Last week we rolled out our choices for Houston's 15 Most Underrated Solo Musicians, an especially loaded modifier for a scene forever striving to be taken seriously. Now it's time to set our sights on those who play well with others. The process here is the same as before: We asked our scribes to tell us a couple of local groups who, in their estimable opinions, deserve more credit – more fans, more gigs, more money, just more – than they are presently receiving. We're not going to guarantee you these acts will inject some novelty and integrity into your rapidly calcifying playlists, but they just might. Nothing ventured, nothing gained... (Note: This list is also in alphabetical order.)
Just finished recording a new EP to be released through Dread Lair this fall, AEGIS have much to be proud of. Most recently opening for Abigail Williams at Walters, the four-piece has also played with the likes of Uncleansed, Nile and Allegaeon, most of the time as direct support — a time slot well deserved. Yet I’m still amazed that this band has not gotten more notice for their skill. I mean, their Facebook page has about 500 likes, which in local-band currency is close to flat broke. Drummer Adrian Galindo is one of the finest death-metal drummers in the scene; his execution and technique are outstanding. AEGIS is the kind of act you find by utter surprise or coincidence, like stumbling upon a lucky day in a slew of bad weeks. Their work is refreshingly brutal and nasty, bringing a mean sucker punch from a place you'd least suspect. If you haven’t heard of AEGIS yet, consider this a portent of a dark metal harbinger — your death knell has arrived, Houston. KRISTY LOYE
This is shaping into a pretty important year for the fellas in Blackgrass Gospel. They made some band changes and just this month released their debut album, 12 hell-raising ditties about sinning and swinging from the gallows. Maybe that sounds off-putting, but listen a few times and you'll be damned if you aren't toe-tapping to the band's outlaw bluegrass and screaming lyrics like riled-up villagers waiting on the hangman. The Gospel delivered live is pretty spectacular, too. Honed in venues like Union Tavern, Rudz and Bub's Sports Bar in Alvin, the band is taking things to Chicago this weekend, where they'll jam alongside Supersuckers, Split Lip Rayfield, Wayne "The Train" Hancock and others at the Moonrunners Music Festival. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
DAYS N DAZE
Unfortunately, this very publication may be somewhat culpable in Days N Daze's presence on an “underrated” list, thanks to the pesky conflict-of-interest concerns precluding our own Jesse Sendejas Jr. from writing about his son's band. That hasn't stopped the quartet, founded in 2008 by Jesse's son Jesse and Whitney Flynn, from accruing upwards of 34,000 likes on Facebook. (As a reference point, The Suffers, as seen on VisitHouston's local-TV campaign and headed for Freedom Over Texas next week, clock in at just over 18K.) Though they have rightly dubbed their music “thrashgrass” – it's largely acoustic, and also, well, really, really fast – DND are more complicated than that, like the way they weave trumpet into the songs on 2013's The Oogle Deathmachine, one of their many releases available on Bandcamp. Likewise, their lyrics tackle prickly themes like terrorism and environmental devastation alongside more recreational pursuits; apparently they've spent at least one night in jail. But ultimately, DND may not be as talked-about as some of their H-Town peers for one simple reason: They're just not around all that often. These are some true road warriors who are due in Europe next month, and this past weekend played Quebec's Amnesia Rockfest alongside the likes of blink-182, Rise Against and Ice Cube – before piling into the van for their gig last night in Alberta, some 2,200 miles away. As an old friend used to say, that's a lot of ground to cover by morning. CHRIS GRAY
In the jungle of the present, between control-state repression mechanisms and the big shoot-em-up of libertarian gang warfare, the dinosaur logic of record labels and the existential mirror play of the Internet, with its no-skin-in-the-game economics, the best music is made by smart people unafraid to play dumb. Perhaps a situationist patois suited up in whispers, whisking and ducking to raved and purped island riddims in the shadow of an impending avalanche of non-rock and roll guitar skree is a hard thing for Houston audiences to wear, like plaid on a different kind of plaid. Certainly, though, it must make sense in Freeport, where a tropical Gulf seascape terminates abruptly in the super-industrial blight of chemical complexes. And that’s the kind of surf music Distant Worker plays.
