The late night in the French Quarter pushed back the morning drive considerably. My first visit to Texas was met with traffic and lane closures astraffic inched into downtown Houston. The House of Blues sits in the heart of downtown in what felt like a newer shopping plaza still searching for tenants in a recession. It was my first visit to one of these venues and it was even more branded than I expected. The cool artwork on the walls loses some luster when you see it plastered on t-shirts and coffee mugs for sale. Above the stage, big screens showed commercials (novelty drum sticks on sale!) until the band took the stage and someone put the Lakers game on every TV. The upside of all the merchandising and $8 cans of beers is the high end P.A. hanging from the stage.
The punch of the vocals in the mix and the rich set list gave Margo license to let loose. There was a swagger to her performance tonight and she swayed her arms as if possessed by the music. On ‘Hunted’, Pete dropped the gas on the groove and the entire song came apart at the seams (in the best way) as Jeff wailed through an extended solo. Before anybody could catch their breath, ‘Lost My Driving Wheel’ built into a lonely lament with Pete’s kick drum beating quickly and lightly under the chorus like a nervous heart stranded somewhere in Texas.
In the morning, I weaved through a neighborhood and found a house made of beer cans tucked between newer town homes. Local artist Coley gave me the insider’s tour of the property. In 1968, an unassuming upholsterer spent his retired days inlaying marble, wood, and metal into a concrete landscape. Once the yard was complete, he began siding the house in beer cans, about 50,000 of them when it was all done. His wife and him lived out there remaining years happily in the beer can house. Just another five room love story.
World Cup Fever has infected the tour and I pulled over in La Grange, TX to catch the second half of the Uruguay game and grab a bite. I found a tiny Mexican restaurant where the cooks were huddled around a Spanish broadcast of the game in an unused dining room. I joined the festivities and ate the best Mexican meal of my life for $5.95. The language barrier notwithstanding, we all seemed to agree the red card on the South African goalie was a bit much. La vida es muy buena.