Five hours is not a long time. It is if you're driving from Houston to Texarkana or Uvalde, maybe. But when hopscotching all over downtown trying to take in as much of the Houston Press Music Awards showcase as you can until your feet and your ears cry uncle, those 300 minutes go by in a heartbeat.
But every once in a while, in the words of Bob Dylan, "the next 60 seconds can seem like an eternity." Those fleeting moments are the keepers, and tops on the list last Sunday was Ozeal & the Eulypians at Dean's Credit Clothing. Noise walked into the bar-cum-resale-shop at the very end of the Eulypians' performance, about the time Ozeal climbed up onto the amplifiers, but the group's rubbery funk grooves and infectious hip-hop energy gave us a bigger boost than one of those potions at the convenient-store counter next to the keychains and packets of potency pills. It was an eye-popping introduction, and just the right length; if we had seen the Eulypians' entire set, it would have wiped us out.
Noise didn't see any more of the Eulypians because we had a devil of a time tearing ourselves away from Bayou Place. In a little more than 90 minutes, we managed to catch a glimpse of the past, present and future of local music — it was just hard to tell which was which. At the Hard Rock Cafe, dreadlocked rapper Nosaprise sported a Motley Crüe T-shirt and strummed an acoustic guitar, unspooling lyrics that mixed bravado ("I'm twice as good as you even when I rap half-ass") and survival ("I'm not trying to get a deal, I'm trying to get a meal") over a ghostly melody reminiscent of Bauhaus's The Sky's Gone Out.
Houston Press Music Awards showcase
Upstairs at Röcbar, Benjamin Wesley hunched over some electronic sequencer doodad, coaxing all sorts of noises out of the tubes while furiously strumming an acoustic guitar. Every time Noise sees him, it's a little clearer that Wesley's songs – the electro/hip-hop skiffle of "Have You Ever Died?," for example — belong in the same class as Spoon's Britt Daniel or My Morning Jacket's Jim James, referencing the entire spectrum of pop music while maintaining a singular individuality.
Speaking of individuals, there's nobody like Cornbreadd. Just off a plane from New York City, where he performed at a Brooklyn nightclub and caught up with his friends from MTV's 50 Cent: The Money and the Power, he debuted a heretofore-unseen persona: Cornbreadd, bluesman. With Tha Fucking Transmissions bandmate Wesley on guitar, Cornbreadd sat on a stool and moaned an ode to rotgut whiskey that would have made R.L. Burnside proud. Then the duo covered Johnny Cash's "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" with a dusty sincerity and bluegrass breakdown at the bridge that put Kid Rock to shame.
The next hour or so is a blur. The McKenzies gave another packed room a prime sugar rush at Dean's. Noise stopped by the band VIP party at the Rice Lofts long enough to download some pictures and schmooze a bit with Born Liars — who managed to get through their ragged, Replacements-like set at Isis earlier without breaking anything — and various Trenchtown Texans, Tontons and Umbrella Men. We even chatted a bit with Rusted Shut's Don Walsh, who had to rush off because his girlfriend drove off before he could finish unloading his equipment, and Notsuoh's Jim Pirtle, who didn't let his venue's exclusion from the showcase stop him from putting on a show — he just took the placard from last year and crossed off the names. Showcase Sunday is contagious like that.
At Flying Saucer, jazz diva Kristine Mills sang a tortured pop ballad that was closer to Prince than Ella Fitzgerald. Cerebero-rockers Peekaboo Theory, frontman Jamescayn's face done up like one of the Road Warriors, held a packed Bronze Peacock Room rapt with a set that was both menacing and hypnotic. It took the entire walk from House of Blues to Bayou Place for Noise to shake the heebie jeebies. (That is the technical term, by the way.)
And so the 2009 HPMA showcase wound to a close where it began. At the Hard Rock Cafe, the dance floor was empty but the crowd not disinterested for young modern-rockers Versecity. At some point Noise glanced up, noticed Dimebag Darrell's guitar and wondered what the late Pantera and Damageplan guitar hero would think of this wholesome band who pretty obviously grew up on a whole lotta Creed and Blue October. It smelled like hamburgers, not pot smoke, while Versecity was playing, which made a certain kind of sense.
Noise had just enough time to climb the stairs into Röcbar again for Spain Colored Orange, and... damn. The room was full, the sound was perfect and the audience was as giddy as the band — we hadn't seen heavy psychedelic pop done like this since a decade ago, in the heyday of Austin near-misses Sixteen Deluxe. But they didn't stop there, plowing ahead through a field of metal, jazz, soul, blues and, thanks to Eric Jackson's taunting trumpet, downright Dixieland. It was rapturous and indubitably Houston, and Noise slinked off to the afterparty next door at Mosaic with a grin eight miles high and six feet deep.
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There were plenty of other moments Noise heard about secondhand we would have liked to see if only we had the time — B L A C K I E's one-man mosh pit at Dean's, the Tontons' continuing ascent to the top of Houston's indie-rock heap, practically the entire H-pop scene sitting in with Buxton, and Los Skarnales absolutely destroying a packed house in House of Blues' main room.
Luckily, none of Sunday's performers are hurting for gigs around town these days, so every weekend until next year's showcase — hell, every night, almost — gives us, and you, a chance to turn back the clock.
The Houston Press Music Awards ceremony opens to the public at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 30, at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel, 713-225-5483 or www.warehouselive.com. Tickets, available free at Momentum Audi (2405 Richmond), required for entry.