Washington Wave

Washington & Silver Street

Zydeco Dots (3 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Zydeco
If you are a zydeco fan in Houston, you already know about the Zydeco Dots. Since 1987, they have ruled the small but fervently followed genre in town, winning an absolutely embarrassing number of awards with their combination of Creole rhythms and lively onstage antics. Now that Weird Al has come and gone, only one accordion is king in the Bayou City. Make sure you pick up their latest album, Never Walked Away. Jef With One F

Runaway Sun (4 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Blues
The past year has been a heady one for Runaway Sun and lead singer Andrew Karnavas. The band released a new LP, The Bridge, last fall to citywide acclaim and played some dates on the East Coast, including an in-store gig at a Best Buy in Manhattan. Meanwhile, Karnavas turned in the solo set Film Noir in April, with help from Geoffrey Muller and Nick Gaitan. The band is now tweaking new material before beginning demo work on a second disc, possibly coming this winter. Craig Hlavaty

Sideshow Tramps (5 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Roots-Rock/Americana, Best Miscellaneous Instrument (Geoffrey Muller, musical saw/banjo)
We could tell you that the Sideshow Tramps sound like what might have happened if The Band had waltzed away from Winterland in '76, made a brief pit stop in NoLa to kidnap a handful of second-line musicians, then spent a few years hanging out on general-store porches deep in the Ozarks before banding up with a bunch of perpetually drunken gypsies on a musical quest for enlightenment. Unfortunately, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense until you actually hear it, but the Tramps want nothing more than to show you the light. Nicholas L. Hall

Trae Tha Truth (6 p.m.)
Nominated In: Special Guest
Over the past four years, Trae Tha Truth has been incredibly busy. Besides being awarded his own city-sanctioned day and battling one of the most powerful hip-hop radio stations in the South head-on, he released one classic album (Restless), one very good album (Life Goes On), several solid mixtapes (The Incredible Truth is the best) and has featured on countless other artists' tracks. Add his most recent successes — an MTV nomination for 2010 Breakout Artist; a recent Houston Press cover story — and it's clear to see his name has become the default answer in the "Which Houston Rapper Will Break Big Next?" debate. Shea Serrano

Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights (7:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Special Guest
On their album Pardon Me, Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights turn everything up to 11 over 11 new tracks. The Lights preach loud Southern rock with a vaguely metal crunge; just imagine AC/DC jamming with Skynyrd and you get the idea. (Or maybe even a more feral Black Crowes.) The album's title cut and "Young & Free" have a hip-swiveling, swaggering raunch to them, too. Craig Hlavaty

Matt & Kim (9 p.m.)
Nominated In: Special Guest
Hyper-indie duo Matt & Kim hail from Brooklyn, and are best known for 2009 hit single "Daylight," which you no doubt heard all last summer and fall. It's three minutes of pop-rock bliss and one of the catchiest singles of the past five years. Keyboardist Matt Johnson and ferocious drummer Kim Schifino have a reputation for a hellaciously energetic live show. One day before hitting Houston, the duo plays Lollapalooza in Chicago with the Black Keys, the Strokes and other heavyweights. Craig Hlavaty

1902 Washington

Ozeal (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Male Vocals, Best R&B/Funk/Soul, Best Bassist (Rob Frias), Best Drummer (Mike Duncan), Best Keyboards (Brandon Herron)
Ozeal first hit the Houston music scene in 2008, and immediately made a name for himself with an electrifying combination of weapons-grade funk, heavenly soul and an intelligently crafted flow, all girdled by a slick and dirty R&B undercurrent. He fortifies this already potent punch with rock muscle, pop sheen and a buzzy current of electronica. This willingness to treat his audiences (and his albums) like the lab of a sonic mad scientist has brought about a reputation as the most dynamic live act in the city, equal parts performance art and basement show. Nicholas L. Hall

Kristine Mills (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Local Musician of the Year, Best Female Vocals, Best Songwriter, Best Jazz
It's near impossible to pick apart Kristine Mills, the blond-haired, green-eyed jazz-­singing dynamo who went on a musical tear this past year, earning herself nominations for Best Jazz, Best Songwriter, Best Female Vocalist and Musician of the Year. Her voice is unimpeachable, and onstage she traipses back and forth between playful patter and unabashed allure. Her knack for crafting layered and meaningful lyrics has grown by bounds as well, coming to fruition on last year's Brazilian-laced album Bossanovafied. Shea Serrano

