Ten Years After the 1997 Houston Press Music Awards

With all the coverage of what's going on right now elsewhere in these pages, we thought it would be fun to look back at the Press Music Awards of ten years ago and find out what has happened to some of the winners and nominees since then.

Back then, the showcase was still held at Shepherd Plaza, then the city's trendy hot spot, and in nearby bars such as Instant Karma. And talk about an ephemeral city: Ten years later, not a single one of the venues, which also included 8.0, Voodoo Lounge, the Rhino Room, Metroplex, Q Café and the Big Horn Saloon, remains.

The year 1997 was a watershed. Music Editor Hobart Rowland expanded the nominating committee to better serve the city's musical youth. (Many of the bands with a big following among minors performed at a purpose-built outdoor stage.) And the kids acted like kids; the night culminated with then-bright-eyed, bushy-tailed 30footFALL leading a crowd of teens in a defiant chant of "Fuck!" much, according to Rowland, "to the chagrin of the police officers monitoring the area."


Houston Press Music Awards

When the dust had settled and the votes were tallied, Middlefinger and I End Result had their first wins. Elsewhere, it was business as usual, with the likes of Carolyn Wonderland, Jesse Dayton, Paul English and Norma Zenteno maintaining their strangleholds on their respective categories.

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Who They Were Then: Aftershock, a "metal-edged hip-hop" combo that combined "rap's street-level credibility" with "heavy metal's grind-it-out aesthetic" for a result that "rocks hard and grooves serious." Members had been in the similar previous outfit Planet Shock.

Where They Are Now: Still in town, still on MySpace (www.myspace.com/ aftershockhouston), and still playing shows at Fitz's after their reunion this year. In fact, they play one there this very Saturday. If you're one of those people who thought rap-rock is either dead or was stillborn to begin with, you owe it to yourself (and the genre) to check them out.

Who They Were Then: Alice's Tin Pony, "a smart, arty, serious folk pop band that isn't afraid to wax soft and sensitive in a city full of young bands that would rather rock loud and silly."

Where They Are Now: Lead singer Alana Waters left a job at Enron in 1998 and moved to Chicago, where she now works as a graphic designer and photographer. She's still making music too; her sound has grown more electronic of late.

Who They Were Then: Ralf Armin, best bassist nominee for his work in the band Truth Decay, whose "uncompromisingly heavy" sound is featured on "countless compilations."

Where They Are Now: Still in town, and still playing bass, DJing and terrifying 23-year-old girls in indie rock bars.

Who They Were Then: Mary Cutrufello, "a black woman making country music in Texas" and "Ivy Leaguer from Connecticut."

Where They Are Now: After winning and losing a major label deal, Cutrufello relocated to Minneapolis, where she suffered from nodes on her vocal chords. After touring Europe as a sidewoman for Tish Hinojosa a couple of years ago, Cutrufello refound her voice and moved back to Texas this year. Austin, that is.

Who They Were Then: Jesse Dayton, an "ever more entertaining and seasoned performer" who was then "steadily developing a more perceptive, sensitive side to his Baytown bravado." His Hey Nashvegas was said to be coming out later that summer.

Where They Are Now: Hey Nashvegas would fall prey to the implosion of Justice Records and languish another four years. Dayton moved to Austin, where he learned to augment that bravado — surely the writer meant "Beaumont" instead of Baytown — with yet another facet to his personality. This would be the deranged, depraved side he showcased with his alter ego band Banjo & Sullivan with honky-tonk classics like "I'm at Home Gettin' Hammered (While She's Out Gettin' Nailed)" on the sound track to the Rob Zombie white-trash gorefest The Devil's Rejects.

Who They Were Then: "Houston's once-powerful beasts of thrash," dead horse, who eschewed "the industry's hype machine in favor of meat and potatoes touring," to their detriment.

Where They Are Now: The band had already broken up by the time the 1997 awards rolled around. Singer-guitarist Michael Haaga would go on to perform in Superjoint Ritual and front the Demonseeds. His later eponymous solo project The Plus and Minus Show would dominate our awards in 2005. As of this writing, the volcano that is Mount Haaga is dormant, but not extinct.

Who They Were Then: Horseshoe, one of 1997's most oft-nominated bands. Their "promising debut" King of the World's blend of Syd Barrett and Hank Williams served as "little more than a launching point for an even weirder set of excursions into the bowels of lead singer/songwriter Greg Wood's record collection." (A most disquieting image, especially right up to the last two words.) "Bigger and better things" were predicted for the band, if only they could "keep their own saddle on straight."  

