By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Over the years, we've wondered why some of the bigger rock shows don't come to Dallas but do, on occasion, schedule a stop in Houston. Or near Houston, we should say, since the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is in The Woodlands, a suburb about half an hour or so outside the city.
For one, it's bothered us because we live less than 10 minutes away from where those shows would likely take place, Smirnoff Music Centre. For another, the omissions are, to us, just another piece of evidence that Dallas is not taken seriously as a concert town. Also, we just flat don't like Houston. Never have. Never will. It's kinda like a little piece of Louisiana in Texas, except shinier and bigger, and we've always thought Louisiana was more or less the armpit of America.
But you do what you have to, whether it's taking on a bully in the schoolyard or going to a show in freaking Houston on a school night. So we ended up driving the three hours and change to The Woodlands (solo, we might add, since the two people we can handle six hours in a car with were otherwise occupado) to see Radiohead when the group performed at the aforementioned Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on October 1. Radiohead hasn't played in Dallas since its March 1998 gig with Spiritualized at the Music Hall in Fair Park. Even though they have a soft spot in their heart for the city. Part of it, at least.
That part would be Bill's Records and Tapes. When they came to town in 1998, the five members of the band spent hours combing through the stacks at Bill's, staying so long they practically earned a paycheck for a full shift. We interviewed bassist Colin Greenwood in 2001, just before Amnesiac was released. As soon as he found out we were from Dallas, he excitedly brought up Bill's. When he found out we'd worked there (well, for like a day), the interview was officially over, as he spent the rest of the time talking about the store.
You'd think they'd maybe want to revisit Bill's at some point, and they probably do. But the past two trips to Texas have begun and ended at the CWMP. We missed the last date (June 18, 2001) and didn't want to take a chance that maybe they'd swing through town next time. Because they probably won't. Why should they? Given a choice between playing two-hours-plus at the Pavilion or doing same at Smirnoff, we would definitely have to side with Radiohead on this one.
If you haven't been to the Pavilion, we highly recommend a visit. To start with, you don't have to deal with Houston at all if you don't want to. Freeing yourself from those Interstate 45 traffic snarls 30 minutes down the road is worth at least $15, because that money would surely end up in a swear jar otherwise. But that's almost beside the point.
The venue itself is a beautiful blend of form and function. Instead of swimming in concrete, the arena is surrounded by lush green fields and man-made ponds; the parking lots are scattered a short walk through a forest (you heard us) away, out of sight and out of mind. Upon arriving at the front gates, you're greeted by some of the sweetest staff we've ever come across, people who tear your ticket and send you off with what seems to be a heartfelt "Enjoy the show." Same goes for the ushers. We've been to more places like this than we can count, and worked at a few, and the personnel at the Pavilion are easily the best. The seating was comfortable and smartly arranged, and the sound was everything you'd hope for in an open amphitheater situation. When it was time to leave, it took us five minutes to walk to our car, and within another five, we were on I-45 headed home. Nice.
In other words, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is the exact opposite of Smirnoff. At Smirnoff, the clock-watching crew always acts as though it's doing you a personal favor, the sound is inconsistent, the venue has all the curb appeal of a run-down strip mall and that 10-minute drive home we mentioned earlier turns into something like 30 (most of which involves just getting out of the lot) unless we skip the encore.
So good on ya, Houston. You win this round. But when we run for city council (Mayor Miller, meet your worst nightmare), you'd better believe we'll be looking to even the stakes. It's part of a 10-year plan that will--fingers crossed--culminate in a successful bid for governor and the eradication of everything in the 713 area code.