2008 Houston Press Music Awards Showcase

Even in notoriously conservative Houston, it's probably safe to say former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld isn't the most popular cat in the alley. But for the local music scene, Rummy's infamous December 2004 assertion that "You have to go to war with the army you have" has the distinct, if uncomfortable, ring of truth. Yes, it would be nice if some of Houston's most talented musicians didn't keep moving to Austin (Papermoons, Joe Mathlete) or points further afield (Jana Hunter), but like Bruce Hornsby said, that's just the way it is.

Besides, it's worth noting that people also move to Houston — and more than to a lot of other places, at least lately — and surely some of them know their way around a guitar, keyboard and/or drum set. Also note that the 65 performers listed below are a fraction (about half) of this year's total Houston Press Music Awards nominees. In fact, when the nominations were announced, a lot of the local Internet chatter centered around who was left out — which doesn't happen, of course, unless there are more talented performers than nominations to accommodate them. Next year, then, Antarctica Starts Here... provided you're still here.

So thank God for Sunday, then, perhaps the one day a year those of us charged with defending the Houston music scene to people in other cities — and even to people in this one — can relax. Except we really can't; with 60 bands in six hours (and five DJs to help us all wind down afterward), we're going to be like the rest of you — watching, listening, discovering.


The 2008 Houston Press Music Awards Showcase

Whether you choose one venue to plant yourself in all night or somehow find time to squeeze in all ten, you should go home Sunday night (or Monday morning) with an inkling of just how diverse and fertile our supposedly sleepy music scene really is. Maybe it's just the light reflecting off all those guitar strings, but for one day anyway, it looks armed to the teeth. — Chris Gray

902 Capitol

Hell City Kings (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Punk

Scandinavian rock is supposed to hail from, well, Scandinavia, but Hell City Kings will save you a couple grand in plane tickets and exotic bar tabs. Influenced by the Hellacopters and Turbonegro, the skuzzy Kings sound like a bar brawl at an old-school Pasadena roadhouse, where you're tanked up on dollar Lone Stars and sweat stings your eyes. If you need further convincing, their recent 7" split with fellow Houston death-punks I Am Wolf is a necessity. — Craig Hlavaty

Bobbie Fine (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Underground Hip-Hop

New Jersey native Bobbie Fine came to Houston in 1991 as hype man for rapper YZ ("Thinking of a Masterplan") and never left. As seasoned as they come, he also founded the group Blaque Spurm (who signed with Rick Rubin in the mid-'90s and released the all-time classic album title Spurmacidal Tendencies) as well as former Interscope artists the Funk Family. More recently, Fine crossed over into eyeliner territory on his album F.I.N.E. (Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic & Emo), but there's nothing frustrated, insecure, neurotic or emo about chest-­thumping single "Black Superman." — C.G.

The Mighty Orq (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Male Vocalist (Mighty Orq), Best Bassist (Westside Johnny)

Even without a Tolkien-esque monster costume, the Mighty Orq's deep pipes and power six-string command enough onstage authority to lead the hordes of Mordor into the abyss. His namesake rock/blues (as opposed to blues/rock) power trio also includes Matt Johnson (drums/vocals) and new bassist Mark White, whom '90s jammy types might remember as string-plunker for the Spin Doctors; Orq's most recent record, To the Bone, will be available nationally beginning in September. Standing at the crossroads of King's X, the Arc Angels and Gov't Mule, the trio's muscular music is the soundtrack for driving through a rainstorm with the windows down. — Bob Ruggiero

Born Liars (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best New Act, Best Roots Rock

Best Roots Rock nominee Born Liars don't exactly sprout from the usual entanglement of Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Neil Young. The Ramones and New York Dolls are more the quartet's speed, with dashes of '60s garage giants like the Seeds and Sonics and, more directly, bygone Houston greats Gun Crazy. Whatever the source, it makes some pretty raw, agreeable rock and roll, with spontaneous outbreaks of dancing and copious alcohol consumption. Try the Liars' 2006 Mortville CD, Exit Smiling, or this year's "Go Back One Day" 7" on for size and see if you don't agree. — C.G.

Buxton (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Local Album
(A Family Light), Best Misc. Instrument
(Jason  Willis), Best Neo-Folk

As its multiple nominations suggest, Buxton is one of those bands it's almost impossible not to like. Rooted in heavy folk-rock and Americana, the catchy, honest songs on 2008 debut A Family Light hardly sound like they could come from four guys with no previous band experience, but it's true. And though the quartet knows its history and respects its peers —Fatal Flying Guilloteens and O Pioneers!!!, to name a couple — over the past year Buxton has helped propel Houston's local scene forward as much as anyone. — Brigitte B. Zabak

Young Mammals (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Indie Rock

Their name may be different, but Young Mammals (formerly the Dimes) is working harder than ever to keep its music ahead of the curve. Creating a buzz is hardly new for the quartet, who took Best New Act, Best Indie Rock and Best Local Song (for "Delilah") at last year's awards. Though the impending departure of drummer Iram Guerrero will (temporarily) leave the band down one talented musician, Young Mammals has been working on new material it hopes to release in the near future. — B.B.Z.

