There was a flop house for a punk band on Houston’s east side in like 1985. Depending on the day, you would find any number of people there. Because of lifestyle concerns (meaning most of the residents were up all night and slept all day), the windows were rigged to keep the sunlight out with wood and duct tape. This also helped with containing the noise, because if there wasn’t a stereo blasting punk music, then there was a punk band blasting out of one of the bedrooms. Most people would be hard pressed to remember what the outside of the house looked like. No one can recall ever having arrived or left the house during the day.
Punk bands from out of town would stay there while in town. And while today one can imagine that bands would meet online and communicate logistics like, “Hey we’re coming there. Can we crash at your place?” In 1985, I have no idea how bands would communicate concepts like these or how they would meet.
The nights spent at this house were confusing for many reasons. Especially on the weekends or if a band was there from out of town. You could be sitting on the couch and someone that you didn’t know would walk up and ask something like, “Hey can I use your bathroom?” or “Can I crash in your bed man. I’m beat.” Knowing it was useless to say that you didn’t live there, you might answer in the affirmative just for expediency. “Sure man, it’s right over there.”
One night in particular, a bunch of people went to the Grateful Dead concert at Southern Star Amphitheater in Astroworld (that’s a story on it’s own). This strange older guy named Jack that did these amazing psychedelic paintings was staying at the house at the time. So he went along to this show. When the show was over, Jack was definitely on his own journey. He decided he was going to walk back to the house. It was confusing, because everyone was certain that Jack didn’t know the way back to the house. He wasn’t from Houston. And he definitely was in no condition to be finding his way to a house in a bad neighborhood in an unfamiliar city. Especially on foot!
Everyone went back to the house without Jack. A few hours later with everyone on their own journeys, it was uncharacteristically quiet in the house. Then the door started rattling as Jack fumbled with his keys in the door. And voices could be heard, like he was talking to someone. To everyone inside, the sound built as the lock turned.
“m on that other baby girl know where i can get more?
crash ready to burn so you know what it do”
Then Jack walked in with about 6 girls. All of them about 20 years younger than him. “Hey I found these girls on the way home and I have to do a Tarot reading for them.” A knock on the door. “Hey there you are!” Another 10 people came in.
“and shes a dime, just watchin for her man in the back”
More and more people kept arriving. There was loud music. The band that actually lived in the house started playing in the rehearsal bedroom.
“everybody knows where you keepin at”
The place was hopping.
“you keep walking by”
Jack did about 100 Tarot card readings. The core of people that were there when it was quiet were kind of huddled on the floor. Jack came over and did readings for them too. It was like a circus had descended. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see sword swallowers and fire jugglers.
“100 grand that his mattress can hold”
Perhaps the strangest part of the whole scene was how no one acknowledged that they didn’t know each other. The people that arrived would sit on the floor with the people that were there from the beginning and vice versa. The mood in the sit on the floor group was mild awe and muted intense conversations and the mood of the rest was loud party. People kept asking who lived in the house. No one knew how to answer, “I thought you lived here.”
“walkin round the town with a red carpet on”
And it turned out that the later arrivals didn’t know each other. Jack had managed to meet about 10 separate parties of 5 or 6 people while walking home and gave them all directions to the house.
“everybody knows where you keepin it at.”
At some point, the party just stopped. The last person to leave that was going to leave opened the door on the gray dawn and closed the darkness back in. A jug of orange juice was passed around and everyone fell asleep where they sat. In the morning, people sat around chuckling to themselves about the inexplicable nature of the evening.
“you keep on walkin by”
Jack was really intense and bizarre with this long brown beard and hair with streaks of gray. He was round and short and his art was amazing. He would wander from place to place and never hung onto or sold his artwork. He did some covers for some Houston punk albums and crashed on a floor. When he was done with Houston, he just left. People told stories about hearing that he was in the swamps in Louisiana doing more artwork. But he never stayed anywhere for long, and that story about the swamps went on for years. He just disappeared.
Holy shit! Sometimes I am just so happy to hear something the first time I hear it. There is so much energy and momentum in this song. And there is a good fusion of influences here. There’s punk, rap, 70’s and 80’s metal with maybe some Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana mixed in. It’s so much fun to listen to how each of these influences are recognizable and indistinguishable at the same time. The song starts driving in the beginning and drives itself right through the end with this paste of abstract lyrics that coalesce into a punk rock anthem melody in the choruses. The energy level of the drums and bass is crazy and then they just pile this raw guitar mayhem on top. The singer’s voice sounds like he chewed some nails before grabbind the microphone. This song is why punk was created and why it has survived. A lot of the time, I hate the way punk can be rehashed for no good reason. This is no rehash. This is something new.
The song for me obviously is the embodiment of this one night. All of the chaos. All of the metaphors with no explanation and no meaning that end up creating meaning in their meaninglessness. Who knows where this ends up? Who knows where Jack ended up? Who knows where anyone ends up? We are all just a handful of dice thrown in the air. Let them fall how they fall. It’s also the embodiment of Houston punk rock. These guys are kick ass!
“you keep walkin by”
This weekend should be interesting. Two release shows that I really want to see. American Fangs at Rudyards on Friday the 30th and Ume at Walters on Saturday the 31st.