By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
Furstenfeld promises he'll be in town for this year's awards presentation -- his brother accepted the same award in 1999 -- and says he'll stick the 2000 trophy on his bedside table, right next to last year's. He has another rather important date to keep in H-town: On August 19, accompanied by a posse of record label honchos, Blue October holds its long-awaited CD release party at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. Even with so much going his way, Furstenfeld still has two more items on his wish list: to open for his fave band, Radiohead, and for a Houston radio station to join the more than 30 others across the country that have just added "James," the first single from the new record, to their playlists. "Geez, you'd think [the Houston station] would give us some kind of break. I mean, I was born in this city." Yeah, you'd think so, but c'mon, Justin. This is Houston. -- G.B.
Critic's choice: Blue October
For the best live local blues, Houstonians must like taking it Easy. Nowhere else but at The Big Easy can you find blues five nights a week and zydeco on Sundays. And during those rare moments live music isn't making the crowd move, the jukebox is. Owner Tom McLendon sees himself as an educator, enlightening patrons to various folk variants and teaching good listening skills. Pick any night of the week, and you can see McLendon sitting at the bar among regulars. Perhaps that's the lure of this stylish dive. It's cozy enough for musicians and audiences to feel each other's pain. McLendon takes it all in. His original vision was to bring the blues to everyone. Judging by his "smart" crowd, he's done a pretty good job. -- G.G.
Critic's choice: C-Davis Barbecue
Industrial music is only the basic skeleton of Bozo Porno Circus and, especially, its act. "Houston's Top Fetish Band" goes for sensory overload with stimulated sex play, clown makeup, raunchy costumes and multimedia blitzing combined with sinister vocals, heavy beats and grinding rhythms. "I think we appreciate that there's a lot of competition out there for people's entertainment dollars," says vocalist Ken Gerhard, "so we're just trying to give them the whole package all at once."
Sponsored by a local fetish store, BPC is ToneZone Records' most popular live act. Gerhard and drummer Ador Charming formed the band in 1991, but it wasn't until 1997 that the band stopped kidding around. Regular female dancers, the Porn Starz, officially joined the group, and an album, Cybersmut, was released in 1998. With deranged, cheeky lyrics and song titles like "Biker Sluts from Pluto" and "Texxas Chainsaw Masochists," BPC betrays its mission to upset and scare people. But the band insists this is all in good fun. The audience seems to think so, too. Even those who are initially shell-shocked after a performance usually go back for more. -- S.C.
Critic's choice: Asmodeus X
Clandestine is on the road about ten months a year these days. The band will be traveling to France to play with the Chieftains soon, carrying the Lone Star flag all the way. "The cool thing about the traditional music thing is there are so many bands in Texas now," says vocalist/guitarist Jennifer Hamel, speaking by phone at a tour stop in Philadelphia. "We just finished playing a Scottish festival in Westfield, Massachusetts, and all three of the bands were from Texas. They could have gone to Boston to hire Celtic bands, but they brought in three bands from Texas. Obviously there must be a lot of great traditional music happening in Texas.
"We'd like to see more acoustic and traditional music categories in the awards," she continues, "because there are so many talented musicians in Houston. There's an all-Ireland flute player living down the street from me, and he's never been nominated for anything. We need an 'Acoustic Instrument' category." -- A.H.
Critic's choice: Clandestine
For all SXSW folk know, this band, in its previous incarnation as Ghandi in Vegas, could've been the next big thing. It really wasn't; but what it has become is a super-likable local (for now) indie-pop act. After Ghandi in Vegas, which consisted of Groceries mastermind Matt Brownlie and studio help (read: friends), parted ways with Austin and its impersonation of a glamour town, the band's brain began, ummm, shopping for Groceries bandmates. A little more than a year ago, the quintet was ready. Longtime friend and GIV collaborator Eric Bogle, drummer Thomas Clemmons and bassist Blake Powell now work with chief songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Brownlie to deliver fun and accomplished rock and roll. Live, the band is tight, quirky, frenetic. And harmless-looking. At least the band knows it's on to something. "We promote like motherfuckers," says Brownlie. That, and he says, "We try to give an unusual performance. And people seem to be getting into that." Fans at Karma, Fitz's and Rudz, just some of the local spots Groceries has played, will testify. -- A.M.
Critic's choice: Groceries