Showcase Showdown

Blues belter Carolyn Wonderland, shown here in 2004, was a ­showcase staple for many years before moving to Austin.
Daniel Kramer

2010 Houston Press Music Awards Showcase

2 p.m. Saturday, August 7, at the Drake, Kobain, Manor on Washington, Pearl Bar, Rebels Honky Tonk, Salt Bar, Sugarcane, Taps House of Beer, Walter's on Washington, Washington Avenue Drinkery, Washington Avenue Grill and the Bud Light Outdoor Stage (Washington & Silver St.). See for details.

Saturday, thousands of Houstonians will disperse among the above Washington Avenue venues for this year's Houston Press Music Awards Showcase. Get better acquainted with the more than 50 performing HPMA nominees, as well as a few special guests, in the pullout showcase supplement in the middle of this issue.

As bountiful, diverse and downright exotic as Houston's music scene has always been, it's also been marked by audiences that can be on the timid side, who would rather see a handful of favorites over and over again than sample anything new. It's a familiar trap, and hardly unique to Houston.

Upcoming Events

So, a few years after the Press began giving away music awards at a Grammy-like ceremony — this year's is Wednesday evening at Warehouse Live — we decided that putting as many nominees as we could on stages within reasonable proximity of each other might help give local music fans a taste of what they were missing, not to mention help them make up their minds at the ballot box. We hoped so, anyway.

"As too many of the ballots revealed, too few of Houston's music fans bother to listen to much beyond their favorite bands, and way too few people make any real effort to hear any unfamiliar styles of music," read the unattributed introduction to the feature story on 1995's winners. "Breaking through those barriers was part of the idea behind the Houston Press Music Awards Showcase."

Ever since, the showcase has piled metal on top of reggae on top of blues on top of folk on top of rap on top of rock, with frequent outbreaks of sheer insanity along the way. As we get ready to do it all over again Saturday, we combed through the Press's archives to relive a few of the more memorable moments.

As for this year, tune in to bright and early Monday morning to see what kind of strangeness goes down.

1995: The first multiple-venue showcase took place on the Richmond Strip. Naturally, it rained.

"Despite the predictable tropical deluges, some 3,000 people turned out for the opportunity to trek through eight clubs and listen to 45 bands," the Press wrote. "If not everyone moved around as much as they might have, at least they were in close enough proximity to something new that by osmosis alone they got a broader taste of what the city can offer musically."

1997: The showcase made it two years in a row at Shepherd Plaza, where the addition of an outdoor stage opened the event to the under-21 crowd and gave the sweltering afternoon a jolt of youthful energy.

"The naughty fun was in full swing by the dinner hour, when profanity-crazed punkers 30footFALL led the restless crowd in a defiant 'fuck' chant, much to the chagrin of the police officers monitoring the area," wrote Music Editor Hobart Rowland.

1999: Now downtown at Bayou Place, the showcase drew more than 4,000 people, including a gentleman who made a lasting impression on Music Editor Anthony Mariani: "One concertgoer confessed to me that in the two years he has been living in Houston, the thought of paying money to see a live local act never crossed his mind," he wrote. "Now, he said, he might not ever pay to see a touring act again."

2001: At his first showcase in the Music Editor's chair, John Nova Lomax's eyes bugged out at Notsuoh thanks to a bizarre rap group called Southern Lights — especially the dress-clad Rapsputin, who lifted his skirt to reveal the set list written on his tighty-whities.

"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," Lomax wrote.

Meanwhile, the fists and beer were flying at the Aerial Theatre as Fatal Flying Guilloteens front man Shawn Guilloteen brawled with a stagehand and was escorted out of the venue in handcuffs by security.

2002: More fun at the Aerial, as Lomax witnessed a wrestling match on the patio that turned into a tag-team bout with Bayou Place security. HPD gave the three-count, carting off the losers in a squad car.

"One of them, a hulking guy with longish blond hair, grinned at us and banged his head three times on the back window as the car rolled past," Lomax wrote. "And that was that for the 2002 Houston Press Music Awards Showcase."

2003: Peeved that Lomax opted not to cover his Down With the Scene festival the day before, Groceries singer/guitarist Matt Brownlie scrawled the music editor's first name on his bare abdomen and expressed his displeasure in song...sort of.

"He hopped on the bar, sprayed a bunch of beer around and hollered a bunch of unintelligible gibberish," Lomax wrote. "It was like being attacked by a very hip Pekingese."

2004: Lady D, UME, Chango Jackson, Clouseaux and Los Skarnales all impressed Lomax, but JW Americana — who weren't even scheduled to play — stole the afternoon upstairs at the Rice Hotel. Noting that the Rice is where JFK spent his last night alive, Lomax was musing on JW singer Rodney Elliot's resemblance to the policeman in the famous photo of Lee Harvey Oswald's capture. Then something else attracted his attention.

"As the band sang about hot dogs, I was subconsciously thinking of this when Elliott and JW Americana bass player Doug ­Kosmo went all Madonna-Britney on us, French-kissing right there on stage," he reported. "Jesse Jones probably went into convulsions in his grave."

2005: Hearing Michael Haaga's Plus and Minus show on the Verizon Wireless Theater's sound system was "quite a treat," and Lomax was literally almost floored by Linus Pauling Quartet singer Ramon Medina's repeated howls of "Satan!!! Satan!!! Satan!!!":

"If it wasn't the finest strictly musical moment of Sunday's Music Awards Showcase, it was certainly the strangest."

2007: Enter yours truly. We hadn't even been Assistant Music Editor for a month, and barely made it back from Austin with a carload of belongings in time for the showcase up and down Main Street. Luckily, it didn't take long for us to catch on.

"Walk into a club at the wrong time, or sometimes even the right one, and you either get ten minutes of sound check or a band's last song," we wrote. "You wind up seeing bands in venues not outfitted for regular live music: Sports bars, bistros, Irish pubs, Indian dance clubs — actually that's a new one — and the sound mix often suffers accordingly. And sometimes a showcase goes totally off the rails."

That was Insect Warfare, by the way, whose bowel-churning guttural noise assault at Slainte lasted all of five minutes before someone from either the bar or the Press pulled the plug. Accounts vary to this day.

2009: As our predecessors did almost every year, last year's showcase found us wishing we could be in several places at once, and found us most impressed by something we never planned on seeing at all. This time it was Ozeal & the Eulypians at Dean's Credit Clothing, where we arrived just in time to see the front man hop up on the amplifiers and send the already stoked packed house into a frenzy.

"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," we wrote. "It was an eye-popping introduction."

Sponsor Content


All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >