans staying home and watching videos, playing Grand Theft Auto or surfing porn. It’s not even the competition from jiggle joints and dance clubs, and though it’s self-serving for me to say so, I truly believe it’s not the local media ignoring great bands. It’s the fact that no one is hearing this stuff on the radio. No one is being taken by surprise; no one is hearing Michael Haaga‘s “If and When,” Tody Castillo‘s “God Only Knows” or a rip-roaring joint by Los Skarnales or Spain Colored Orange alongside tunes by Audioslave, Staind and 3 Doors Down, and then hearing the DJ come on and say, “That was Houston’s own so-and-so, who’s performing this weekend at whatever club.”

Read the entire article, “Low Ride, Take It Easy,” here.

More and more people I know are going the Satellite radio route. I can’t bring myself to do it — I don’t like being spoonfed music, whether it’s Clear Channel or not. But I think it is a great way for people who normally wouldn’t near new music to discover new bands (and go out and buy their albums). But with iPods and other digital music players becoming more widespread by the minute, regular radio station programmers must realize they are fighting a losing battle. Why turn on Sunny 99.1 or KIOL or classic rock “The Arrow” when you can listen to your own music? I know KPFT and KTRU support local musicians, and that’s great, but the majority of the people listening to those stations would never bother with corporate radio anyway and are probably more in tune with what’s going on in local music than the average radio listener. I am talking about corporate radio — the stuff that the masses take in countless hours each week.

Here’s an example: I was in the dentist’s office this week, and they had on 99.1 (you know, “your at-work station”). After an hour of that, I’d be happy to undergo a root canal than hear another second of Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying”. I’d go off on that song if I had the time — let’s just say it’s one of the most pathetic songs I have ever heard and is the reason mainstream country is C-R-A-P. You want twang? There’s plenty of it out there, with intelligent lyrics instead of inane, dumbed-down drivel.

But I digress.

I long ago gave up on Houston radio — sure, The Arrow’s good for a bit of distraction when the iPod’s battery runs out. But until local rock stations start paying attention to the musicians that call Houston home and help promote local shows, I hope you’ll do what I do and just turn it off.

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Tags: Music