316 Main

Flying Fish Sailors (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Traditional Folk

Not many bands can create a set list that includes traditional folk sea chanties, Irish jigs, pub singalongs and English ballads with similar original material that touches on cannibalism, dollar stores, pandemics and the Loch Ness Monster. But the Flying Fish Sailors have managed to mingle instrumental skill and offbeat humor superbly for more than 20 years. If the multi-instrumentalist/singing ensemble doesn't bring an immediate smile to your face, you've got to be one cold fish. — B.R.

Yoko Mono (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Rock en Español, Best Bassist (Rozz Zamorano)

One-half of the schism that resulted when the leaders of beloved Houston rockers en español Chango Jackson decided to go their separate ways, Yoko Mono is ex-CJ guitarist/vocalist's Moises Alanis's faction, the half that wanted to pursue a less traditional course and hopes to have a debut LP out later this year. Until then, there's always MySpace: YM's casual insertion of Billy Idol's "Eyes Without a Face" into "Momentos" is Gilberto-Gil genius, and "Godsilla," its funky, fizzy reworking of Blue Öyster Cult's "Go Go Godzilla," is an infectious delight. — C.G.

Fat Tony (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Underground Hip-Hop

Can't ever go wrong with The Simpsons, right? Drawing his name from the portly mobster voiced by Joe Mantegna and first seen in the "Bart the Murderer" episode, Houston MC Fat Tony combines a limber flow, horn-heavy samples and a relentlessly optimistic outlook to provide local hip-hop fans an alternative to all that syrup. (Think, basically, Kanye without all the ego.) As Tony says on his Love Live EP — which he gave away as a free download earlier this year — "positivity and energy is gettin' me by." Before all is said and done, they may get him a lot further than that. — C.G.

The Wiggins (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Experimental

An artist equally indebted to NYC drone-punk duo Suicide and (early) Elvis is a little hard to wrap the ol' noodle around, but in the Wiggins' case, it ain't far off. The alter ego of one Jon Read — there have been other Wiggins in the past, and may be again — the Wiggins are outré enough to be written up in Punk Planet and palatable enough to land a song on a 2007 episode of CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. Read's latest bit of recorded curiosity is the "Feed the Ghost" 7", released earlier this summer on Houston's Dull Knife Records. — C.G.

Molly & the Ringwalds (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Cover Band

These bitchin' babes and gnarly dudes have taken Best Cover Band the past five years in a row, but what makes the Ringwalds (there is no true Molly) a perennial fave is the breadth of its material — the band does everyone from Prince and Ozzy Osbourne to Michael Jackson and the Vapors. And given that Carrie and Dekan Ringwald just returned from vacation in the Land of the Rising Sun, surely they busted out "Turning Japanese," right? "We handed out a lot of Ringwalds business cards," Dekan says. "We're trying to take over Velvet Revolver's slot since they were denied entertainment visas." Uh, Deke, that band isn't even together anymore — guess that's what happens when your head is stuck in the '80s. — B.R.

Bring Back the Guns (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Guitarist (Erik Bogle)

Erik Bogle, Matt Brownlie, Thomas Clemmons and Ryan Hull have been plying their spastic indie-rock for Houston audiences and the occasional tour for quite a while now. In fact, notes the band, it turned "fucking ten years old last February." Over half that decade was spent in the Herculean struggle to get first full-length Dry Futures released, efforts that finally saw fruition last year and proved well worth the wait. Since then, BBTG has been kicking back a bit, spending less time at favorite haunts like Poison Girl. "We're getting old now, so often it's the good old fashioned backyard BBQ," they claim.— Nicholas L. Hall

705 Main

Sugar Bayou (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Traditional Folk

Sugar Bayou's "eclectic acoustic Americana" tagline is no joke: The six-year-old sextet's pedigree includes onetime players in Cow Jazz, the Lone Star Bluegrass Band, Duck Soup, Denim and several others. Ever mindful of their surroundings, the Mucky Duck mainstay's 2007 CD The Dance Hall Incident includes Celtic, Cajun, a side trip to "Galveston" and the sad realization that people around here always seem to be "Leavin' for Austin." — C.G.

