Believe it or not, Houston has become something of a music town. OK, our city is no New York, L.A., or Nashville, but the scene has developed. Local gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender performers are part of that tuneful mix. This month, we profile four talents from our community who are putting their musical stamp on Houston.
Eric Alan Ramirez: This hot Latin babe’s latest single “I Can’t Like It”—created with publisher/producer Jeff P—is about as sexy as he is, and that’s saying a lot. Recorded last month, the track is already makingthe club rounds, and Ramirez has already received over 1,000 plays on his MySpace page. His Spanish language “Carcel de Oro” and “Nadie” were indie dance hits last year.
“I never thought being a singer was possible,” Ramirez says. “It was like the star that could never be reached. I begged to go to the High School for Performing Arts in L.A., but because of my family’s religious beliefs, I couldn’t.”
But at least Ramirez grew up listening to his dad’s favored bossanova sounds mixed with his mom’s penchant for pop (Donna Summers, Bread, and the Bee Gees). “Music was always on in the house. I thought some of my dad’s music was boring, but now I love it. That sound inspires a lot of what I do.”
Corporate travel agent by day, Ramirez worked as DJ by night, parlaying that into a stint as a backup dancer for Houston-based singer Miss Lupita (“Musica Lupita,” February 2005 OutSmart). Ramirez now pursues his own singing career, which he describes as a “hybrid of Moenia/Alejandra Guzman/Lenny Kravitz/Miguel Bose.”
Ramirez just celebrated his 31st birthday on July 21 with a blow-out performance at Chrome, a local nightclub. Next up: a full-length all-English album with Jeff P. “Music is pretty much my life right now,” says this single guy, although he says he does try to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity and immigrant outreach programs. “I really believe in Karma.” And Ramirez’s fans really believe in him. — M.G.
Eric Alan Ramirez plans to perform in Houston in August but did not have details at press time. Check his MySpace page for updates. In early September, he performs at the Taste the Jam music showcase in New York.
Photo by Yvonne Feece
It’s approximately midnight at Chances on a Saturday. Funny car racing plays on ESPN on a wide-screen TV. Drinks are poured. Drinks are imbibed. Four women take the stage for their next set: Lisa Herrington (drums, djembe, bongos, daumbek), Jodie Gonzales (back-up vocals/harmony, shaker, tambourine), Alsha Villagomez (joining them to fill in on keyboards), and Shanti Lopez (rhythm guitar, lead vocals). The band: Soul FiXx.
The group kicks off with a simplified cover of “Love Song” by The Cure. Lopez and Gonzales’ harmony on the song is stoic, earnest, but sweet. A couple dances playfully on the floor in front of the stage. The song concludes with applause. A few songs later, Soul FiXx wants people dancing. Lopez and Gonzales call out to some of the regulars by name. They have that kind of relationship with the Chances crowd. Soul FiXx knows the people in the club. The audience knows Soul FiXx. It’s like a family gathering.
Lopez and Herrington met in May 2004 at the open mic at Chances. When Lopez and a friend took the mic, Lopez invited Herrington to join in on bongos. Herrington played impressively. “She knew every beat and every pause,” says Lopez. The two became girlfriends that July and have been playing together ever since. Gonzales joined them last year. Last month, the band met up with Villagomez, who has a solo project in the works, and invited her to fill in some sonic gaps here and there.
Their music is acoustic rock, mostly originals, many with lyrics inspired by the love Lopez and Herrington share. Covers include Mazzy Star and Beth Orton, among others. Orton and Joplin are among founding member Lopez’ inspiration, that and her musical family. Gonzales also draws inspiration from her mother and father (the latter of whom is a drummer). Perhaps that lends to the feeling that a Soul FiXx can seem like a family affair. — E.D.
Soul FiXx performs on November 4, 6 p.m., at The Last Concert, opening an evening of local music. Soul FiXx also plays regularly at The Electronics Museum, a new club venue in Midtown (1110 Winburn). Check the band’s MySpace page for updates.
Photo by John Conroy
I believe that the gifts God has given me are to be used for God,” Allen Hanks explains. The singer/songwriter, who has previously focused on Christian and gospel music, is moving away from faith-inspired music, but not entirely. Though his religious background has exerted a profound effect on his music, Hanks says he finds reaching an audience solely through a Christian message to be a challenge, and now favors more of a pop and rock style.
On top of that, being gay in the contemporary Christian music world, which is known for its intolerance of the GLBT community, led to problems early on. Hanks once sang with a professional Christian recording group, but “when they found out about me…of course, it was done,” he laughs in retrospect. “All of those ties and networking groups had been severed. It was one of the hardest things I ever had to face. To see your possible future disappear right before your very eyes is something that can change and scar a person for life.”
Still, life goes on. As the religious adage goes, God shuts one door, and opens another. Hanks believes the church is gradually becoming more accepting of GLBT people. He recently sang and shared his life story with the second largest Methodist church in Alabama—needless to say, a straight congregation. No tomatoes were thrown. No words of condemnation were whispered. For Hanks, it “had to be one of the most awesome feelings ever. They accepted me, and many said the day would come that I could share my story in any church.”
For now, Hanks is performing music from his most recent recording, Not Like Mine, and writing new songs, mostly rock and pop, for his next album. How does he draw his crowds, how has he built his following? “I have a following?” he laughs. “My mom doesn’t count. MySpace has been the tool to getting my last four gigs lined up.” — E.D.
Allen Hanks was working to finalize some gigs at press time, including a possible performance at a local church this month. Check his MySpace page for details.
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