Robert Ellis & the Boys (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Country
Robert Ellis's songs tell his fans a lot about the singer-songwriter, most of which he himself says he would never talk about in conversation. Whether that's a marketing move or simply the truth, Ellis's music takes listeners on a journey into the psyche of a good ol' Southern boy who deals with day-to-day triumphs and tribulations just like the rest of us. Of course, since it's a shade of country, the lyrics are a bit more about tribulations than triumphs. But whether dark folk music or big classic country, all his music is relatable in a genuine way. Matthew Keever

Two Star Symphony (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Experimental/Instrumental
Two Star Symphony must be the only band on the planet to score an original ballet for Dominic Walsh and work with Ministry's Al Jourgenson. That kind of open-minded approach and punk attitude have led these intrepid players from original silent movie film scores for the Discovery Green series to the stage at the Continental Club. TSS is always finishing one commission just in time to accept the next exciting musical challenge, with performances that are always must-see events. They rock the classical. William Michael Smith

The Tontons (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: HPMA Alumni
The Tontons have had a pretty low-key 2010 so far. By our estimation, their last gig was helping close out Leon's Lounge in January before the Midtown bar shuttered for renovations. Last year brought the band's critically beloved first full-length album, The Tontons, as well as a neato promo clip featuring the band promoting tourism to Houston. Lead singer Asli Omar then took a break for school obligations in New York last fall, but has been back in Houston for a few weeks now. Thus, rumors of new songs and possibly some recording sessions have already started. Stay tuned... Craig Hlavaty

3720 Raymond St. (at Waugh)

2 Dollar Sound (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best R&B/Funk/Soul
2 Dollar Sound is the apotheosis of fusion between funk and...fusion, led by Moji's sultry vocals and backed with in-your-face drums and sax. Their 2009 release, Running Backwards, was an absolutely face-searing disc of groovitude, and they have rocketed up the Houston funk-scene ladder with a trail of thoroughly funked bodies behind them. It's all the improvisation of jazz with all the magic of the bedroom when 2 Dollar Sound hits the stage. Jef With One F

Preemo (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Latin Hip-Hop
Preemo is an enigmatic, velvet-voiced MC from Brownsville now living in Houston. He is both confident without being arrogant and clever without being condescending, but for whatever reasons, has never gotten the level of praise commensurate with his level of talent. With general widespread critical acclaim for his latest LP, Concrete Dreams, which showcases nearly every single one of his redeemable qualities as an MC, that appears to finally be coming to an end. It's about time. Shea Serrano

Coast (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Latin Hip-Hop
More than a few conversations have debated whether Coast, the buzzy-voiced performer behind one of 2009's best songs ("I Can't Complain"), is a rapper or a singer. He switches gears between the two with amazing proficiency, dabbling one minute in barn-burner lyricism and the next in gooey crooner angst. But it doesn't matter where you plug him in, so long as it's shoulder-to-shoulder with Houston's other premier musicians. Actually, that's it. He's not a rapper. He's not a singer. He's a musician. Shea Serrano

Espantapajaros (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Latin Contemporary
With Houston's long history as an exporter of musical talent, it's worth noting when things turn in the other direction. Take Argentinian import Pablo Espantapajaros, Houstonian since 2006. Singing in a mix of English and Spanish, the shaggy-haired alt-rocker has been churning out some of the city's best rock ever since. Espantapajaros's incendiary guitar draws shades of Neil Young, Hendrix and the Black Crowes, with an occasional burst of power-pop (think Richard Lloyd-assisted Matthew Sweet) that helps keep the psychedelic haze from getting overly thick. Nicholas L. Hall

Buxton (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Roots-Rock/Americana
Free Press Houston has called Buxton Houston's answer to Wilco, and while not all their fans may agree with that, the music is a breath of fresh air even six years since their formation. The boys mix a dreamlike indie-folk sound with evocative lyrics and vocals on 2008 LP A Family Light, and have since toughened up for a gnarlier, more ragged sound we expect for the follow-up Buxton has been working on at SugarHill for the past few months. Matthew Keever

