An Eye-Opener

Cali Roots Fest '13

Cali Roots Fest ’13

The photo I took above is my life in a nutshell. I love being outdoors, around music and people and living my life to the fullest. Experiencing art and making new friends is a passion of mine. I try to be a part of the world, firsthand, as often as my life makes possible and I’ve seen more concerts, festivals and events than I care to count. My life is rich, exciting and satisfying to say the least. So, what’s the problem? I haven’t successfully shared these experiences with the rest of the world outside my own circle.

Throughout this course, what I have learned more prominently than anything is that I have somehow fallen off the technology train. I am young and in college and at one point would have even called myself tech-savvy, but this blogging assignment was a real challenge to me.

First off, I have become aware of the glaring fact that I am too unfamiliar with social networking. Given my selected major, I feel like I should have a hand in all major social networking platforms… yet I barely have a hand in one. In high school I had a Facebook account I used frequently, but have since become so preoccupied with REAL LIFE that it has become stagnant; I probably haven’t posted in over a year. It is literally my only connection to a social network of any kind and it would likely be deemed inactive based on my frequency of use.

I don’t even know how to tweet. I tried, became frustrated and never gave it another go. Now I’ve just fallen so far behind the curve that I feel it’s too far gone — that maybe I should just wait for the next big thing and jump on it while it’s young. Twitter simply eludes me.

And to add to my predicament, I am more of a classic “pen and pad” kind of writer to begin with. I love writing. Even on my spare time, assignments aside, I find myself writing notes, ideas, lyrics and anything else that sparks interest in my life. But the blogging became overwhelming at times. Combine my fear of social networking with my desire to write and I feel that I’ve reached a crossroads that doesn’t quite go anywhere. My passion for writing is there but when it meets my inability to efficiently navigate and utilize the web, we have found my Achilles heel.

I feel like the realm of blogging requires a much more focused concept now as well. I struggled to come up with an intriguing and relevant topic and decided to begin this project with the style of writing I practice most commonly — that is, a personal insight to my own life in the form of journal updates. I visualized entries coming across to the tune of a Tucker Max story. In the future, my blogging attempts will be saved for strong and lasting ideas that I feel compelled to continue submitting entries on. It just turns out that I have plenty to write about, but little that pertains to academia.

All in all, I enjoyed the project. I showed my work to my parents and to close friends and while my entries were few, I think they enjoyed seeing what I participated in during school. The big eye-opener was this: if I plan on having a career in Mass Communication, I need to get the ball rolling on MASS COMMUNICATING. I have a thriving social life, but a non-existent social media presence. I have the passion to write, but an inferior knowledge of online journalism. While the world has started changing, I sat back and watched it without engaging myself fully. Maybe this was due to a lack of time, which I tend to lean on, but perhaps it is just a hidden fear I’ve never admitted. This blogging assignment has definitely been a benefit to me in that regard, as I now know what the future holds for online journalism and also, what will be required of me should I continue any writing endeavors.

Sunday River Therapy

This post is a bit different from the previous ones. While my group of close friends can usually be found out and about experiencing music and night life, this morning we decided to have a relaxing day on the water.

During my frequent visits to San Marcos from Houston, I was always anxious to load up trucks and tubes and float the days away. It’s usually what the entire trip was all about. Having moved here though, the novelty of floating wears off… it’s practically in your backyard here and no commute is required. It’s kind of funny, but since moving here several years ago I may have floated twice. Instead we enjoy making a workout out of our trips and have turned to kayaking.

The following photos are from our Sunday trip:

Taking a break on the water

Taking a break on the water

Under a bridge on the San Marcos River

Under a bridge on the San Marcos River

Useful graffiti from a concerned local

Useful graffiti from a concerned local

The best thing about kayaking is the opportunity to experience whatever parts of the river you choose. There is no need to plan a shuttle or pick-up since you can simply paddle back to wherever you like. We did our usual run, dropping in at Sewell Park and paddling back and forth from there to Rio Vista for a few hours, enjoying the warm weather and cold beer (responsibly, of course). For those planning a move to San Marcos, consider the kayak option! A good kayak will run you significantly more than tubing, but is much more personal and worth the freedom. It has permanently replaced the tube for me and is my personal favorite way of experiencing the nature element that San Marcos has over other Texas universities.

