If you switch on the radio mid-song and hear Bun B's latest joint segue into a ferocious live attack from Irish punks Flogging Molly, you've probably tuned in to Rad Rich's Rock & Roll Revue on KPFT/90.1 FM. In a city that's far too often bound by the dictates of dozens of independent scenelets, Rich knows no such bounds, either on his radio show or at the concerts he puts together and hosts. He is equally at home in a hip-hop club or at a rockabilly bash, and it's a shame more people don't follow his example.
Taking listeners on a musical ride that has as many ups and downs as a voyage at sea, Sharks and Sailors combines heavy choruses with soft breakdowns. Featuring former members of Panic in Detroit, the group emerged from the Super Unison scene to deliver their sound to Houston. Reminiscent of groups such as Sunny Day Real Estate, Unwound, Drive Like Jehu and Dinosaur Jr. (and that's just from their first EP), the group is staking their sound in the post-hardcore scene and seems to have wasted no time in the "getting their feet wet" stage. Those who have seen at least a handful of their performances can testify to their promise as a mainstay in Houston and beyond. Look for their debut full-length (slated for release in early 2007), which will no doubt garner a few more awards in the year to come.
We've always held that there was a Houston Press Music Awards jinx. Over the years, most of the bands that win big either break up shortly thereafter, move to Austin (never to be heard from again) or even end up in prison, as was the case with South Park Mexican. But rarely has the jinx operated so swiftly as it did this past year. The band Michael Haaga picked to back his breathtaking epic of a CD, The Plus and Minus Show, was already well on its way to dissolving even as it was winning five of our awards, and Haaga had trouble even assembling the band members for our cover shoot. Within a month or two, the group was no more. Songs from The Plus and Minus Show haven't been heard here for more than a year now. The jinx wins again.

Best Band to Leave Houston in the Past Year

Hayes Carll

Steve Earle once wrote a song in which he called Townes Van Zandt "the last of the hardcore troubadours." But Earle hadn't yet heard Hayes Carll. While Carll isn't quite as hardcore as Van Zandt -- no epic vodka bouts or heroin binges, as far as we know -- he's very much the real deal as a troubadour. His life is his music, and his music is his life. And it always did seem that it would just be a matter of time before Carll -- a native of The Woodlands and a former resident of Bolivar and Galveston -- would head out to conquer the world. This year he inked a deal with Nashville major-label imprint Lost Highway and took the well-worn road to Austin, where he set up shop near Dripping Springs.
Venues fill to capacity practically every time this band plays a gig. You'd think, "These guys must really know how to rock." But you'd be wrong. Nay, sir. The Reverend, Uncle Tick, Rag Tag Mac, Coach and friends really know how to jug-band. Owning the stage while playing grassroots instruments as diverse as a fiddle, a saw guitar, a kazoo and a washtub bass, Rx Medicine Show fills the room with a wall of old-timey sound. But these fellas are no Soggy Bottom Boys. Unlike a quaint, nostalgic act like something out of O Brother, Where Art Thou?, the Medicine Show doles out rattling tunes such as "Cocaine Habit Blues," stuff that might not cure what ails ya, but that will intoxicate you so much you won't care for a spell.
Exquisite melancholy is a difficult emotion to capture on disc -- most bands that strive for it end up sounding either whiny or pretentious. Scattered Pages is not most bands. The newest of their three EPs -- 2006's This Is Where the Story Ends -- picks up where Neil Young's Harvest left off: gently strummed acoustic guitars awash in pedal steel atop brushed-snare hits and vocals softly sung. These guys are starting to get lots of comparisons to fellow Smiths/Morrissey devotees the Decemberists, but we would argue that the locals are better, and not just 'cause they're locals. Singer Brandon Hancock's voice isn't as grating as that of Colin Meloy of the Decemberists, and the Scattered Pages' arrangements retain your interest longer. Who knew Baytown -- all three members hail from there -- could produce such sigh-inducing beauty?
This op-art gem is crisp, it's bright, it catches the eye, and the picture of the grinning, gold-toothed chimp set in yellow-and-orange swirls references the English translation of the band's name. (Yes, yes, we know, chango means monkey, and chimps are primates, but still...) The whole thing is as bold and garishly beautiful as a box of Tide. We don't know the name of the guy who designed the thing, but we wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be Andres Warhol.
Just south of Loop 610 off State Highway 288 is the newest manifestation of Houston's inherent weirdness -- a fresh companion for other such exuberant folk-art outbursts as the Orange Show, the Beer Can House and the Flower Man House. In a huge green field just off Holmes Road, on land belonging to Texas Pipe and Supply Company, lies the Eclectic Menagerie Park, a slowly growing outdoor installation of sculptures. It began in 1999 with a lonely hippo bawling on a little purpose-built mound. Little by little, more beasts came to the party -- huge, rust-colored armadillos, a staid-looking rhino, a giant roadrunner, a trio of gaudy art cows, an enormous eagle with outstretched wings. And, oh yeah, a giant gorilla dangling from a crane, a dragon, and lots and lots of airplanes. If you have to ask why all that stuff is out there, you just don't understand Houston. "Why shouldn't it be there?" is the better question. That's just the way we roll around here.
Mega 101 doesn't have an entirely Spanish-language lineup; they play a Spanglish mix of hip-hop, rock, salsa and reggaetn. So what makes it so popular with Houston's Latinos? It's the music, combined with the "Latino and Proud" attitude, that have earned it legions of listeners. The morning show features the Mexicanz, a crew of irreverent, opinionated, gossipy DJs. And there's Carmen. Ay, Chihuahua, Carmen. An unidentified male comic does the voice of Carmen, who plays phone pranks on unsuspecting Houstonians every weekday morning. (She once called a delivery service and asked how much it would cost to deliver a package from Latin America -- with her cousin inside.) Everything ends up being very estoopid...and hilarious.
Step inside the Bellaire Broiler Burger dining room and you'll find yourself transported back to a time when burgers weren't fusion food, and a ten-spot could actually get you a satisfying dinner. The Happy Days malt-shop decor includes vinyl booths, knickknacks right out of Grandma's living room, faded plastic flowers and worn-down linoleum. It's all very clean, mind you, but it's all very, very old. Try the double meat burger with cheese, bacon and anything else you'd want -- for less than $6.50. We're talking a solid, Texas-size burger that you need both hands to lift. Add an order of hand-dipped onion rings or an old-fashioned malt, and you've got a great meal for less than $10.

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