On August 31, 1968, a year before Woodstock, Houston’s Catacombs club hosted its own Pop Festival with Sixties stalwarts Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Country Joe and the Fish, Canned Heat, and Houston act Neal Ford and the Fanatics. One act that was on the bill but didn’t make the show was the Moving Sidewalks, a band fronted by Billy Gibbons. The Moving Sidewalks were one of a number of up-and-coming Houston psychedelic rock outfits inspired by the 13th Floor Elevators. Their own band name and one of their most well-known singles, “99th Floor,” were tributes to the Austin group.
The Moving Sidewalks did not take the stage on this occasion, though. Just as the California stars Zappa and Country Joe McDonald rolled into Houston, Billy Gibbons and most of the Sidewalks, frustrated with their management who also owned the club, skipped town for Los Angeles. They got a gig or two, missed the show at the Catacombs, and Billy’s real star turn would have to wait for his later founding of the legendary ZZ Top. The Catacombs Pop Festival, though, points to how vibrant Houston’s rock scene was, with an array of groovy clubs like the Living Eye and Love Street Light Circus and a record label, International Artists, that recorded most of Texas’s legendary Sixties psych acts.