4819 Washington

Henry Darragh (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Jazz
Henry Darragh is one of those musicians who are so damn talented they just make you sick with envy. The Pasadena native is currently enrolled at UH's Moores School of Music, and has distinguished himself as a jazz singer, pianist, trombonist, arranger, bandleader, etc. Let's just say that if it can be done in the style of jazz, then Darragh is doing it, and doing it well. His debut album, Tell Her for Me, is a masterpiece of smooth crooning that melts cold hearts and serves 'em martinis. Jef With One F

Spare Parts (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Cover/Tribute Band
Spare Parts is the go-to band for whatever it is you may need musically. A versatile six-piece group whose repertoire extends from jazz to funk to adult contemporary to classic rock, Spare Parts' mission is to find music for everybody. Whatever your function — dance, television, reception — it cannot be doubted that somewhere in their bag of tricks, Spare Parts has the song that your heart is dying to hear. Jef With One F

Beetle (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Cover/Tribute Band
Every Thursday night, the Continental Club turns into either Liverpool's Cavern Club or Shea Stadium, depending on what Houston's best Beatles cover band decides to play. Either way, you'll be twisting and shouting and holding hands through Beetle's three-hour magical mystery tour of every single stop along the Fab Four's pop odyssey. The weekly event has a devoted following, and the dance floor is usually extremely crowded, so make sure to get there early if you want right up front. Craig Hlavaty

Small Sounds (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Roots-Rock/Americana
Fans of slower, melancholic songs and louder, upbeat rock ballads alike will find something to like about Small Sounds. The vocals will capture listeners' ears and hearts, while the instruments and occasional twang will appease both old-school country fans and those unfamiliar with the genre. The band has been called indie-country before, but it's so much more than that. Although it is nice when Small Sounds pay reverence to the South, which they often do. Matthew Keever

Guerilla Foco Clan (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Underground Hip-Hop, Best New Act
Guerilla Foco Clan may come across as two Asher Roths who want to be considered Eminems, but they're deeper than that, really. It may take a minute to get past the surface of what seems like sans-substance rap, but these Houstonians are actually bringing a voice and sound to an untapped market audience — rebellious white youth who, put simply, just want to party and have a good time. In that sense, Damon Nash and Chess are actually geniuses, but we'll let you decide for yourself. Matthew Keever

4216 Washington

Kemo for Emo (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Punk
Sounding a bit like Dookie-era Green Day addled on Pop Rocks and Ritalin, Kemo for Emo plays picture-perfect pop-punk with all the gloss and nasally sneer of the best Warped Tour alt-teen heartthrob. Since its 2003 start, Kemo for Emo has been more than willing to wear its heart on its proverbial sleeve, crafting songs with considerable emotion, buoyed by punk's rhythmic punch and the assertive melodies of dyed-in-the-wool pop. The band is nearing completion of second LP The Straight Line Pt. 1: A Picture Perfect Romance. Nicholas L. Hall

Chango Man (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Latin Contemporary
Keep the rock en español tag if you need it, but let's face it — Tito Ortega and his boys rock. Period. They've taken the traditions of the '60s Hispanic South Texas pop bands, swished them in a whiskey glass with Beatles power-pop and added their own contemporary verbal and musical twists that make any Chango Man show a musical mystery tour. "Devil's Cumbia," anyone? William Michael Smith

Downfall 2012 (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Metal
Having shared the stage with luminaries like ICP, Alice Cooper and the Reverend Horton Heat, three-piece Downfall 2012 is one of the most versatile of the area's current crop of metal acts. Based in Humble, Downfall 2012 is famous for its incredibly complex percussion breakdown at the hands of drummer Casey Bowen, who was a ­country-club jazz-fusion act until he stepped into the world of electric chaos with bandmates Danny Gil and Boo Rogers. The band released a self-titled LP in 2008. Jef With One F

Fat Tony (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Underground Hip-Hop, Best Song ("Like Hell Yeah")
Since before graduating from high school, Fat Tony has been a rapper — and a good one at that. HPMA Best Underground Hip Hop champ two years running, he's looking to score a hat trick this year. Tony's highly anticipated new album RABDARGAB is set to drop any day now, which could make him the city's first breakthrough rapper not to rely solely on Houston's well-known but overplayed chopped-and-screwed style. Even people who aren't crazy about hip-hop love Tony's live performances, so his charisma and clever rhymes will surely take him far. Matthew Keever

