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2008 Houston Press Music Awards Showcase

A preview of the 60 bands and five DJs that are taking over downtown this weekend

Even in notoriously conservative Houston, it's probably safe to say former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld isn't the most popular cat in the alley. But for the local music scene, Rummy's infamous December 2004 assertion that "You have to go to war with the army you have" has the distinct, if uncomfortable, ring of truth. Yes, it would be nice if some of Houston's most talented musicians didn't keep moving to Austin (Papermoons, Joe Mathlete) or points further afield (Jana Hunter), but like Bruce Hornsby said, that's just the way it is.

Besides, it's worth noting that people also move to Houston — and more than to a lot of other places, at least lately — and surely some of them know their way around a guitar, keyboard and/or drum set. Also note that the 65 performers listed below are a fraction (about half) of this year's total Houston Press Music Awards nominees. In fact, when the nominations were announced, a lot of the local Internet chatter centered around who was left out — which doesn't happen, of course, unless there are more talented performers than nominations to accommodate them. Next year, then, Antarctica Starts Here... provided you're still here.

So thank God for Sunday, then, perhaps the one day a year those of us charged with defending the Houston music scene to people in other cities — and even to people in this one — can relax. Except we really can't; with 60 bands in six hours (and five DJs to help us all wind down afterward), we're going to be like the rest of you — watching, listening, discovering.

Whether you choose one venue to plant yourself in all night or somehow find time to squeeze in all ten, you should go home Sunday night (or Monday morning) with an inkling of just how diverse and fertile our supposedly sleepy music scene really is. Maybe it's just the light reflecting off all those guitar strings, but for one day anyway, it looks armed to the teeth. — Chris Gray

BUTTERFLY HIGH
902 Capitol

Hell City Kings (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Punk
www.myspace.com/hellcitykings

Scandinavian rock is supposed to hail from, well, Scandinavia, but Hell City Kings will save you a couple grand in plane tickets and exotic bar tabs. Influenced by the Hellacopters and Turbonegro, the skuzzy Kings sound like a bar brawl at an old-school Pasadena roadhouse, where you're tanked up on dollar Lone Stars and sweat stings your eyes. If you need further convincing, their recent 7" split with fellow Houston death-punks I Am Wolf is a necessity. — Craig Hlavaty

Bobbie Fine (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Underground Hip-Hop
www.myspace.com/bobfine

New Jersey native Bobbie Fine came to Houston in 1991 as hype man for rapper YZ ("Thinking of a Masterplan") and never left. As seasoned as they come, he also founded the group Blaque Spurm (who signed with Rick Rubin in the mid-'90s and released the all-time classic album title Spurmacidal Tendencies) as well as former Interscope artists the Funk Family. More recently, Fine crossed over into eyeliner territory on his album F.I.N.E. (Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic & Emo), but there's nothing frustrated, insecure, neurotic or emo about chest-­thumping single "Black Superman." — C.G.

The Mighty Orq (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Male Vocalist (Mighty Orq), Best Bassist (Westside Johnny)
www.myspace.com/themightyorq

Even without a Tolkien-esque monster costume, the Mighty Orq's deep pipes and power six-string command enough onstage authority to lead the hordes of Mordor into the abyss. His namesake rock/blues (as opposed to blues/rock) power trio also includes Matt Johnson (drums/vocals) and new bassist Mark White, whom '90s jammy types might remember as string-plunker for the Spin Doctors; Orq's most recent record, To the Bone, will be available nationally beginning in September. Standing at the crossroads of King's X, the Arc Angels and Gov't Mule, the trio's muscular music is the soundtrack for driving through a rainstorm with the windows down. — Bob Ruggiero

Born Liars (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best New Act, Best Roots Rock
www.myspace.com/thebornliars

Best Roots Rock nominee Born Liars don't exactly sprout from the usual entanglement of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Neil Young. The Ramones and New York Dolls are more the quartet's speed, with dashes of '60s garage giants like the Seeds and Sonics and, more directly, bygone Houston greats Gun Crazy. Whatever the source, it makes some pretty raw, agreeable rock and roll, with spontaneous outbreaks of dancing and copious alcohol consumption. Try the Liars' 2006 Mortville CD, Exit Smiling, or this year's "Go Back One Day" 7" on for size and see if you don't agree. — C.G.

Buxton (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Local Album
(A Family Light), Best Misc. Instrument
(Jason  Willis), Best Neo-Folk
www.myspace.com/buxtonband

As its multiple nominations suggest, Buxton is one of those bands it's almost impossible not to like. Rooted in heavy folk-rock and Americana, the catchy, honest songs on 2008 debut A Family Light hardly sound like they could come from four guys with no previous band experience, but it's true. And though the quartet knows its history and respects its peers —Fatal Flying Guilloteens and O Pioneers!!!, to name a couple — over the past year Buxton has helped propel Houston's local scene forward as much as anyone. — Brigitte B. Zabak

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