El Orbits (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Cover Band,Best Keyboard Player (Pete Gordon)

Calling the El Orbits a mere cover band doesn't seem fair; the band, sometimes augmented by satellite members such as Allison Fisher and Pete Gordon, is more like a living jukebox. Singer Tomas Escalante can handle Frank Sinatra as well as Sam Cooke, and hardly a gig goes by when the quartet doesn't bring one (or several) Gulf Coast classic back to life, be it "You'll Lose a Good Thing," "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," "Tighten Up" or "Treat Her Right." Recently, they've been back behind the hopper at the Continental's revived Monday-night bingo parties. — C.G.

Scattered Pages (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Drummer(Andy McWilliams), Best Neo-Folk

Scattered Pages are period-piece troubadors, as it were; the kind of guys who might wear porkpie hats without a trace of irony. Musically, imagine if Tom Waits formed a band with Lee Hazlewood's and Gram Parsons's reanimated corpses, with macabre illustrator Edward Gorey providing lyrical and artistic direction. No wonder the trio describes its singular concoction as "whimsical, cast-iron and deathly." — N.L.H.

Fondue Monks (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Bassist (Rozz Zamorano), Best R&B/Funk/Soul

Fondue Monks has generously ladled out its sonic stew of original music for going on 20 years, so it's no surprise the group is once again an HPMA nominee — not bad for two vatos and dos gringos who always put on a hip-shakin', groovin' show. Despite the Monks' multiple Battle of the Bands entries (both recordings and live performances), greater national prominence has unfairly eluded the band — all the more reason Houston should appreciate this institution. Besides three CDs to date, a live DVD will be hitting shelves soon; no word if a bonus segment features bassist Rozz Zamorano's ­ponytail-­grooming tips for men. — B.R.

Arthur Yoria (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Songwriter, Local Musician of the Year, Best Male Vocalist

Arthur Yoria will be the first to admit he doesn't get out much, but his talent, determination and pop-infused acoustic goodness — rich in depth and maturity — help keep the heart of Houston's music scene beating nonetheless. Though he may not share his fans' obsessive love of the iPod, he does respect their opinion; he's asking them to choose ten songs for the new album he plans to release at the end of the year. — B.B.Z.

Sideshow Tramps (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Drummer (Shane Lauder), Best Miscellaneous Instrumentalist (Geoffrey Muller), Best Neo-Folk

Formerly the popular Rx Medicine Show, the Tramps have been classified as everything from bluegrass to roots to polka, but at the end of the day it's all rock and roll attitude and hell-for-leather hoedown picking and singing, Montrose-style. Thanks to tour slots with Hayes Carll, the Tramps are finally coming onto the radar outside Houston, just as the Press's John Nova Lomax predicted they would when first reporting on them. Small wonder: These Montrose hillbillies leave vapor trails every time they hit the stage.— William Michael Smith

502 Texas (In Bayou Place)

eyeagainst (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Metal

If its MySpace page is to be believed — and everything on the Internet is true, right? — eyeagainst's August 22 show at Fitzgerald's is also its last. No explanation, no regrets and, for that matter, no opening bands (yet). Shame. To call the quartet's metal/hardcore hybrid "uncompromising" would be true, but weak nonetheless. Perhaps "pulverizing" would be better. Still, eyeagainst has outlasted most of the bands (eye) against which it first honed its hyper-penetrative sound. Anyone heard from Limp Bizkit lately? 2001 full-length Sentiments of Her lingers as a souvenir. — C.G.

Black Dog (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Tribute Band

Hey hey mama, guess to which band Black Dog pays tribute? Considering what a huge year Led Zeppelin had last year, demand for Black Dog's services is at an all-time high. And considering that Zep's reunion last December really does seem to be a one-time-only affair, these Fitz regulars are probably about as close as we Houstonians born after Houses of the Holy are going to get to seeing Plant, Page and company live — and because BD's sets include relative obscurities like "The Rover" and "Tangerine" alongside "Immigrant Song" and "Whole Lotta Love," that's just fine by us. Mostly. — C.G.

Katie Stuckey & the Swagger (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Country, Best Female Vocalist

Although nominated this year for Best Country, Katie Stuckey and the Swagger is a bit more than that; tinges of Americana and rock also poke their heads in and out of its sound. Fortunately for the Swagger, Stuckey, last year's Best Female Vocalist, appears just jaded enough to pull it all together. And if Stuckey's songwriting continues to improve ("You look like a mountain that I want to climb"...indeed), the Swagger has a good shot at filling Houston's alt-country flagship-band vacancy.— Shea Serrano

Deep Ella (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Alternative Rock

Deep Ella began as Jeff Crowder's solo acoustic project in the early years of this decade, before growing in both personnel and appeal until today the five-piece is one of Houston's top draws. Like Linkin Park and Radiohead — though closer analogues might be fellow Texans Endochine and Blue October — Deep Ella navigates a course between guitars and electronics (and trumpets and violin), turmoil and serenity. DE's second CD, last year's Empty Seas and Memories, both cemented and expanded its fan base; a forthcoming EP should do likewise. — C.G.

