By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Whenever anything so wonderful as music is concentrated in a small area in our giant sprawling behemoth of a town, it is truly cause for celebration. For once, you'll run into friends walking in the street, instead of obliviously blowing past them on the freeway. If you tire of indie rock -- or sour on salsa -- zydeco, reggae, metal or styles too bizarre for description are mere footsteps away.
This year's soiree of sound should be twice as sweet since we have so much to be thankful for. It was just one month ago that many of these venues in and around Bayou Place more than lived up to that description. The bayou was, in fact, all over the place.
But now, at least at this writing, we're high and dry. Three score and four of the Bayou City's finest bands (and one from Canada) for five bucks -- do the math, folks. That's less than a dime a band. Cheaper than a ticket to some movie you may hate, cheaper than a burger and fries at even the greasiest of spoons.
So take a peek at these thumbnail sketches, and map out a battle plan. Check out a few unknowns to go along with your old standbys. Then vote with a good conscience, and may the best bands win! The writers who contributed to this year's supplement include Sande Chen, Mike Emery, Melanie Haupt, Aaron Howard, Craig. D. Lindsey, John Nova Lomax, Paul J. MacArthur and Bob Ruggiero.
The Allen Oldies Band
Best Cover Band
These perennial cover band favorites are a phenomenon of their own, with tuxedo-clad front man Allen Hill and the ubiquitous group just as likely to pop up with the boys at a wedding, corporate party or the end of a 10K run as they would at a club date. Specializing in innocent, danceable '50s and '60s AM pop from "Tossin' and Turnin'" and "Sweat Pea" to "Hang On Sloopy" and "96 Tears," the world of Allen Oldies is like a trip in the Wayback Machine. Baby boomers love the human hit parade, while Gen X sees kitsch value. And for what he lacks in, uh, vocal quality, Hill makes up for with his nerdy/goofy enthusiasm, energy and gimmicks, like passing out edible samples to the audience while singing "Peanut Butter." Also includes David Beebe (drums), David Schoenbaum (organ, guitar), Mikey Trafton (bass), Jim Hinkle (guitar) and Joe Earthman ("teen idol" and saxophone). -- B.R.
The Allen Oldies Band plays at 4 p.m. at Harlon's Bayou Blues.
Anguish In Exile
Best Metal/Hard Rock
An "industrial-death" metal band, Anguish In Exile has deep roots in the Houston heavy music scene. Mainstream recognition for this outfit is long overdue for this highly mechanistic yet human ensemble. There is much musical pain and torment on hand -- and the lyrical content isn't a walk in the park either -- but if you enjoy your industrial with guitars or your guitars with a mechanical soul, you could do far worse than checking out what Anguish In Exile has to offer. -- C.S.
Anguish In Exile performs at 5 p.m. at No tsu oH.
Best Alternative Rock
Pop rock. An easy musical form to listen to, not so easy to create. Unless, apparently, you are David Keys. For the first time in Keys's performing history he has a stable lineup around him, with brother Darwin Keys on drums, Alex Tittel on lead guitar and Bill Walter on bass. The overall effect of such stability has been to center the band's energies on what it does best: perform instant pop-rock standards with both confidence and flair. Harmonies abound, the guitars and drums are loud, and you can sing along to just about anything you hear. If that sounds like fun, that's what it's supposed to be. The band's recently released Dancers finally has found its way to where it belongs: in the hands of the major labels. Now the real work begins. -- C.S.
Ashbury Keys plays at 7 p.m. at BAR Houston.
It's hard to consider a band that's been around since the '80s as "underground," but most dance music seems to be underrated in Houston. No matter. Bamboo Crisis has had its share of tunes spun in the clubs. With fast BPMs and a harsh industrial vibe to match the sense of foreboding doom, Bamboo Crisis aims to conquer the dance charts. Armed with its recent release, Konspirosphere, the band just finished a tour of other states. -- S.C.
Bamboo Crisis performs at 8 p.m. at No tsu oH.
Houston punk stalwarts Bickley are working on new material and looking to record in August or September. The band overcame a professional speed bump earlier in the year when three-tour-old drummer Dave Wreckoning first was advised against continuing with the band on medical grounds and then apparently had the decision reversed on appeal (and promise of future moderate behavior). In any case, he's been back behind his purple metallic flake kit since mid-April. For those unfamiliar, Bickley performs punk at its most elemental and least refined; short songs about beer, female anatomy and the genre itself, all played at a speed just the right side of gratuitously fast. -- C.S.
Bickley performs at 8 p.m. at the Aerial Theater.