Greater Houston’s finest musical tradition, from Culturecide, the Introverts, the Pain Teens, Voice of Eye, Turmoil in the Toybox and Rotten Piece, to the Screwed Up Click and their grand pere (RIP), has always embraced the possibilities of prepared tapes and backing tracks, brought to life in the crucible. Jim Morrison might have been describing Houston when he speculated the future of music: "It might rely heavily on electronics, tapes…one person with a lot of machines, tapes and electronic setups, singing or speaking and using machines." Distant Worker are part of Jim Morrison’s future. Like other present-day groups getting strange in the vape play of the present – such as AK’Chamel, the Wiggins, Illicit Relationship, Markos Grave, Rough Sleepers, et al. – they don’t get bogged down in the busy work. They press play, leaving their hands free to roam in the fields of intuition, to dress up the intangibles in the loose skin of the moment, feeding headspaces, providing a color commentary to the play-by-play announcer, disrupting DNA schedules and circadian cycles. TEX KERSCHEN
Female-fronted punk bands are badass, when done right, and Houston's own Giant Kitty does it right. The band itself invites comparison to Sleater-Kinney and Bikini Kill in its music, and they're not wrong (thrown in with some Blondie because, well, why the hell not?). It's hard to call a band featured among the Houston Press's "Bands to Watch" for 2016 underrated, but until a band officially breaks out with some commercial success, then they're underrated. Catch the band before it officially goes big time; Giant Kitty has dates upcoming at Nightingale Room (July 7) and Walter's (July 15 and August 5). CLINT HALE
ROB GULLATTE & SHOW LOUIS
When Rob Gullatte first showed up on the scene, people knew him as Beltway Krit. They even knew him as Kritikal, but he switched it because of the emergence of Big K.R.I.T. Among a slew of names that could be considered underrated, there are no two names that come to mind quicker than Show & Gullatte. Houston claims to appreciate real-life rappers, those who can scrabble together rhymes about their actual lives and general day-to-day activity with the sincerity and gravity of realism. Show can tell you quite honestly that he's one of the best rappers in the city in between watching Game of Thrones reruns. Gullatte has teased retirement on numerous occasions, though no one truly believes that he's done. Why? Because there's a folder on his phone containing more raps than ever. To be underrated is to have had a taste of acclaim and still hasn't moved into a second breakthrough. "Trill Hip-Hop" was Gullatte's first. Loud Howard and Love & Drugz were Show Louis's. Now we're looking for the next step. BRANDON CALDWELL
MiddleChild straddle many lines. They are punk rock without being rude. Their songs are emo without being whiny. Their performances appear carefree without actually being careless. In the few times I’ve seen them, MiddleChild have demonstrated a relaxed performance style. It’s this laid-back affability that afforded lead singer Ricky Ramirez the leeway to stop and tune mid-song when it was clear his tuning was just outside the acceptable punk-rock range. The same show had an energetic guitarist nearly trip over his tuner pedal, which any guitarist will tell you is the worst one to accidentally press because it bypasses the signal to the amp. But again, it was played off casually and spun in a way that endeared rather than condemned them. MiddleChild deserve attention, but unlike their namesake family role, they aren't overeager to get it. This MiddleChild is talented and patient enough to be noticed on its own terms. ERIC SMITH
Get to the noise show early and you might catch Peiiste, the power-ambient duo of Joseph and Vanessa Gates, both transplants from New Orleans, long since patriated to the great, gray, broken-neon nothingness of Houston. Since increasing embrochment of the Montrose and surrounding wilds has rendered a good part of the Inner Loop uninhabitable for artists and sensitive pioneers, the Gates base-camp on the North side. There, unassailed by the pleas and demands of paparazzi and hungry nightclub owners alike, Peiiste cultivates their tonework, a steamy, aqueous amalgam of pitched-down kettle whistles, brooding horizontal soundsweeps as heavy as abandoned communist monuments, as alive as those colonies of remarkable creatures that swarm thermal vents upwelling from the ocean floor, latticed throughout by quick-climbing vines of florid, sulfuric noise. TEX KERSCHEN
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There's something about young musicians who appreciate their elders that makes you root harder for their success. When they couple that respect with something new and exciting of their own, it's a great thing to witness. And that's what you're missing if you've yet to see Thrill perform live. Their Facebook band page has a criminally low following and simply describes them as "Houston's Young New Talent." True, they're all teenagers, but what Jake Smith, Evan Escalante and Eric Vuong do as a group is...well, thrilling. They're comfortable covering the music from bands they love like Ramones and the Replacements. Their take on "Sonic Reducer" at Velocityfest brought the Dead Boys back to life, only with more musical acumen and fewer annoying histrionics. But they're also doing their own thing. This year, Thrill released their debut album, the original Drinking From the Primordial Soup, which, in a word, rocks. They've opened for touring acts like Reagan Youth and C.J. Ramone, but here's hoping Thrill will play more gigs with younger Houston bands to broaden their long-term fan base. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Calling Houston's own Wild Moccasins underrated may be a bit of a stretch, as the band is certainly respected by those in and around the Houston area. Perhaps "underappreciated" is a more apt term. The quintet has been together for several years now, and during that time has produced plenty of great music - including its latest full-length release, 88 92. And yeah, the Moccasins have toured nationally and done the festival circuit — including a stop at Float Fest next month near San Marcos. But it's high time some record exec or major festival promoter elevated the band to the big time. These locals are certainly deserving of it. CLINT HALE