Southern Backtones (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Songwriter (Hank Schyma)

It's as regular as the mail: Every year come HPMA time, Southern Backtones is nominated for something. This year it's Best Songwriter (for lead singer/guitarist Hank Schyma), but if there were a Classic Rock category and ZZ Top were ineligible, they'd probably own it like the Zydeco Dots own Zydeco. It's still not quite that simple: The Backtones' sound is as evocative of Blondie or BRMC as the Smiths or the Stones, so whatever the category, it's enough that the group is here. A new EP is due in the fall. — C.G.

Indian Jewelry (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Local Album (Free Gold), Best Local Song ("Swans"), Best Unclassifiable Band

The first rule of Indian Jewelry seems to be "You do not talk about Indian Jewelry." How do you talk about a band whose name has been known to change daily, whose membership fluctuates almost as much and whose sound is nearly impossible to pin down? Well, if you're Indian Jewelry, you simply ascribe the phrase "certainly comparable" to what you do and forget you were ever asked. Whatever you want to call it, Indian Jewelry creates something that is at times terrifying, beautiful, unbearably caustic, sweetly melodic, and...oh, fuck it. Just come see for yourself. — N.L.H.

818 Travis

The Small Sounds (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Unclassifiable Band

Small Sounds is composed of local vets from innumerable ensembles that made a few scratch marks on the scene here and there. Its first album, The Small Sounds, will finally be released in August and, like the band's live shows, features a deliciously eerie amalgam of pop, alt-country and a lazy psychedelic lope characteristic of bands like Li'l Cap'n Travis and Beachwood Sparks. Locally, it makes for an outfit that can play anywhere from Armadillo Palace to Rudz to the Continental. — W.M.S.

The Literary Greats (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best New Act

Say you're a nameless Americana/indie-rock group with an honest-to-goodness folk-pop sound that crushes the "only Austinites can do that kind of music in Texas" stereotype; maybe you're only three cardigan sweaters and one super-catchy single away from sneaking onto every snarky indie purist's blog. Then, obscurity set to be cast aside, you name yourself the Literary Greats. Congratulations — you've just destined pretty much everything ever written about your band to begin with the same warmed-over Chaucer joke. When these guys make the cover of Rolling Stone with a heading like "The Literary Greats: True to Thine Own Selves," we're totally gonna be laughing at them. — S.S.

Zydeco Dots (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Zydeco

If anyone else has ever even won the Best Zydeco HPMA, it's been awhile, certainly a long time before I ever got here. Formed in 1987, the Zydeco Dots have dominated this category like Roger Federer (until recently) dominated Wimbledon. I suppose there could be an ­accordion-squeezing, rubboard-scraping Rafael Nadal out there somewhere, but until they turn up, the Dots have to be the overwhelming favorite. The group's latest CD, 2007's Never Walked Away, is its seventh. — C.G.

Espantapajaros (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Rock en Español

The name may be a mouthful, but Espantapajaros's music will be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever taken a trip to the Dark Side of the Moon. However, says Buenos Aires native Pablo Espantapajaros, it was the Black Crowes' 1992 LP The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion that "opened the door." Fair enough; hard to imagine the Crowes would disapprove of such incense-clouded songs as "Psicotropico" and "Where Do You Go?" EPs Madera, Siguiendo a la Estrella and Aqui, Ahora, Siempre... are black-light-friendly for sure. — C.G.

Spain Colored Orange (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Miscellaneous Instrument (Gilbert Alfaro), Best Indie Rock

Two years ago, Spain Colored Orange took home four HPMAs, including Local Album of the Year for Hopelessly Incapable of Standing in the Way, and ever since they have graciously allowed other local indie-rock bands like Young Mammals to have a moment in the sun while preparing follow-up Sneaky Like a Villain. The band promises its imminent release, though, and early leaks like "Music Box" show its songs are still as quirky as they are catchy (and vice versa), so the 2009 HPMAs could have a decidedly Orange hue all over again. — C.G.