Nick Gaitan & The Umbrella Man (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best LP/CD (Nick Gaitan & the Umbrella Man), Local Musician of the Year (Nick Gaitan), Best Bassist (Nick Gaitan), Best Roots-Rock/Americana
These Continental Club regulars keep the dancers moving with an interesting mix of honky-tonk, Chicano soul, Cajun and Texas Tornados Tex-Mex. With guitar, accordion and steel, Umbrella Man floats fluidly through genres with a dancehall-dive sound that puts them in a class with other acts who grasp the Gulf Coast musical traditions like Johnny Falstaff and Sean Reefer. William Michael Smith

5002 Washington

Ryan Scroggins & the Trenchtown Texans (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Reggae/Dub
Devotees of ska and all things funky and soulful, the Trenchtown Texans mix up deep grooves with jazzy horns. The sound they create owes much to seminal ska acts like the Skatalites, but with a truly Gulf Coast feel. And if you're not careful, they'll sneak a banjo into the mix just to mess with your head. William Michael Smith

Chase Hamblin (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Male Vocals
Some acts you take your girlfriend to see, and some acts you don't. Chase Hamblin gets filed firmly away in the latter category. Why? He's a nimble-fingered, satin-voiced, dreamy-eyed eccentric, for one. Plus, he's idealistic, which means he sings about idealistic subjects, and girls love that. Also, he wears scarves and top hats and looks like a way cooler Beck, and grew up some in Europe. There's no telling what kind of crazy sex things he knows about. Some acts you take your girlfriend to see, and some acts you don't. Shea Serrano

D.R.U.M. (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Reggae/Dub
If it seems like every year D.R.U.M. (Divine Rhythm United Motion) gets nominated in the Best Reggae/Dub category, that's because they do. And if it seems like D.R.U.M. wins every year, well, they kind of do that too. The collective embodies exactly what it is that makes their music so enjoyable: an unchecked joy and appreciation for the sounds that they're able to make with wood and sticks and strings. Don't expect that to fade anytime soon. Which means you shouldn't expect their name to fall off the HPMA nominees list next year. They're like the goddamn Yankees. Shea Serrano

Mitch Jacobs Band (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Country
Mitch Jacobs is old-school — way old-school. His music comes right out of the School of Cash with an East Texas dusting of Johnny Horton, heavy on the backbeat, twang and hardscrabble life. Call it what you want — roadhouse, honky-tonk, hillbilly, alt-country — all that matters is that it's as real as the roots it draws from. Two-stepping is mandatory, and someone request "I'm An Alcoholic." William Michael Smith

Skyblue72 (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: HPMA Alumni
Everybody who has ever driven through Montrose knows Skyblue72, or at least the group's van-cum-billboard parked near the corner of Montrose Boulevard and West Gray. What Houston hasn't seen much lately is the band itself, on hiatus since December due to drummer/singer Jessica Zweback's pregnancy. But now, Zweback's powerfully emotive vocals and insistent drumming, brother Frank Zweback's anchor-like bass groove and Davis Jumper's New Wave/alt-rock guitar sound are back, and it's still some of the best straightforward pop-rock Houston has to offer. Nicholas L. Hall

4218 Washington

Hell City Kings (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Song ("Never Let Go")
Each set the Hell City Kings have turned in since they recruited new lead singer and scene warrior Josh Wolf has been the stuff of boozy, bloody dreams. At the band's set during this year's Summerfest, the Kings were just a sweaty mass of black shirts and dirty denim. Everyone fires on all cylinders at all times, and quite honestly, we have never seen a half-ass show — let alone one where Wolf wasn't shirtless. Craig Hlavaty

Last Soul Descendents (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best R&B/Funk/Soul
Last Soul Descendents, most often made up of Darren Roberts and Leah Moore (occasionally with other artists), have been kicking around since 1996, longer than some of the other Best R&B/Funk/Soul nominees have been alive. Okay, not really, but you get the point: The longevity is damn impressive. And they've utilized that time thoroughly, honing their electronic expertise to an effective, unyielding pinpoint of digital funk. It's to the point now where simply listening to their music is almost psychotropic. Appropriate, considering their initials. Shea Serrano

