Christmas in July

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

The Zydeco Dots
Best Zydeco

"What is a day job?" wonders Zydeco Dots guitarist Tom Potter, who probably doesn't know about those things. His group has been one of the most successful bands in any genre in this town during the last 18 years. (They've been tabbed Best Zydeco in these awards more than ten times.) Though generally a cheery sort who considers every place his band plays to be his favorite, Potter hates being lumped in the mudbug ghetto. "We are [not] just a crawfish season band," he says. -- JNL

Copa Cabana
114 Main, 713-223-COPA

4 p.m. Free Radicals with Harry Sheppard
5 p.m. Three Fantastic
6 p.m. Linus Pauling Quartet
7 p.m. Chango Jackson
8 p.m. Prognosis
9 p.m. Norma Zenteno

Free Radicals with Harry Sheppard
Best Jazz

Playing at a "street protest against aristocrats, and later the same night, at a cocktail receptions for aristocrats" is all in a day's work for this jazz-world-funk-ska-kitchen-sink musical collective, which is led by drummer Nick Cooper and vibraphonist Harry Sheppard. Playing "in two different cities on the same night twice, once on two different continents" is another. Last year's Aerial Bombardment is their latest CD, and that title accurately sums up the barrage of sounds the Free Rads launch into the atmosphere. -- JNL

Three Fantastic
Best Guitarist (Kelly Doyle)

Dotpointperiod Records artists and far Northsiders Three Fantastic may play funk-tinged, jaggedly jazzy rock with "ethnic references" but say they "pretty much" are "still a song-based rock band with a little bit of old-school punk, a little synth rock/new wave, and a strange, surreal and off-the-wall attitude." Bands from the Stooges and XTC to Zappa and Captain Beefheart all factor in this mix, which is headed up by the astounding guitar work of Kelly Doyle and the strong pipes of Charles Peters. A second full-length from the band is due out soon. -- JNL

Linus Pauling Quartet
Best Rock/Pop

"Rock is dead," intones guitarist Ramon Medina in his best Werner Herzog voice. "Linus are the maggots feasting on its flesh." The stoner-friendly yet intelligent, funny and loud hard rock band has been around for more than ten years now, during which they've become notorious for rehearsing more times every week than they play publicly in a whole year. Maybe the rehearsals and their other endeavors -- "publishing our dissertation on the Unified Field Theory and how it can be solved with a few bong hits" and "recording a new album of Texas black metal polka -- this stuff kills in Norway!" -- offer too little free time for actual gigs. Or maybe it's that they take it all too seriously: "Rock is not funny; it is an expression of our inner pain emanating from our tortured souls," Medina says, again in Herzog mode. But they're putting all that aside for this show, so don't miss it. -- JNL

Chango Jackson
Best Rock en Español

"As children," claims Chango Jackson singer-guitarist Mojo Jackson, "we were forced to learn instruments so we could be a backup band for our father...El Gran Chilencio." Now that they've rid themselves of him, they're hard at work on a new CD to follow up the excellent one that never came out a few years ago. Guitarist Moises Alanis promises that this will be "the year of the monkey," or el año del chango, and after you catch one of their hard-rocking, funked-up live shows you¹ll be a monkey-lover for life. Not that they care: Mojo says his band doesn't "give a rat's ass about people's conception about us." Mojo digs the talent here -- "Dubtex, Drop Trio, Fondue Monks, Muzak, Guy Schwartz" -- but hates "the distance between venues." Little-known fact: bassist-singer "Tino [Ortega] is a sex machine." -- JNL

Best Metal,

"Growth" is this young metal/alt rock band's Prognosis of the current scene. It.s exploding, they say, so much so that nothing bugs them about life in a Houston band in the year 2005. And it's hard to be down in the dumps when 600 people come to the release party for your debut CD, Unspoken, you've quit your day jobs, your band is a rare local act that gets on the airwaves at the Buzz, and you get a Press nomination to boot. Hell, they claim to have never even had a bad gig. "We love the people here and are happy to call this home!" is a typical exclamation from these happy cats. "We love you, Houston!" is another. And a third: "We have to give a shout out to our awesome manager Christine!" Yep, you guessed it. They love her too! -- JNL

Norma Zenteno
Best Salsa/Reggaetón/Latin Pop

"Carrying on my father's legacy" is the solemn goal of Norma Zenteno, whose trumpet-playing, bandleading legend of a father, Roberto, passed away this time last year. "I will play as long as my father did," she adds, by which she means "until the end." Meanwhile, her song "Endulsa Me" was included in the Hollywood movie Dancing in Twilight. Two things most people don't know about Norma Zenteno: her band doesn't "only play Latin/salsa" and she was born in Monterrey, Mexico. -- JNL

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