In the end, all you're left with is the numbers. Sifting through and counting up the nomination ballots for this year's Houston Press Music Awards, the raw material for the ballot you see below and may begin voting on in July, the bottom line is that somewhere around 3,400 people bothered to fill one out — many of them partially — at all. Out of a city of 5 million.
Doing the math, that's less than .01 percent of the population. Significantly less. If this were a scientific survey or Harris Poll, that infinitesimal number wouldn't even constitute a representative sample. Not even close, really.
Cue the familiar moaning and hand-wringing those of us in the local music scene know all too well, right? Nobody loves us (not even our neighbors), how can any local artists get to the next level if their own town won't support them, no wonder Dallas and Austin get all the good touring shows, etc., etc. You could look at it like that if you wanted to; those numbers are pretty small.
2009 Houston Press Music Awards
But not so fast. In a world increasingly measured in "hits," page views, market share and texted-in reality-show votes, numbers still aren't everything. Look at it this way: Those 3,400-something people are still enough to fill up every live-music venue in Houston except for the very biggest. More importantly, they're more than enough to fill up the rooms where this year's nominees most often ply their trade — the Continental, Mink, Walter's, Notsuoh, Rudyard's, Warehouse Live's studio, Mango's, Fitzgerald's and so forth — several times over.
And that's what really counts. The people who took the time to fill out a ballot are not only the musicians themselves, they're the ones going to shows, buying albums and merchandise, playing and requesting them on the radio and podcasts, blogging about them — in short, the ones who keep the scene alive. These nominations, and the awards that follow, are for them. Tourists welcome, but hardly necessary.
In compiling the nominees, Noise tried to honor the voters' wishes wherever possible. An executive decision was occasionally necessary, particularly when the nominations were obviously padded — in other words, when such-and-such band or artist was the only one appearing on that ballot. And no matter how hard we try, some people Just Don't Get It, so for a laugh he threw in one completely clueless response per category.
Noise has annotated a few of the following categories to help explain his reasoning, but for the most part they speak for themselves. Congratulations to all the nominees (and eventual winners), and regrets to those who didn't quite make it. It really is nothing personal.
It gives me great pleasure, then, to unveil this year's Houston Press Music Award nominees, the cream of the scene. Don't let the numbers fool you: It's a good one.
Best Local CD/LP
Nominees: B L A C K I E, Wilderness of North America; Bun B, UGK for Life; Hayes Carll, Trouble In Mind; Little Joe Washington, Texas Fire Line; Born Liars, Ragged Island; Young Mammals, Carrots
Notes: This category was the most fun to choose and most difficult to narrow down, and the one that makes me happiest I'm ineligible to vote. Hayes Carll's alt-country blockbuster and Bun B's heartfelt Pimp C valediction versus the venerable Little Joe, late-night garage creepers the Born Liars, B L A C K I E's fuzz-clouded thinkbomb and Young Mammals' lovable psych-pop? A toss-up if there ever was one.
Get a Clue: "Carrie Underwood," "Meet the Beatles," "Rush Live in Rio"
Best Local EP/7-inch
Nominees: Homopolice, "Assfucker"; McKenzies, McKenzies; News on the March, Glory Be!; Ozeal & the Eulypians, Joyful Struggle; Benjamin Wesley, Geschichte; Wild Moccasins, Microscopic Metronomes
Notes: The Homopolice's leather-clad S&M ravings crash a party where Benjamin Wesley speaks shadowy truths, the Eulypians' jazzy hip-hop has everybody dancing and the three-headed "H-pop" hydra grins from ear to ear. Another tough one.
Get a Clue: "my boyfriend"
Best Local Song
Nominees: American Fangs, "Le Kick"; Hayes Carll, "Bad Liver and a Broken Heart"; Mechanical Boy, "She Does"; Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers, "Between the Whiskey and the Wine"; Nosaprise feat. Kam, "Intervention"; The Last Place You Look, "Don't Make It So Easy"; Benjamin Wesley, "Have You Ever Died?"
Notes: Could have easily had twice this many nominees. An iPod shuffler's dream.
Get a Clue: "In Da Club"
Best New Act
Nominees: BOLT; Cavernous; Hollywood FLOSS; Muhamid Ali; Neon Collars; Pasadena Napalm Division
Notes: Maybe the category that best shows how fertile, regenerative and degenerate the present Houston scene really is. Good luck.
