Best in Show

A taste of the 2013 Houston Press Music Award nominees.


Without fail, the Houston Press Music Awards sneak up on us. Last year, when the HPMAs returned to the dog days of summer after a one-year Thanksgiving holiday, only a few short months fell between the 2011 trophies and the 2012 nomination ballot. This time it's been several months longer, but feels just as short.

Funny thing. While we were verifying the nominees this time, we used iTunes a lot to check release dates and such. We discovered that every kind of music you can find on iTunes you can also find live in Houston music venues, made by local musicians. We think that says something pretty great about our city.

This year's HPMA ballot runs to 164 nominations across 34 categories, and it still doesn't feel like enough. Sadly, Houston is far too big for even this ballot to include everyone who deserves to be nominated, and our sincere apologies to those folks. (Who did we leave off?)

Following is a taste of this year's HPMA nominees, the first few categories. The entire ballot is online, and will appear in the print issue of June 20.


American Fangs, American Fangs

Grandfather Child, Grandfather Child

Grievous Angels, Grievous Angels

The Niceguys, James Kelley

Oceans of Slumber, Aetherial

Venomous Maximus, Beg Upon the Light


Junior Gordon Band, "Big"

Cindy Pruitt, "Epiphany"

Qanda, "Woman of My Dreams"

Second Lovers, "New Mexico"

Trae Tha Truth feat. Future, "Screwed Up"

Wild Moccasins, "Gag Reflections"


American Fangs, "Pomona"

Featherface, "I Saw You Dancing"

Junior Gordon Band, "Big"

The Traveling Murphys, "I'll Tell Me Ma"

Leah White & the Magic Mirrors, "Our Roots Are Strong"


Texas Johnny Brown


Junior Gordon

Libby Koch


See the rest of this year's HPMA nominees at

Live Shots

Get in the Ring
Someone on team Guns N' Roses didn't want us to review the band's May 28 House of Blues show. We did anyway.

Nathan Smith

An aging has-been milking the nostalgia circuit for a few last big paydays. A petty dictator running out a squad of mercenary ringers onstage every night and calling it Guns N' Roses. For the more cynical observers among us, that's kind of been the rap on Axl Rose for quite a few years now: The Guns N' Roses of 2013 isn't a band, it's a business, with W. Axl Rose as its unquestionable president and CEO.

But that's not the truth. Certainly not the whole truth, anyway. To Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses has never been about business. It's personal. Last week, I found out just how personal.

The morning of May 28, Rocks Off published a blog entry I wrote exploring the backgrounds of the modern-day Gunners who would be backing up Axl at the House of Blues later that evening. I wrote it because, like many fans, I didn't know much about them, and I wanted to have some idea about who I'd be seeing and hearing at the gig.

Along the way, I took a few jabs at Axl and the gang. I happen to think that they were pretty tame and that the tone of the piece was all in fun. Not everyone agreed. Specifically, Guns N' Roses' camp did not agree, and so they decided to revoke the Houston Press's media credentials to cover the concert.

Dick move? You decide. Had it been any other band, that probably would have been the end of it. But Guns N' Roses is personal for me, too. The group was at its creative peak just as I was beginning to explore music for the first time growing up. Their songs' dangerous mystique and their videos' lavish vision captured my imagination as a boy, and I've never quite gotten over it.

In short, seeing Guns N' Roses play live was on my bucket list, and even if the original band is gone for good, surely the 2013 version still has some of the old spark left. I wanted to experience it for myself, whether Axl wanted me to or not.

So I logged on to StubHub and bought a ticket. To quote a famous man, "Suck on that."

I wasn't the only one psyched to see GN'R. The show was sold out, even with general-admission tickets selling for $133. Just as excited to be in attendance were the men of Venomous Maximus, the local kings of occult metal, who were tabbed to open for Guns. Beginning with the first note of "Path of Doom," Venomous instantly filled the venue with its heavy, rollicking sound, making no effort to hide its glee at sharing a stage with one of rock and roll's most legendary bands.

Once Venomous departed, the waiting began. The wondering began. Would Guns N' Roses show up on time? Would Axl sound good? And if one or more of those things didn't happen, would a riot break out?

That was all put to rest fairly early, with the band hitting the stage promptly at 10:30 p.m. As if that weren't enough of a clue that this wasn't the GN'R of old, the group opened with the title track to Chinese Democracy. Good song. The band sounded tight and focused. The crowd looked happy but confused.

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