Failure Live at House of Blues, or: How I Went to Houston for 24 Hours, Bought some Records, Hung out with some Old Friends, Drank Way Too Much Beer, and Saw one of My Favorite Bands of All Time

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWednesday Morning

Traditionally (at least for the last few months), Wednesday has been my day off from a week’s worth of work drudgery, my day to spend with my son, going to the park, playing with the dog, watching horror movies, reading comic books, and napping.  It’s a wonderful day.  Last Wednesday, I didn’t get to do any of those things…well, the boy did take a 30-minute power nap on me before we left the house…but the day was wonderful nonetheless.  Just a different kind of wonderful.  The find-a-record-you’ve-been-looking-for, friend-seeing, beer-swilling, see-a-band-you-thought-you’d-never-ever-see road trip kind of wonderful.

Yeah.  I saw Failure.

So, I packed my bag, made sure I had ample music for a 3-hour drive, said goodbye to my family, dropped my son off at my mom’s, and hit the road.  The road to Failure, that in this instance is a good thing.

The drive was uneventful, and gave me time to listen to some excellent albums by Have A Nice Life (experimental post-rock/post-punk), Youth Code (industrial techno), Odonis Odonis (reverby noise rock), Cluster Buster (throwback synth soundtrack worship), and Power Glove (more throwback synth soundtrack worship).  I may have even sung along unabashedly to Queen and Bowie’s “Under Pressure” and Naughty By Nature’s “O.P.P.”  I rolled into Houston around 1:00 PM with no place to go and no one to see, my friends still toiling away the hours in their collective offices.  What was I to do?

vinaledgeRecord Store Crawl: Houston

Of course I was going to shop for records.  It’s who I am.

Stop 1: Cactus Music

Cactus is probably the largest independent record store in the greater Houston area, two large rooms of CD’s, LP’s, 45’s, books, T-shirts, and more.  It reminds me somewhat of Austin’s Waterloo Records, and seems to be the central hub for tickets, in-store performances, special events, and other music happenings.  I stop in pretty much every time I’m in town, and it occasionally yields some pretty spectacular rewards.  But, last Wednesday was a bust.  It’s no big deal.  Cactus has a great selection of new and used vinyl, but nothing warranted purchase this last time around.

Purchased: nothing.

Visit the store.

Stop 2: Sound Exchange

There will always be a soft spot in my heart for Sound Exchange.  For years and years, the old Austin location was the kind of the underground, punk rock alternative to Waterloo.  It was home to the now famous Daniel Johnston “Hi, How Are You?” frog graffiti wall art.  It was the first record store I went to when I moved to Austin.  And, it was pretty devastating when it closed its doors over a decade ago.  So, visiting the Houston location kind of feels like paying homage to a long lost temple.

All that being said, I didn’t find anything.  0 for 2.

Purchased: nothing.

Visit the store.

Stop 3: Heights Vinyl

I had never been to Heights Vinyl before, located in…you guessed it…The Heights area of Houston.  The store was small, but stuffed with records, using a color-coded pricing system based on the characters from Reservoir Dogs.  To be honest, I had absolutely no idea how much money I was going to owe when I checked out.  While a tad disconcerting, I got over it, and I’ll have to come back in the future.

Purchased: Jane – III LP; Beak> – 0898/Welcome to the Machine 10” single.

Visit the store.

Stop 4: Vinal Edge Records

Another store I’d never been to, Vinal Edge was probably my favorite visit of the day, producing the best results.  I could have easily dropped $1000 in there if so inclined.  A huge selection of used and new vinyl, some of which had not even been priced out yet, gave me plenty to sift over, high-dollar wall pieces to admire, and crates to dig through.  I must return.

Purchased: Ratatat – Classics LP; R. Stevie Moore – Meet the R. Stevie Moore! An Introduction to the Godfather of Home Recording LP; Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man – Out of Season LP.

Visit the store.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFriends, Food, Beer, and Failure

After my record store excursion, it was time to get to the gist of why I was in Houston to begin with.  I met up with some old friends, guys (and girl) that I’ve known since I was in junior high school.  We hit a bar and proceeded to drink and reminisce, as we are wont to do sometimes.  After getting sufficiently lubed on the finest hops and grains that Houston has to offer (Karbach Brewing’s Weisse Versa), it was showtime.  Time to hit up the House of Blues and see one of my all time favorites.  17-year-old Tommy was so excited, he could have peed himself, so 35-year-old Tommy hit the men’s room just to play it safe.

The set up at House of Blues was pretty decent, a good sized standing area that didn’t put anybody too far back from the stage, and a seating and moving area behind us to make it easier to get to and from the bar.  Being that 24-oz PBR’s were $9.00 a pop, my visits were infrequent at best.

And then the lights dimmed.

A series of film clips aired on the screen setup behind the stage, showing scenes from A View to A Kill, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fantastic Planet (naturally), and many more, all the while the anticipation mounting in the smallish, but fervent crowd.  Then the band took the stage, and the opening notes of “Another Space Song” began to fill the venue, and we were lifted into some kind of nostalgic sound heaven.  And the band played on.

Failure released three albums during their initial tenure, 1992’s Comfort, 1994’s Magnified, and 1996’s Fantastic Planet, the band drawing from each during their performance, but hinging more on the latter’s tracks throughout the show.  I couldn’t necessarily tell you exactly all of what was played or not played, but I did hear everything I could have wanted to hear…the driving bass of “Frogs,” the goosebump-inducing guitar solo from “The Nurse Who Loved Me,” and the wall of hard, precise, and chaotic sound that is “Heliotropic.”  “Bernie,” “Small Crimes,” “Stuck on You,” it felt like they played everything, and with no opener, they had more time to do so.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd they were tight.  Not flawless, with a slight hiccup or two here and there over their two sets and encore, but right on nonetheless, like the 18 year absence had never happened.  The trio was energetic and on point, each member excited to be back, Ken Andrews especially.

They closed with “Daylight,” because what else were they going to close with?  And all was well with the universe.  I couldn’t have asked for a better show.

The rest of my trip included staying up too late, the ungodly hour of 5:30 AM, waking face to face and eye to eye with my friend’s Siberian Husky, and driving bleary eyed back to Austin just in time for the morning rush hour.  But, I can’t think of a better way to have spent 24 hours during the middle of the week.

Well Failure, until we meet again in November at Fun Fun Fun Fest.

 

Thomas H Williams

Thomas H Williams

From a bunker somewhere in Central Texas, Thomas H. Williams spends most of his time with his wife, his two sons, and his increasingly neurotic dog. He listens to a lot of music, drinks a lot of excellent beers, and gets out from time to time. For even more shenanigans, visit heavenisanincubator.blogspot.com.

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