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Rock You like a Hurricane

The Press Music Awards Showcase brings a category-five storm of tunes

Hurricane Claudette may have just grazed us, but this tempest is gonna smack us full-force in the face. The Houston Press Music Awards showcase is upon us again -- and this year it's bigger than ever. Fourteen stages, 75 bands and seven bucks a ducat. You can't beat that with James Brown's lickin' stick.

The ballot's categories have been shaken up a little, as happens every year. Rock en español and traditional Mexican musicians each have categories of their own this year, as do lounge DJs. Many bands are on the ballot and showcase for the first time, in addition to the tried-and-true hardy perennials.

As usual, it's as eclectic as the wares on sale at the Gulfton Fiesta. To pick two venues at random, we'll have rap, bluegrass, metal and rock on the stage at Barcode, and zydeco, indie rock, tiki lounge exotica and reggae-funk at Dean's Credit Clothing. Where else but at this event can you see electroclash, rock en español, white-boy modern R&B, and punk over the course of four hours at one venue, as you can at TOC Bar this year?

But hey, it's time to say the same thing we say every year about this time: Enough yakkin'. Let's boogie. Band blurbs written by John Nova Lomax, Bob Ruggiero, William Michael Smith, Olivia Flores Alvarez, Greg Barr, Craig D. Lindsey, Jeffrey Thames, Matt Sonzala and Troy Schulze.

Happily, it wasn't supposed to end this way for angst-ridden synthpoppers Blue October.

Theirs had the makings of an all-too-common story, one especially prevalent in the make-it-big-now-or-die, brave new music business of the 21st century. Band breaks out of local scene and signs with a national label. Radio doesn't get aboard, and sales of their first major-label are decent but not of the blockbuster variety that the label had hoped for. Rather than developing the band, the labels cuts and runs.

Most times the epilogue to that scenario is that bitterness and ego then tear the band up. Band member blames band member for mistakes made, managers not fired at the right time, for being too stoned at the label showcase to get the job done. The singer goes solo, as does the lead instrumentalist, and the remnants form a third band. Back to the local scene they go, and there they stay, this time for good.

Not so with Blue October. Yes, they did sign with Universal, and yes, their major-label debut, Consent to Treatment, sold "only" 70,000 copies. The Buzz -- likely too timid to spin Justin Furstenfeld's anguished lyrics and Ryan Delahoussaye's violin -- wouldn't play 'em, even in their hometown. And yes, of course, they did get dropped, and front man Furstenfeld does have a solo side project as 5591.

But here's where it gets weird. Instead of breaking up, the band went back to the woodshed. After two years of hard work both on the road and in the studio, they came up with a new album, History For Sale, on Dallas label Brando Recordings.

And this time around, radio jumped on it. "Calling You" cracked Clear Channel playlists all over Texas, and was recently tapped to appear in and be on the soundtrack of American Wedding, alongside the Foo Fighters, Avril Lavigne and the All-American Rejects. The band made a big splash in Austin at a nonsanctioned gig at South By Southwest, and later at a whirlwind sequence of label showcases in New York. And Universal was willing to admit its mistake and pick the band up again, and Blue October was willing to let bygones be bygones. Historywill be for sale again -- this time around with a major-label imprint on the spines -- on August 5.

And for the first time in many years, our showcase will be headlined by a band that got started right here in H-town. Verizon Wireless Theater, 10:15 p.m


The Allen Oldies Band
Best Cover Band
Frenetic front man and High Priest of the Oldies Allen Hill branched out into political commentary this year, urging listeners to "Make Oldies, Not War" during the recent Iraqi conflict. And to be honest, what would you rather hear: Peter Jennings droning on about cluster bombs or dance party favorites like "Tossin' and Turnin'," "96 Tears" and "Land of 1,000 Dances"? The band concentrates on covers of the big artists and one-hit wonders of the '50s and '60s, combined with an "anything goes" live show that finds Hill acting as combination bon vivant and idiot savant. -- B.R.
Hard Rock Cafe, 4 p.m.

 

Beetle
Best Cover Band
One thing that separates the myriad of cover bands is the level of authenticity. Well, Beetle is authentic right down to the collarless suit coats, mod hairdos and even John Lennon's jangly Rickenbacker guitars. These Yellow Submariners have quickly established themselves as a local favorite through their weekly Continental Club dates. He's-everywhere guitarist Jim Henkel is one of Houston's best-kept musical secrets, playing in numerous local ensembles, most notably the El Orbits and those crazy Flying Fish Sailors. -- W.M.S.
BAR Houston, 6 p.m.

Big Brown Truck
Best Cover Band
No, this isn't a band of UPS men. In fact, they may make you wonder if they're men at all, as they often pose the question "Are we not men?" And of course they answer, "No, we are Devo." Reprising the synth-pop of the futuristic quintet is the mission of these post-post-postmodern men, and they've whipped it good. Expect plenty of freaks and geeks and geeky freaks to be on hand for the jerky rhythms and synth chords. -- J.N.L.
St. Pete's Dancing Marlin, 8 p.m.

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