Hot Tunes, Summer in the City
It's time for another round of Houston Press Music Awards jinxes. Considering that last year's big winners were Japanic (who broke up six months later) and South Park Mexican (who's now looking at 45 years in the pen), some acts might be a little leery about taking home a trophy this year. John Evans, who leads the candidates with four nominations, should be especially nervous, as should other multiple nominees like the El Orbits, Texas Johnny Brown, Los Skarnales and Arthur Yoria. Since the Suspects have already announced that their breakup will follow the showcase almost immediately, you have to think their victory is all but certain. Perhaps they trumpeted the news of their demise just so they would win....
But for you, gentle readers (and even you brutal ones), life is good. More than 65 bands will provide eight hours of entertainment for a grand total of seven bucks. There's nothing like it in Houston -- for value, quality and sheer oddity. Where else are you going to see Grady Gaines packing up his sax while Pet Rooster tunes its banjos? Or Kalor's Tejano followed by Anguish in Exile's death metal? Or Jiggernaut's Celtic rock sandwiched between Simpleton's Chili Pepperesque sound and the syrup-saturated hip-hop of the Swishahouse All-Stars? Nowhere else but in a dream, and it would have to be a pretty weird dream at that.
Think about it: For less than the price of a beer at Minute Maid Park, you can get down for a whole evening to the sounds of three score and seven bands. Make a battle plan -- figure out the logistics of who you want to see each hour. Check out a few new bands (and venues), as well as your old favorites. And don't forget to vote for the best of the best.
As usual, we've tweaked the ballot a little. In the wake of the O Brother Where Art Thou? phenomenon, we added a bluegrass category and stumbled upon a thriving local community. We've also separated Tejano from Latin and divided the blues category into Contemporary and Traditional strains. Because of the decline in the number of ska acts and the continued scarcity of reggae bands, not to mention the relative strength of Houston's punk scene, we've moved ska out of punk's field and merged it with its latter-day Jamaican cousin. As always, we're open to suggestions about new categories and/or those that should be discontinued. We tried to add a mariachi section this year but couldn't find five bands in town. If anyone out there can nominate that number or more, we'll get it going on Sonora-style next year.
But hey, this little spiel has gone on long enough. As the great rockumentary filmmaker Marty DiBergi once said, "Enough o' my yakkin'. Let's boogie!" -- J.N.L.
It doesn't take Trik Turner long to address the big issues on the group's self-titled RCA debut album.
Consider the title of the album's first track: "Existence." It doesn't get any bigger than that, right? And the very first line uttered by singers/MCs David Bowers and Doug Rid Moore on this hard-rock anthem is "All my life I've searched for answers."
This early declaration of intent is worth noting because Trik Turner's blustery fusion of hard rock and hip-hop is undeniably trendy. The group has already gotten comparisons to Limp Bizkit, and more are certainly coming. But beneath the surface similarities, there really is a difference. Despite Fred Durst's post-9/11 attempt to transform himself into Gandhi with a backward cap, Limp Bizkit is -- and will always be -- lug-headed frat-boy fodder, lowest-common-denominator dung for people who consider "I did it all for the nookie" and "keep rollin', rollin', rollin'" to be cathartic pearls of wisdom.
With Trik Turner, on the other hand, you actually get the sense that the songs were written as a means of working out some internal angst or confusion, not merely as a way to meet porn stars.
A veteran of Phoenix's hip-hop scene, Trik Turner is also an anomaly because it comes off as a hip-hop group that added rock to the mix, rather than the other way around. In the context of the historic 1991 Public Enemy/Anthrax collaboration "Bring the Noise," it would be closer to Public Enemy (albeit with a live band to augment the DJ), whereas most of the groups in this idiom reek of Anthrax.
But whether you call the band rock-rap or rap-rock, Trik Turner always brings the noise. -- G.G.
10:15 p.m. Verizon Wireless Theater
The Allen Oldies Band
Best Cover Band
Helmed by the frenetic Allen Hill, High Priest of the Oldies, AOB plays danceable golden platters from the first decade of rock and roll, with particular affection for one-hit wonders from the glory days of AM radio. The group also includes David Schoenbaum (organ, guitar), David Beebe (drums), Jim Henkel (guitar), Joe Earthman (sax) and Mikey Trafton (bass). Hill's nutty unpredictability is the band's secret X-factor. His legendary antics include playing on the back of a flatbed truck cruising through downtown at lunchtime, running a 5K race in full tuxedo before mounting a stage at the finish line, and doing a 45-minute version of "Land of 1,000 Dances" during which he pulled the entire club audience up on stage. -- B.R.
5 p.m. Harlon's Bayou Blues
Anguish in Exile
In its goals to merge death-metal and industrial music and "really fuck shit up," Anguish in Exile pretty much succeeds. Grim, torturous, unspeakable themes rumble through metallic and electronic sludge, but the result yields a surprisingly intense regard for humanity. It's obvious the band isn't concerned with blazing new musical trails by mining the past. Anguish in Exile found its niche by luxuriating in its own scene; it took itself out of the running for widespread acclaim, instead continuing to industrialize brutal death metal for those who'll take this music to their graves. If that's your poison, then it's medication time. -- T.S.
5 p.m. Spy (inside)
Dropped by Universal Records after disappointing sales for 2000's Consent to Treatment, Blue October nevertheless continues to please its strong (if damaged) following. Lead singer Justin Furstenfeld's self-described "bipolar rock" teeters somewhere between "indie" and "modern," according to the band's Web site. Ryan Delahoussaye's violin doubles as a keyboard through tight arrangements, smart hooks and anguished lyrics seemingly designed to make the average Creed fan cry harder. Furstenfeld believes his music has legs, with or without a label. He has described his most recent material as some of the best he could put his name on. And bitter from dealing with the corporate spin (lest it send him into another agoraphobic hell), he'd rather let it speak for itself. -- T.S.
