Houston's scene sees the release of its second great pop-rock CD in six months; also: March Music Madness hits town on the touring front

Man, the scene here is booming, I tell you. You've got these two guys doing their sublime, mildly psychedelic pop-rock, John Evans released another hot record, Jesse Dayton put out a career-definer, Hayes Carll's got a killer coming out right now, things are looking up for Mando Saenz. Arthur Yoria's still in town. It's looking like a Houston songwriter's renaissance.

Castillo agrees with my effusive assessment. "You remember the early '90s, when it was guys like Sprawl and de Schmog," he says. "That was a lot of fun, but it was more of a party than it was about songs, you know, like songwriter songs. I moved here then, and it was awesome. I was like, 'Whoa, look at all these bands!' But it was just party rock. Seems like right now there's kind of a songwriter thing going on."

Indeed there is. What needs to happen now? Well, as has been the case for many, many years here, some of these guys need booking agents and managers and publicists. "I'm really not feeling the booking thing anymore," says Castillo, echoing a lament I hear from local musicians at least once a month. "I hope it's not that I'm becoming lazy, but that really is a full-time job." (And it could be a lucrative one for someone else, if anyone's interested.)

But damn those torpedoes -- Castillo's forging ahead full-steam. "We're gonna get busy no matter what," he says. "I have connections, and we're gonna hit Texas hard -- Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, San Angelo, Corpus -- regardless of whether we have somebody booking us. I think this project is good enough to attract some outside attention."

Indeed it is.

Tody Castillo appears Thursday, March 17, at The Stag's Head, 2128 Portsmouth, 713- 533-1199.

March Music Madness

All right, Houston, buckle your chin straps. Polish the strips on the backs of your credit cards and set them to "max out" position. Make ready your fingers to push snooze on your alarm buttons, and invent a few sick relatives to kill off to explain away absences at work, for now is the time to get out and hear some music, and lots of it. Yep, it's not just the locals kicking ass these days. With the rodeo in town and just about every hot band from all points east, west and overseas stopping off here on their way to South By Southwest, it's hard to think of a better place to be than right here, right now. Get out and do it, immediately!

You want legends, stuff that's tried-and-true? You got that over at the rodeo, where, where, shit…Jesus. I just looked at the lineup, and some of my enthusiasm for this article suddenly evaporated.

Maroon 5? I liked them better when they were Simply Red. Brad Paisley? Charlie Robison, who called him a "little moron," had him pegged, if you ask me. Pat Green? No thanks. Rascal Flatts? (Shudder.)

But hell, it's not all metrosexual country and pop-soul all the time over there -- Martina's also coming, and she's a'ight, and Steve Miller is said to be getting his groove back, so good times can still be had there this week. And next week's rowdy and rip-roaring lineup of Lynyrd's Rymnynts, Montgomery Gentry, Clay Walker and Clint Black is stronger from top to bottom.

I cannot remember a time when there were more next big things and "they're huge in England" and even "they're big in Japan" bands in this city than over the course of the next two weeks. We have the rare opportunity to sit and pass smug judgment on this year's contenders such as the Bravery, Ambulance LTD, the Futureheads, Louis XIV and Dogs Die in Hot Cars, not to mention models from previous years such as Kings of Leon, the Music, VHS or Beta, Hot Hot Heat and Ash, any one of which could make good on that promise or not this album/tour around. And then there's the transpacific stuff -- Japan's punk-fueled hard rockers Electric Eel Shock and Guitar Wolf, and Mono, a band more on the weird, psychedelic post-rock, Acid Mothers Temple tip.

And then there's the stuff that probably won't ever change the world, but could were this a just universe -- the stuff like Clem Snide, Of Montreal, the Oranges Band, the Heavenly States, Nashville Pussy, Todd Snider -- the list goes on and on and on, and more are being added daily. Check the listings and Playbill for dates.

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