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Combat Rock

Near-brawls, bribery allegations and personal insults -- welcome to battle-of-the-bands land

Brian McManus is stalking the stage with thong panties on top of his damn head.

The Fatal Flying Guilloteens guitarist is immersing himself in his alter ego: the beer-swigging, foulmouthed, white-boy pimp daddy known as Filthy McNasty, whose screeching soul stylings and tongue-in-cheek swagger make him like a cross between Gary Busey and Otis Redding (without the pipes). But that doesn't mean he isn't a thrill to see on stage. As one audience member put it, "I wouldn't buy his album, but I'd definitely come to his show."

With his four-piece backup band picking up the funky, rhythmic slack, McManus/McNasty leads the audience at Paesanos Lounge (213 Milam) in the chorus of one of his signature tunes, "Freaky Shit." The audience, composed mostly of women who've seen McManus's undeniably unique stage act before, is playing along, and McNasty must weather a barrage of freshly brought bras and panties.

McNasty says the competition's gung-ho attitude is "kind of sad."
McNasty says the competition's gung-ho attitude is "kind of sad."

Is it any wonder, with the sheer audacity and energy (albeit limited vocal talent) McManus brings to a show, that he won the final round of the club's recent battle of the bands? Even though the two other competitors -- Slop Jar Jr. and Three Fantastic -- put on likable, professional sets, the unfiltered insanity of McNasty won over the crowd. At the close of the three-month-long competition, McManus is pleased with his accomplishment, but the don't-give-a-fuck attitude he exhibits on stage extends to the whole event. "We didn't really begin this thing to win it, just to experience something new and play for a different crowd," he says. "But some of these guys act like they're playing in front of Paula Abdul and crew. They get really into it, like it will make them or break them. It's kind of sad."

It's true: American Idol ain't got shit on Houston's battle-of-the-bands throwdowns. Although the spots that have recently hosted these events -- Paesanos, Sherlock's Baker Street Pub (various locations), Sidecar Pub (11202 Huffmeister), the Rhythm Room (1815 Washington) and the Hard Rock Cafe (502 Texas) -- may feel they're just holding a friendly music showcase on a midweek night when most people wouldn't normally be out and about, the bands have been known to take the events very seriously. And the competition has been known to get pretty, well, filthy, as McNasty himself learned. When his group won the last round a month ago, he and his bandmates nearly got into a brawl with one of the bands they bested. "We were called, among other things, 'faggots' and 'no-talent muthafuckas,'" remembers McManus. "The worst it got is when four of them followed me out to my car and one of them took off his shirt and shoes -- yeah, I'm the faggot."

And McManus is not the only one who's been getting slandered. When the band Pander won a recent competition at Sherlock's, some rivals were more than ready to smear front man Shawn Pander's good name, not to mention that of his manager, Stephanie Granader. Messages were posted on a few Web sites alleging that Granader had bribed the judges. (Note: Press music editor John Nova Lomax was a judge at one event and received no bribe, though he was a little mystified that Pander beat out Brother Luck that night.) "Some of the other bands claimed we bought out the judges or somehow rigged it," remembers Pander. "It was very childish and unsportsmanlike." But since Pander and his group won a whopping $10,000 worth of cash and prizes, he's taking everything in stride. "Log onto Sherlock's Web site and read the comments on their comment page [sherlockspub.com/guestbook/index.php]," he says. "It's a good time."

The spiteful savagery of it all is enough to make some musicians question the need for these events in the first place. "There's no such thing as a band being better than the other," offers the exceedingly diplomatic Michael Flores, front man of the band Michael. "Especially with a lot of band-to-band competitions you see one band beating another band at one club, and then they meet again at another club, and the situation's reversed, where the other band wins. So it's always up in the air."

Instead of bickering and making up brand-new rumors about each other, the bands should be keeping their eyes on the prize, so to speak. Paesanos got a bad rep after its last battle of the bands when management reneged on the advertised $3,000 cash and prizes because of a sponsorship snafu. Club owners ended up having to pay the winning band, Flores's Michael, a lesser sum out of their own pockets (see "The Real Battle of the Bands," by John Nova Lomax, July 25).

But this time around Paesanos got it right. Filthy McNasty received $1,500 cash, $1,500 of studio time and an opening slot for an upcoming national act at the Engine Room (1515 Pease) -- not to mention plenty of free underwear.

Last Call

"This is the only night when I'm out," says Chris "G. Wizz" Cardenas, referring to "Suave," his Wednesday drum-'n'-bass residency at Sliders Bar and Daiquiris (1424-B Westheimer). Relaunched just a month ago after a three-year hiatus, "Suave" has Cardenas, along with fellow jungle brother DZ, taking some time out from his busy, non-DJ-related schedule to serve up some mid-week, funk-laden D&B. "We play a lot of deep, soulful drum-'n'-bass," says Cardenas, who has had such local spinners as Deadboy, DJ Blaze and Gracie Chavez Cardenas (his better half) show up to play behind the decks. So, for those looking to fill the void left by Hyperia's "Static Wednesdays," come down to "Suave," listen to the sounds, and hook yourself up with a daiquiri.

 
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