9 p.m. Spy (outside)
Bozo Porno Circus
Known as much for its sexually adventurous stage shows as its menacing industrial dance/metal music, BPC continues to prove that studded leather crotchless panties are a unisex garment. The band recently released Regenerate, on which some musical improvement is apparent. Though the sound remains hard and dark, there's also a touch of hope inspired (believe it or not) by a post-9/11 world. BPC has signed with Chicago industrial label Invisible Records/Underground Inc. The Circus includes Ken Gerhard (vocals), Chris O (guitar, vocals), Ador Charming (drums), Raul (bass), Crispy (guitar) and Bam Bamm (samplers). BPC's dancing ladies of the evening, the attention-grabbing PornStarZZ, are Ms. Pornette, Putty Tat and Candy. This is the perfect band to play your wedding, bar mitzvah or church function. -- B.R.
9 p.m. The Brewery Tap
Texas Johnny Brown
Best Traditional Blues, Songwriter of the Year, Album of the Year (Blues Defender)
For a musician who cut his first solo records in 1949, Texas Johnny Brown remains incredibly vital as a guitarist, singer and songwriter. Drawing from an early career of touring and recording with seminal R&B artists, this longtime Houston resident emerged from retirement over a decade ago to form his own Quality Blues Band. Since then he has entertained audiences (locally, nationally and overseas) with his impeccable musicianship, crafting a sound that is simultaneously rooted in the golden era and blossoming with new ideas. With the release of his second CD, the brilliantly conceived Blues Defender, Brown has achieved his crowning glory -- thus far at least. With his creative genius clearly still fully engaged, he may top himself yet again. -- R.W.
8 p.m. Harlon's Bayou Blues
Seems David Caceres goes out of his way to defy labels. Saxophonist, singer, entertainer, recording artist, educator, jazz, funk, Tejano, fusion, big band -- they all apply. Caceres started his career in his native San Antonio and attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After Berklee, Caceres worked in New York as a session player before returning to Texas (Houston, this time) and joining the Paul English Quartet. He's since launched his own band, the David Caceres Quintet, but still finds time to perform with Stratus and TKoH! He's recorded several of his own albums and also guested on some with La Mafia, the late Tod Vullo and Michael Kay. And he's appeared on stage with everyone from Wynton Marsalis to the Drifters to Little Joe Hernandez. Somewhere along the way, he even managed to teach music at HSPVA and the University of Houston. -- O.F.A
5 p.m. The Mercury Room
Best Folk, Best New Act
There must be something in the plastic cups of Shiner or the hodgepodge shrine to Townes Van Zandt that inspires the musicians and assorted hangers-on who gather week after week at the Old Quarter Acoustic Café in Galveston. Hayes Carll is the latest talent to emerge after a few years of open-mike performances. More recently, Sisters Morales gave him a boost by letting him open for them at bigger clubs around the state. The gangly singer-songwriter describes his home club as "the best bar ever except that they don't have liquor, food or customers." Carll found better songwriting material while strumming at biker bars on the Bolivar Peninsula's infamous Highway 87; his observations of the crowds wound up on his stunning debut, Flowers and Liquor. -- G.B.
5 p.m. Lotus Lounge
It looks like Sean Carnahan has finally achieved his goal of becoming the Frank Sinatra of the local turntable crowd. The handsome house stylist and his Rat Pack -- DJ Mir, Vishnu and Champa Moore -- have joined forces to form their own label, Tastylick Records. Every week the quartet meets up at the Davenport Lounge (their Sands Hotel) to spin their latest mixes, entertain the crowd and shoot the shit. But Carnahan still manages to stay in touch with the rest of the local club scene, as evidenced by his long-running nightlife Web site (www.77002.com) and his "Night Seen" columns in Paper City. Hell, it won't be long before he starts dispatching goons to put a stompdown on his rivals. Um, on second thought, better strike that! -- C.D.L.
8 p.m. Spy (upstairs)
DJ Sun is a man who knows what people want to hear. If he didn't, he wouldn't be nominated in this category for the -- what is it now? -- 20th year in a row. Whether he's dropping the latest Jazzanova joint on "Soular Grooves," his perennially popular KPFT radio show, or trying to show uptight Houstonians that soulful lounge music doesn't begin and end with Sade, this reigning king of local acid jazz has, as Niles Crane might put it, developed a vintage of great music that would soothe the palate of anyone adventurous enough to embark upon it. Many others have tried to take over the Sun King's throne, but those pretenders to the crown have all failed miserably. -- C.D.L.
9 p.m. Spy (upstairs)
Best New Act
Warm, breezy Southern rock is Drifter's stock-in-trade; it's a soulful blend that reminds one of Houston's balmy April weather. Twentysomething twin guitarists Paul Beebe and Craig Feazel and bassist/ keyboardist Cullen Evans show a professionalism and dexterity that belie their youth both on stage and in the studio, as their two-year-old debut, Wherever You Will, attests. Feazel's fiery, controversial comments about the jam-band scene in a recent Press interview may not have won him many friends over at the Last Concert Cafe, but elsewhere in town they love him and his band all the more for it. -- J.N.L.
6 p.m. Lotus Lounge
Best World Music, Best Ska/Reggae
Let us check in with Divine Rhythm, United Rhythm to find out how the band has maintained its place as Houston's most well-known reggae/world music collective. Well, for one thing, the perennial HP Music Awards winners have steady gigs going every which way. They recently took the Orange Show's peculiar stage, and twice a month they're downtown at the Red Cat Jazz Café. If you want a weekly fix, you're gonna have to venture over to the unnervingly chic Hotel Derek on Friday nights. You'll find D.R.U.M. in Ling and Javier, the boutique hotel's restaurant-bar, encouraging all the upscale folks to look up from their entrées and indulge themselves in the laid-back rhythms they used to skank to back in their dorm rooms at Rice. So, to all y'all would-be Marleys out there: Follow the lead of D.R.U.M. and hit some unlikely spots. It'll show you're trying to reach more than the average roomful of wall-to-wall Rastas. -- C.D.L.
8 p.m. Spy (outside)
A trio that sounds as full and loud as a quintet, Dune*TX marries pop melody to psych-metal intensity. Last month, the band released the hard-charging Goldenarm, a salute to the spirit of late-'70s kung fu matinees and the follow-up to 1999's Machowagon, and it's already garnering drive-time airplay on KPFT. Guitarist/vocalist Chris Sacco, bassist Rusty "The Pride of Cypress" Guess and skinny drummer Tim Herrmann always bring it live, so pin your ears back in advance and prepare for the attack of this three-headed psychedelic garage-pop monster. -- J.N.L.
