I performed at the 1st Block Party by Free Press with my band back in the day called Million Year Dance. There was about 40-50 people watching our set. I performed for the paper’s 3 year anniversary party in the back of Brasil with about 50 people there. I wouldn’t say I’m best friends with the crew, and in fact in recent years I see them less and less, and still I do feel a kinship and community with them. I’m glad to have known them and have been a part of a swelling storm of Houston music scene. They have come a long way from those days and I’m supremely happy for them and their success.
My band performed at the FPSF for the past 3 years. I released by album “Open Book” at 2010 FPSF. I lost my journals and was completely devastated for a whole year at the 2011 FPSF. I was shocked and surprised by Free Press that they found my journals and they returned them to me the day before we performed at the 2012 FPSF, which made this a very special performance. Needless to say that I have had many emotional and insane experiences at FPSF. This year was totally different as I was finally just an audience member. And still, with the history and all the emotions; I felt that maybe I was also a member of this growing Houston music scene. After all I started playing music in Houston when Michael Haaga, Tom Bunch and John Lomax were all ranting about how there was good music in Houston and no scene to support it. So do we have that now? Does Houston have a music scene, what is that scene, and is there a since of community in it? All this was brewing in my brain while wandering the grounds. I also wanted to be truly open and release all those previous feelings to have a fresh start and truly enjoy the festival as someone that wants to like music, as someone that wants to feel happy about the music scene in Houston. I did not want to go into it with complaints and criticism, just let it flow naturally… (this portion is only to set up the fact that I have been along for the whole journey this somehow gives me more of and educated approach to this blog, I’ve been there done that sort of thing.)
As I cruised through the festival grounds I over heard several conversations and even engaged in a few with friends and fellow Houston artists. It was mixed opinions. Some said, “This is just amazing, I’m so happy they have done this for Houston and the Houston music scene.” Here! Here! Others complained, “This is ridiculous, these people don’t know how to run a festival, what sell outs, where’s the local artist this year?” Hmmm, completely different opinions, you can never really please everyone. I just wanted to remain neutral and a mindful listener. Both sides had merit in my opinion of opinions. Also there is a much deeper process that should be understood, what are we really all here for?
I performed at Bonnaroo and at FPSF several times. I’ve performed and attended all the famous Austin festivals. I know what I’m getting into when I step foot inside the festival grounds. I know that human beings go there with the intent to take as many drugs as possible and become completely obliterated to forget their worldly troubles and maybe even their own identity. And as the day grew on and the madness began to swell I realized I was an outsider in what I thought was my own community. I began to feel that I couldn’t relate to this mentality of festival goers whatsoever.
I had earplugs in the entire time, and that experience just mutes the entire volume of Elenor Tinsley Park by a few decibels. I was sent into an acid flashback in-between bands while I waited for Alabama Shakes. I could hear the entire hillside in one breath, like one chaotic voice. It reminded me of walking in the cafeteria at Hutto Highschool while tripping on acid and you can hear everyone’s conversation and the banging and clanging of dishes and silverware like the endless dribble of a chaotic human river gushing by at full speeds. The sound of this mindless chatter made me think, “what are they all talking about. Am I self-righteous enough to say that all these conversations bouncing off each other have no weight and no real sense of humanity in it at all, just mindless chatter moving its way up into the Houston atmosphere so that there is a little bubble of chaos floating over the bayou city.
Alabama Shakes began. I felt relieved, some real music and real artists, not faking a thing, just being real and sharing with us their deepest emotions and experiences. As I was enjoying the music I looked down at a fellow human sitting on the ground searching for something. He looked in his pockets and patted his clothing. He took out his wallet and opened it. Sheets of acid and other pills spilled out of his wallet. I could tell now that he had lost his money. He reached in his pocket and pulled out what looked like a zippo lighter, when he opened it more bags of drugs spilled out of it. All those drugs and no money. He was laughing and seemed disoriented, obviously he was high on his own supply. Again I was sent into deep thought. I know this exists, it’s nothing new, it happens and will continue to happen. But I went back to the original questions, is this good for the community? And what kind of community does it support? Or is this festival a dream of music lovers that look to capitalize in a market doing something they love to do? All these questions are of great importance because all to often our modern day dreams and visions are pursued without any mindfulness at all, so these questions really need to be thought about and answered by everyone, from the concert promoters to the humans attending the festival. How can you even enjoy yourself and the music if you are that intoxicated? Further more, is the festival itself programming and promoting that being a mindless drug and sex fiend is the greatest thing in life?
I looked around at my fellow human beings and could see in their faces that they live for this experience, this is quite possibly the most enjoyment they have in their modern lives. It’s their way to escape for a while. Maybe they don’t live their daily lives like this, and ok anything in moderation. But to what end and what effect does this culture have on music, art and further more fine art?
