Saturday, March 19, 2005

It's not like it was my first rodeo or nuthin'

I don't think you can live in Texas as long as I have without finding your way to at least one. But is was my first Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo rodeo. Actually, it was Lynyrd Skynyrd (or at least the folks with the rights to the name) playing at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The Rodeo in Houston is different. Don't bother asking "different from what?" Any answer would be correct. It's basically a three week long tribute to Houston's differentness.

Once upon a time, the "livestock show" and "rodeo" parts were the main events. I suppose they still are for the participants. And for whoever paid $340,000 for the grand champion steer. But if you go by attendance, the livestock show and rodeo parts have been eclipsed by the musical entertainment. And as I said, I went to see Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The Rodeo is now held in Reliant Stadium, home of the Houston Texas football franchise. I arrived at about 6:00, which is when The Firm's suite opens. (Did I mention that The Firm has a suite at Reliant Stadium? It's on about the 45 yard line, between the Houston Chronicle and Halliburton.) Except that there was no 45 yard line bcause they took up all that lovely natural turf and replaced the field with a dirt floor suitable for rodeo type stuff.

At 7:00 they started the show, with a sort of a cowboy parade and many thank yous to the 17,000 volunteers who make this thing happen every year, and recognition of departing Rodeo bigwigs (officers are limited to three-year terms so others of those 17,000 volunteers get a chance), and to the dearly departed.

And then an invocation. I don't recall ever attending a sporting event or a concert that started with a prayer, but this is Houston, and Houston is different. After the invocation, it was the Coca Cola National Anthem (actually, it was the National Anthem with a show underwritten by Coca Cola and Kroger).

And then darned if they didn't have a rodeo. Calf roping, bareback bronco riding, barrel racing, bull riding; the whole nine yards. I'm not much of a sports fan, and rodeo isn't even something that I'd ever considered much of a sport, but it really was quite entertaining. And when the competition among the professional cowboys and cowgirls was over for the evening, they had a "calf scramble," where the kids (not little kids, they looked about junior high or high school age) try to catch calves, with a thousand dollar prize to those who succeed.

And when that was done, and the Rodeo things were cleaned up, they wheeled the stage out to the middle of the field, dimmed the lights, and had the Reliant Energy Salute to the Troops--an audio-video flag waving pyrotechnic extravaganza. A montage of militarism courtesy of the petrochemical industry. It was actually quite impressive and even moving, but with an undercurrent of irony that I suspect most people there didn't notice.

Anyway, at about 9:30, it was finally time for the band to play. At the beginning of the rodeo part, I would guess that at least 90% of the seats were empty. By the time the band came on, I'd guess that they were 90% full. And there was the band, on a little revolving stage in the middle of a football field, with great huge video screens hanging from the ceiling above them. And, believe it or not, they don't let the fans go out on the field when the bands come on. So the closest seats are probably at least twenty yards from the band.

The band was okay, I guess, but it really wasn't much different from watching it on TV. And, given the distance from the seats to the stage, if you wanted to see actually see what the band was doing, you had to watch it on TV. I just don't see the attraction of stadium shows.

By about 10:00, something about the air in there was irritating my eye (the one with the new cornea). Irritating might not be exactly the right word, but it felt like I had a cotton ball where my eye was supposed to be. So I went outside to the smoking area to get some fresh air. And shortly after I went outside, I heard "Thank you, Houston, and good night." But since they hadn't played "Freebird" yet it obviously couldn't really be over. And, of course, it wasn't. So I listened to Lynyrd Skynyrd playing "Freebird" live as I walked to my car.

And that was my night at the rodeo. And, although live music in oversize auditoriums has never really been my thing, I was surprised to find that I enjoyed the rodeo part a lot more than the music. In the future, I'll stick to small-to-no-name bands in small rooms. Like Jive Train tonight at Antone's. Now that's a show.

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Blogger Laurie said...

As much as you like music in small venues, you'll have to check out the YMBL rodeo when it comes to Ford Park in the spring. You feel like the bulls are going to jump right in your lap. I know that doesn't sound like a good thing but it's pretty exciting (even though I spend most of the bull intensive parts watching through my fingers).

Sunday, March 20, 2005 4:31:00 PM  

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