8 p.m. The Brewery Tap
Houston's answer to Daniel Lanois has it going on in the studio on both sides of the mike. "With You in My Arms" -- off his bluesy, countrified folk album, Paperhalo -- was nominated in last year's competition as Song of the Year. And if there were a Best Local Producer award (and there may be one next time around), he might well be up for the prize annually. Egan is Houston's first-call producer for local alt-country and Americana acts. So far his credits include Mando Saenz's recent Watertown and projects by Lise Liddell and the Tequila Cowboys. -- J.N.L.
4 p.m. Lotus Lounge
Best Cover Band, Best Keyboardist (Pete Gray), Local Musician of the Year (David Beebe)
You gotta love a group that cites both Doug Sahm and the Astros' orange rainbow jerseys as musical inspirations. Former Banana Blender Surprise member David Beebe, then as now also a club manager, was looking to fill the Monday-night slot at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge when he decided to start his own group rather than book anyone else. Thus were born the El Orbits, a cross between a slightly sleazy Vegas lounge act that mistakenly got booked on The Lawrence Welk Show and a David Cassidy backup band. The group was an instant hit. These days the El Orbits spend their Mondays at the Continental Club, which Beebe now manages, as part of the popular Bingo Night. There, they push their CDs and offer up offbeat renditions of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Moon River" to the bingo-addicted masses. -- O.F.A.
4 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe
Local Musician of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Best Male Vocalist, Best C&W
Pasadena-bred John Evans, contrary to the album he released last year, is definitely not The Biggest Fool in Town. He's big all right, about six foot five, but a fool he ain't. The rockabilly/honky-tonker tours nonstop throughout Texas (he has a weekly slot at the Black Cat on Sixth Street in Austin) and as far as New York. And he's up for more awards than anybody in the whole competition this year. Evans has the songs, the chops, the band and the look to break as big as any country act Houston has ever known, so catch him now if you haven't already jumped on the bandwagon. But if you do go to his showcase, be sure to bring your fire extinguisher. Evans's string bass player loves to torch his instrument at the end of every show. -- J.N.L.
5 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe
The rap/rock/funksters of five-year-old Faceplant have had a busy year. In February, the Abyss veterans and southside natives signed a publishing deal with industry giant EMI Music. Since then they've been taking their Chili Peppers-meets-311 sounds all over the country; this showcase gig is sandwiched between shows in Chicago and New York. Their frenetic live shows and the attendant spectacle (often involving giant bongs and band members dressed as walking vaginas) have led some to compare them to metal monsters GWAR. -- J.N.L.
7 p.m. Verizon Wireless Theater
Flying Fish Sailors
The subjects of this band's original songs range from the Loch Ness Monster and UFOs to lima beans, U-Haul trailers and the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918, but the FFS isn't just a joke group. Each member is an expert at his instrument and an amateur scholar of centuries-old English, Scottish, American and Irish folk songs. The multi-instrumental/multivocalist lineup includes Greg Henkel, Jay Lee, Joseph Linbeck, Mitch Lawyer, Jim Bedinghaus and sometimes Greg's brother Jim. A favorite at the Renaissance Festival and Garden in the Heights, FFS has also gigged at the Continental Club. Think of a van carrying the Austin Lounge Lizards smashing into one bearing the Chieftains, and you're close. -- B.R.
6 p.m. Live Sports Cafe
Best Funk/R&B, Best Bassist (Rozz Zamorano)
Unlike their cloistered counterparts, these Monks certainly know how to party -- and they don't even wear those brown robes and strange haircuts. Consisting of Denver Courtney (vocals), Steve Olson (guitar), Rozz Zamorano (bass) and his brother Ronnie (drums), FM has spent the year widening its geographical touring circle. The Monks' sound -- a combination of rock, blues and jazz with the heavy stench of da funk -- has also proved profitable, helping them collect $10,000 in equipment as the winners of the Shiner Bock/Guitar Center Battle of the Bands and earning them the opening slot at the Bocktoberfest concert at the Spoetzl Brewery. No word on how much of the host product found its way into the band's equipment cases for the ride home. -- B.R.
7 p.m. The Hub
This three-time Best Jazz winner has long been trying to sell itself as a distinctive band, which it is. The Radicals even won over The New Yorker a couple of years back, when the magazine said the band "has as many influences as there are items in the Houston pawnshop in which they honed their sound during all-night jam sessions." Performing a rather trippy form of jazz/funk/ska fusion, front man Nick Cooper and his elaborately eclectic crew try their damnedest to blow your mind in a unique way. But they can't help but be compared to other equally distinctive artists. So how about this: At its finest, Free Radicals sounds like what would've happened if Sun Ra, Toots Hibbert and Captain Beefheart had gone on a coffeehouse tour during the early '70s. Trust us, that's a compliment. -- C.D.L.
6 p.m. The Hub
You want some really old-school H-town funk? Then this saxophone-honking bandleader is the man. After all, he was there at the beginning, when early R&B began to spawn rock and roll. In the 1950s, while still a student at the Fifth Ward's Wheatley High School, Gaines hit the road to blow tenor for Little Richard's original barrier-breaking band. And while still in his twenties, he worked with jump blues stylists Big Walter Price and Gatemouth Brown as well as classic soul singers Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson. Though he retired temporarily, Gaines has led the Texas Upsetters for the past two decades. This veteran ensemble mixes the old and new in a high-spirited, horn-heavy celebration of timelessly soulful music. -- R.W.
6 p.m. The Mercury Room
Global Village has been tearing the roofs off clubs throughout Texas and beyond for a dozen years now. While the band has seen more than its share of lineup changes, it remains the city's most consistent traveling groove party. GV started out as a cover band known for funking up the classics, but over the years it's grown into a more unique entity. Consistent winners in the funk and world categories of the Music Awards, these guys are no strangers to our city's night crawlers. Chances are you've caught them live at least once, whether you intended to or not. And when you did, you know you got on down. -- M.S.
9 p.m. The Mercury Room
Houston's preeminent indie rock outfit might also be the city's most cunning thrift-store shoppers. After all, the clothes make the band. The great thing about Groceries is that there's a good deal of substance under the low-budget look. The music flips from catchy to dissonant, prog to pop -- often in the course of a single song. Too broad to pin down as a more straightforward version of Pavement, Groceries keeps it in the garage where the machine gets the grease -- it's as if this music were working itself out mechanically, shifting gears. Of course, if you'd rather not concentrate, just check out the fashion. Singer Matt Brownlie sports one hell of an Anglo Afro. --T.S.
