Who Gives a Hoot?
When Shawn Jones of comfort popsters Something Happened left Oklahoma City for the live music capital five years ago, he was not met with the open-armed music community he was expecting.
"The music scene here is kind of hard to make friends in at first. It's very cliquey." Anyone swimming in the gut of downtown's nightlife can attest to that. Instead of folding the tent and going home, Jones turned to an Austin institution: the ever-familiar hoot night.
Hoping to create musical comaraderie out of a sporadic web of players, Jones organized a Flaming Lips tribute night under the moniker of Saint Oliver's Head Records.
Hoot nights are nothing new around these parts, of course. Longtime Austinite (now Chicagoan) Michael Hall is rumored to have set the blaze burning in the early Eighties at venues like the Cannibal and Continental clubs.
Jones has simply fanned Hall's flames with successful Pixies, R.E.M., and Smiths hoots, as well as his upcoming Police Hoot Night, incorporating a revolving core of bands like the Gloria Record, Fivehead, and the Bright and Hollow Sky along with surprises like Single Frame's electroclash Smiths deconstructions and OKC's fabulous Fellowship Students.
Also, more unusual tributes like 2000's Orange Mothers Hoot Night a tribute to a living and breathing mammoth of a band have cropped up. There were the Hole in the Wall's Wretched Excess and Stars Fall From the Skies hoots, all tributes to dead rock stars. And would SXSW even exist without the annual kickoff, the Guided by Voices Hoot Night? These are not open mics, nor are they loosely constructed. Today's hoot nights are well-thought-out, full-fledged musical productions for the most part.
But why try to organize the unorganizable (musicians) and excite the unexcitable (local scenesters)? Just to build a network? "I like to do it because so many bands today, you ask them who they're influenced by, and they're too cool to answer," Jones says. Influence connects bands to a past, and that past translates to a new future of listening for fans. "It's like this big chain." But the true fuel behind the fire is simple, Jones says. "These are fun, and everyone has a really good time."
The Police Hoot Night is Friday, May 21, at the Carousel Lounge. Also this month: Syd Barrett Hoot Night benefiting the American Cancer Society, Saturday, May 15, 8pm, Church of the Friendly Ghost; Movie Music Hoot Night benefiting Cinematexas, Thursday, May 20, 9pm, the Parish.