Homeless: The Quest for a Rehearsal Space
- Big enough to support the largest band using the room comfortably.
- Reasonably priced – about half the cost of a moderately-priced apartment is about right.
- Central location – unless everyone lives in one part of town, this is essential.
- 24/7 access for everyone – this is what usually rules out the room in someone’s house, unless it’s a detached garage
- Reasonable security measures – a door lock in the worst part of town is not acceptable
- A/C and Heat
- A limited number of bands in one space to share rent – 2 is ideal, 3 is ok, more than that is pushing it
After you find a space, it should be outfitted accordingly:
- A good PA system that is only used for the space – nothing sucks more than having to set up a PA system every week after a gig
- A good drum kit everyone can use – two if you have enough room
- Decent soundproofing material
At that point, you are good to go. Now, here is what I’ve found in searching for spaces in Houston. First, there are only about five commercially available rehearsal spaces. One, as Prince once said, “is, was and always will be” a total shithole. Two are located in areas that are not remotely central. One is nearly impossible to contact. And the best one is central, expensive and has a long waiting list.
Needless to say, the options available are not good.
After that, the next option is to look for non-traditional spaces – artist lofts, commercial warehouse space, Craigslist ads for random commercial spaces. While these can be appealing if you find the right one, mostly they are rare and, if they do exist, they probably won’t allow a band there.
Finally, we come to the residential options. There’s nothing inherently wrong with using someone’s house, but if the space is a spare bedroom or game room, the limitations on how late you can play, the impact on the neighbors and/or family and the lack of access to people who aren’t living there makes it difficult if not entirely prohibitive.
As I searched and found very little, I started to wonder why someone didn’t start a legitimate rehearsal/artist space in Houston and then I remembered when I helped to manage a single room with 5 or 6 bands in it. As George and I have said to one another on more than one occasion, “Music would be great if it weren’t for the musicians.” Truth is, far too many of my musical brethren (and sistren?) live up to the stereotype of the burnout who mooches off his girlfriend and sleeps on people’s couches. The times I saw people try to manage rooms, all I remember is how tough it was to collect money, to keep equipment from being broken or stolen and to clean a room that routinely appeared as if it had been the unwitting victim of an F4 tornado.
This was in addition to complaints from the building managers about damage to the overall facility, especially the bathrooms, God help them, and countless other violations like smoking, drugs, garbage, etc.
It was, and is, disheartening.
But, the search continues because every band needs practice and the better the place, the more conducive it is to making great music. If you hear of anything, you let me know, k?