James Caronna (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Local Musician of the Year, Best Male Vocals, Best Songwriter, Best Local Twitter Personality (Music)
Though James Caronna's debut album Everybody Wants to Fall in Love was recorded and produced at the amazing Red Tree Studio and not exactly met with universal praise, the singer-songwriter's rabid fan base and unique Twitter stylings have made him one of the top acoustic acts in Houston. Upbeat and self-deprecating, Caronna busts out down-to-earth songs played with a solid strum and stirring vocals. He often shares the stage with fellow multiple HMPA nominee Tim Qualls. Jef With One F

B L A C K I E (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Underground Hip-Hop
B L A C K I E, always "all caps with spaces," is the creator of "American Grime," a mix of hardcore punk, hip-hop, UK grime and noise. To newcomers' ears, his may not even sound like music at all, but underneath the gritty surface is a talented young man with intelligent lyrics. Be warned, however, that his live shows aren't for the frail or faint of heart. B L A C K I E is fond of jumping into the crowd, moshing with fans and hyping up the crowd not only for his set, but for any other musician playing alongside him. Matthew Keever

The Literary Greats (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Bassist (Darin Lee), Best Guitarist (Taylor Lee), Best Drummer (Chris Ginsbach), Best Keyboards (Kris Becker), Best Roots-Rock/Americana
Besides being a talented group of alternative-Americana musicians, The Literary Greats have a good sense of humor about touring. Some of their horror stories would bring other bands close to the breaking point, but the Greats have always brushed off what they couldn't control and proceeded to put on a good show. Last year's sophomore album, Ocean, Meet the Valley, is "a little darker, a little deeper, and more dynamic yet retains some of the warm, catchy hooks that characterized their first release," says the band's MySpace. Matthew Keever

1919 Washington

Footpie (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Reggae/Dub
Sleep if you want on Footpie, the three-man-strong reggae team from Alvin, but at your own peril. By teaching themselves to play from scratch, Charlie Danford, Matt Metcalf and Daniel Hogan essentially have created a uniquely hip and youthful take on traditional reggae memes. It's an edgier, almost more hip-hop and funk/rock-based sound than you'd expect from a reggae band. But they're from Alvin. Have you ever been? They do all kinds of crazy shit out there. Shea Serrano

Satin Hooks (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Indie Rock
Incorporating everything from post-punk guitar to beats culled from mid-'90s hip-hop, Satin Hooks should sound, at the very least, a bit scattered. Quite to the contrary, and somewhat inexplicably, the Hooks sound consummately centered, crafting polished pop out of myriad influences. Space-rock rubs shoulders with power-pop, while Dubstep intersects with proggy circuitousness, as grunge-scruff burnishes the whole proceedings. Yeah, we know. But it's not what you think. Well, okay, it is — but so much more. Nicholas L. Hall

Plump (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best R&B/Funk/Soul, Best Miscellaneous Instrument (Jason Jackson, saxophone)
Plump got its start in 2001 by losing a battle of the bands to a metal act, something they attribute to a lack of laser lights and platform shoes. Since then, they have carved out a niche as one of the hardest-working jam bands in Houston. Often playing upwards of 75 shows a year, a solid Best Funk nominee several times, Plump tours widely all over the country, laying down a gumbo of rock, jazz, soul and a host of other booty-shaking audio. Jef With One F

The Snake Charmers (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Blues
Rockin', swingin', bluesy foursome The Snake Charmers is a solid group whose members have all been intimately connected with music since they were still in diapers. Marie Angell's smooth, soulful vocals, Will Blumentritt's Southern-rock inspired bass lines, Eric Blumentritt's inventive drums and Larry Meeker's rock-and-roll-infused guitar skills are a potent combination that has made the family band a favorite blues act in Houston since 2002. Their latest album is Been Gone So Long. Jef With One F

Spain Colored Orange (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Indie Rock
A pop band with a trumpet player might sound like a ludicrous idea to the average listener, but Spain Colored Orange proves it can work. The group's fearlessness at experimenting with sounds not usually found together has paid off in multiple HPMA wins. Although SCO admits their energy doesn't quite come through on albums like last year's Sneaky Like a Villain as much as it does live, that's more a compliment to their laser-lit shows than a slight to the recordings. Matthew Keever