Get a Clue: "Blaggards"
Nominees: B L A C K I E, Hayes Carll, Nick Gaitan, Miss Leslie, Nosaprise, Benjamin Wesley
Get a Clue: "Producer"
Local Musician of the Year
Nominees: Beau Beasley; B L A C K I E; Hayes Carll; Kam; Kristine Mills; Little Joe Washington
Notes: A cross-section of Houston's best musicians — and busiest. Beasley and Kam are both in too many bands to count, Carll spent the entire year on tour, Mills released two albums and Little Joe, who only bounced back from near liver failure, should be here every year.
Get a Clue: The tool who wrote "noon" in every category
Nominees: Anthony Cruz Jr., Metavenge; Kelly Doyle, Three Fantastic; Adam Martinez, Tontons; Michael Regino, Mechanical Boy; The Mighty Orq; Little Joe Washington
Get a Clue: "Neil Young"
Nominees: Chris Applegate, Mechanical Boy; Beau Beasley, Homopolice; Nick Gaitan, The Octanes/Umbrella Man; Jack Schulz, Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys; Westside Johnny, The Mighty Orq; Rozzano Zamorano, Fondue Monks/Yoko Mono/Rozz Zamorano Group
Get a Clue: "Bill Murray"
Nominees: Nick Cooper, Free Radicals; Pat Kelly, Los Skarnales; Andy Moths, The Last Place You Look; Doug Payne, Plump; Kevin Tate, dUNETX
Get a Clue: "Toto"
Nominees: Gilbert Alfaro, Spain Colored Orange; Zahira Gutierrez, Wild Moccasins; Mlee Marie, Hearts of Animals; Ryan Scroggins, Ryan Scroggins & the Trenchtown Texans; Jade Simmons; Pamela York
Get a Clue: "Piano"
Best Miscellaneous Instrument
Nominees: B L A C K I E (PA); Chris Buckley, Blaggards (violin); Eric Jackson, Spain Colored Orange (trumpet); Jason Jackson, Plump (saxophone); Geoffrey Muller, Sideshow Tramps (saw); Robert Rodriguez, Umbrella Man/Los Pistoleros de Tejas (accordion)
Notes: We'd take out a second mortgage to see these six people, with those instruments, get onstage somewhere and jam.
Get a Clue: "Bob Dylan"
Best Male Vocals
Nominees: Tim Anderson, Mechanical Boy; Cornbreadd, Tha Fucking Transmissions; Anthony Cruz Jr., Metavenge; Sergio Trevino, Buxton; Justin Nava, The Last Place You Look; Cody Swann, Wild Moccasins
Get a Clue: "Kristine Mills"
Best Female Vocals
Nominees: Elaine Greer; Zahira Gutierrez,Wild Moccasins; Kam; Leela James; Kristine Mills; Asli Omar, Tontons
Notes: Do the ladies run this motherfucker? Damn right they do. Nearly impossible.
Get a Clue: "Adam Hill, Los Skarnales"
Nominees: Blaggards; The Favorites; Mechanical Boy; The Last Place You Look; Peekaboo Theory; Versecity
Notes: Eliminating Alt-Rock this year didn't eliminate the fact that Houston audiences like their rock heavy. And hard.
Get a Clue: "Ozzie Osbourne"
Nominees: Texas Johnny Brown; The Mighty Orq; The Snakecharmers; Runaway Sun; Little Joe Washington
Notes: Not nearly as heavily voted as Noise expected. Is Houston losing steam as a blues town?
Get a Clue: "dunno"
Nominees: Asida Soul; Caretta Bell; Dominique; Leela James; Kam; Neon Collars
Notes: On the other hand, Houston is enjoying a bumper crop of funky divas right now. Good stuff.
Get a Clue: "Mary J. Blidge"
Nominees: Brian Jack & the Zydeco Gamblers; J. Paul Jr. & the Zydeco Nubreeds; Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws; Zydeco Dots
Notes: The least-voted category, by far. It pains Noise to think this venerable — and indigenous to Houston — genre may have to be retired next year, but maybe that's for the best. Clifton Chenier (who got one vote) is turning over in his grave.
