2011 Music Awards Showcase

Your guide to the bands and venues.

1201 Caroline

Rivers (4 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best New Act
Young blues-metal trio Rivers reminds us of Mudhoney and Blue Cheer, with an extra dose of Mark Arm's nihilism and a healthy dash of The Cult's mysticism. Their first set of seven songs, entitled Mind Your Mind, was self-released and distributed (we got a burned disc), and will smoke out your car like Willie Nelson on the way to Whataburger. Craig Hlavaty

Electric Attitude (5 p.m.)
Nominated In: Soul / Funk / R&B, Best Miscellaneous Instrument
The purist may balk at the nomination of Electric Attitude in the Soul/Funk/R&B category, as there is little in their sound of what you might consider true funk, but they do at least come up with good, sexy dance music. The band has been on a roll, doing six shows in two days at SXSW and opening for Semi-Precious Weapons and Dengue Fever, both red-hot national acts. The music is loud and primal, bringing to mind the early Detroit rock/soul fusions or a richer version of the White Stripes. We confess we haven't caught them live yet, and the recordings featured online don't really give any indication of what netted James Murphy a nod as a saxophonist, but any man who can keep up with Jordan Bell's guitars and Joe Ramirez's drums is clearly a force to reckon with. Jef With One F

Finnegan (6 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best New Act
Led in part by Houston musical dynamos Dwight Taylor Lee and Sara Van Buskirk, Finnegan has to have the heaviest soft touch in Houston. With Buskirk's titanic vocals — she's a wonder in her own solo right — trampling down the warpaths of their compositions, they recall the Arcade Fire if only Win and Regine had a jones for volume instead of spookiness. Craig Hlavaty

The Literary Greats (7 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Americana, Best CD/LP/EP (Black Blizzard)
Last year, The Literary Greats received more HPMA nods than any other artist. With good reason: The five-piece has climbed the college-radio charts and built massive followings both here and in Austin. Folk, country and rock music come together in a gigantic edifice of sound that could only come from brawny-shouldered Houston. This year's Black Blizzard is nominated for album of the year, and it's easy to see why. It builds on the strengths of the band's first two records and adds an ineffable layer of intricacies that you can only call audible maturity. Matthew Keever

Gene's Addiction (8 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Cover / Tribute Act
It must be a tough row to hoe being a KISS tribute band, considering that there's already a highly successful one with a huge budget that tours constantly under the name KISS. You have to give Mike Campion credit. Hearing him sing "Deuce" is miles better than listening to the Demon himself do it these days. Not to mention that Michael Emerson and Gready Hunter are tremendous guitarists. We don't know if they can out-write Paul and Ace, but we're willing to bet they can outplay them at this point. Gene's Addiction deserves major kudos for their massive sets and musical accuracy, though we have to say from a purely costuming standpoint everyone but Campion kind of phones it in. Seriously, guys, wigs and leather aren't that expensive. Jef With One F

813 St. Emanuel

Umbrella Man (7 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Bassist (Nick Gaitan), Best Drummer (Brian Shoppell)
Calling a mélange of Gulf Coast musical styles a "gumbo" is a cliché, so we'll call what Nick Gaitan whips up for his Umbrella Man project a "caldo" instead. It's a tasty H-Town stew, equal parts blues, Tejano, swamp pop, rockabilly, ska, cumbia, and vintage rock and roll, all roiling with a steady swing. When he's not thumping the bull fiddle alongside Umbrella Man bandmates Bart Maloney (steel guitar), Brian Shoppell (drums) and Roberto Rodriguez (accordion), Gaitan (formerly of Los Skarnales) fills the same role in both fellow HPMA nominees the Octanes and in Billy Joe Shaver's road band. The legendary honky-tonk hero even recorded Gaitan's 2009 song "I've Found My Weakness in You." Chances are Gaitan's band will find your weakness, too. John Nova Lomax

Ryan Scroggins & the Trenchtown Texans (8 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Reggae / Ska / Dub, Best Song ("Devil Box")
Like his predecessor to this stage Nick Gaitan, Scroggins is a veteran of Los Skarnales, but Scroggins has remained much more fixedly devoted to the Jamaican sounds that put the "ska" in that band's name. Which is not to say he's a hardshell traditionalist — the band continues to evolve away from Trenchtown and more towards Texas, with more steel guitar, fiddle and harmonica coming to the fore of late. Here's what Music Editor Chris Gray had to say earlier this year about the band's two new CDs: "Both Move to the Country and Folk Devils blend the unhurried (but never lazy) tropical rhythms of reggae, ska and dub with more native sounds like easygoing harmonica blues, jug-band bluegrass and sinewy Latin guitar leads. The result is some mesquite-smoked roots reggae that takes its time, and an ideal soundtrack for the sultry summer nights we've been having lately." John Nova Lomax

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