by Wes Dodson

As consumers, the turn of the 90’s was an odd time in the music market place. The heavy metal genre that provided a soundtrack to juvenile testosterone adjustment in the prior decade had ran its course and somehow managed to evolve into something androgynous.  The inner city urban  movement that involved break dancing as a means of settling a score would also evolve when a sore loser came back and shot up everyone on that particular street corner.

Locally, we had not seen many of our own make national waves or start any trends. That is not to say that Houston wasn’t alive and well with a fine crop of local talent, driven by artistic freedom rather than the pipe dream of landing some big label deal. Granted, we didn’t have the sparklers and confetti that the likes of Seattle once waved around, there was something here of substance.

Over the years I have learned that the old “does it stand the test of time?” method is still a reliable standard in measuring if something was genuine and of merit… and on February 5, 2011, producers Jay Schneider, Robbie Conley, and Brent Himes indeed proved that standard by presenting When We Ruled H-Town, a dual showcase of Houston band reunions, and screening of an upcoming film that captured the momentum of that vibrant Houston music scene in the 90’s. This eclectic retro evening consisted of an untouchable lineup, including Tread, Spunk, Manhole, Monster Soup, Dinosaur Salad, Taste of Garlic, and Hoss.

The 90’s would also usher in an age of angry, pissed off women who stood their own ground in a male dominated music scene. But before that movement had garnished any national attention, before any of those bands would become household names, we had Manhole waving that flag right here in Houston.

Manhole was not at all cut from the same fabric as anything I had heard before. It literally sounded like it had been dredged up from the swamp that Houston was built atop of. It was aggressive and dirty… like a giant tank rolling through your neighborhood, squashing parked cars, little kids, and… your dog! It was vile! One can only imagine walking the halls of Francisco Studios today and hearing Manhole muffled from behind its concrete walls. Their 18 song, 1994 self titled release was a must have in my library of local music, and I can say that it is still with me to this day.

One thing that had changed over the years was the introduction of social networking, which permitted me a brief dialog with guitarist Eev Rodriguez, who it turns out, was coming in from New York to make this performance happen. Now that was dedication! I didn’t notice any individual band flyers circulating for this show, so as a fan may have done back in the olden day, I swallowed my daily allowance of Geritol, and put one together for them.

Fitzgerald’s took their time opening the doors, but once they did the venue filled up fast. Looking around the crowd was like going through a time warp. There were more than a few familiar faces, most of them aged in some way or another, some better than others… some not at all! Some toted little kids around with them, some of them with kids who were now young adults. My attention drifted to a fellow wearing Blizzard of Ozz tee shirt. Was that…? I’ll be damned! 

After a brief introduction, and the debut screening of When We Ruled H-Town, Manhole took to the stage for the first time in thirteen years, tearing through their set as if they had never skipped a day, and setting the tone for one of the best shows I have seen in recent memory.

Then, as if a proverbial alarm clock had gone off, the 90’s were again over with a blur. After a much needed shower (and trip to the dentist), were able to count our blessings and go back to whatever job, marriage, prison, or graveyard was waiting on us.