Campfire Soul has twice represented Houston at the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
Campfire Soul has twice represented Houston at the annual International Blues Challenge in Memphis.
Photo courtesy of Campfire Soul

Houston's 10 Best Acts Under 21 Years Old

On his 1984 LP Reckless, Bryan, not Ryan, Adams set down these words on tape. In 2017, these ten acts from across the Houston area have taken them to heart.

Turned on the radio
Sounded like a disco
Must've turned the dial for a couple of miles
But I couldn't find no rock 'n roll
This computerized crap ain't gettin' me off
Everywhere I go the kids wanna rock

Astragal routinely draws crowds of 100-150 people to see them on a weeknight.
Astragal routinely draws crowds of 100-150 people to see them on a weeknight.
Photo courtesy of Astragal

ASTRAGAL
One member of Astragal is over 21, but the other two aren’t and all three play like a band wiser than their years. Their live sets are littered with intense energy, and while their 2016 debut EP, Astragal, was worth getting into, it’s their latest drop with Miss Champagne Records that really took me aback. A three-song split release with Houston’s Donna Hayward, the Astragal side of Split recalls bands like Yo La Tengo and Built to Spill, the jangly influence of Pavement yoked to the reverb-soaked guitars of The Cure. Couple that with the fact that Astragal can draw 100-150 kids to see them on a Thursday and you have one of the best new bands to come out of Houston. DAVID GARRICK

CAMPFIRE SOUL
Jake and Elwood once kidded the only place new generations would be able to hear blues music would be from archives of the local library. Thankfully, new talent like Campfire Soul is taking on the mantle to keep the genre alive and kicking. A family band centered around the Kimberly sisters, Sarah (vocals/keys) and Reagan (drums), Campfire Soul is no novelty act. Along with bandmate Daniel Holder and help from talented young friends like guitar gunslinger Zach Person, they're routinely in the running to represent Houston at the annual International Blues Challenge, which they've done twice now. The band is a former Houston Press Music Awards nominee for Best New Act and Best Blues Act, and they're busy. This month, you can catch them at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, Last Concert Cafe and Green Oaks Tavern. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

The Contagious opened for ZZ Top at Sugar Land's Smart Financial Centre last month.
The Contagious opened for ZZ Top at Sugar Land's Smart Financial Centre last month.
Photo by Jesse Sendejas Jr.

THE CONTAGIOUS
Last month, this Montgomery-based teen rock trio opened for another local rock three some, Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ZZ Top. In what must have seemed like the proverbial passing of the torch, The Contagious did its best to live up to the moment. It helps that all three members are solid musicians who have literally spent most of their lives practicing for moments like that one. Cayden Diebold (bass), Jake Douglas (drums) and Mac Johnson (guitar/vocals) skew towards '90s alt-rock and pop punk, rather than arena rock classics. But whatever they're playing, they do it with precision and an animated stage presence that'll infect you. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Crawler's self-titled release is full of loss, self-hate, and acute severity.
Crawler's self-titled release is full of loss, self-hate, and acute severity.
Photo by Josh Robicheaux/Courtesy of Crawler

CRAWLER
Crawler is dark post-punk mixed with punk, like if Protomartyr turned things up a notch and felt more isolated. Their self-titled release is full of loss, self-hate, and acute severity; their live shows are a trip, to say the least. If punk is meant to speak to the masses, then the typical teenage themes you’re hearing today have totally missed the mark; the kids I see at Crawler shows probably feel more alone in the world than the music industry wants to allow them to. Bands like this speak louder to discontented youth than anything you’ll find on a streaming site, and Crawler’s existence is more than enough reason to check them out in a world where punk is typically used to sell you Gatorade. DAVID GARRICK

Tyler Henderson and his family relocated to Houston from New York so the promising young jazz pianist could attend HSPVA.
Tyler Henderson and his family relocated to Houston from New York so the promising young jazz pianist could attend HSPVA.
Photo courtesy of Nevin Henderson

TYLER HENDERSON
We're always interested in knowing jazz has new, young talent replenishing its ranks. A trusted source, Alisha Pattillo, hipped us to Tyler Henderson. The pianist and his family relocated to Houston from New York so he could attend HSPVA's acclaimed music program, where he's been a standout. Henderson has wasted no time teaming with notable musicians off campus — players like drummer Gavin Moolchan, another stellar young talent (who is over 21), Ermelinda Cuellar and Anthony Caceres. You just missed the 15-year-old doing his thing if you weren't at Khon's last night (sorry), but check out his skills on YouTube and be looking for him at gigs around town. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Legendary Houston punk rockers MyDolls have taken Lazer Kittenz under their wing.
Legendary Houston punk rockers MyDolls have taken Lazer Kittenz under their wing.
Photo by Dawn Callaway/Courtesy of Lazer Kittenz