Get a Clue: "any"
Nominees: D.R.U.M.; DubTex; Heptic Skeptic; Idiginis; Ryan Scroggins & the Trenchtown Texans; Space City Gamelan
Notes: One lone vote for Space City Gamelan's Indonesian exotica kept this from turning into "Best Reggae."
Get a Clue: "Stevie Nicks"
Nominees: Drop Trio; Free Radicals; Kristine Mills; Pamela York; Rozz Zamorano Group
Notes: A healthy bunch. Jazz in all its many forms and flavors.
Get a Clue: "Kenny G," "Maroon 5"
Nominees: Ceeplus Bad Knives; DJ Sun; Grrrl Parts; Squincy Jones & Dayta; Dave Wrangler
Get a Clue: "Trance"
Nominees: Dirty Honey (Boondocks); Gritsy (various); Noise Thursday (Escobar); Speakerboxx (The Mink); Texas Dub (Avant Garden); Underworld (Numbers)
Notes: The very first ballot Noise looked at nominated "Friday." He's still laughing.
Get a Clue: "None"
Nominees: Golden Axe; Metavenge; Melovine; Pasadena Napalm Division; Whorehound; World's Most Dangerous
Notes: From Golden Axe's hammer-of-the-gods theatrics to Metavenge's Kill-'Em-All thrash and World's Most Dangerous's Southern roar, Houston's metal scene is thriving.
Get a Clue: "KISS"
Nominees: Born Liars; Dead Roses; Flamin' Hellcats; NO TALK; Skeleton Dick; Something Fierce
Notes: Great year for punk, and a tough category to narrow down. Keep it coming.
Get a Clue: "is cool"
Nominees: A Dream Asleep; Battle Rifle; Black Leather Jesus; Cop Warmth; Future Blondes; Homopolice
Notes: Fun fun fun till daddy takes the earplugs away.
Get a Clue: "KTRU"
Nominees: Balaclavas; McKenzies; Spain Colored Orange; Tontons; Wild Moccasins; Young Mammals
Notes: Veterans Spain Colored Orange hold fast against a high tide of utterly charming, thoroughly unique young bands.
Get a Clue: "NONE"
Nominees: Caddywhompus; Female Demand; Inner Lights; Motion Turns It On; Jade Simmons & Robert Reynolds (Room 101); Two Star Symphony
Get a Clue: "My dog Heiki plays squeaker toys"
Nominees: Bun B/UGK; Devin the Dude; Scarface; Slim Thug; Paul Wall; Z-Ro
Notes: 'Nuff said.
Get a Clue: "EMIEMN"
Nominees: B L A C K I E; Fat Tony; H.I.S.D.; Hollywood FLOSS; Nosaprise; Ozeal & the Eulypians
Notes: See Metal. A pleasure — and nightmare — to curate.
Get a Clue: "noon" again
Nominees: Mango Punch; Moodafaruka; Los Pistoleros de Tejas; Norma Zenteno
Get a Clue: "Gloria Estephan"
Nominees: Chango Man; Espantapajaros; Los Skarnales; Karina Nistal; Yoko Mono
Notes: Significantly better voted than its Traditional counterpart.
Get a Clue: "Bebel Gilberto"
Nominees: Allen Oldies Band; Bare Necessity; Black Dog; Beetle; Cold Shot; Picture Book
Notes: Houston loves its cover/tribute bands, and it shows. One of the most-voted genre categories.
Get a Clue: "REO Speed Wagon"
Nominees: Johnny Falstaff; Miss Leslie & Her Juke-Jointers; Mitch Jacobs Band; Sean Reefer & the Resin Valley Boys; Katie Stuckey; Dixie Trahan
Notes: Honky-tonk ain't dead yet, y'all.
Get a Clue: "Dolly Pardon," "more cowbell"
Nominees: Lee Alexander; Glenna Bell; Come See My Dead Person; Robert Ellis; Flying Fish Sailors
Get a Clue: "That folk dude"
Nominees: Buxton; Hayes Carll; LL Cooper; Sideshow Tramps; Small Sounds; Umbrella Man
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Notes: Tooth and nail.
Get a Clue: "Houston Symphony" CHRIS GRAY
Ballot subject to change. Voting for the Houston Press Music Awards begins with our July 2 issue and continues through the Music Awards showcase July 26. Winners will be announced July 30 at Warehouse Live.