God, Folk & Hip-Hop.

Photo credit: Devious Photography

Photo credit: Devious Photography

This is Ian Bavitz, better known by his stage name Aesop Rock. Aesop is a hip-hop recording artist and producer who was at the forefront of a wave of new underground and alternative hip-hop artists that began to emerge in the late ’90’s and early 2000’s. In his time on the microphone, Aesop was been a part of 4 supergroups, released 8 full length albums and 4 ep’s, and has been a part of countless compilations, singles, and guest appearances. He was a catalyst and is currently seen as one of the prominent figures in alternative hip-hop music. He is one of my absolute favorite artists to listen to.

I’ve been to several of his underground shows in Houston and to be honest, they’re weird… but I’ve seen 3 or 4 so there must be something in the water to keep me coming back. He is truly a master of the craft and has attracted an unusual and eclectic following so witnessing more-or-less “nerdy” people getting funky at a hip-hop show was interesting to say the least. His alternative style recently paired him up with Kimya Dawson, an award-winning folk musician to write a collaborative folk/hip-hop effort. The group is called The Uncluded and I happened to know they would be playing a tiny, intimate showing to promote their first album in Austin last Sunday night.

I purchased my roommate and I tickets the day of the show in exchange for several pre-show beverages, as the address on the tickets was so close in proximity to 6th street. We didn’t know the venue off-hand but only that it would be a small setting on 8th street. So, being in the dark and not knowing what we were really getting into, we had plenty of beverage during the hour leading up to the show. Too much beverage. TOO much beverage. With bellies too full to walk comfortably, we decided it was about time to knock our last ones down and let our smartphone lead us to the show…

We ended up at Austin Central Presbyterian Church. the RAP SHOW… would take place at A CHURCH. Not to mention the lingering feeling of inebriation humming around our skulls, the entire situation we were looking at was laughable. A folk meets hip-hop meets concert meets Austin meets church -type situation. I guess they do say “Keep Austin Weird.” And this was way weirder than the usual Aesop showing. We went inside and literally found our seats in a PEW. HA. We watched a rap show from a church pew. The environment was fantastic though… everything was very surreal, the acoustics were phenomenal and the typical hip-hip nerds were present and very into the show.  I was so happy to have just seen one of my favorite artists in such a memorable setting. I mean here was my man, Aesop Rock rapping under the enormous church alter, massive cross and all, and directly under 2 mammoth stained glass murals. I was wide-eyed at how strange but endearing the concert was.

A shot of the group rocking at the Alter

A shot of the group rocking at the Alter

I took several videos of the spectacle that took place, but the following best encompasses the feeling of the night. The place was very solemn and echo-y and we mostly just sat back in our pew and watched musicians play and a wordsmith… well, rap. It was peaceful and was a total shift compared to Aesop’s usual intense performances. I’m sure the project has been a pleasure for this group to put together as well.

The group stuck around held a meet-and-greet after the show and discussed their thoughts on working on the project and future plans, which was great since I believe only devoted fans would have known of this show to begin with. I for one, finally got to meet and hang out with one of my favorite artists which mad the whole thing worthwhile, even besides the unique setting we’d been in. So all in all it turned out to be a weird night of God, Folk & Hip-Hop music. Weird, but another great one, Austin.

Me, the Roommate, and the great Aesop Rock in the church lobby.

Me, the Roommate, and the great Aesop Rock in the church lobby.

An Evening in New Braunfels

Kendrick

You probably can’t distinguish what this picture is right off the bat, as it was taken a fair distance from the stage. BUT, nontheless… my best friend Greg and I decided to take an ill-advised trip to New Braunfels on Thursday to see Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar on Thursday. And great times ensued.

