2011 Music Awards Showcase

Your guide to the bands and venues.

The Niceguys (5 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Rap Group
Since 2007, the Niceguys have been a tremendous force in the underground rap scene, skyrocketing upwards and performing at SXSW earlier this year. You may be under the impression that the foursome raps only about clothes, but the Niceguys are the epitome of the DIY work ethic, driven to nothing less than perfection in their music no matter how long it takes to achieve. Jef With One F

Hell City Kings (6 p.m.)
Nominated In: Local Musician of the Year (Josh Wolf)
Josh Wolf and company's music relies on the three B's of rock: beer, blood and bedlam. Hell City Kings make music to drink, fight and holler along to. Latest release H.C.K. throws punk, sludge metal and noise-core into a blender and flings the contents in your face like a pissed-off chimp. A Kings show is the aural equivalent of getting dragged out of a bar — let's say Lola's — just before closing time and stomped in the alley out back. But in a good way. I guess what I'm saying is, prepare yourselves. Pete Vonder Haar

Hollywood FLOSS (7 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Songwriter
Even though Houston native Hollywood FLOSS respects his Dirty South roots, he doesn't want to be labeled a "Southern rapper." The 28-year-old rapper/teacher draws influence everywhere from the multilayered verses of Lupe Fiasco to the soulful jazz of Sadé. That's not to say that FLOSS doesn't value his Houston upbringing, as it has subtly shaped his craft since he began rapping professionally in 2005. Artistically, he simply values substance over the shine of 84's and chains. It's this philosophy that he uses with the children he teaches. FLOSS raps about his disdain for the current hip-hop environment and the industry, but he stays positive as he matures each year. He released One Fan at a Time in September, and it was picked up by a few noteworthy hip-hop blogs, including XXL and The Source. Allison Wagoner

Roky Moon & BOLT! (8 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Rock
Like a cross between David Bowie, Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise and that Meat Loaf album your parents used to make out to before you were born, Roky Moon & BOLT! have a distinct way of hugging your eyes and your hips in all the right ways. This year they not only released American Honey, an album largely recorded in a day, but also have gone on sporadic touring jaunts as far west as Marfa. Craig Hlavaty

1209 Caroline

The Abyss (4 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Rock
The Abyss have clawed their way up the scene in Houston inch by painful inch, bringing their angsty rock to an ever wider audience. It took the band awhile to grow on us, and they still have quite a bit to go before they're ready to charge, but listening to "Beautiful Lie" remains a beautiful, spiritual experience, and it's nice to hear something that sounds like the Cure's Bloodflowers. Despite setbacks earlier in the year when the Abyss had to call on the help of Houston's music community to aid in the paying of singer Sean Oliver's son's medical bills after a horrifying accident left his arm looking like the letter "z," they never say die, never give up and keep on rocking. Will it be enough to beat Castle Lights and Roky Moon & BOLT!? If anyone can, it's the Abyss. Jef With One F

Beetle (5 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Cover / Tribute Act
Beetle is a Thursday-night happy-hour institution at the Continental Club. So much so, I know people who absolutely would not know what to do with their Thursdays if Beetle wasn't onstage churning out the "yeah, yeah, yeahs." The lineup has stayed intact for quite a while now, and that continuity has led to an overall tightening up. But no one comes to these shows for technical excellence or innovation; they come to hear the Beatles' catalog delivered as close to the original as the band can possibly do. Judging by the crowds, Beetle knows the job. William Michael Smith

A Dream Asleep (6 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Experimental / Noise
Hardcore music is something of a niche field, full of subgenres from screamo to death metal, but it has a loyal group of followers here in Houston. A Dream Asleep, which won the 2010 Houston Press Music Award for Best Hardcore/Noise, is at the head of that movement. This year's agenda includes the planned release of a long-awaited EP in a few months. Recently, the group added second guitarist Rikki Youngblood to the lineup, and front man Mike Seals seems to enjoy the new dynamic in the group's sound. Onstage, A Dream Asleep doesn't just hope for crowd involvement — they force it. From the very first grinding chords, Seals and crew are likely to jump offstage and mosh with their fans, who are always happy to oblige. Matthew Keever

Castle Lights (7 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Song ("Paint the Stars"), Best Rock, Best Guitarist (Jeremiah Wood), Best Bassist (Aaron Eaves)
This rock trio sort of sneaked up on us this past year, beginning life as Light Parade, before getting our attention with their cover of club gal La Roux's hit single "Bulletproof" and then quickly reeling in newfound fans with their subdued Muse-style anthems. Or are they Coldplay with balls? Not sure. Come see them and decide for yourself. Craig Hlavaty

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