Admittedly, this wasn’t a personal vacation type trip; there was some of, well OK a lot of, the day job’s conference and post-conference social events. Including travel, I only had about 18 or so hours in Houston to do what I wanted. So this will be brief, and not as comprehensive as you’d hope. That’s OK because what I did hit was quite good.
My flight had a stopover at Newark, and the CBGB’s overpriced emporium of shit food is in whatever terminal I was in. No, I didn’t eat there or buy a record in the shop next to it. Or a record player. Who the fuck does that? Buy a big awkward thing and lug it carry-on to the plane?
Art in Houston is a thing. All throughout the downtown, which is where I was, there was art installations, large murals, and just generally interesting things to look at.
Food. The food in Houston, was very good. Yes, I did hit up Whataburger, as I’m a huge fan of the regional chain, and having lived in Texas for four years in the mid-to-late 90’s, it was a taste of nostalgia and something I do whenever I’m back in Texas. I had tacos (at Biggio’s of all places, because that’s where some conference people wanted to go and it was the night we got in, and they were really excellent) and enchilladas that were awesome at Pappasito’s, which wasn’t surprising because most tex-mex places do those well.
Music. The sense that I got over my four days in Houston (and month of searching beforehand) was that punk in Houston was a bit on the decline or wane. There was a The Body show while I was there (unfortunately, it was a bit early starting on a Tuesday night, and I got into the hotel at 9, so was too late to figure out how to get there to probably miss the bands). Houston is large, and not always easy to get around. Public transit is pretty cheap, but limited. There was also another show on Friday night, but I was in flight back home by then. Now I get that Austin is only a couple hours away, and bands might take a look at Texas and think, hmm, let’s go to Austin, El Paso, then west and not take a day in Houston. I think you’re probably missing out.
There’s a few record stores of interest, and unfortunately, I could only hit one (two if you count Half Price Books — which netted a couple of decent punk books for cheap — the records were mostly chud and reissues). That one record store is Vinal Edge (239, West 19th, Houston). Nestled on West 19th in the Heights, it’s a store that reminds me of Wax Trax Records (RIP) in Chicago, where it covers a lot of different genres, but all of them well stocked and carrying the absolute best of the bunch.
While it wasn’t super impressive with the rarities on the wall, it did have some early Flipper and 13th Floor Elevators. Just to get a sense of it, they are the only record store in recent memory to have Coltrane in stock in the Jazz section, Einsturzende Neubauten in the Industrial section (which was more than 15 records!) and The Rita tapes behind the counter. That’s quite a variety. I bought Tetsu Arrey’s Core 7″, Persevere “Instant Accident” 7″, Cola Freaks “Farvel” 7″ and Ogreish Organism “4th Pill” 7″ for $31. I read somewhere that this place was overpriced, and maybe for the US it was, but nothing they had in stock seemed out of line. Like $32 for a new record isn’t that far off the price.
I have been to the venerable Sound Exchange in 1998, the last time I was in Houston, so I gave it a pass. I really wanted to get to Deep End, but of course, it’s on the other side of Houston, and everyone I asked about Houston said Vinal Edge was the best. They weren’t wrong.
I’ve created a version of my travel map, sans hotels and conference information so that you can grab it and make it your own. Of course, Medium doesn’t allow embeds from Google Maps, so click the link and then save in your own Google Drive, or alternately, just bookmark it.