Best in Show


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.

That confusion turned into elation quick when Axl and crew roared into "Welcome to the Jungle" next. This was the shit people had paid to hear. It was immediately followed by "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone," two more indelible cuts from Appetite for Destruction. The audience rattled and shook ecstatically, pumping their fists in the air and hoisting their phones to capture snapshots and video.

What did they see through those digital viewfinders? Well, a band that looked a lot different from its original incarnation — including the lead singer. At 51 years old, Rose isn't exactly cute anymore, and his lung capacity ain't quite what it used to be.

But he's hardly unrecognizable, either. Even mostly hidden behind a pair of shades and a collection of wide-brimmed hats, Axl Rose has still got the rock and roll mystique that made him famous. The stage moves are still there, too, even if they're a little slower and more subtle these days. He didn't say much to the audience, but he didn't need to, either.

The singer looked and sounded entirely in his comfort zone on "Estranged," a personal favorite of mine from Use Your Illusion II. In the song's quieter moments, Rose dropped the gravel from his voice entirely, crooning softly and sweetly. Whether that was by necessity or design, it worked. In total command, he sounded vulnerable without being weak.

It was obvious that a great deal of his confidence flowed from the musicians surrounding him. They didn't much resemble the guys who fascinated me on MTV decades ago, but they sure as shit sounded like them. Led by the triple-guitar attack of Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, DJ Ashba and Richard Fortus, the Guns N' Roses of 2013 is a well-oiled machine, drilled to precision and unfettered by the drugs and drama that helped end the original group's run.

What's more, they looked as if they were having a hell of a lot of fun up there. Belying his public reputation as a bit of an egomaniacal control freak, Rose never hesitated to share the spotlight with his bandmates. Everybody got a turn to take a featured solo, and while Ashba and Fortus didn't quite make us forget Slash and Izzy, they didn't make us miss them, either.

Together, they pumped out hit after hit. "Sweet Child." "Patience." "November Rain." The audience ate each of them up. In spite of a few hiccups here and there, Axl's voice held up well throughout a solid two-hours-plus set. By the time the group closed the evening with "Paradise City," he sounded a little tired, but the crowd was singing along so loudly that it didn't matter.

I was singing along, too. Was I pissed that Guns N' Roses tried to stop me from covering a rock show in my own fuckin' city? Yeah. But I decided not to take it personally. Life, I find, is a lot more fun that way.

Everybody's Talkin'

Urban Dictionary's best musician-related slang terms.

Angelica Leicht

Urban Dictionary ( is always available to help a blogger out with a never-ending supply of user-submitted definitions that are filled to the brim with snarky, backhanded awesomeness. It is on these "pages" that one can find a descriptor for every situation under the sun.

Run out of weed? Well, sir, you're dankrupt. Built a redneck robot and aren't sure what to call it? Well, it's a Bobot. Problem solved for both you and that feisty, twangy little machine you've got there. Stole something from last night's random hookup and are unsure what to call it? It's a screwvenir, dude.

But not to worry; not only are there terms like these, there are also plenty of terms born from pure, unadulterated musician antics. They're funny as shit, and luckily for you, we've labored through page after page to find a few of the best ones for you.


Thomas Jefferson's affectionate nickname for Thomas Paine, Revolutionary-era intellectual, musician and author or co-author of "Common Sense," "The Rights of Man (feat. Yung Napoleon)" and "Declaration of Skindependence."

T-Paine: "I'm in luv wit the Republic, G."

George Washington: "Yes, but you haven't answered my question: Should we launch the revolution?"

T-Paine: "Talk to Franklin...This war is all about the Benjamin, man."

Seriously, what could be funnier than nerdy rap/history jokes? Not much, I dare say...not much. I like to read that one in Auto-Tune while on a boat.

Ke$ha $peak

A language popularized by the pop singer Ke$ha. It consists of speaking Huttese ( the language spoken by Jabba the Hutt and the rest of his race) with a Valley Girl accent.

Girl: "Oh em gee, Wah kah nah tu nah ki?"

Guy 1: "What the hell did she just say?"

Guy 2: "I don't know. I don't understand Ke$ha $peak."

Ke$ha and her whiskey-glitter stink lines were just made for Urban Dictionary definitions. See also "Ke$ha Bomb," but don't be a dick and actually Ke$ha-Bomb someone. Glitter in the eye can be hazardous to your corneal health.


A unit of measurement used to gauge the level of discomfort caused by hemorrhoids. Each unit is roughly equivalent to the pain and discomfort of watching a Justin Bieber video.

"I'd give it a four on the Bieber scale."

I hold out great hope that all proctology offices will incorporate this highly scientific scale. It's got to be more accurate than those damned happy face/sad face charts, right?

Ask Willie D

Father Hood
A reader has some trouble with her husband, who has almost as many baby mamas as babies.

Willie D

Dear Willie D:

I can't believe I messed around and had a baby by a man who already had three baby mamas — he never told me about the third one. I found that bit of information out when we were at our ten-year-old son's school watching him play in a basketball game. As my husband was coaching the team, out of nowhere a server walked up to him with child-support and custody papers. I was so embarrassed.

When we got home later that night, he swore to me that although he knew about the baby, he didn't believe it was his so he didn't want to have that unnecessary discussion with me. He told me that his first two baby mamas were crazy and they wouldn't let him see his kids. Now he's saying the mystery baby mama is also crazy.

I'm starting to think everything he's ever told me about his past relationships was a lie. He doesn't spend time with any of his kids other than the one he has with me. I'm having serious doubts about his character as a person and a father. His behavior reminds me of a dog who sniffs the rear of every female he sees. What kind of man just goes around sleeping with and impregnating woman after woman? Just thinking about this makes me sick to my stomach.

To his credit, he has been a good provider for my son and me, but I feel bad for the other women involved, and even worse for the children. Am I right to care, or should I just worry about my own set of circumstances?

Embarrassed Wife:

You get major props for at least having a conscience about the welfare of your husband's children and their mothers. A lot of women couldn't care less. Women have to start owning their role in sexing men who make baby after baby with different women. Most people in new relationships are going to lie about their exes to make themselves look good and to minimize the role they played in the breakup.

Your husband deceived you, but what was he supposed to do, take you out for a romantic dinner and say, "Babe, I'm a low-down, good-for-nothing, deadbeat dad running from my responsibilities who's trying to hook up and swell your belly; if you take a chance on me, I promise things will work out"? He told you the other women were crazy, and you took him at his word because you wanted to believe him and you were in love.

Unfortunately, your issue is not isolated. There are a number of trifling men out there who breed like animals. Some of them even think it's funny or cool to boast about it. They see it as a badge of honor.

Although he hasn't bothered to participate in the upbringing of any of his kids before the one he shares with you, as you said, he's a good provider for your son, so that's a good thing. It's confirmation that you can teach an old dog new tricks — to an extent.

Ask Willie D appears Thursday mornings on Rocks Off.


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