I only heard positive messages in the music from two bands from the whole time I was down there. I didn’t see everything so if you did and want me to know about it please speak up. Vintage Trouble and Alabama Shakes were the only two acts that used their music to say and promote something very positive and inspiring, something that binds hearts and community. I was wandering past the 2nd main stage to the neptune stage. The Mavericks were on stage–multiple players all playing real instruments. (Now some opinions) I didn’t really care for that style of music, but I was thrilled to see real players and real song writing. Only where were the people, there was hardly anyone watching them. A few steps later I arrived at the Neptune stage where all I could hear were the most absurd techno farting sounds I’ve ever heard from DJ Borgore. On the screen was just an ass in slow motion booty poppin’, and friends let me tell you that his crowd was packed with kids all jumping and bending to the will of the DJ. A friend of mine later referred to Borgore style of music as “Butt Wave,” I laughed out loud. So this is the experience that young ones want? I never felt like more of an outsider in my own music scene as I did at that moment. It made me want to leave, and immediately go write a song and write this blog, simply to counter the carnal energy that was now unavoidably washed all over my being. Maybe I’m too sensitive, maybe I’m old fashioned, maybe I’m too principled? But to me this festival does not at all improve community, in fact to me it perpetuates corporate influence in art and not to mention the extreme waste of resources and land it creates.
I was glad to see some recycling bins this year, that was a first, if they were there previous festivals there were not enough because I looked for them and could never find one. It still didn’t really matter, I watch hipsters, frat boys and progressives guzzle beer and drinks and throw their trash on the ground DIRECTLY NEXT TO THE FUCKING RECYCLING BINS. The clean up crew will not sort out the recycling from the trash once it hits the ground its all going in the trash. Not to mention how much of it will actually enter the bayou, one of downtown’s only natural water resources. What a waste, something I can’t support and will no longer be a part of. Even if it means buying a ticket to go in with trash bags and clean up after all my little piggy fellow human beings. To me the lack of mindfulness and actual care and concern for the community showed its ugly face. If you do care for the community your efforts are misguided and actually damaging the community in many respects.
Sure, many local businesses made more money because of the festival, the city and all the affiliates of festival raked in the cash, and some would argue that this capital gain is good for the community, and will over all give the mentality to the Houston audience that Houston does indeed have a music scene. And after careful and mindful analysis that is the only good that I can honestly recognize.
For a local band to play the festival it is damn near a waste of time and energy. Yes you receive clout and some level of hype. However, you don’t get paid, and in fact you work and suffer so hard just to play the festival that it drains you emotionally, physically and you spend hundreds of your own hard earned dollars just to get it together to play the festival. Every year I played FPSF I came out in negative. So I can’t honestly say that this has been a good thing for local artists whatsoever accept for the trickling of hype I mentioned above.
The corporate grip on art and music is strangling it to death. I’m confident that the artist is so creative and adaptive that they will always find ways to break through the corruption and end up on the other side performing great acts and inspiring others. Artists are nothing but vessels of expression, and there really is no value that can be placed on ability that you are born with to allow others without this ability to feel emotions, listen to great stories and inspiring melodies. Corporations and these festivals are only perpetuating the destruction of fine art, and furthermore promoting a lifestyle of lost souls. The focus is completely misguided. Maybe people want that experience? Maybe people don’t want to look deep within themselves and be mindful and change their lives to move in positive, regenerative and sustainable directions. Fine arts and real song writing and artistry is continually being shoved into the back of our minds by corporate entities, thus becoming devalued. Everything is being produced fast, and the content can only be something that people being programmed by these commercial entities can relate to, thus the creation of the worst sounds in the world “Butt Wave.”
I would like to personally encourage an enlivened debate about these topics and at the very least think about all the questions raised. Because if you want to improve your society, your community and support and uplift art and artists, by all means there are ways to do it. Thank you to all things sacred for the fine arts, for artist like Pandit Jasraj who revive our love for fine art and Indian raags. Thank you Pink Floyd for showing audiences that a rock show doesn’t have to be all about depravity, that you can fuse several forms of art to create a masterpiece that has stood the test of generational gaps. Thank you to Mariza Fado for having the most amazing voice on earth and bringing classical music and opera to a world stage in a very modern and relatable way. Thank you to Vintage Trouble for saying some caring and positive words during your set to a crowd of crazed, drunken, drug and sex addicts. They are the ones in most need of this kind of positivity. Thank you even to the band The Manichean. Since I was 15 years old I have wanted my show to be more like a play and a theatrical experience, I’ve worked my whole career toward this vision and I have yet to gather all the resources together to make it happen. So was the Manichean the first to do this, well no, and neither was I, and at least someone is. At least the Manichean is saying to the audience, “No, you are not limited to relating to “Butt Wave,” you too can experience art, open your mind and heart and understand that there is more to life than drugs and sex and loosing your identity and wasting and trashing the earth. That’s why I support The Manichean. If I don’t have the resources yet to pull off my vision I will join theirs because if they succeed it means that my vision will also. These acts will create a sense in the audience that this kind of art is worth something of value to them. That is how you build community and support the arts.
And of course thank you to Free Press for trying your damnedest to do what you love and do it well. I would like to suggest that now that you are successful with Summer Fest, let’s pull back a little and reanalyze what “supporting the community and local artists” is all about. Maybe you can start up a “strictly local” festival again, without any corporate influence whatsoever, so that the local communities can thrive without the corporations taking the biggest slices that leave the locals going, “well that was fun, now what.” Because a real community of support is possible. I just can’t say I have seen it yet, and I’m happy and open hearted enough to believe that it’s possible. Or maybe it should be up to us, maybe we should stop waiting around for someone else to take the lead and deliver what we ask for, maybe we should take charge on our own and make our own visions and dreams come true?
Cheers and as Ellen Degeneres says, “Be kind to one another.”
With all my heart and honesty