Karina Nistal (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Latin Contemporary, Best Female Vocalist

If Houston ever has to answer the shot across the musical bow fired by M.I.A.'s Kala, Karina Nistal should be the only choice to pull the trigger. Like Ms. Arulpragasam, Nistal is multilingual and multitalented, singing, rapping and dancing her way across the stage while her live band pumps out a feet-friendly brew of R&B, salsa, soul and even a little Bollywood behind her. After 2006's Nistyle, Nistal has steadily been making a name for herself outside Houston as well; the upcoming Nistalgia could finally blow the doors wide open. — C.G.

407 Main

Moodafaruka (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best World Music

No, Moodafaruka is not some Armenian expletive or exotic Middle Eastern dish. But the band (whose moniker is a meshing of "mood" and a type of flamenco dance) does revel in the cross-cultural pollination of their tunes. Formed in 1999 by composer/player Rom Ryan, the often-improvisational collective also includes Mary Ann Willis, Katja Grimm, Arlandus Chimney, Adam Carman and Alesha Herrer. New compilation Essential Moodafaruka is out now, and September brings a new studio record. Your ears may not understand the words they hear, but your ass will get the beat. — B.R.

Umbrella Man (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Miscellaneous Instrumentalist (Geoffrey Muller), Best Bassist (Nick Gaitan)

Mixing genres is no sweat for this swinging, jumpy band that can rock with the best, hit a stone-cold country groove or riff on some old cabaret tune. Members come and go, so Umbrella Man's sound is continually evolving, especially when collaborators show up toting fiddles and saxophones. The addition of vocalist Kam Franklin has given Umbrella Man an exciting new dimension and turned it even further into one of the most eclectic roots-music groups in town, currently gaining momentum as rapidly as any band around. — W.M.S.

Wayside Drive (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Alternative Rock

Apologies to Wayside Drive for not discovering them sooner, but a recent trip to the local trio's MySpace page unearthed Verbena-like alt-pop blasts such as "Blanket" and "In My Car," which, luckily, are available on last year's CD Red Room. WSD has impeccable taste in covers, too: They recorded enigmatic, prolific local songwriter Jandek's "The Spirit" on the 2005 album Down in a Mirror: A Second Tribute to Jandek, joining Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Okkervil River and the Mountain Goats. Not bad company at all. — C.G.

dUNETX (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Guitarist (Chris Sacco)

Billing themselves as the "longest-­running active rock act in town," these power-pop veterans of more than 13-plus years are thus no strangers to the HPMA showcase either. Reminiscent of everyone from the Pixies and Weezer to Redd Kross and Cheap Trick, the trio has thus far released three CDs and one singles compilation, with fourth LP Bulletproof & Mile High due this fall. — C.G.

skyblue72 (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Alternative Rock

2007 HPMA winners for Best Pop, Skyblue72 have somehow moved over to Best Alternative Rock this year. We're still trying to figure it out too — the elimination of the Best Pop category is our best guess — but little has changed about the trio's dynamic, wide-ranging sound, which made Feel My Way Home one of the more noteworthy local albums of last year. — C.G.

Blaggards (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best World Music

Since 2004, Blaggards have partied hard and drunk heavily, yet been sensitive enough to make audiences weep at their potato-famine ballads. These purveyors of "Stout Irish Rock," founded by Dublin native Patrick Devlin (vocals/guitar) and Chad Smalley (bass), mix traditional Irish tunes with Johnny Cash and Thin Lizzy covers and boot-stompin' originals akin to the Pogues or Dropkick Murphys. Blaggards' wonderfully sweaty and chaotic live show is the perfect soundtrack for lifting a pint, punching a mate or kissing a lassie. Whether that's a girl or a dog depends on your Guinness intake. — B.R.

314 Main

Two Star Symphony (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Unclassifiable Band

This wacky classical ensemble calling itself "two star" is like calling a Ferrari a car. Simply put, Two Star Symphony is as edgy a string quartet as can be found anywhere. The quartet delivers exciting, original, head-warping pieces that appeal to audiences from such diverse venues as the hoity-toity Hobby Center to Rudz, where they release a new CD Friday. They've also appeared on a number of local albums in all types of genres and collaborated with the cutting-edge Dominic Walsh Dance Theater. — W.M.S.

Wild Moccasins (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best New Act

The rapturously lo-fi Best New Act nominees the Wild Moccasins shine with a Kinks-like glimmer. Think "Waterloo Sunset" inside the Loop, with a healthy dash of boy-girl vocals. Along with Young Mammals and the Mathletes, the Moccasins are helping head up a Houston pop scene with a million flavors and as many possibilities. Factor in that the band's median age is barely a spry 20 and you can't help but think that, for a change, we've all just witnessed the birth of one damn vibrant scene with gas in the tank and its heart in the right place. — C.H.