8 p.m. BAR Houston
The name means "fun group," and for the last five years this band has been having plenty of batachá with stints at the Houston International Festival, Power of Houston and the Playa Sol y Salsa Festival. The group has also made the rounds at Austin's Pecan Street Festival, South by Southwest, Fiesta San Antonio and Brownsville's Latinfest. GB has even made it to the big screen, providing music for a couple of movie soundtracks (VH1's The Way She Moves and the independently produced Red Shoes). The mostly Cuban-style group is working on a self-produced CD for release in late August. --O.F.A.
7 p.m. Harlon's Bayou Blues
Best World Music
Of all the musicians in Houston, only accordionist Greg Harbar could introduce a tune like this (and know what he's talking about): "Our next number is a sort of Croatian-Serbian-Macedonian-type tune, but we're gonna do it with more of a Greek rhythm." Together with his band of Gypsies, Harbar can and does swing everything from conjunto to Nordic hambo, Louisiana zydeco to Hungarian csarda -- though he does love Romany-influenced music the most. What's more, he plays it everywhere from nightclubs to front lawns and for everybody from the coffeehouse crowd at Brasil to Presidents Clinton, Nixon, Carter, and Bush Sr. and Jr., not to mention King Hussein and Princess Margaret. If Harbar were a supermarket, he'd be a lively Fiesta flagship in a town full of bland Randalls. --J.N.L.
5 p.m. BAR Houston
Best Traditional Blues
With the title of his latest CD (his fourth since 1999), King of the Delta Bluesmen, this suddenly prolific retro solo guitarist and singer claims the crown traditionally bestowed on blues icon Robert Johnson, whose depression-era material the enigmatic Slim regularly covers -- along with original compositions and selections from other ancient blues legends and practitioners of "Piedmont rag." This fortysomething white man presents himself as a sonic (and possibly psychic) channel to those African-American blues originators of yore. And he gets away with it -- despite the fact that he's never lived in the Delta, the Piedmont or Harlem. How so? Even if the persona is simply a shrewd marketing ploy, Slim can pluck and bend those strings and howl those old-timey songs like nobody else in town. --R.W.
6 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe
Best Drummer (Max Schuldberg)
Few groups on the bill this year can claim major-label success like the Hunger. Since 1991, the industrial/dance quintet has released five albums, its last three for Universal Records. Spaceman's Last Goodbye (2001) brings the Hunger's trademark gothic rock and industrial electronica together with a more pronounced alternative metal influence. Basically, the group's going for something a little more Trent Reznor than Robert Smith. That goes beyond turning up the guitars and sharpening the beats, though. The production work on Spaceman's Last Goodbye is evidence that, this time, the Hunger has employed better scientists at the lab. It's frightful fusion. --T.S.
9 p.m. Verizon Wireless Theater
Scottie McDonald and the rest of Irie Time couldn't be feeling any more irie at this point in their careers. Their new album, Live Up!, is finally out in stores not just in Houston but all over the country, and they are once again bouncing from stage to stage, serving up a blend of reggae, soca and dub grooves that's just about as refreshing as a bottle of Ting grapefruit soda on a sweltering Trenchtown summer day. The quartet is seeking management and label affiliations, so if anyone out there is looking for an 11-year-old reggae party band from Texas that can light a fire under the asses of even the most listless audience, then go to www.irietime.com and set up a meeting. --C.D.L.
4 p.m. Live Sports Cafe
Best C&W, Song of the Year ("Magnolia")
If you're the type of person who likes his beer cold and his country old, chances are you'll love Davin James. Not that he's a cover act -- the opposite is true. James is one of the finest songwriters in town and one of the best guitar-playing front men for miles around. There's very little Nashville to his sound, and still less of the over-the-top Texas-Texas-Yee-Haw! cheerleader crap we've come to find so pukesome of late. Instead, what you get with James is bluesy, rockin', no-bullshit honky-tonk in the vein of the Charlie Daniels Band, Travis Tritt and late-'70s Hank Jr. --J.N.L.
8 p.m. The Hub
As Greg Harbar's Gypsies are to the music of the Balkans and all points east, so Wolf Loescher's Jiggernaut is to the Celtic sounds of the British Isles and America, with one big difference: Jiggernaut likes to rock. Like the Gypsies, Jiggernaut's lineup is a veritable United Nations. Bagpiper Richard Kean was born in Scotland and raised in Medicine Hat, Alberta; accordionist Mark Kenneth is another Scot; as his name implies (and despite his Brooklyn birth), accordionist Brendan O'Sullivan was reared in Ireland; and multi-instrumentalist Loescher is a half-German Texas native who spent some formative years in Scotland. Rounding out the large band are Texans (and Blarney Brothers bandmates) Rodger Harrison (bass), Matthew Williams (drums, guitar), Steve Harrison (perhaps the world's only guitar, trumpet and didgeridoo player) and Milwaukee-born singer Deanna Smith. --J.N.L.
6 p.m. Spy (outside)
Septet Kalor is the first breath of fresh air to hit the Tejano scene since Selena's death. And 17-year-old lead vocalist Kristen G. may be the first singer with the right combination of raw talent, competent management and personal spark to have a real shot at replacing the slain idol. Kalor breaks the standard Tejano mold in that Kristen's voice and Juan Cantu's guitar both have deep rock roots. Also, three of the seven are Mexican-born, and singer/percussionist Lissenne Juarez writes most of the group's original music. (She penned six of the tunes on the group's debut CD, which bass player Marcial Contreras produced.) Musicians from points south of Brownsville and female songwriters are unheard of in Tejano circles. Thankfully, nobody told Kalor. --O.F.A.
4 p.m. Spy (inside)
It seems like only yesterday (okay, three years ago) when DJ Lucky LaRue was teaching local citizens to get into the swing of things at the now-defunct Orchid Lounge with his vast collection of cuts from the swing era. Now, it's a new day, and man can't live by entertaining yuppies at Rice Village alone. Oh, no -- LaRue has added rockabilly to the repertoire, as evidenced by his performance at a 30th-birthday show for fellow rockabilly DJ Edgar "The Big E" Salazar last year at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge. This wasn't the first time LaRue tinkered with old-school rock and roll. Three years ago, he also emceed a day of local bands playing Elvis covers at Garden in the Heights. But hell, this doesn't mean he can't swing back into swing whenever he wants. It's just that once in a while a man's gotta quit with all the big-band stuff and just cut loose. --C.D.L.
