A Lesson in Geography for Rock Stars Passing Through
Most big cities these days are sprawling metropolitan areas with tons of suburbs bordering them. Houston is no different, except that some suburbs in Houston are smack in the middle of Houston proper, such as Bellaire, near me, and West U, also near me. As Houston grew and spread its territory, these suburbs landed squarely in the central part of the city.
In Philadelphia, where I am originally from, the city and the suburbs were pretty clearly defined, except that as the city limits spread northeastward, the neighborhoods in those newly developed areas felt more like suburbs than the inner city way back when.
Yet take an example of Bryn Mawr, always mispronounced by non-natives (the correct pronunciation is Brinn Marr) literally across the street City Line Avenue from Philadelphia proper. It’s the same with Wynwood, also across the street from Overbrook Park, a section of Philly. So I guess many cities have suburbs right next door to the city.
I remember the Main Point in Bryn Mawr, AGAIN across the street (or Avenue) from Philadelphia proper where many rock acts passed through there on their way to stardom. It was a small venue and Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and many other rising stars played there before hitting it big. (Emitt Rhodes a no show much to my teenage heartbreak.)
I don’t ever remember any of those acts I saw there saying foolishly, and I saw plenty, hello to Bryn Mawr people. It was always a hello to Philly people – HELLO PHILLY Bruce used to say.
In Houston, we have two very popular concert venues for rock acts, both in suburbs of Houston. Yet, I would venture to say that 80-90 percent of the people attending are from Houston. Even the suburbanites attending consider themselves part of Houston. They consider themselves part of our large metropolis. It is like Cherry Hill NJ people following the Philly teams. They are a suburb of Philly, albeit in another state, but they feel Philly as that is the major city closest to them.
When we schlep to the Woodlands for a rock concert – a 30-40 minute drive north as we are in the southwest part of Houston, there are mostly other Houstonians there. A small percentage of actual Woodlands residents are there too, no doubt, but make no mistake, the acts’ booking agents know that the Woodlands feeds from a big city like Houston. A few times, some acts would say HELLO WOODLANDS and not HELLO HOUSTON. That bothered me a bit, but most acts got it right. I will never forget Bette Midler performing there – a most entertaining show – and she converses with the audience a lot during her act. She was going on and on about how surprising Houston was to her, how green and how pretty it was. She was truly impressed with all of our green space. So even though she was performing in the Woodlands proper, she knew who her audience was, and I appreciated that.
NOTE: the big rock concert venues move to the further suburbs because there is more space there. Unless the acts want to play in our basketball stadium or football stadium, the suburban venues work best.
Back to my point. We have a newish concert venue, built in Sugar Land which is a very CLOSE suburb to where I live. It takes me about 15-20 minutes to get there, versus 40 minutes to get to the Woodlands. So, of course, I will choose the Sugar Land venue over the Woodlands any day of the week.
I saw Ringo Starr there recently. The man had NO idea where he was on earth that evening, he could have been in bum-fk Texas somewhere, and he kept referring to the people of Sugar Land and giving hellos to Sugar Land. Now the 10 percent of people from there attending may have enjoyed that, but the 90 percent of us from Houston just minutes away, were a bit aggravated. Someone yelled at him HOUSTON, and he mentioned the Astros win. The Beach Boys did the same when I saw them appear there as well. Keep in mind, we were in a venue situated not even ten minutes away from the sprawling Houston metropolis, and the reason they are playing there is due to the major Houston market.
In just days I will see the Moody Blues and I have been reading their PR stuff about the appearance. They have not been in Houston for a long time, and last time, maybe five or more years ago, they performed in the Woodlands venue. Their PR stuff keeps listing the concert as Sugar Land, Texas, instead of Houston, Texas. That would be like someone from the Main Point listing the concert as not Philadelphia, and giving a shout out to the suburb only and not Philly where 95% of the attendees were from. It is kind of ridiculous- and should be noted to the acts by their booking agents. PLEASE DO THIS BOOKING AGENTS!!! Our city has been through a lot so at least acknowledge the correct city!
While I understand that they are road warriors and have no idea what city they are ending up in, they should at least be briefed on where the heck they are. I think part of the problem is that acts appearing at the Woodlands venue stay in hotels in Houston and that the acts at the Sugar Land venue probably fly into Hobby airport – or the tiny Sugar Land airport if it is a private plane and stay in a hotel in Sugar Land, never seeing much of Houston at all.
Still, I wish they knew where they were because when I am greeted hello, I like the act to know a bit about where the heck they are. Maybe that is just me, but I sensed annoyance by others at Ringo Starr, because someone finally shouted out Houston, and thus his Astros comment. I really wanted to take Ringo and Mike Love aside and tell them that if they perform in LA in a Santa Monica, or La Canada, or even Thousand Oaks venue, they are going to say Hello to LA and not the name of the suburb. I want to make them understand, but again, maybe that is just me. It is a bit of a pet peeve.
As I stare at one of my all-time crushes and idols this coming Wednesday night at the Moody Blues concert (Justin Hayward) from my SECOND ROW CENTER seat, I am going to shout Houston back at him if he starts the Sugar Land, Texas business. He will definitely hear me from that close-up and probably be taken aback and not quite understand because he is foreign and maybe suburbs, where he is from, are very different than what they are here. (ST JOHNS WOOD, JUSTIN, ST JOHNS WOOD. HELLO LONDON.)
If these acts that book are counting on enough seats being sold from the TINY suburb of Sugar Land (compared to the millions who live in Houston) they would never book them at that venue at all. So get it right, acts and bookers. Thank you, and my rant is over for the week. I will report back.