Full Release (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Cover Band

Though their readily available output runs toward Jay-Z & Linkin Park's "99 Problems/One Step Closer," Rage Against the Machine's "Bombtrack" and Kid Rock's "Bawitdaba" — there's a reason they list their favorite local venue as Scout Bar — all-covers quintet Full Release promises a diverse playlist that also includes Marvin Gaye, the Cure and "99 Luftballoons." Seriously. They also advise, "Full Release is not responsible if you decide to quit your job and take up playing bongos butt-ass naked in a park covered in buttermilk and sliced pickles." You've been warned... — C.G.

Free Radicals w/Harry Sheppard (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Jazz

Free Radicals are kind of hard to define; three versions of the same band certainly doesn't help matters. Depending on when, where and how you listen, there may be as few as six or more than 50 musicians involved. Describing its music as "arrestable, permeable and snarky," the almost exclusively instrumental, largely improvisational collective freewheels through free jazz, funk and dub. Track them down at Notsuoh, "in front of Halliburton" or in full-blown salsa practice at Studewood Park Sunday afternoons. — N.L.H.

Hearts of Animals (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best New Act, Best Experimental

As Hearts of Animals, Mlee Suprean makes innovative music that meanders (with purpose) between abstract experimentation and fascinating pop-like melodies; fond of Tuaca and Rudyard's (or so she says), Suprean herself describes her sound as "sweet, fuzzy and melodic." Her self-titled 7" from earlier this year met with a rapturous local reception, and although Suprean's sound may indeed be sweet and fuzzy, her willingness to raise the bar and take chances is what keeps audiences craving more. — B.B.Z.

Sharks and Sailors (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Bassist (Melissa Lonchambon), Best Indie Rock

Louisville in the early '90s ain't got nothin' on 21st-century Houston, at least not as long as Sharks and Sailors are pumping out their distinctive version of that herky-jerky math-rock thing, falling somewhere between Slint's plodding intimidation and Mission of Burma's stabbing intrusiveness. Tempering their oft-jarring music, though, is a sense of whimsy that spurs the trio's desire to book shows in "Imaginationland," enjoy a fine cocktail at "Sparkle Burger" and build their dream home out on "Chodeburglar Avenue." Back in the real world, debut LP Builds Brand New is due next month. — N.L.H.

711 Franklin

L.L. Cooper (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Songwriter, Best Roots Rock

L.L. Cooper namesake Larry Cooper's guitar case has a sticker that says "Houston: We Hate It Here, We Never Want to Leave." Why should he? After years of backing up local singer-songwriter chanteuse Lisa Novak, Cooper stepped up front and, on last year's Old Hardin Store Road, proved his Best Songwriter nomination is no joke. His soulful, semi-psychedelic roots-rock (Stones, Son Volt, Neil Young) is set to return in December on follow-up LP Tucson. — C.G.

80 Proof (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Cover Band

You never know what happens when you get on Craigslist. You might hook up for one of those infamous "casual encounters," or you might wind up in an '80s cover band that owns the Lounge on Montrose Saturday night, and the rest of the week can be found anywhere from Pearland to Katy. At least as far as we know, that's what happened to these five guys and one girl when they came together last year, and have been growing their song list ever since. Could this be the year Molly & the Ringwalds finally goes down? — C.G.

Lee Alexander (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Local Song ("Mr. Walker's Epilogue"), Best Neo-Folk

Lee Alexander's eponymous quintet proves there's a place for polished, Elliot Smith-style pop songwriting in the ranks of the often rough-and-tumble Houston music scene. Best Local Song nominee "Mr. Walker's Epilogue" is a sugary appetizer for this summer's Mayhaw Vaudeville CD, which Alexander describes as "almost entirely acoustic and saturated with a distinctively rustic Texas flavor by drawing on the grass-roots forms of ragtime jazz, country swing, blues and folk music that dominated the Southern music scene in the '20s and '30s." — C.G.

Black Math Experiment (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Local Album (All You Need Is Blood), Best Local Song ("Everyone Is Gay"), Best Unclassifiable Band

For a band that professes to be broken up — okay, on "indefinite hiatus," because bands never really break up for good anymore — multiple nominees Black Math Experiment could cart home a lot of HPMA hardware this year. That helps ease the sting somewhat, because a scene without BME's Devo-esque puckishness and Cure-sharpened hooks is going to be a lot less fun. So until the inevitable reunion show (this one doesn't really count), at least the quintet has left us with a wealth of material to remember them by, of which Best Local Album nominee All You Need Is Blood (actually an EP) and a forthcoming live DVD are just the latest, and surely not the last. — C.G.

