By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
The fact that fans have chosen Blanco's as their favorite C&W watering hole four years in a row should make aspiring musicians just as happy as general manager Karin Barnes, who was as giddy as a kid with a new Harry Potter title when she heard the club had won again. Barnes was right on the mark when she succinctly summed up the reason why this little honky-tonk on West Alabama is so popular: "Great bands." It's not just the fact that Blanco's has no interest in catering to the boot-scootin' crowd, which has unwittingly kept burgeoning country fans from packing the place when marquee acts like the Derailers, Two Tons of Steel or the Romeo Dogs perform. Barnes takes a personal interest in watching new talent emerge and catch breaks. She recalls how Mike Barfield (of the Hollisters) began his tenure at Blanco's back with the Rounders. While Saturday is considered the best night to be out on the town, Blanco's has consistently bucked the trend by featuring its main acts on Thursdays and Fridays (and closing for private parties on Saturdays and Sundays), keeping Wednesdays reserved for new talent night. -- G.B.
Critic's choice: Blanco's
Probably Houston's busiest zydeco band, the Zydeco Dots log about 200 gigs a year in the area. That includes a lot of clubs, and corporate and private parties, especially during crawfish season. "So even people who don't go out to clubs regularly get to know the band," says guitarist Tom Potter. The band, in Potter's opinion, is also playing as tightly as ever these days. "After 13 years as a band, you learn to do something right," he says. "We've been playing since we were preadolescents. Most of us come from musical families, in addition to the 13 years with the Dots. Multiply that times 200 gigs a year, and you're bound to become good at what you do. Of all the styles of music I've done, zydeco is my favorite. It keeps me going." -- A.H.
Critic's choice: Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws
Just can't get any more underground than shock 13. This outfit is so underground, so badass, in fact, that no one knows how the hell to get ahold of it to break the victory news. So let this be the message. What we do know is that the band was formed from the ashes of the once hugely popular jock-rock ensemble Aftershock. Losing some members, adding a DJ and appropriating hardcore hip-hop made continuing on impractical for a band whose name is more suitable for a product sitting on a Walgreens shelf between Old Spice and Aqua Velva. Made up of local vets Ray "Bone" Herrera, Carlos Medrano, Gabriel Quintero, Steve Wilgus and Que, the band presents itself as an alternative to basically everything. Too hard for hardcore, too hip for hip-hop and too subterranean for underground, shock 13 wants you to believe it's completely off the radar and only surfaces for the Bud Light specials at Emo's -- which may very well be true. Musically, it's a strange, relatively bass-free mix of metallic barre chords and riffs, clean and sharp beats, and rapped lyrics. Though not adventurous with song lengths or breakdowns, shock 13 can -- with a straight face -- pull off a number like "Crackhead," in which rapper Que brags about the main character's smoking addiction. So maybe that's where shock 13 has disappeared to. Rehab. -- A.M.
Critic's choice: Giancarlo
Profiles by Greg Barr, Sande Chen, Giselle Greenwood, Aaron Howard, Craig D. Lindsey, Paul J. MacArthur, Anthony Mariani, Bob Ruggiero and Chris Smith.