Editor's Pick: Grandfather Child. It was a good year for the blues all around - the Black Keys' well-deserved radio breakthrough with Brothers; Lightnin' Hopkins' long-overdue historical marker in Third Ward - but Lucas Gorham's crew is a razor-sharp reminder that the best blues is dangerous and unpredictable, as threatening as it is uplifting. Dude could probably battle Robert Randolph to a sacred-steel draw, too.
Marc Brubaker: Several people in this town are heavily involved in the local scene, but Chris Ryan might be the standout star of the year. Not to discount what others have done, but Ryan is a man constantly busy in Houston music - and aside from folks running clubs, he probably interacts with more bands than anyone else. Between the bands he plays in - The Energy, Black Congress, new solo project Time, and the bands he records at Dead City Sound, Ryan has a hand in an astounding amount of music in this town. In addition, the projects that he undertakes prove him to be quite adept. As if that weren't enough, Ryan popped the question to local mega-bassist Melissa Lonchambon (Omotai, Sharks & Sailors), enabling the future potential for Houston music superbabies.
Craig Hlavaty: Slim Thug. I don't think I was ever entertained more by someone musically or on Twitter this year. Kanye West was fun for a while, but once his album dropped he shut up for the most part. On the other hand, Slim kept on rolling after his album hit, talking to fans and listening to their questions. He even responded to me in August and came to pick up his HPMA award here at the office. He live-tweeted the events when a person on his plane had a freak-out a few weeks back. He was tweeting like a fiend even after I went to sleep for the evening, which is pretty late.
Jef With One F: Of all the local talent I've talked to this year, I've gotten the biggest kick out of Cory Sinclair of The Manichean. The reason is simple... he's nuts. Cory is one of those guys who will chainsaw a Barbie doll dressed as Wonder Woman on stage not because it would be awesome, but because doing so would have a deep psychological, sociological, grammatical and gastrointestinal meaning.
He's off in his own little box putting together music and art that transcends transcending itself. Every time he sends me an email with his latest scheme, I perk up. Clicking open is tantamount to a Lynchian adventure minus the cream corn... so far, anyway.
John Seaborn Gray: I think the local music scene Man of the Year has to go to Omar Afra, head of our distinguished competition Free Press Houston. The guy landed Stars and the Flaming Lips for Free Press Summer Fest, which has officially grown to a big, giant, humongous deal, and he also bought and renovated Fitzgerald's, reinvigorating it and returning it to its former status as one of the most crucial mid-sized venues in Houston. Although I do wonder what's going to become of Mango's (which he left after re-opening it only last year), I can't honestly say anyone has had a bigger impact on the local music scene than him. Outside of us at Rocks Off, of course.
Matthew Keever: Fat Tony as performer, promoter and savior of the poorly planned concert gig. The dude is everywhere; hell, we even saw him hop onstage with The Eastern Sea a few months back. Like his music or not, you can't argue that he doesn't put in the work or know how to hype up a crowd.
Shea Serrano: That's a tough one; there were just so many interesting things happening all year long. I was really proud of what Cole (Purple Bastard) was doing, as well as the guys from Local Live Radio. They were working hard to champion Houston rap, which is something I can always get behind. But if we're talking about performers, I think that designation has to go to Trae.
I saw a lot of him this year, talked to him on countless occassions, and he never --not one single time-- did something that contradicted something that he had said in the past. I actually met the mom of a Boy Scout who had befriended him, this super, super sweet kid who attends Bellaire high school and is just about most surprising Trae fan of all time. I asked her what she thought of Trae when she met him and she responded almost immediately with, "He's a really, really nice guy. I like him. He's very sincere and always has a great smile on his face."
By the way, while talking to The Boy Scout, I mentioned how peculiar it was that he knew Trae's music, asking him if he listened to Restless while he was getting ready for his scout meetings. His response was a sly, if not unintentionally funny, "I'm not a boy scout all of the time." I very much expected him to do an enthusiastic wink when he said this. He did not.
Also, my wife votes for The Tontons. She loves that group.
Brittanie Shey: The Girls Rock Camp gang. Seeing those kids on stage was a formative moment for me. I've never cried so hard at a show, even when I was 11 and went to see the New Kids on the Block. I wish them years and years of luck. Second place would go to the Fistful of Soul guys, who have given me a place other than my living room to dance to the beat.
William Michael Smith: Omar Afra. Love him or hate him, the guy makes stuff happen.