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2011 Music Awards Showcase

Your guide to the bands and venues.

2011 Music Awards Showcase

Here it is, the Grandaddy of all the Houston music festivals, the 23rd annual Houston Press Music Awards showcase. Twelve hours of music, featuring 50-plus bands and a slew of DJs to close out the night. This sucker runs the gamut from funky to twee, Americana to experimental, gritty rap and raunchy rock to ethereal folk and plaintive indie, from grizzled veterans like Texas Johnny Brown and Little Joe Washington (who together bring more than 100 years of experience to their stages) to up-and-comers like Rivers, Finnegan and the Beans. No other melodious H-Town soiree brings it like the HPMAs, and no other $10 wristband entitles you to as much great music and fun.

After last year's Washington Avenue experiment, this time around the showcase returns to its old stomping grounds downtown. Sort of. For the first time ever, this year's model will center on the central city's east side and spill over into Old Chinatown, with Discovery Green slap-bang in the middle. After the festival migrated from its birthplace in lower Westheimer's Tower Theater to the Richmond Strip to Shepherd Plaza to Bayou Place to Washington Avenue, could this become the event's permanent home? Let's hope so — with both House of Blues and Warehouse Live in the mix, not to mention a host of cool smaller venues, awesome skyline views, walkability and historic architecture, east Downtown seems like a natural.

Come out for a good time, come for yourselves, but also come on out for Chris Gray. On his way to work the morning after the Mastodon show in late October, the Houston Press music editor was stricken with an apparent heart attack and is currently recovering. This event is in the man's very DNA. No one person alive has done more to foster Houston's astounding local resurgence; no music critic in living memory has been to more shows, taken in more gigs and written about them all with such a knowledgeable and passionate touch. This showcase is Chris Gray's life condensed into one afternoon and evening, and Chris Gray's life sure sounds good. John Nova Lomax

PETE'S DUELING PIANO BAR STAGE
1201 Fannin

//TENSE// (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Electronic Act
Dark-beat duo //TENSE// inhabit the shadowy nexus of leather, skin and sexuality. In a city largely dominated by rap, indie and country, Robert Lane and Mariana Saldana are leading a charge, along with the like-minded Balaclavas, into unknown, terse and strangely comforting musical territories. Since their debut about four years back, they have opened for not only polar opposites Faster Pussycat but also spiritual forebears Nitzer Ebb. Craig Hlavaty

Kristine Mills (3 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Female Vocals, Best Jazz
This is not Kristine Mills's first rodeo. The chanteuse already has an HPMA award for Best Female Vocals weighing down her shelf, and Houston's sultry jazz darling is looking to earn a matching set this year in addition to also netting a nod for Best Jazz. For two decades she has fallen ever upwards, never letting a single piece of music that didn't throb with tremendous beauty appear on her albums. If you haven't heard any of the tracks from her upcoming fourth release As Yet Untitled, a collaboration with David Rice that has been two decades in the making, then you are missing out on the reason she also holds a Best Songwriter HPMA. Mills never fails to strike right at the heart with her uncanny cords, and you'd have to be deaf to deny it. Jef With One F

The Octanes (4 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Americana
Houston is turning out some of the best Americana music in the country right now, and with Buxton, Literary Greats and Folk Family Revival all taking aim at the same statue, the Octanes have some extremely stiff competition. The edge the Octanes bring to their sound is a much more rockabilly and straight-up Western swing approach: lines of attack that resonate with the more rough-and-tumble element among Houston's music fans. It's a dirty but delightful sound that has earned them multiple nominations in various categories in the past, including a Best Bass nod for the justifiably celebrated Nick Gaitan (also nominated as front man in Umbrella Man), who wanders the Earth laying bass down upon the masses like no other man can. We are hoping to have a follow-up to excellent Lucky Seven sometime in the near future, possibly by the end of 2011. Jef With One F

Diunna Greenleaf (5 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Soul / Funk / R&B
When you hear Lady Diunna wrap her clear, gospel-steeped contralto around a blues or soul lyric, it's immediately obvious you're hearing the real deal. As leader of her own Blue Mercy band, Aldine native Greenleaf has taken her soul-stirring brand of downhome blues to audiences all over America and Switzerland, Italy, Canada and Asia. Her most recent album, Trying to Hold On, included guest shots from A-listers like Billy Branch, Smokin' Joe Kubek, Rich Del Grosso, "Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin and Anson Funderburgh. As her nomination category indicates, her live show often finds her ranging as far beyond the style as Sly and the Stone's funky masterpiece "If You Want Me to Stay," but even so, Greenleaf remains steadfastly devoted to the blues, "especially from a woman's point of view." John Nova Lomax

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