4115 Washington

YokoMono (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Latin Contemporary
YokoMono should be sitting pretty at the top of David Byrne's world music label, Luaka Bop, because its infectious blend of Latin rhythms and myriad rock forms would fit perfectly on Byrne's eclectic roster. The post-Chango Jackson brainchild of Moises Alanis, YokoMono deftly weaves sultry rhythms into squalls of psychedelic feedback, locks the funk grooves of all-star bassist Rozz Zamorano into classic rock could-have-beens, and seduces with the smooth assertiveness of Alanis's attractive vocals. If you need to learn Spanish, YokoMono immersion learning is a hell of a way to do it. Nicholas L. Hall

Lee Alexander (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Local Musician of the Year, Best Male Vocals, Best Songwriter, Best Folk
Listening to multi-instrumentalist Lee Alexander is a lot like taking a leisurely stroll through about a century of American popular music. Since 2006 debut Out of Place, Alexander has earned a reputation as both a strikingly original voice and an able torch-bearer for a broad handful of American musical idioms, layering Nilsson-esque pop-standard fare, dusty country ballads, the occasional bluesy stomp, touches of jazz classicism and damn near anything else he wants. Last year Alexander returned to the Houston scene after a brief hiatus, and released second album Mayhaw Vaudeville. Nicholas L. Hall

Female Demand (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Hardcore/Noise
Technicolor duo Female Demand never met a room they couldn't decimate with just four arms and four legs. Walking into a room where the Demand is playing is like entering a steam bath. Kids are screaming and dancing while they surround the band on the floor, and you feel like you're at some primal scream therapy. Pick up their last two EPs to start a party of your own. Craig Hlavaty

Staci's Edge (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Rock
These relative newcomers formed in 2008, but their sultry take on driving blues and gritty rock earned the band instant cred. Staci's Edge excels at the kind of mid-tempo rumblers you'd expect to find stomped out by the house band at a border-town honky-tonk, filled with all the emotional and visceral punch of a life lived hard, and chronicled 12 bars at a time. Front woman Staci Butler carries a torch-worthy set of pipes, and matches them with a deft hand on six strings. The band's debut album, I've Got It All, is expected to drop next month. Nicholas L. Hall

Hollywood F.L.O.S.S. (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Underground Hip-Hop
Hollywood F.L.O.S.S., whose influences range from Andre 3000 and Nas to Prince and Sade, is part of a new generation of Southern rap that mixes eclectic, meaningful music with conscious and dynamic lyrics. Unlike many of his peers, F.L.O.S.S. also performs with a live band. Since hitting the music scene in 2006, he's put out various original projects such as Art of Fiscal Intelligence, Xperiment Volume 1 and his latest opus, House of Dreams. Preceding the death of his cousin, he vowed to pursue a music career, and has made true on that promise. Matthew Keever

5120 Washington

Free Radicals (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Jazz
Free Radicals has won seven — that's right, seven — HPMA Best Jazz awards. That's great and all, but also a little misleading. If jazz is a very insular type of music that tends to push or pull people into strongly differentiated camps, that makes Free Radicals almost anti-jazz. The band unites wildly disparate musical ideologies (klezmer next to funk next to krautrock) and produces an unspeakable amount of energy live, making it damn near impossible to walk past a Free Rads show without being drawn in. Nicholas L. Hall

Ellypseas (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Progressive Rock, Best Miscellaneous Instrument (Lizzo, flute)
Ellypseas has only been around since spring 2009, but in a city known for out-there bands, this avant-everything quintet is already pushing the envelope. Ellypseas's particular brand of strange, as heard on June debut Indescribable Colours, is worth a double take. Jazz-rock leanings brush shoulders with spaced-out sonics, occasional shards of brittle psychedelia, lead singer/flautist Lizzo's soulful vocals, rhythmic playfulness and grandiose tendencies that rival any prog standard-bearer. Did we mention the flute? Nicholas L. Hall

Idiginis (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Reggae/Dub
There are a bunch of reasons to like Idiginis, the eight-man-deep dark horse in this year's Best Reggae/Dub category. They describe themselves as soldiers, but spell it as "souljahs"; their MySpace page prominently features both a lion and a lamb; and they have a song called "Untrue Lies," which, until we heard it, we thought was the only kind of lies. But mostly they play reggae music really, really well, which is pretty much never a bad thing. Oh, and their music was featured on Wife Swap. That show owns. Shea Serrano

