Houston Calling

An ode to Chicago music that eventually meaders into a thing about Houston music and Pale in particular… and grooving with a pict

December 12th, 2006 · No Comments

One the things that prompted me to do Houston Calling was the mostly tightknit Chicago music scene I experienced from afar as a fan and friend of the band Fig Dish. Since there were so many relatively unknown bands up there that were great but ignored, it got me thinking about how many struggling bands there must be like that in every city. And since Houston’s one of the nation’s largest cities it’s only fitting we have a ton of great, undiscovered talent that gets ignored by the national media. We all know Dallas and Austin get the limelight–it mostly sucks, but the local listener benefits by being able to see a pretty steady stream of live gigs by their favorite local artists.

I recently broke out an old Fig Dish album after not listening to them much since earlier this year in preparation for their March reunion show (read my post about the show | see photos from the show). It still amazes me that this band was largely ignored. Over the years, the band has built a cult following (it’s been almost 10 years since they split up). Thanks to this band, I was introduced to a number of other Chicagoland bands–some which were signed and semi-famous for a time (Local H, Veruca Salt, Urge Overkill) and some which were mostly not (Hushdrops, The Webb Brothers, Made To Fade, Triple Fast Action). Many of these bands remain favorites of mine to this day.

When Fig Dish’s major label debut, That’s What Love Songs Often Do, was released in 1995, I spent countless dollars and time trying to drum up support for the band so other people could discover the band’s music. I did a website for the band (the last version of which can be found here), traveled to Chicago for shows when I could, and annoyed djs at radio stations I didn’t even listen to.

What happened to the band is a typical story of major label hassles, lackluster promotion, and a corporate merger that left many musicians without a label. Fig Dish eventually became Caviar–reread the last sentence for their story–and Ness, who is reportedly working on a new album. Caviar members Mike Willison and Blake Smith are currently making music as The Prairie Cartel, with Local H‘s Scott Lucas. You can find them online here. They will release a single in February–can’t wait.

I have had a copy of Fig Dish’s banned-by-MTV video for 1997’s “When Shirts Get Tight” (from When Shove Goes Back To Push) for a long time, but someone recently posted it on YouTube. View it here (beware: don’t do this at work!) It was a quick reminder of not only why I loved those guys and their music, but also that the music coming out of the Chicago area in the mid-’90s was pretty amazing.

Hopefully Houston will see a similar level of attention sometime in the future–there are dozens of talented and creative musicians here that continually and consistently write good songs and make unique music. I am always amazed when I hear a local band whose talent would make most people think it’s being “wasted” in Houston (speaking solely about the lack of attention from the national press). If I had to pick one band to break out in 2007, I think that Pale probably has the best chance of garnering nationwide attention. Their 2005 album Here has a lot of strong songs and the band puts on energetic live performances. I am anxious to hear the band’s new EP, The Mandatory Ambulance, which is slated for release in early 2007.

Pale play their next gig in Houston at The Mink (Main St. @ W. Alabama by The Continental Club) this Saturday night (12.16.06) with The Watermarks (who have a great EP out this year)–I recommend checking out this show.

And while you’re at it, go buy some Caviar and Fig Dish albums, some stuff by Ness, Local H, and The Webb Brothers. Don’t miss out on Kevin Tihista’s Red Terror or Hushdrops either. Buy Pale’s Here here. You’ll enjoy it all.

Tags: Music

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