Christmas in July

Six dozen of Houston's finest bands for a mere $7

Seventy-three bands for seven bucks. I'm far from being a math major, but even I can tell you that works out to 9.589 cents a band.

All right, I used the calculator on my computer to come up with that sum, or product, or whatever you call it. Sue me. My point is this: Is there a better deal in town than that? There is not. Not in all the bargain clothing bins at Fiesta. Not in all the Value Villages. Not in Harwin's shadiest designer knock-off emporium. It's Christmas in July, and Santa's bag is crammed full of great tunes.

Seventy-three bands for seven bucks. And not just any bands -- these are six dozen of the best in Houston, from the pachuco boogie of Los Skarnales to the twangy rock of Mando Saenz to Filthy McNasty's H-town funk-soul stew. We've even got Boss Hogg himself -- Slim Thug -- throwing it down. All those, plus Lit and 68 more for seven bucks.

About 15 bands will be making their Press Music Awards debuts this year, as will venues such as 306 Lounge, Copa Cabana and Ultra, so those of you who seek the new will have plenty to feast on. Those of you who favor the tried-and-true are in for a treat as well, as perennials such as Norma Zenteno, the Zydeco Dots, DJ Sun, the Fondue Monks and Dune TX will all be there, too. This year the venues are closer together than ever, so this one will be easiest on your feet since the days it was at Shepherd Square.

But enough o' my yakkin'. Let's get to the heart of the matter: the bands. As we did last year, we sent out questionnaires to all the acts on the bill and concocted brief, Zagat-style blurbs from their answers, all in hopes that you, dear reader, will be steered toward the music that pleases you most. Let's get to 'em, and Merry Christmas. -- John Nova Lomax

306 Lounge
306 Main, 713-229-9999

4 p.m. Glenna Bell
5 p.m. ESE
6 p.m. The Phlegmatics
7 p.m. O Pioneers
8 p.m. Arthur Yoria
9 p.m. Brandon Stanley

Glenna Bell
Best Folk/Acoustic, Best Female Vocalist

Reared "in the woods outside of Beaumont," Glenna Bell found her first love for music in "the hymns [she] sung a cappella at church." Those humble origins are evident in her current style of hand-hewn country music, so much so that she's often compared to another church-trained country singer: "Johnny Cash." Like the Man in Black, Bell has a "raw and bare-boned delivery," as evidenced on her new album, Face This World, which was produced by multiple Press Music Award-winner John Evans, who also sang two duets on the record. Sugar Hill Studios producer/engineer Dan Workman is way in Bell's corner -- to him, "Glenna Bell is the Loretta Lynn of Texas. No, that's not right...she's better." -- John Nova Lomax

Best Punk

Guitarist Carlos says his band's demo is called "We Pawned Our Soul for Rock and Roll," but when he goes on to talk about his faves -- "KISS, the Ramones, Rev. Horton Heat, Social Distortion, Motorhead, the Ramones, the Texas Tornados and AC/DC" -- you suspect that he may have lost his pawn ticket. There's no redemption for a soul that lost in rock and roll. The tequila-loving proud Mexican-American recalls that his band's "first show as ESE was September 19, 2003, at the White Swan right in the middle of the ghetto," where their furious blue-collar psychobilly-rock is a good fit. -- JNL

The Phlegmatics
Best Pop-Punk

This youthful pop-punk trio "came together to spread love and good computer skills to the world around them" and "play some rock and roll" along the way. Drawing inspiration from such forebears as "the Police, the Descendents and Weezer," brothers Ethan and Jonathan Marshall and Jonas Velasco "started jamming together in July 2003, and quickly took a short break, because jamming is hard work." After regrouping, they recorded and released Alumnus. The band admits that it's "a harmless enough bunch," at least "aside from Jonas," and they hope to bring their "driving brand of power pop-punk to a club, Web site, record store, radio station, or junior high school multipurpose room near you." -- JNL

O Pioneers
Best Indie Rock

These Willa Cather devotees decry the taste of today's kids: "If it doesn't have breakdowns and tight pants, they aren't buying," says singer-guitarist Eric Solomon. "That and a lot of kids have egos, when they shouldn't. Just because your band draws in one suburb" does not a rock star make, he says, and adds that he is "just a kid in a band" who is grateful that "people will listen to me sing badly, and mess up my guitar." Little-known trivia: Drummer Jeff Johnson "not only used to sing for Zombilly, he is the second cousin or something like that, somehow related to Josh Groban." -- JNL

Arthur Yoria
Songwriter of the Year; Best Rock en EspaŮol

Spanish-English singer-songwriter Arthur Yoria "fell into this" -- meaning music -- "about nine years ago and I'm still having fun." Nothing less than something "much more lucrative but that provides the same number of opportunities to meet women" would persuade him to switch careers. Yoria's sophisticated modern pop songs have found their way to several notable soundtracks, including "The OC, Felicity DVDs and the National Lampoon film Adam & Eve." Suerte Mijo, the Colombian-American's first Spanish-language EP, dropped this year, as did an English single called "Only Me." Yoria's favorite thing about Houston's scene is that "there is no scene," and yet you "can actually survive playing original music" in this "virgin territory for the singer-songwriter." -- JNL

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