Karina Nistal (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Latin Contemporary
Another brilliant permutation of Houston's sizzling scene, Karina Nistal works a cool niche that mixes synth-y hip-hop with grooves that owe more to Brazil and Sergio Mendes than rap. Nistal's smart, sultry vocals, which come as much from R&B or torch-song dance-club divas as from anything hardcore, only add to the excitement factor. William Michael Smith

Los Skarnales (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Latin Contemporary
Like a good hand grenade, when the pin is pulled on a Los Skarnales gig, there's usually an explosion. Felipe Galvan, "El Tiburon" and the other cool cats lay down frantic old-school ska with a Latin punk twist that usually feels like a riot about to happen. When these guys lay the pachuco boogie down, the party is always on. William Michael Smith

4215 Washington

Tax the Wolf (2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Progressive Rock
Self-described "experimental-rock alt-rock progressive surreal chill" music, Tax the Wolf's live performances are perhaps more aptly described as jam sessions. The band is only two years old, but those who attend their shows and/or purchase an album won't think so, because the indie-rock quartet is so well put together. Also, the group's music ranges from spook-rock to pop, but it doesn't sound forced. And if you like what you hear, their new album will be out at the end of this month, specifically August 27. Matthew Keever

The American Heist (2:55 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Punk
Along with the Hell City Kings, the American Heist is leading a new punk charge in Houston, but where HCK is proud and pure death-punk, the Heist grasps for your heart. Playing an intense, rollicking style of booze-fueled Springsteen-esque street-punk, the four-piece is led by singer Tim Blackout, whose gravelly howl echoes Mike Ness or Rancid's Matt Freeman. Heist's harmonica-kissed military ballad ".22" made our jaws drop at an early show, and they haven't stopped thrilling us since. Craig Hlavaty

Something Fierce (3:50 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Punk
Something Fierce doesn't just blow skirts up in Texas — the trio has a worldwide punk following that gets, well, fiercer with each release. The band is currently working on their third LP while last year's There Are No Answers continues to blow people away from here to Asia and Europe. The band embarks on a European tour this coming January, so catch them in Houston while you still can. Craig Hlavaty

The Manichean (4:35 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best New Act, Best Progressive Rock
Theatrical, in a word, is the best way to describe The Manichean. At its album-release party earlier this year, the group handed out playbills with acts and scenes to the crowd. The Manichean's primary concern seems to have always been putting on an entertaining and exciting show, including members of the audience in dramatic interpretations of the band's lyrics and songs. The Manichean's music has a near-­constant dark atmosphere, but the lyrics (and the CD) end on a positive note, and fans always walk away pleased. Matthew Keever

A Dream Asleep (5:30 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Hardcore/Noise
A Dream Asleep is a hardcore band that combines punk, metal and jazz influences with Southern and indie rock to put on heart-pounding, high-energy performances that might be the heaviest shows of any local band. Just as happy playing Fitzgerald's as a friend's living room, A Dream Asleep hasn't done much touring, and has no intentions of ever relocating. Houston should consider itself lucky. Matthew Keever

2811 Washington

Brian Stovall (11 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Club DJ
While some DJs seek only to inspire movement in order to work up the thirst for sex and alcohol, Brian Stovall seeks the release of negative energy through rhythm and melody. Stovall encourages an abandonment to the truth and energy inherent in all music in order to achieve rapture. Seventeen years of DJing have won him great acclaim, and he draws inspiration from sources as far back as ancient Greece and early Native-American beats. Jef With One F

Grrrrl Parts (12 a.m.)
Nominated In: Best Club DJ
Back in 2008, Grab-E and Natasha Ninjason formed an electro DJ duo called Grrrl Parts, a.k.a. Dance Mofo Dance, and have distinguished themselves well since that fateful day. This year marks their second nomination for Houston's Best DJ. Their regular set at Boondocks on the second and final Thursdays of every month, Haters Make Us Famous, is one of the premier events in Houston and is attended by only the finest local rumpshakers. Jef With One F

DJ Sun
Nominated In: Best Radio Program ("Soular Grooves")
Hailing from the lush rainforests of South America, DJ Sun already has six HPMAs for best DJ. From his headquarters at KPFT 90.1 FM, where he has hosted the equally award-winning show "Soular Grooves" since 1995, Sun blends styles and nostalgic aesthetics into a down- to mid-tempo reprieve from the ordinary. Jef With One F


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