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Christmas in July

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

Brandon Stanley
Best Rock/Pop

www.brandonstanleymusic.com

Earnest singer-songwriter Brandon Stanley has a bone to pick with "very narrow-minded" people who think that he wishes he could be the "extremely talented" John Mayer. "I own all of his records," he admits, "but that does not mean that I am a 'wannabe.' " To Stanley, to think that way is "like saying Bruce Springsteen is a 'wannabe' James Taylor." Stanley is cheerier when he thinks about his choice of music as a career -- "it's the only thing I think about from the time I wake up until the time I lay down to sleep," he says, though that claim is somewhat belied by the fact that he has recently graduated "with a degree in economics this past May from the University of Houston." Perhaps that degree will come in handy as he manages his own indie label, Brandon Stanley Music, and a burgeoning career that has spawned the new album Songs from the Middle Lane, "If I Fall," a "top 50 hot AC radio single," and shared-stage scenarios with John Fogerty at New Orleans' House of Blues and Ryan Cabrera in Corpus Christi. -- JNL

Twelve Spot
218 Travis, 713-222-1962 4 p.m. Mr. Grinch
5 p.m. Mando Saenz
6 p.m. Mighty Orq
7 p.m. Lisa Novak
8 p.m. Filthy McNasty and the Rhinestone Life
9 p.m. Zydeco Dots Mr. Grinch
Best Jam Band

"Groovy bass lines shape the songs" of this new band, augmented by "sexy guitar and tasty beats." All products of Spring's Westfield High School, the band cites Primus, 311 and Incubus as primary influences, so mark 'em down as this year's most badly categorized act. The band believes that they have a "natural chemistry and originality far beyond anything they could've hoped for or previously experienced" and that their music is "backed by the freedom of jazz and the message of positivity." -- JNL

Mando Saenz
Best C&W

www.mandosaenz.com

Saenz's Watertown was nationally rereleased this year, whereupon it "spent several weeks in the top 20 Americana chart" and won him CMT and GAC airplay for his song "When I Come Around." Meanwhile, Saenz has stayed steady grindin' on a Nashville project with former Wilco/Uncle Tupelo drummer Ken Coomer producing. Mailbox money butters his bread -- "publishing advances pay bills, barely," he says. "Houston is a great place to be creative and inspired," he adds. "Especially if you like to write sad songs. I mean that in a good way." -- JNL

The Mighty Orq
Best Blues

www.mightyorq.com

Fresh off the release of their debut studio CD, Milk Money, blues-rocker Orq and bandmates seem prouder of their other varied recent accomplishments. Bassist Jessica Will just had a baby, while drummer Matt Johnson "holds the band record for most deer hit on the way home from Austin." Orq himself claims the title for "most traffic citations while on the way to an in-state gig." Orq doesn't have to be so reckless in getting to his favorite gig: "I really enjoy playing solo acoustic at the Big Easy on Monday," he says, but he hastens to add that he and his band love playing anywhere that "the club doesn't tell us to turn it down." Orq also digs "Chihuahuas" and Houston's unusual "sense of camaraderie," but he hates the fact that "there's a lot of talent in Houston, but it doesn't seem to get the recognition it deserves" and the misconception that his is a straight-ahead blues band. -- JNL

Lisa Novak
Best Female Vocalist

www.lisanovak.com

Tougher Skin is rock-country singer-songwriter/hair salon owner Novak's latest record, and she's working it in Music City. "I now have a song 'plugger' in Nashville pitching my songs to big-name artists," one of whom -- Terri Clark -- has negotiated short-term exclusive rights to record Novak's "The Hard Way." All Decked Out, Novak's salon, is not just a way to pay the bills -- she also loves its "flexible schedule" and the fact that it's a good way to "promote [her music] to clients" and "other musicians and music industry folks." Novak digs Rudz, the Mucky Duck and the Continental, not to mention the Harp and the Stag's Head, where, "people just happen to come see you," she says. "You can pick up lots of new fans that way." -- JNL

Filthy McNasty and the Rhinestone Life
Best Funk/R&B

Press Nightfly columnist Brian McManus is the eponymous Mr. McNasty, and he claims his group is "the only band in Houston that can open up for Bob Schneider and International Noise Conspiracy and slay both crowds." McManus cooks by day, and the rest of his quintet consists of "a massage therapist, a house painter, a beautician and a personal assistant." To McManus, music trumps most of those. "It's more fun than cooking, massaging, painting houses and doing hair...but not personal assisting. That shit's the bomb!" The greatest misconception about the Rhinestone Life? "That we're a straight side project/joke. We've developed quite a bit," McManus says, as have, legend has it, two "members" of the band. "Todd and John are both rumored to have huge fucking cocks," he says. -- JNL

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