Beetle (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Tribute Band

"We don't try too hard with the costumes, wigs and fake accents," admits Beetle bassist/vocalist Paul Beebe, but Houston's fab foursome still brings the mop-topped '60s to life most Thursdays at the Continental. And though instrumental limitations force Beetle to focus on early Beatles material, the band is just as apt to break out rarities like "Bad Boy" as "A Hard Day's Night." Beebe, who also does time in about 20 other local bands, describes Beetle as simply "Beatles. Rock. Roll." We couldn't have said it better. — B.R.

John Evans Band (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Songwriter

John Evans has been around so long and been to so many of these Press awards affairs we can actually refer to him as "venerable." He's been nominated for songwriting and performances, and taken home several statues over the past decade. Never one to shy away from changing style and direction, Evans has taken a musical scalpel to everything from honky-tonk to punky rockabilly to preppy Old 97's pop-rock, each time with class and muscle. He could've moved to Austin a hundred times but hasn't; 'nuff said. — W.M.S.

530 Texas (In Bayou Place)

Whorehound (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Metal

As familiar and welcome a sight at Rudyard's as the Montrose pub's famous burgers, Whorehound describes itself as "Texas roadhouse metal, diesel, one-legged dog, pickup trucks with nails in the bed and FM roads you don't much want to change a tire on after sundown." And also, "heavy...freaking...metal." They're not wrong: The veterans of Houston bands like Dinosaur Salad, Drunken Thunder and Transmaniacon MC apply the lessons they learned from Black Sabbath and Slayer's Reign in Blood well indeed. Look for an album soon — C.G.

Brian's Johnson (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Tribute Band

For those of us not old enough to have seen the late Bon Scott live or watched Brian Johnson make out with our mom backstage at the Summit in 1982, Brian's Johnson will adequately and rather awesomely feed our hunger for the definitive AC/DC experience. Featuring members of locals Awake, 30footFALL and local sludge crew Bowel, BJ howls like the men from Down Under as only a group of hardcore guys from Montrose could. Let your big balls bounce to the left and to the right; those big balls, as you (and the band) well know, should be held every night. — C.H.

Dine Alone (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Alternative Rock

If your ears had asses, Dine Alone's brand of alternative rock would kick them. An amalgamation of Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers and a less lame Chevelle, the foursome has become a bit of a Fitzgerald's staple over its five years. With the release of debut LP Era Carnival, Dine Alone is eyeing the mainstream as well; vocalist Carlos Spiers promises "11 songs that will grab you by the boo-boo!" We're not exactly sure what the "boo-boo" is, but it's probably not the hand. — S.S.

Chrome44 (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Alternative Rock

Last year's Best Metal winners are about to wreak their own singular brand of havoc in the Alternative Rock field. In the past, Chrome44 has held it own against the likes of Ill Niño, Corrosion of Conformity, Chimaira and DRI, among many others, powered by chops that balance steam-powered riffs, punishing rhythms, sweeping melodies and moments of deceptive calm. Their Into the Red won Record of the Year at the 2006 Texas Buzz Music Awards, and the new "Kerosene Dilemma" plunges into the future with Papa Roach-like force. — C.G.

Poor Dumb Bastards (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Punk

Longtime "drunk rock" punk heroes Poor Dumb Bastards have a song called "My Dad, Two Whores, and a Crackpipe," which is one of the least offensive tracks in their arsenal. Meanwhile, lead singer Byron Dean, who would never be described as "fit" — ever — is hardly opposed to his own nudity. If that's still not enough, the Bastards' MySpace page, in what can only be the ultimate indication of the band's ultimate nonconformist attitude, is totally lacking a punk-rock layout; it's just the plain ol' white one. Yeah, we know, it's absurd. — S.S.

LoneStar PornStar (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Alternative Rock

Music critics and other effete indie tastemakers often fear what they don't understand, so Lonestar Pornstar's popularity positively baffles (and frightens) the hell out of them. Those not quite so prone to overthinking things know exactly why: LSPS's songs hit the sweet spot between rap, rock, reggae and metal, and their mosh-heavy live shows are a kick. One of the few local bands with national distribution (via Houston label Risk It All), LSPS's second album is due in September; the band may not be your bag, but it's damn good at what it does. Its logo is pretty bitchin', too. — C.G.

723 Main

D.R.U.M. (4 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best World Music

D.R.U.M., which of course stands for "Divine Rhythm, United Motion," is about as entrenched in Houston as it gets. Formed as an Afro-percussion ensemble by leader Alaafia Ifalade in 1988 before expanding to its present configuration in 1991, the six-piece has taken its Afro-pop/reggae hybrid and ever-uplifting message to Asia, Europe and Central America, is a regular on the nationwide Bob Marley Fest circuit and, of course, was front and center at this year's Africa-themed iFest. With 12 HPMAs already under its belt, D.R.U.M. has one of the most crowded trophy cases in town. — C.G.

