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Exile on Main Street

Racket and the new guy take the annual Houston Press Music Awards Showcase plunge

Screw the haters — Million Year Dance is awesome. A stripped-down, acoustic version of the mystical Montrosian rocker band closed out Music Awards night at Livé with a transfixing set. Jonathan Welch's soaring tenor is a municipal treasure, and it's a little bit perplexing trying to figure out just why he's not a superstar yet.

Of course, taking in that set meant I had to miss Sideshow Tramps, Fondue Monks, Bring Back the Guns, Karina Nistal, Sharks and Sailors, Arthur Yoria and the Dimes, all of whom were playing at the same time at other venues. (I did catch a bit of John Evans's honky-tonkalicious set.) But for me, it was worth it. MYD unplugged was that cool.

Back in 2001, I longed for several clones, so me and my test-tube twins could take in all this music. The 9 p.m. slot on Music Awards night makes me revisit that dream every year.

Jaime Hellcat's gold lamé shirt hangs ready as the Flaming Hellcats frontman unpacks his guitar before their showcase at Life Lounge Sunday.
Daniel Kramer
Jaime Hellcat's gold lamé shirt hangs ready as the Flaming Hellcats frontman unpacks his guitar before their showcase at Life Lounge Sunday.

Not that the other slots didn't have me wishing I could be in two spots at once as well. Mrs. Racket and I got the shindig underway at four at Bar Bollywood, where we took in Dizzy Pilot's face-melting psychedelic rock. These guys say their upcoming record has the potential to ruin marriages — ours survived this show, but we can kinda see their point. For some reason, they put both Mrs. Racket and me in mind of Oasis, before Oasis started sucking.

Five p.m. found us up on the balcony at the Rice Lofts — the gathering spot for all the bands before and after their shows. This is the party of the year, folks — just about every band that matters in town knocking back free booze and chowing down on quesadillas and stuffed mushrooms, while impromptu jam sessions rage in an adjoining room. Going up there is like checking into the Hotel California — it's damn hard to leave.

But leave we did after catching up on some local band gossip. (Erik Bogle of Bring Back the Guns told us he had signed up in the Fatal Flying Guilloteens as Brian McManus's replacement, for example.) We toddled on down to Life Lounge to catch Flamin' Hellcats, who were not, in spite of what we wrote last week, dressed as priests. Singer Jaime Hellcat was rocking a Vegas-a-riffic gold lamé shirt, though, and the band did live up to their billing as roots-rocking Oscar Zeta Acosta-type dudes. When we left, Jaime was howling out that song they do where he's begging some lucky girl to give him some of her panties.

Next, we toddled across the street to Livé. Now that is a really lame name for a club. How do you pronounce it, for starters? Lie-vay? Lee-vay? And then it's right across the street from another place called Life Lounge. Can we get a little more generic, please? Anyway, Opie Hendrix was playing, and he managed to distract the crowd from the three TVs over the stage, one of which was showing news or SportsCenter or something like that. The TVs gave the place a Daytona Beach on Spring Break vibe. Please, bar owners, turn that shit off. We next headed around the corner to the Red Cat to catch the tail end of petite rapper Cl'Che's fiery set — she was joined onstage by Candy Red, a striking woman with close-cropped gold hair, and the two of them wrecked shop.

We continued in the hip-hop vein as the next hour rolled around. The Grit Boys show at Venue offered one of those "only at Music Awards" moments as the members of Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys strolled around the club in their cowboy duds and battered Stetsons. Venue is yet another downtown club with a crappy name (yes, I guess you can get more generic), but it's a terrific place for live music. It reminds me vaguely of Rockefeller's — the stage is immensely high, and there's some supercool old brickwork behind it. It's downright magnificent — if this place committed seriously to live music, it could be one of the city's marquee venues. And, oh yeah, they really need to change the name.

We popped into No Tsu Oh for a visit with Jim Pirtle, and we were treated to a weird scene. (Unfortunately, No Tsu Oh wasn't a HPMA venue.) A guy-and-girl DJ team was onstage. The guy was a vampirish-looking fellow with a pencil-thin moustache, and he was rocking a powder blue vintage suit. He looked a wee bit over-served, especially for that early hour. At any rate, he was more than holding his own on the decks with his classic rock set, and then he left the stage and somebody put on a record that met with his disapproval. He remounted the stage, stalked over to the decks, seized the platter and flung it against the brick wall across the club. Pirtle vaulted from behind the bar. "Hey, dude," he said, mildly, given the circumstances. "Calm down. There are humans here."

Next, we caught the end of Drop Trio's space-jazz set, which was cool, as always. (Ian Varley is considerably more hirsute than he was the last time we saw him — I guess he was able to quit his day job.) And that brings us to Million Year Dance...Over to you, Chris. — John Nova Lomax

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