Houston Public Media has been in the (nonprofit) business of showcasing local and regional musicians for years. Most recently, their Skyline Sessions series lets them bring some well-known, rising and undiscovered artists to a broader Houston audience online and on air. Now that audience will expand exponentially as Houston Public Media joins the VuHaus online platform, a non-profit, non-commercial organization comprised of public media’s leading radio stations that also focus on music discovery.
To launch the Houston channel on VuHaus, Houston Public Media streamed a special concert in the George B. Geary Performance Studio at the Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting with a live performance by Houston’s own Fat Tony.
“We are excited to embark in this partnership with VuHaus, not only to support our local artists and give them greater exposure, but also to introduce our audiences to new emerging artists across the country,” said Joshua Adams, executive director of operations of Houston Public Media in a pre-launch statement. Adams attended the Fat Tony performance and afterwards explained that using a streaming Skyline concert as their grand entrance into VuHaus just made sense.
“It synced up. We realized very quickly that our Skyline Sessions fit the VuHaus mold,” he said, adding that Fat Tony, who will also be playing the Day for Night festival in two weeks, had “the perfect energy” for their launch.
Though the concert was originally supposed to take place on the roof of the building to take prime advantage of that Houston downtown skyline in the not too distant horizon, moving the session into the studio because of the weather was rather appropriate since the performance studio will be such a focal point for the Houston VuHaus channel in the future.
With a lively audience of Fat Tony friends and fans present, the hip hop artist and his DJ, Ill Faded, performed a half-hour set filled with songs with plenty of Houston references from spending Sunday at MacGregor Park to hitting the late night drive-thru at Whataburger to growing up in the Third Ward.
When I spoke to Fat Tony, a.k.a Anthony Jude Obi after the mini-concert, he explained that the songs weren’t chosen especially for the VuHaus launch, and that the set was pretty much a sampling of the range of works he performs in any of his national and international tours.
“I’m from here so it just naturally happens. I like to mention Houston stuff because it’s such a unique thing. If you hear me making a song about going to Whataburger, that’s a connection there. It gives a frame of reference to what I’m about. I try not to go for just any old Houston thing. I’m not going to shout a bunch of sports teams or talk about barbecue. I’m going to talk about stuff that hits home with me and people like me.”
Fat Tony did have to censor himself somewhat for Houston Public Media and VuHaus audiences, but he likes that type of challenge.
“The whole set was clean,” he said “I don’t mind editing. It just adds an improv moment where I get to do something different. It’s fun for me because we do a lot of these songs over and over so having a challenging like live-editing yourself on air is great.”
Weird but fun
While the whole VuHaus enterprise seems dedicated to allowing the public radio and public media audiences around the country to discover new music, new artists and perhaps widen their musical perspectives across genres, the oddness of an artist like Fat Tony being the star of this launch was not lost on him.
“This is really cool though. Just the idea of me doing a show in a setting like this is weird, so that makes it fun,” he explained. “Then there’s the element of the people here who are really square who probably don’t fuck with the kind of music that I do. That’s a thrill there. As an audience member watching these squares feel weird about what I’m doing is all around fun. If I was a kid coming to the show, I would have had a great time.”
While streaming a live concert on VuHaus will probably only be an occasional, special occurrence for a big act or big night, the Houston channel already has a wide and eclectic range of artists and songs available to watch and listen. Look for more Skyline Sessions to be posted soon, including Puddle Pity Party, the sad clown who was in town last month for the Lott Entertainment Presents season.