Miss Leslie (5 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Miscellaneous Instrument (Leslie Sloan), Best Country

Leslie Sloan possesses a classic honky-tonk voice that mesmerizes the ear and plucks the heartstrings. Whether it's barroom tonk or something that swings like Bob Wills, she and her cohorts bring to Houston stages some of the most legitimate country music being made anywhere today without any hint of retro or Nashville's by-the-numbers saccharine. Her new album, Between the Whiskey and the Wine, solidifies her position as Houston's honky-tonk queen, and her ace band the Juke Jointers keeps her on the throne. — W.M.S.

Pale (6 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Songwriter (Calvin Stanley)

Houston indie-electronica boys Pale can never be accused of humility. "There has never been a rock/alternative band to come out of Texas that matches our caliber," claims the band. For all its bravado, though, Pale just might be correct. Guided by Calvin Stanley's thoroughly honest lyricism, Pale has had critics besieging them with compliments since 2005's debut album Here. Perhaps more telling of Pale's impending stardom, however, is its lethal red-suit/black-tie combination. Has a band ever rocked that outfit and not won a Grammy? — S.S.

Tontons (7 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Local Album (Sea and Stars EP), Best New Act, Best Female Vocalist (Asli Omar)

Together less than a year, the Tontons have already invaded aural cavities and nestled comfortably in auditory synapses all over town. It's rare to find a band so young with such a focused and developed sound, but vocalist Asli Omar's knockout, seductive tone perfectly complements the quiet strength of the other three members' sturdy, psychedelic blues-rock. Besides, it's hard not to love a band that thinks the best song to ever come out of Houston is "Bootylicious." — B.B.Z.

Los Skarnales (8 p.m.)
Nominated in: Best Bassist (Shawn Supra), Best Punk, Best Rock en Español, Best Male Vocalist (Felipe Galvan)

Felipe Galvan has put Los Skarnales back together again so many times we'd call them Humpty Dumpty — except they come out more like the Bionic Man: stronger each time. Galvan remains the most dynamic frontman on the Houston scene, a one-man cause of rock and roll pandemonium. With roots that mash up pachuco dancehall music, border-bar classics and brutal punk, Los Skarnales hits the stage like a roadside car bomb before they build to amazing finales. That's why it's been a Houston favorite for more than a decade, something not likely to change anytime soon. — W.M.S.

Thee Armada (9 p.m.)
Nominated in: Local Musician(s) of the Year, Best Local Song ("Rock, Shock, and Load"), Best Male Vocalist (Joshua Caddy, aka J-Cad)

We'll admit it: Before listening to Thee Armada, the cutesy quintet that gobbled up showcase nominations like little pop-rock marbles, we wanted to hate them. We had snide remarks all prepared and everything. We were gonna say how the only things more showy than their snappy drums were their neon T-shirts, and that the only part of them that looked well-rehearsed was their hair, and so on and so forth. But then we heard them, and wouldn't you know it, they were good. Damn good. But their shirts are still stupid. — S.S.

Hey Mr. and Ms. DJ

530 Texas (In Bayou Place)

In 1983, Blade Runner came out on video, Martin Luther King Day became an official holiday and Albert Rowan became DJ Bizz (10:45 p.m.). It's hard to tell exactly which was history's greatest moment, but Mama Bizz's vote was easy to cast. "She saw all these news stories about kids breaking their necks while they were break-dancing and was like, 'What do I have to do to get you to stop dancing?'" her son says. "I said, 'Buy me some turntables.'" Deal — but all this year's Best DJ Nominees have similar stories. For example, we heard that Josh Dupont (1 a.m.) only sees in infrared like the Predator, and DJ Ceeplus Bad Knives (10 p.m.) used to go by "Ceeplus Good Knives" until a band of cannibals kidnapped his grandmother, prompting him to make a more intimidating name change. Naturally, we assume both of these to be true. Perhaps even more impressive, though, is what these vinyl magicians can do on the turntables. If previous years' line-ups were tough, this year's reads like a Houston-DJ version of Murderer's Row. Ceeplus starts off the Mosaic mix massacre, with Bizz (Pandora, Zeppelin, Open City) coming on behind him. DJ Red, two-time reigning HPMA winner, fills the 11:30 p.m. slot, while the incomparable DJ Jessica Lozano (Mosaic) utilizes the home-club advantage next (12:15 a.m.), and Dupont (Bar Rio, Mosaic, Davenport) shuts down the whole damn thing. Lame Movie Review Guy says: You might've paid $10 for a whole seat, but you're only gonna need the edge. — S.S.

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