LAZER KITTENZ
Lazer Kittenz is the duo of Rocket and Eliot, who come straight out of Girls Rock Camp. While they don’t have music out just yet, and aren’t playing the big venues, they also can’t have even reached their teens yet. That being said, their set at this year’s Poison Girl anniversary show was pretty impressive, and they’ve already played with Houston punk legends MyDolls. Keep an eye out for these two, if not only because of the fact that they could easily run this town one day based on the fact that they’ve gotten their start at such a young age. DAVID GARRICK

The pride of School of Rock Clear Lake, Paperwolf triumphed in the 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Rockstar Competition.
The pride of School of Rock Clear Lake, Paperwolf triumphed in the 2017 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Rockstar Competition.
Photo by Trish Badger/Courtesy of Paperwolf

PAPERWOLF
You may not know that the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has a Rockstar Competition, but the 2017 winners were a band called Paperwolf. The four-piece makes a pretty intriguing blend of indie rock by mixing in some proggy and almost jazz-like structures. The most interesting thing, however, is their ages. None of them are older than 16, including singer Taylor Leigh, though you wouldn’t know that by her vocal strengths. All four attend the School of Rock in Clear Lake, and Paperwolf has played festivals, House of Blues, Rockefellers and more. Their song “Falling Down” suggests what’s to come, but Paperwolf’s energetic live shows are already worth checking out. DAVID GARRICK

The house band at School of Rock's Katy location is proficient in a half-century of classic-rock tunes.
The house band at School of Rock's Katy location is proficient in a half-century of classic-rock tunes.
Photo courtesy of School of Rock Houston

SCHOOL OF ROCK KATY HOUSE BAND
Conceived as a vehicle to promote the performance-based music education program, the School of Rock's House Band is more than a fun way to hear rock staples from the young'uns. The performers go through a sometimes nerve-wracking audition process but once selected, work with the school's instructors to not only hone their musical prowess, but to also become more savvy at playing live shows. It's exciting to know that hard work is going to pay off in local music venues as these kids grow their own bands. As a fly on the wall at recent house-band auditions for the school's Katy location, I was blown away by these skilled middle- and high-schoolers, who gamely took on everything from Zeppelin's "Fool In the Rain" to Paramore's "Misery Business," which is weirdly classic rock to these young musicians. Every one of them shone, making it tough on the audition judges. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Many Substance shows feature Derek Rathbun rolling around on the floor longer than singing onstage.
Many Substance shows feature Derek Rathbun rolling around on the floor longer than singing onstage.
Photo by Josh Robicheaux/Courtesy of Substance

SUBSTANCE
Substance is like getting hit in the face with an intense and ferocious scrawl of sound. At moments on their latest release, a six-song 7-inch called The Fight For Identity, it sounds like the vocals, the guitar, and the bass are all coming from the same amplifier. However, that works for these guys, who have been featured in Noisey and whose live shows feature Derek Rathbun rolling around on the floor longer than singing onstage. But that’s the charm here. Rathbun comes off like a seasoned pro and will lead the Substance on another tour this Fall, typically house shows where the bulk of the attendees don’t have a Spotify login. DAVID GARRICK

Thrill's Escalante (L) and Smith are heavily influenced by their music-rich environment.
Thrill's Escalante (L) and Smith are heavily influenced by their music-rich environment.
Photo courtesy of Thrill

THRILL
Behaviorists get a big boost to their nurture over nature argument in the teen rock trio Thrill. The group is comprised of at least two members who have grown up around Mid-Main music standbys. Guitarist and vocalist Jake Smith is the son of John "Goodtime" Smith, who oversees musical goings-on at Continental Club. Drummer/vocalist Evan Escalante is the son of Tomas Escalante, owner of Sig's Lagoon and rad Xanadude. Currently joined by bassist Eric Vuong, Thrill has played dozens of gigs since forming in 2013. The trio pays homage to acts they've seen from  their vantage point — they worked a sizzling live rendition of The Sonics "Have Love Will Travel" into their set after seeing the legendary garage-rockers live. They do an ace cover of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer" too, but aren't content to just rehash tunes by their influences. Thrill's debut album, 2016's Drinking From the Primordial Soup, largely consists of original songs. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

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