All Aboard: The Engine Room by Patrice Fields

1515 Pease St, Houston, TX

April 2004–If you ever find yourself in downtown Houston there is one place guaranteed to be a good time surrounded by people who feel the music just as much as you. At 1515 Pease St. you are sure to find a live show that will blow you away. The energy of the atmosphere is electric. The Engine Room is a wonderful venue for live music of many different types. From emo to metal, to every type of rock you could imagine. If you have a love for live music the Engine Room is the place to be.

Coming out of San Antonio where the music scene has been hibernating for quite some time, it was refreshing to know that I was headed to a city with no shortage of fans or concerts to attend. This being said it was only fitting that the first place I visited in Houston was the Engine Room. The date: September 14, 2003, the time: somewhere around 8:00 p.m., the event: the Drive-Thru Invasion Tour. Two of my favorite bands at that time were signed to this label and the other bands weren’t too bad either so it seemed like a win-win situation except for one thing; no transportation.

Being that the school year had just started, I had yet to find friends who shared my taste in music and the one friend I did have didn’t have a car, so I was on my own. Because I knew one of the guys in the band I got a VIP pass and to not go just seemed unacceptable. So I decided to do two things I had never done before; go alone and take a cab. But once I got there it was all worth it. As I walked into the black hole of a door it was as if I had been swept away to a place where nothing mattered except the music. So many different types of people were there, each enjoying the sound coming from the stage. It was my oasis, my place to let everything go and be happy. The smell of sweat surrounded me as kids were jumping about and singing along as though they were a part of the band. And they were. With every word sang they claimed ownership.

The floor wet with the night’s spilled drinks was hardly a deterrent to the bouncing souls that filled the dimly lit room. However, not all were partaking in the dance floor activities. To my left was a wall lined with booths holding exhausted kids and cuddling couples. To my right was the bar with tons of depleted teens frantically begging for water to quench their thirsts. You can imagine what hard work it is to keep in constant motion for hours. On the wall directly behind the bar were shelves lined with various bottles of liquor.

One bottle in particular caught my eye. It was a tall slender bottle with a beautiful winter scene depicted on it. It seemed odd to see that image while in the midst of such disheveled kids. Something so soft and elegant surrounded by such expression of raw emotion, perfection discovered in an unpolished stone. The unspoken quality that each band possesses. Not in the mastering of the instruments but the feeling behind each stroke of the guitar, each beat of the drum.

This is my paradise. The only time I can be worry free. No rules, no stress, just pure bliss. For someone without similar feelings toward music this may not be comprehendible, but it is my reality. And places like the Engine Room help me nurture this love. It’s not about the size of the room, or the look of it. It’s about the coming together of music lovers to take part in an event totally unique to their hearts.

To find all of this where I did is a miracle in itself. The Engine Room isn’t exactly located in the nicest area. The surrounding streets are littered with trash and constantly swarming with the less fortunate who have made their home there. In the building right next to it a gathering of poorly dressed people occurs on some nights. Most of them are men with beaten down looks and eyes that serve as windows to their weary souls. Alcoholics Anonymous would be my guess, but the truth could only be discovered if you take part in their nightly discussions. The smell is a mixture of garbage, exhaust, and alcohol. Not the most alluring of scents, but perfect for the events that I attend.

To look upon this site during the day you would never guess how alive it becomes during the night. With the light of day, Pease St looks like a ghost town scene in some old western. A layout of monotonous, gray buildings surrounded by the dirt and trash left from the previous night. A mere skeleton of the person it was before, lifeless and dead. No cars are parked in front of the Engine Room, no tour busses or vans. No trace of life can be found. It is far from the hustle and bustle of kids crowding the sidewalks after a show, desperate to meet their favorite band members and get autographs and pictures.

This is another aspect of the Engine Room and almost any smaller live music venue that is so appealing. Not only do you get to go hear great music; you get to meet your favorite bands in person without the hassle of backstage passes and security. It’s a completely different feel from the mega arena concerts where you’re doomed to the nosebleeds and are essentially watching it on television because all you can view is the jumbo-tron. At the Engine Room, the entire concert is playing out right in front of you. You can see the stage, and depending on how rowdy the show is you may even end up on it.

The Engine Room takes music to another level. When you attend a show it’s more than just the music. It’s the release of every bit of tension, stress and pressure that’s been piling up to that point. A workout of the soul you would not believe. You meet so many different types of people all united by the love of the sound. No matter what your status in society or your station in life, you still receive the same treatment at these shows. There is no division in ticket prices, no upper or lower level seats, just you in a crowd of others enjoying the experience.

Nothing can describe the experience when they pull back the curtain and all of a sudden the music blares and instantaneous motion ensues. Even the shiest person in the world can just let go and lose control on the dance floor. I know this because that is who I become at every show I attend. You don’t have to be embarrassed because odds are there is at least a few kids doing the same. It’s instant acceptance on a common ground. Just through attending shows I have met many people, who I call regulars, that are guaranteed to be at every show just like I will. We compare stories, discuss new bands and old favorites, even share food if there is a long wait. All of these things would have been lost to me if I never took part in these shows. Not to say I’m a better person for having participated, but I definitely have a more eclectic view on things.

While all of this is wonderful, you also have to keep in mind your surroundings. The more pop-like the music is the less likely that there will be major rowdy behavior. You should see a lot of bouncing and jumping up and down, even though mosh pits are always encouraged. But the heavier and darker the music gets the crazier the scene at the show. Don’t get me wrong I still go, but attending is not without it’s consequences. Because I tend to be front row at all of the shows I go to, the feet of crowd surfing teens is always a hazard. But hopefully you and whomever you go with will watch out for each other and make sure everyone is ok. A lot of pushing is always a possibility, but the bands usually do a good job of making sure no one gets crushed or pinned against the stage. And depending on the temperature there is always someone giving out water. The whole idea is to have fun and lose it, but make sure everyone leaves the show in one piece.

So as you can see live music and venues like the Engine Room are great sources of fun, entertainment, and release. No matter what your preference there is bound to be something there that you will enjoy. Just be sure to take into account all of the aspects that go along with going to a show and you’ll be sure to have a great time. Just remember it’s all about the music.

Map:
View Larger Map

Links:

The Engine Room

Javajazz Coffeehouse

The Early November

Drive Thru Records

Fitzgerald’s

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