4 p.m. Spy (upstairs)
Lil' Flip, the "Freestyle King," the Jay-Z to DJ Screw's Biggie Smalls, has been going through some things lately, both good and bad. For a while, it seemed like Cloverland's most beloved MC was coming up with four-leafers every time he plucked at the ground. The success of his debut, The Leprechaun, fueled by his oft-rotated hit, "I Can Do Dat," got the teenage Flip a distribution deal with Loud/Sony. But his run of luck came to a screeching halt last March when he was shot in the side by an unknown assailant. Since then, Flip has beefed up his security detail, so much so that he reportedly had a larger entourage than Snoop Dogg at a Numbers gig earlier this summer. It's plain that unlike most local studio gangstas, Lil' Flip knows about street drama firsthand. The next time you hear him rap about haters trying to pop a cap in his ass, you better not take that shit lightly. --C.D.L.
8 p.m. Verizon Wireless Theater
The largest of the "Lil'" rappers in Houston, Lil' Troy isn't most famous for his skills on the mike. Troy's a ringleader of sorts, a facilitator who has the ability to bring people together and formulate a hit. The breakout success of his "Wanna Be a Baller" single introduced the names Fat Pat, Yungstar and H.A.W.K. to the world outside of Houston and inspired a gang of local labels to try to take it national. Now Lil' Troy's got a whole new pack of artists for the two-double-o-deuce (that's 2002; get hip) -- most notably his son, T2 -- and hopes to turn his hometown support into a platinum plaque once again. --M.S.
6 p.m. The Brewery Tap
Lisa y Aventura
For Aventura front woman Lisa Torres, the adventure has been as eventful and rewarding as it has been short. In only two years of performance (not including the karaoke career that came before), she has garnered nominations as the Female Vocalist and Female Entertainer of the Year at the Tejano Music Awards and shared the stage with the likes of Los Traileros del Norte, Los Palominos and Leonard y Los Magnificos. And so far, she's done it all without a record label. --J.N.L.
4 p.m. Spy (outside)
Lone Star Bluegrass
It may be a little unfair to the competition, but Lone Star Bluegrass's Chris Hirsch has his own bluegrass show on KPFT. Sunday afternoons from four to six he can play his band's music nonstop and stump the string band lunatics for votes like a politician with an unlimited campaign budget in a field of cash-strapped upstarts. Not that Hirsch couldn't win on his own merits -- after all, he's a three-time Texas State Banjo Champion and has played with Peter Rowan and Joe Stuart, among others. The rest of his band's not too shabby either. Adam Cutts, the fiddler who replaced late mandolin master Dave Peters in 1999, took third in a national fiddle contest 11 years ago when he was all of 16. --J.N.L.
5 p.m. Live Sports Cafe
Mama's Big Dinner
This loose-limbed, free-form hippie jam band brings out the patchouli-drenched faithful for regular Monday-night gigs at the Last Concert Cafe. Mama's serves up mostly "M" covers (Marley, Miles, the Meters, Medeski, Martin and Wood) with a few original "jams on a theme." But with a core of Giancarlo Caffarena (Chapman stick, vocals), Randy Woodard (drums) and Moses Guest bassist Jeremy Horton moonlighting on guitar, and assorted drop-in friends, the band also explores acid jazz and New Orleans funk territory. Woodard is tinkering with the Dinner lineup and incorporating other players. Those with musical chops (and a healthy case of the munchies) might want to drop by for a bite. --B.R.
6 p.m. Spy (inside)
Best Contemporary Blues
Based on the strength of his album Telephone Road, blues rocker May took home Musician of the Year honors in this contest in 1999. Former Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts was also a fan, and he took May and band on the road with him for virtually all of 2001. Since then, May's blues and boogie have been blazing the "Bert Wills Circuit," the chain of suburban icehouses and biker bars that rings the city. May's band, the Agitators, is always among the best in town. And graduate Agitators such as Eric Demmer (now Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's sax man) and budding front man Dave Nevling suggest that May is becoming that rare bluesman who's also a teacher. --J.N.L.
9 p.m. Live Sports Cafe
Best New Act, Song of the Year ("For My Pleasure")
Imagine Johnny Goudie auditioning for Gary Numan's film biopic. Style his hair like Ian McCulloch and give him some lipstick and a cigarette. Now dress him up in Weimar Republic-era threads. That image sums up MenMechanical, a group so steeped in new-wave iconography you have to believe it's pulling your leg. Front man Brian Taylor isn't British, but you wouldn't know it from his singing accent, which, rumor has it, even spills over into normal conversation. In concert, he attempts the brazen practice of "making love to the audience," and arguably, it's a success. The costume and persona are clearly an act -- or are they? Is this clever irony or seriously derivative cheese? Will you be seduced by MenMechanical? --T.S.
7 p.m. BAR Houston
Some people in the local club scene may be at a loss for words about Mister Spacely. After all, it wasn't until this year that people began to hear about him. A member of the KAOS Entertainment crew, this UK hard house/nu-NRG maven has become a fixture at the crew's shows, promoting his latest collection of mixes, Target: Locked. But perhaps the most entertaining reason for Spacely's inclusion on this year's Music Awards ballot is not his cartoon character-inspired name, but his Web site, www.misterspacely.com. There awaits a link to a multitude of various Webcam shots of "barely legal" girls with their own amateur porn sites giving love to the Jetsons-inspired spinner. One batch of shots shows a girl strategically placing one of his CDs on her -- well, let's just call it her equalizer. With all of that working in the guy's favor, does he even need an award? --C.D.L.
5 p.m. Spy (upstairs)
Best Indie/Alt Rock, Song of the Year ("Grounded")
When revisiting '80s musical styles, contemporary bands tend to cross-pollinate (say, the Jesus & Mary Chain meets the Human League), but rarely does a group cull so many different influences into a thick wad of nostalgia as Module. New-wave and dance music play leading roles as Module melds heavy, melodic bass lines, vocal and guitar distortion and catchy, danceable rhythms. The musical name-dropping includes New Order, Echo & the Bunnymen, Siouxsie, Hüsker Dü and U2. While such revivalism can smack of pretension or even elitism, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Module's pop nostalgia is delivered with intelligence, joy and meditative fondness for the music they love. --T.S.
