Events like the Houston Press Music Awards showcase make Racket want to cast aside all his Brave New World fears and leap onto the stump for human cloning. What better way to cover this event? On Monday, all the Rackets could meet up and cobble together the ultimate story. One could even stay home and baby-sit Racket Junior.

At any rate, we (meaning the Press, and not my army of clones) got to what we got to, and that was plenty good. The highlights follow…

We know, we know, we are so remiss in not having seen Jug O' Lightnin' until now, but hey, that Rudyard's gig is a tough one to make for those who like to start the week with a clear head. In the wee hours of Monday morn, Racket isn't in the mood for too many jugs of anything with the kind of crackle and pop that this high-voltage trio zaps about.

Also, in supreme condescension to the mostly played-out blues-rock trio format, Racket little imagined that three guys right here in town could stay so rooted in the past and yet reach such stunning heights of originality. At their Harlon's Bayou Blues gig on Sunday, July 15, there was even more electricity in the room than usual as three coltish twentysomething lasses, clad in short shorts and skimpy tank tops danced a little, shall we say, suggestively, directly in front of the stage. The men in attendance shifted their weight from one foot to the other and, if they had dates, tried to look anywhere but toward the stage. The women in attendance muttered to each other and their significant others about the brazenness of the scantily clad hussies. Racket stood near women muttering disapprovals in Spanish, English and Vietnamese. That one of them happened to be Mrs. Racket was, of course, of vital import.

Not that the Jug boys were disapproving. They were all smiles as they ripped through a medley of "Steel Guitar Rag," "Walking Blues" and "Another Man Done Gone" before tearing into their own "Harris County Jail." That Aaron Loesch can wring a million dollars' worth of music out of his $6 guitars simply boggles the mind, as do "Mopar" Mike's electric washtub bass and Chris King's mastery of the dying art of simultaneous drumming and cigarette-smoking. This is the finest and most original blues-based group to come out of the Bayou City since ZZ Top.

Next up was Irie Time, and after grooving to a few tunes of its soca-calypso-reggae fusion, Racket tracked over to No tsu oH to catch K-Otix replacement Southern Lights. Odd as that venue is, Southern Lights is still odder. On stage were T$ (pronounced Tee-Money) in a $3 dashiki and an even cheaper sombrero perched atop his hirsute visage; Rapsputin in a gay pride rainbow-patterned dress (which he would lift between songs to reveal the set list, written on his dingy Fruit of the Looms); and MC MXCIX and Cap'n Krunk in matching white lab coats with patches over their breast pockets reading "Specimen Processing." They took an irreverent trip through Houston's music history, lampooning targets as diverse as DJ Screw (with a codeine-drenched "Yule OG," off their as-yet-unreleased Christmas album) and Kenny Rogers. Also starring was Rapsputin's son, Kaya Firefly, all of five years old, who astonished the crowd by mooning us alongside his significantly hairier daddy.

All of them were or are employees at Cactus Music and Video; Cactus manager Quinn Bishop was succinct when he said, "In my eight years at Cactus, these are definitely the weirdest guys I've ever had work for me, and they're all in the same band."

Elsewhere at the shindig, Racket's spies report that Fatal Flying Guilloteens announced, "Hello Houston, we are Pure Rubbish," to begin a truncated set at the Aerial Theater that ended with flailing, beer-flying contretemps between a stagehand and FFG front man Shawn Guilloteen. Shawn G. was led off in cuffs by security but was not taken to jail. Sugar Shack was said by Press contributor Bob Ruggiero to have put on the finest set of the whole BAR Houston showcase. As reported elsewhere, Japanic vocalist Tex Kerschen dangled from the rafters at Cabo for a few stanzas. Then there were those roving Southern Comfort girls, who looked straight out of Tom Jones

Racket has a dream, and that dream is that one day this event will surpass South by Southwest, if not in duration, then at least in bang for the buck and in fun. The talent is there, and what's more, there is none of the nose-in-the-air 'tude that you get in the Live Music Capital of South Central Texas. And finally, all of ours is homegrown talent.

So, to paraphrase Juan Antonio Samaranch, this was the best Houston Press Music Awards showcase ever, and next year Racket hopes to say the same.

Scuttlebutt Caboose

The release of pianist Dave Catney's CD Window of Light, a compilation of his late-'80s material, will be celebrated at Scott Gertner's Skybar on Thursday, July 26. Many of Houston's jazz luminaries will be on hand to memorialize the jazzman who died of AIDS in 1994 at the age of 33. The party gets under way at 6 p.m. with all proceeds earmarked for charity…Puff Daddy is dead, long live P. Diddy. That's what Sean Combs is going by these days. The once-hot producer, in town recently for a press conference at Soundwaves on Main, should check his head. P. Diddy?…Mojamz Records officially joined the ranks of local labels with the first release from its flagship artist, hip-hopper Brizite. The CD, titled Hard Hats and Steel Toes, dropped on Sunday, July 15…Those of you who missed Eric Taylor at the Music Awards showcase, take heart: He will appear Thursday, July 26, at the Mucky Duck. Taylor wants to inform folks that, contrary to rumor, he did not cancel his awards showcase appearance at the Red Cat. Rather, the Press committed a booking snafu, and for that we apologize…Westsiders in search of jazz close to home will delight in the news that Shrimp's Bar & Grill (2211-A Fry Road) will open on Friday, August 3, with The Matrix Millennium Band (featuring Melvin Dismuke on trumpet). Shrimp's is owned by Rolando Lopez of Rolando's Burger Factory fame. For more info, call 281-579-0804 or 832-247-9455…San Diego's angelic Goody Two-shoes rockers Soulcracker, of Bands on the Run fame, alight at the Satellite Lounge on Wednesday, August 8…Two tragic drug cases have recently made headlines nationally. Carlene Carter, the ravishingly beautiful and extremely talented alt-country star of the late '80s and early '90s, was busted recently with boyfriend and Tom Petty bassist Howie Epstein in New Mexico with three grams of black tar heroin in a stolen Jeep Cherokee. Her mug shot pictured a withered woman scarcely recognizable as female, much less a beauty. Racket wondered where she had been, and apparently it was up to no good. Much the same can be said for devastatingly caustic jazz poet and social critic Gil Scott-Heron, popped recently in Manhattan for crack possession. Scott-Heron's ex-girlfriend claims he had been spending as much as $2,000 a week on cocaine. Scott-Heron was spared a possible seven-year prison stretch, and is now facing 12 to 24 months of inpatient treatment on completion of his European tour. Perhaps the best thing for Scott-Heron would be to take a page out of Texas bluesman U.P. Wilson's book. Wilson served time in Texas after two crack busts and then moved to Paris, where, with the love of a good woman, he has managed to keep off the white shit ever since.


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