My Summer With a Phoenix: Discovery Green

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If someone ever depicted Texas as big, loud and inactive in the current green movement, they could be wrong about two of those things. On June 30, 2011, Houston’s new park, a non-profit organization called Discovery Green (also known as Disco Green), hosted an art car parade and a free concert featuring Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds.

Nestled in the middle of downtown Houston, Discovery Green shows the city is doing its part to encourage a greener lifestyle. The park has so-called “advanced” technologies to maintain efficiency. By recycling the water in its fountain and filling Kinder Lake with groundwater from garbage, the park manages to keep up a serene and healthy-looking landscape in the middle of a scorched, dried-up downtown. “Advanced refrigerants” cool nearby buildings, such as Disco Green’s headquarters and a cafe. Solar panels donated by BP line the rooftops, visibly evincing a commitment to going green. The recent fiascoes Houston has had to put up with,  including the BP oil spill just last year, may have pushed it to get the green ball rolling. Texas might be behind California on this end, but it’s clear that Houston’s making its own attempt to fight for the environment.

The park encourages greener and healthier living and provides weekly summer events and other free opportunities for entertainment. During the concert I went to on June 30, a crowd was spread across the lawn and the sun peaked behind the skyscrapers. As shade finally spread across the park, the heat sizzled to decency. After a trio of exotic belly dancers, Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds began to perform.

The band’s lead singer wore, as is customary in his performances, several costumes throughout the show, the first being a giant chicken head. With this eccentric band playing in the background, one could lounge upon the grass and listen to some old country rock, the remains of Elvis Presley. Or, one could explore the line of art cars just beside Kinder Lake.

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I had no idea there was an art car community anywhere in the world, and here I am, Houston, the capitol of art cars. There is a monument for them at the Orange Show, just by Smither Park, and after going to Disco Green, I can see why.

The art cars I’ve seen in Houston have ranged from beautiful to serious to hilarious. They pop up wherever I go, although this might be because my roommate, Robynn Sanders, is an art car artist, and I live next door to the monument. My roommate’s cars are shown about town, usually embodying the psychedelic colors and energy of the ’60s and ’70s.  The cars I’ve seen at Disco Green, Smither Park and St. Arnolds Brewery have really started to blow my mind. They are all about the funky, strange and fun. Each shows an extreme–or obsessive–appreciation for something in particular: One car had various images of Santa Claus. Another was a giant pink homage to cats. Still another was a pick-up disguised as an alligator. The art scooter scene is also pretty strong in Houston, and I was lucky enough to come across one that was spectacularly bedazzled.

I found it hard to appreciate the music of Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds, despite the lead singer’s frequent and hilarious costume changes. I believe at one point he was a “crazy scientist,” wig and all, and during another song he actually painted a painting on stage. The words were slurred and rather

random, not unlike those uttered by the band’s idol, Elvis. They repeatedly shouted “Praaaaaise Elvis!” (“Praise” being three syllables). However, the crowd that gathered clearly enjoyed itself. People of all ages were playing in the fountains, walking around Kinder Lake, and dancing their hearts out like I’ve never seen beside the stage.

I honestly don’t care what band is screaming strange words of admiration to last century’s musical heroes. I know I’ll be heading back to Disco Green soon to take a look at other events and see what else Houstonians think to paint all over. I vote the skyscrapers.

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If Beans Barton and the Bi-Peds sounds like your cup of tea, check out their website:

http://www.beansbarton.com/bipeds.htm

To learn more about Discovery Green, click below:

http://www.discoverygreen.com/greenpark/

To see more art cars, check this out:

http://www.krop.com/robynnsanders/

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