5 p.m. The Brewery Tap
Molly and the Ringwalds
Best Cover Band
As can be deduced from their name, this band worships the era when Ronald Reagan was our president, Saddam Hussein was our enemy, and George Michael released a controversial video...um, the first time. This all-'80s cover band mines the music of early MTV favorites from the Cars and Rick Springfield to Pat Benatar and Cyndi Lauper. One-hit wonders (rock on, Men Without Hats!), novelty tunes and even punk rock round out a totally bitchin' song list. Members include Carrie Carter (piano), Henry Davis (vocals), Jennifer Lowry (vocal), Joe Earthman (drums), Christopher Daniello (bass) and Alfred Tam (guitar). Yes, Gen-Xers, your music is rapidly and inevitably becoming the oldies of tomorrow. Just don't, like, totally try to squeeze into that old Izod and a pair of parachute pants, fer shure. -- B.R.
7 p.m. Spy (inside)
Best Male Vocalist (Graham Guest), Best Keyboardist (Rick Thompson)
Coming off a year that saw the release of a phenomenal self-titled double disc and signing with a hot indie publicity firm, the act named after the Revolutionary War-era ancestor of singer/guitarist/lawyer/author Graham Guest seems primed for bigger things. Maturing far beyond its early jam/hesher roots, the band, which also includes Rick Thompson (keyboards), James Edwards (drums) and Jeremy Horton (bass), imbues its rock with laid-back country and jazz licks. This is a band that also shows a surprising adaptability to the tastes of a live audience, be it at an extreme sports festival, an outdoor hippie concert or a roots-rock nightclub. Moses Guest's songs also have been featured on MTV's Real World, but please don't hold that against them. -- B.R.
9 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe
Tim Murrah finds his nod for Best Dance/DJ downright laughable. For starters, he doesn't consider himself much of a DJ. It's true that as the resident booth man for downtown basement dive Metropol, he played tunes (mostly underground rock) he describes as "eclectic." But we speak of Murrah's DJ services at Metropol in the past tense because he hasn't played a record since his club shut down and became Underground Lounge earlier this year. Since the closing, he's been kind of a critic-at-large, a crusader for good rock music (especially his beloved Britpop) who loves to blast promoters, radio stations, record stores and DJs that he deems ignorant of the local scene. You may think he's all talk, but it's about time somebody started talking around here. --C.D.L.
7 p.m. Spy (upstairs)
Best New Act
Before a recent gig, mytwilightpilot's Matt Crow was discussing shoes (specifically, Skechers). He knew of a store with boxes stacked so high they obscured the surveillance cameras. It's a fitting topic of conversation, since mytwilightpilot is Houston's closest relative to shoegazer rock -- though not in the sense of My Bloody Valentine or Curve. mytwilightpilot is just really into its instruments. The five-piece employs the standard guitar attack with obligatory spaced-out effects and uses the loud/soft approach to songwriting. Songs build through airy, dreamy stretches and then lurch into feedback-riddled guitar blasts. Sequencer, keyboard and drums fill the spaces in between. Crow is a serviceable singer, but the group's preferred mix renders the vocals indecipherable (and it's not really about the words, anyway). Fans of Radio/Bedhead may find themselves in friendly skies. --T.S.
6 p.m. Harlon's Bayou Blues
This is the group formerly known as the Pander Band, fronted by the former lead singer of Soular Slide, who goes by the current (and former) name of Shawn Pander. Got that? Good. The singer/guitarist ditches the soul/funk of Soular Slide in his new outfit, which also comprises Marion Aquilina (guitar), Steven Ray Will (bass) and Marek Brown (drums). Pander has a much more folk/pop sound, with just a touch of breezy jazz and soul. Shawn Pander's vocal strength -- in addition to his solid pipes -- remains the casual ease in which he nonchalantly throws off his surprisingly philosophical lyrics. Pander is in the studio recording its debut CD. -- B.R.
7 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe
Arising out of an impromptu get-together in 1997, this Brazoria County string band has gone from parking-lot jam sessions to headlining status in a few short years. Led by Jay Richardson's banjo, Britt Keene's mandolin and the harmonies of Richardson, guitarist David Mintz and string bassist Cathy Richardson, Pet Rooster melds mountain music with Texas dancehall, rock and mainstream country into a mouth-o'-the-Brazos blend all its own. Like a pet rooster, they will wake you up. Unlike a pet rooster, they are melodious. --J.N.L.
7 p.m. The Mercury Room
A local jazz mainstay since he moved here in the mid-'80s, this silver-haired septuagenarian is the vibraphonist with the golden-toned mallets. Though his distinguished career began in his native Northeast, backing jazz giants such as Billie Holiday, Benny Goodman and Coleman Hawkins, Sheppard has performed in many styles, with both the famous and the not so. Who else could claim a stint with Barbra Streisand as well as a guest slot on a CD by Houston blues harpist Sonny Boy Terry? But this spry elder statesman really shines when he's on his own, either solo or leading a combo. After a recent period of experimenting with jazz fusion, the vibe master has returned to tradition with his latest CD, the tasteful Standards Unleashed. -- R.W.
5 p.m. The Hub
This is the third nomination in as many categories for this four-year-old, hard-to-pigeonhole, punky funk-rap quartet. In 2000, they were up for Best New Act, and last year saw them in the Best Alternative Rock category. Simpleton doesn't snugly snap into either the alt-rock or the funk/R&B category -- just call them the most urban rock band in H-town and be done with it. It's fitting that the band's headquarters is in a Main Street high-rise in the heart of downtown. Simpleton's sophomore disc, Baby You're a Star (which will rack August 6), shows that the band can thrive even without the stellar DJ Sun cut creations that highlighted "Milo," their ode to the Jose Lima-era Astros, and the rest of 2000's What Do You Want to Do. From the completely useless trivia department: Vocalist B.C. reports in the band's media kit that he "has one long eyebrow hair with a $20 bounty" and a tattoo on his leg depicting Wilson from Cast Away. -- J.N.L.