Where They Are Now: A few years later, the saddle fell right off amid fiendish partying and Wood's attendant health woes. Wood is now in retail, while guitarist Scott Daniels fronts his own band here and plays with Carolyn Wonderland in Austin. King of the World still stands as a weird set of excursions into the bowels of well, never mind.

Who They Were Then: Misnominated in the "Best Funk/R&B" category, the Keenlies' Brad Moore described his "goofy groove ephemera" band as more like "Emerson, Lake and Palmer — albeit with worse vocals and shorter songs." Despite "a dearth of new material," the Keenlies were still drawing "respectable crowds," all the while "practicing more and playing less." Despite claiming to be getting more serious, Moore went to great pains to retain his band's cred as "foolish scoundrels and bar clutter."

Where They Are Now: Moore remains as foolish a scoundrel as ever, tending (if not cluttering) bar at Rudyard's and at his own new venture, the Pearl Bar, where Mary Jane's once reigned.

Who They Were Then: Project Grimm, a "Zeppelified garage rock" outfit with a "drearily arresting debut CD" whose sounds constituted an "uplifting bummer."

Where They Are Now: Singer-guitarist John Cramer would release a couple more slabs of heartening tragedy before going solo and semiretiring a couple years back. His scathing criticisms of just about any band you care to mention can also be infrequently found in these pages.

Who They Were Then: Linus Pauling Quartet, a mélange of "jazz, rap, hard-core punk, bad college radio and classics from the '60s and '70s."

Where They Are Now: One of the only bands from these awards that both still exists and is still in town, they are also one of the only bands that made drastic progress from that description. Since then, the band has managed to fuse all those influences into one cohesive whole that can remind of you of everything from Black Sabbath to Mission of Burma. The band is a hidden Houston treasure.

Who They Were Then: Lima Sugar, a "groovish, appealing indie pop" band fronted by Liz Sowers, "the most appealing female voice to emerge from the Houston scene" in 1997.

Where They Are Now: The band broke up in 2001. You can relive the memories at myspace.com/limasugar.

Who They Were Then: Seeds of Soul, a hip-hop group sporting funky-fresh "late-'80s style grooves." The band's deal with an Austin label had just fallen through when the label croaked.

Where They Are Now: The Seeds' MC Kwame Anderson and DJ Space Ghost went on to form Freedom Sold. Today, Anderson holds down a music writing gig at Free Press Houston.

Who They Were Then: Rusted Shut, an uncategorizable band that never practiced up to then and had no intentions of ever doing so. They were referred to as "one of those bands you either love or hate." "Most people hate 'em," the writer went on, "but Inner Loop musicians seem to love 'em."

Where They Are Now: Still, as one Willie D album title put it, "hated by many and loved by a few," Rusted Shut never did start practicing. And now they rarely if ever play, as the band's antics have gotten them banished from every bar between Almeda and Highway 6.

Who They Were Then: Linoleum Experiment, fronted by Thane Matcek, a guy who has been in billions of projects and bands over the years, including (but probably not limited to) Celindine, Sad Like Crazy, Trompedo, All Transistor and Thane Matcek and His Band. This one was described as a "full-fledged indie pop band with tons of promise," enhanced by Matcek's "fresh, emotionally direct" singing and appreciation of "a pretty hook."

Where They Are Now: Matcek and his collaborators have always been among the more enigmatic acts in town, equally capable of dross and splendor. Ten years on, Matcek remains full of promise. You can hear some of his more recent stuff at www.purevolume.com/thanematcekandhisband.

Who They Were Then: Little Joe Washington, whose "smokin' blues guitar" was then gracing the stage at Blue Iguana (now the Proletariat) every Thursday night. One of Houston's "most peculiar treasures," Washington, whose playing was described as being as "unrefined and engaging as he is," was also "famous for soloing ad infinitum with his tongue."

Where They Are Now: After surviving a vicious beating earlier this year, Washington is still roving, tonguing and dry-humping wherever his trusty pint-sized Schwinn will take him — Leon's, the Continental Club, Boondocks and further afield. His status as a local treasure has only been enhanced in the last ten years by the deaths of virtually all of the bluesmen he grew up with in Third Ward.  

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