Back in Houston, you don’t really get to see venues like the WhiteWater Amphitheater (where Kendrick’s show was held). In Downtown Houston, artists’ shows are held in tiny club-like venues like the Bayou Music Center in the theater district or the House of Blues in the GreenStreet Commercial Center. These venues more closely resemble bars than actual music venues due to their smaller sizes. This does however provide for a much more intimate showing by each artist. In fact, in the greater Houston area, the only mammoth, outdoor venue I’ve even heard of would be the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, a monster of a venue with a capacity of nearly 17,000 heads. Only the biggest touring artists play this venue and tickets do not go cheap. WhiteWater felt like the brainchild of each of these venue types.

cwmp

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on a packed evening.

So Greg and I are prettyyyy broke. Both of us. But we both do quite a bit of “dabbling” in good music, whether popular or not. We see a ton of shows on our spare time, call it a hobby, and each knew this show was coming but individually kept silent due to a mutual lack of funds. But truth be told, we both happened to have one of those “found 20 dollars in my pocket” type of days and we’re the live for the moment type. So when I get the call, immediately I know what it’s going to be about… the show was going to start in about an hour, it had been on my mind all day, and this is one of Greg’s favorite artists — what else could this random phone call be about? I answer with a “Yes, I’m down to go,” then listen to Greg bumble over the pros (fun, mostly) and cons (funds, mostly) to himself for 20 minutes. After talking to himself about for so long, it pretty much became yes when I, through manipulation, convinced him it was only going to be more expensive next time and that if we skipped out, we’d never get to go. Bingo. I picked Greg up about 30 minutes later and we took towards New Braunfels for some rap music on the river.

I’ve never gotten to a music venue from a dirt road before, so right off the bat this trip felt a little surreal. The drive was about 30 minutes, and only10 were on I-35. Shortly after getting into New Braunfels area, my navigation took me onto a side road and the rest of the way felt like farm country. Then our of nowhere a crowd appeared, so I parked assuming a concert was the only possible explanation for a crowd. The walk was a mile from my vehicle, giving us a little time to converse with our fellow concert-goers. The most notable were two twenty-something females Greg had struck up a chat with, who were far too intoxicated to be in public. It was less a conversation, but more Greg preventing them from getting hit by cars on the way to the venue. He’s a sucker for pretty and dealt with their shenanigans regardless, but never really got a cohesive sentence from either. Upon their departure they thanked Greg for his help, but had to excuse themselves to attempt to “flirt their way” backstage. Charming.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the place we arrived at wasn’t it. It looked like a huge paintball field… just a stage, an enormous, wide open field, a clubhouse that served drinks and a few collections of port-o-potties here and there. And it was slammed packed from fence to fence. It looked like a free-for-all. I know Greg and I are unlikely hip-hop advocates, but I never imagined so many people like me near NEW BRAUNFELS, TEXAS would be at a Compton, California music series. I mean, sure, I’M pretty open-minded with rap music… I’m from Houston, c’mon. But this music was mucho on the ghetto. I have a plethora of postable videos, but I seriously find them a bit too vulgar to blog with. It was intense. The place was shoulder to shoulder for literally three hours, incredibly hot, and the most surprising is… every person in attendance new EVERY SINGLE SONG. I think Kendrick himself was shocked that so many people in a seemingly random Texas town knew all of his music. So he loved it, the crowd loved it, and of course Greg and I got down. You could call it successful and most certainly memorable. Even though I definitely won’t be able to afford it next time, I’m sure I’ll wing it and see the next one too. After I convince Greg.

thecrowd

A packed house lovin’ it! Felt like Compton in Texas.

Some Background…

calipic2.