5 p.m. Spy (outside)
Best Female Vocalist (Roberta Morales)
Roberta and Lisa Morales started off singing in an Arizona Mexican restaurant, when their dad would insist they join the house mariachi band for a couple of songs. The duo has come a long way from crooning between servings of guacamole and enchiladas. Though they're now a big hit on the Texas folk and country scene, they haven't completely left their Latin roots behind. In fact, they'll be releasing an all-Spanish CD in September. Both sisters are accomplished songwriters and musicians, and both had successful solo careers before they joined forces. Like lots of artists with their own style and sound, Sisters Morales are hard to peg. Folk? Country? Rock? Folksy country? Rocky folk? It's hard to tell. Whatever it is, it's very, very good. -- O.F.A.
9 p.m. Lotus Lounge
Best Ska/Reggae, Best Punk, Best Latin
In the England of the late '70s and early '80s, the Two-Tone movement saw ska (along with beer and soccer) uniting blacks and whites in the impoverished, racially charged Midlands. Now in its fifth year, Los Skarnales does something similar for Houston. At no other band's shows will you find an almost equal number of Hispanics and Anglos in attendance, all in the thrall of front man Felipe Galvan's manic stage antics and Spanish and English rants about Monterrey's soccer team and the joys of drinking Tecates by the dozen. While ska is in another of its regularly scheduled doldrums, the vatos rudos of Los Skarnales bring enough Texas rockabilly twang to the table to render the fickle fashionability of the genre moot. -- J.N.L.
9 p.m. BAR Houston
Slop Jar Junior
From the ashes of Soular Slide comes this new group, which unites four-fifths of that lineup with Chad Strader, the former lead singer of Global Village. And while the Slide is certainly defunct, this offshoot is certainly not de-funked. With clean, crisp and danceable original material (with props to Jamiroquai), Slop Jar Junior shows that they need no breaking-in period. In fact, they have a fine CD set for release in late summer. The lineup -- Strader, David Wolfe (guitar), Mike Meade (bass), James Bourdier (keyboards) and Greg Benavides (drums) -- puts a more rocking, aggressive spin on their material, differentiating them from their former outfits. The new band name is reflective of a new career for these ace players. -- B.R.
8 p.m. Spy (inside)
Once described as "voodoo rockabilly" and "psycho punkabilly," the Backtones' sound has since evolved into a somewhat less threatening species. The trio is still more or less a rockabilly outfit (well, technically), but influences like Echo & the Bunnymen and the Smiths (two groups with punk and rockabilly roots) have also emerged. An entity since 1997, the Southern Backtones keep things interesting in concert. Hank Schyma fronts with charisma and confidence; he's obviously comfortable behind a mike. And the group's liable to launch into German oompah, surf rock, Ennio Morricone or even a Pulp cover. -- T.S.
8 p.m. Live Sports Cafe
Best World Music
Brothers Rony and Jason Perry and their sister Patrice are "Trinis," as natives of Trinidad and Tobago call themselves. That island nation is also the birthplace of steel drum music. This 11-year-old combo's bread-and-butter gigs in the summer months are Galveston resorts; their sounds of the Spanish Main enliven that frowsy island and its brown beaches, recalling the much prettier seas farther south. Recently, though, the Perry family headed north for a Michigan mini-tour, thus extending their reach all the way from the Caribbean to Kalamazoo. -- J.N.L.
7 p.m. Lotus Lounge
Best New Act, Best Indie/Alt Rock, Album of the Year (Lux)
Brooding, minor-key explorations of dark space are what Strangelight does best. The interplay of mysterious and androgynous front man Raman with guitarist Bill Royall drives the band's Britpop-cum-prog rock sound. The band seems to have come out of nowhere; rare is the group that garners three nominations on its first go-round. But Strangelight, thanks to steady gigging and heavy rotation on Jeffrey "King of Grief" Thames's Sound Awake KPFT show, has accomplished the feat. -- J.N.L.
7 p.m. Brewery Tap
Now that garage rock is officially cool again, maybe these veterans will finally get the recognition they deserved after their last record, Get Out of My World, and an incendiary performance at last year's showcase. Mark Lockridge (vocals), Andy Wright (guitar), Johnny Gibson (bass), Kyle G. Otis (guitar) and Stephanie Paige Friedman (drums) have lain low since their last gig in November, when Friedman (who is married to Wright) was four months pregnant. In fact, this year's showcase performance will be their first since then. But the band has recorded a new effort, Spinning Wheels, which will be out in August on Estrus Records. -- B.R.
5 p.m. Verizon Wireless Theater
Album of the Year (Reflect)
Cover bands don't get any respect, even if (as was the case with Superna's forerunner Zero Gravity) their music is powerful enough to start small riots. Despite their success playing the likes of 311, Tool and Rage Against the Machine, singer Melanie Brink and guitarist Nick Midulla tired of the human jukebox routine two years ago. Since then, they've changed their name to Superna, teamed up with four new band members (turntablist Obi Wan Spinobi, bassist Johnny Thompson, percussionist Rey Garcia and drummer Rico Garcia) and written 30 original modern hard rock songs, ten of which wound up on Album of the Year nominee Reflect. -- J.N.L.
4 p.m. BAR Houston
Best Ska/Reggae, Best Drummer (Claudio DePujedas)
Here's some messed-up news: The Music Awards Showcase will be the Suspects' second-to-last show. (The final show will be in August at Fitzgerald's.) It'll be sad to see these guys go after eight and a half years of being Houston's favorite party-boy ska band. They played drunk. They danced drunk. They sang drunk. Shit, they were drunks! But that doesn't mean they didn't turn out some decent get-down music. Now that they are soon-to-be no more, their fans will just have to well up when they hear "Goodbye Brown Eyes" or bash a mailbox with a baseball bat when they listen to "El Campo Slugger." Farewell, fair Suspects, and here's hoping you'll take home this year's Best Ska/Reggae trophy, as well as a Best Drummer nod for your boy Claudio DePujedas, as a parting gift. -- C.D.L.
9 p.m. The Hub
The undisputed heirs to DJ Screw's mix-tape throne, this northside collective has taken the concept of slowed-down hip-hop and made it its own. Led by super DJ Michael Watts of 104.9 KPTY's Screwston show, Swishahouse has produced some of the biggest names in underground rap: Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Chamillion, Archie Lee and Big Tiger, to name a few. Expect the crème de la crème of the clique to come down hard with their bad selves and teach a lesson in how to get Spy crunk. -- M.S.
7 p.m. Spy (outside)
Since 1993, and in several incarnations, 30footFALL has consistently delivered fun, fast, silly-ass punk rock that, at intervals, gets serious -- but never cheesy, like certain Bay Area pap. The quartet keeps getting nominated in the punk category, and that's probably because it embraces the genre's essence; entire "cover" shows devoted to the Sex Pistols and the Dead Kennedys are evidence of that. 30footFALL is on a healthy schedule of regional touring and readying its new album for a release this summer; the group's durability certainly isn't in question. Their restraint, respectability and potential to rise aren't either. -- T.S.
6 p.m. Verizon Wireless Theater
Best World Music
It's nice to see Kelly Dean and his part-time team of leisure-loving veteran horn players and rhythm musicians back on the rundown of eligible winners this year. They may no longer have a memorable weekly gig at Instant Karma, but numerous shows still prove that Houston won't count them out. Here's the question: What the hell is this group doing in the Best World Music category? Last time we checked, TKoH! was a jazz/funk band consisting of middle-aged, predominantly white men, usually wearing khaki shorts and picnic shirts, who delighted in playing '70s soul covers from the likes of Stevie Wonder and Tower of Power. Were the Best Funk/R&B and Best Jazz categories full this year? -- C.D.L.
9 p.m. Harlon's Bayou Blues
After their first hit, "Para Que Quiero un Corazon," topped the Tejano charts and radio play lists for the better part of a year, this nine-member group snagged a couple of Tejano Music Awards nominations, including Rising Male Star for vocalist Pablo Urbina and Most Promising Band. That early success prompted Hacienda Records to sign the group to a multirecord deal; the Corpus Christi-based label released the group's Si Tu Te Vas to rave reviews earlier this year. La Traizion's national tours have included sold-out stops in Ohio, Illinois, Texas and California, and appearances with the Kumbia Kings, Ramon Ayala and Ram Herrera. -- O.F.A.
8 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe
Tony Vega Band
Best Contemporary Blues
Tony Vega, last year's Best Blues winner, regularly plays some of the best guitar around. While there are only four members in his band (Vega, the Mighty Orq/a.k.a. J. Davidson, Brock Proctor and Jeremy Pierce), Vega's combo has a big, big sound. Both Vega and Orq sing and play lead guitar, and it's those twin guitars and the group's tight four-part harmonies that have become the band's signature. Fresh from a European tour that included stops in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands, Vega is back in Texas getting ready to release a new live CD the group recently recorded at the Big Easy. -- O.F.A.
8 p.m. Lotus Lounge
Don't ask Wes Wallace what he did this year to deserve a nomination for Best Dance/DJ -- he doesn't know. But when you think about it, after 20 years of working the turntables in Houston's more notorious haunts (Rich's, the gone-but-always-praised Heaven), doesn't he deserve something? A golden turntable, perhaps, or a complimentary lap dance at Rick's...Wallace says he's content spinning tunes over at Numbers, his home for 15 years, where he has successfully commanded the DJ booth at the club's '80s night as well as its teenage night. Perhaps this nomination serves as a token of appreciation from some grateful fans out there. But we still say a lap dance could've done the job a whole lot better. -- C.D.L.
6 p.m. Spy (upstairs)
Best Indie/Alt Rock
The Squares have run neck and neck with Groceries as Houston's top indie act for several years now. Like their rivals, the Squares are chic -- according to singer/guitarist Erica Cruz, they are "the most stylish band in town." And drummer Mikey DeLeon's fuzzy pink drum kit is exhibit 1-A in their favor. This year's CD, The Sound Made Visible by the Westbury Squares, testifies to the substance behind their style. Cruz, DeLeon and bandmates Davey McEathron and Vince Hernandez know a thing or two about catchy melodies, and chances are you'll hum "The Anti-Chorus" long after it quits vibrating from their amps. -- J.N.L.
8 p.m. The Mercury Room
Local Musician of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Best Bassist (Dwayne Casey), Best Drummer (Ilya Kolozs)
Jeepneys and Lavendula alum Arthur Yoria struck out under his own name about five years ago, but it wasn't until last year that things really started to pick up for the Chicago-born, Houston-bred modern popster. His four-song, self-titled EP won him rave reviews, a trip to South by Southwest and nibbles from Warner Bros., Atlantic and Sony Music. His all-star band includes bassist Dwayne Casey, drummer Ilya Kolozs and pedal steel player and Susan Alcorn-acolyte Matt Rhodes. Yoria has drawn comparisons to everyone from Davíd Garza to Elvis Costello. -- J.N.L.
6 p.m. BAR Houston
She's usually called Houston's salsa queen, but Norma Zenteno's sound is actually Latin jazz. And although most folks think of her strictly as a singer, she's also a gifted songwriter and musician. Zenteno has a sultry style, a loyal and enthusiastic audience, and a couple of well-received self-produced CDs, so she ought to be record label candy -- but apparently A&R execs aren't as savvy as Houston fans. Zenteno's other band is the rock-based Raised by Wolves. Despite the name, she was actually raised by Roberto Zenteno, a premier trumpeter who often appears with his daughter and also fronts his own orchestra. (Given her slew of charming and handsome brothers -- Robert, David, Javier and Ernest, also musicians -- she could have called the group Raised with Wolves, but hey, that's another story.) -- O.F.A.
9 p.m. Spy (inside)
In terms of mainstream exposure, these Dots (not polka but zydeco -- get it?) have ruled the roost on the local scene for years. Originally founded by Tee Potter and Mike Vee, this progressive zydeco band went through several accordionists (remember that succession of Pierres?) before linking up with the amazing Leon Sam a few years ago. Since then they've really hit their musical stride. Son of Creole legend Herbert "Good Rockin'" Sam, Leon squeezes that music box and soulfully sings in a style that evokes the late King of Zydeco (and former Houston resident) Clifton Chenier. Check out their latest CD, Tribute to Clif, or catch them live for proof. Either way, you'd better lace up your dancing shoes. -- R.W.
7 p.m. Live Sports Cafe
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