Well, that’s me and this is  official my blogging debut, reader! My name is Matt Rodriguez, I’m 23 and until a couple of years ago, my entire existence had been based out of the same 10 mile radius in Houston, Texas (and loving it, by the way). I had always just assumed it was an innate, naturally occurring thing — you just grew up being a die-hard Houston fan. And I most certainly was.

My mom worked in Downtown Houston for as long as I can remember and I recall as a youngster seeing the buildings she commuted to and being totally enthralled by the Houston skyline. The skyscrapers seemed to me like awesome titans, inspiring greatness in those who had the graces to walk at their feet each day. My mom, being a single mother, worked outrageous hours — usually 12 per day, 6 days per week. That being said, my sister and I had very few opportunities to vacation growing up… it was just not possible for us and it was just something we accepted at a young age. Curiosity for what other cities and states had to offer was quickly replaced by the embrace of Houston and her countless suburbs as home. And what was there for a kid not to like, anyway? Houston had museums, sports, entertainment…  ASTROWORLD. All of this being no more than 10 minutes from home made me a city slicker from grade school. I never really even got the itch to visit other places, let alone live there. From where I stood, where could be better? I would graduate high school, be a shoo in to the University of Houston, and with a good job in the city I could get a loft right in the middle of downtown and really experience all the city could bring to the table.

As a teenager I spent nearly every night in downtown anyway. As populous as Houston is, any touring musician was sure to play a show in the “H”. Growing up, I saw every band I’d ever heard of and then some. I had several friends from work who were moonlighting as club promoters. While still in high school, they would invite me out and show me Houston’s nightlife and club scene. I felt like I knew a secret nobody else in my graduating class could imagine. Not even 45 minutes south was Galveston Island. All summer long, my friends and I would load up whatever vehicle held the most people, fill it up with more bodies than was physically comfortable and wing it all weekend on the beach, bonfires and all. Houston was the playground we romped all over.

POSblog

Here’s a much younger me, probably around 16 with Minnesota rapper P.O.S. in Downtown Houston.  His group, a hip-hop collective called Doomtree had been visiting to play a few shows at the time and I was lucky enough to catch up with them hang before their set began.

Soon came my high school graduation, and while some moved on to supposed bigger and better things, I had no interest. My friends were all going stick around anyway and the University of Houston wasn’t exactly elusive. I could kickstart my life again whenever I felt it necessary, but I thought it would be better to take a year off from school, much to my mom’s chagrin. While in hindsight it seems juvenile, even to me, this proved to be one of the most pivotal decisions leading to what my life is today. One of my best friends, Dino, had constantly been in my ear about how wonderful the town he had picked for school was. For months I heard how eccentric, and active, and beautiful this place called San Marcos was and once a week I received a phone call from Dino, regaling me with the series of adventures he’d been on that week. I wasn’t the outdoorsy type myself and hardly interested in school, so very little of his attempted persuasion got through to me. Until I visited. After so much nagging from the guy — apply, apply, did you apply yet? I’ll help you, apply, it’s easy, you’ll love it, apply, apply, etc… I gave him the benefit of the doubt and agreed to come stay a weekend. During Austin Reggae Fest. I love Reggae. I loved San Marcos. I stayed for 10 days with only clothes for about 2 and a half. Game… Over. I never looked at Houston the same again. The hill country was just a much simpler environment. Everybody here seemed to be here for one thing… Just to have a good time. And go to school too, but go to school and have a good time. Over the next 6 months I visited Dino probably five times. I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to visit so often that I figured I should just move. And just like that my interest in education was immediately renewed.

I applied to Texas State for the next available semester, which was a spring session. The acceptance letter, breaking the news to family, picking a house, packing and moving all occurred over a two week span. I decided I needed a life experience somewhere far away from Houston and without hesitation I packed up and left. It took some coaxing and practice and a couple years’ time, but I can now officially say I am a bobcat. My views on nearly every aspect of life have changed since my arrival and I don’t plan on looking back. This weblog should be a testament of such and hopefully serve as motivation for some of you to seek out change as well. Welcome to San Marcos, reader!