HPMA 2012 Showcase

People often ask how we choose the nominees for the Houston Press Music Awards. The truth is, it's all you. We won't let a metal band stand for Best Folk, for example, but the names you see on this year's ballot were put there by Houston Press readers. And despite the inevitable complaints, we like it that way.

For one thing, a big thing, letting the readers drive the nominations keeps the HPMAs current. Even more than other big cities, the Houston music scene always seems to be in a state of flux. For every artist who jumps at the opportunity to move somewhere else, five more show up in their place. Others get busy with the rest of their lives and virtually disappear; others play one show and are suddenly the talk of the town; still others are on our ballot every single year. But they all get here the same way — by sparking the admiration of our readers, as in local music fans.

Our main job, then, becomes verifying who is both still Houston and still active. That's both easy and maddeningly difficult. But what it reveals every year is an astounding breadth and diversity of talent that even the so-called "music cities" across the country would be hard-pressed to match. Just look below.

That talent, more than 50 local artists scattered across 11 downtown venues, makes up Sunday's Houston Press Music Awards showcase. See ­HPMusicAwards.com for all the other details you could ever want to know, and then come out to see what you may have been missing...but our readers haven't. CHRIS GRAY


1204 Caroline

Glasnost (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Electronic Act

Houston electronica tends to be dark and spooky, but Glasnost's beeps and boops are much more upbeat. Hard at work on a new album, they've cut down their shows a bit, just another reason to make it a point to see them when they land the mothership and bust out their viral synths. JEF WITH ONE F

H.I.S.D. (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Rap Group, Best Local Music Video

Smooth, mellow, occasionally ostentatious but never uninteresting, H.I.S.D. has rated near the top of the list of local rap groups for the past five years. Their most recent album, The Weakend, created a whole entire new vernacular around the theme "Space up," or to gain knowledge. H.I.S.D. also created an actual comic book as a supplement. Spaced. SHEA SERRANO

Otenki (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Modern Rock, Best Local Music Video, Best Male Vocals, Best Guitarist, Best Bassist

With five nominations this year, it's clear that Otenki is building something very big in Houston — their video for "Ghosts," set in a warehouse while a comely blond thrashes in her sleep, has topped 20,000 hits. Bassist "Sneaky" Josh Tenorio adds an oomph that makes Otenki unique, with lines of understated brilliance. JEF WITH ONE F

The Niceguys (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Rap Group

The Niceguys are a rap group that combines East Coast braggery with Southern-tinged atmospherics. Simple enough, but each one of the group's elements (DJ, MC, producer) is among the very best in the city at his particular job. Never out of sync, the Niceguys have rained hellfire on everyone for the past two years. SHEA SERRANO

thelastplaceyoulook (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Modern Rock

Imagine modern radio as something worth listening to, then imagine thelastplaceyoulook. The five-piece's main-stage slot at this spring's Buzz Fest could make them this year's Modern Rock favorite. Accompanied by a stellar live video, single "Band to Save Me" is reason alone to love them, as singer Nava croons a sad call for salvation through music. JEF WITH ONE F


1204 Caroline

Electric Attitude (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Soul/Funk/R&B,

Best Drummer

Reigning HPMA Soul/Funk/R&B winner ­Electric Attitude took last year's trophy with a combination of hard-rock drive and pure sex groovitude. Now they're trying again. Blake Shepard's voice is destined to accompany many future orgasms, but Best Drummer nominee Michael Hatter never misses the opportunity to swagger a song along at a slinky pace. JEF WITH ONE F

David G. Cortes (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Songwriter, Best New Act

According to his Web site, the much-traveled David G. Cortes is finishing the recording of his first 20 songs for an upcoming debut album, Time Away. Whether in English or Spanish, for the most part Cortes works an airy sound that tends toward bossa nova with a supper-club feel. It's light on the ear, mostly mellow and easily digestible. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Justin van Sant (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Country

Newcomer Justin van Sant is this year's "Texas country" entry in the Best Country field. His earnest youngster epistles about girlfriends, football and other topics in the Bocephus/Pat Green genre are mostly looking for a party and a tub of beer. There are also times when it seems like van Sant has heard a whole lot of Van Halen. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Grievous Angels (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Americana

"Two lawyers walk into a bar," begins the joke on Grievous Angels' Web site. The punch line is three-part country-folk harmonies you can't fake, between soul sister Debbie Forrest and real sisters Lainey Balagia and Libby Koch. Gram Parsons perched on their shoulder, the Angels debuted at a late-2011 Bastrop wildfires benefit; now a five-song EP is in the works. CHRIS GRAY

Chase Hamblin (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Pop Artist, Best Male Vocals

Chase Hamblin's debut EP, A Fine Time, remains one of the finest recent pop compositions by a Houston artist. Formerly of Penny Royal, the vagabond Hamblin mixes modern indie songwriting with shades of European folk settings to craft a timeless sound delivered through his infectious voice. JEF WITH ONE F

1201 Caroline

Brompton (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best New Act, Best Drummer, Best Bassist

Netting three nominations before your first EP is even out is pretty impressive. Built on the beastly backs of drummer Brian Moore and bassist Jeremy Molinas, Brompton has an early-'90s hardcore sound as timeless as it is brutal. Look for big, mean things from them in the years to come. JEF WITH ONE F

excuseMesir (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best New Act, Best Song, Best Male Vocals

Not even a year old, excuseMesir is rising faster than a loaf of bread with too much yeast, with Hayden Wander's bass and voice as powerful and soothing as your grandfather reading the family Bible. Their HPMA-nominated "Siren Song" recalls the Allman Brothers with its complexity and down-home attachment to a jam-country sound. JEF WITH ONE F

Alkari (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best CD/LP/EP

Alkari delivered new album Blackout Falls in grand style this past May, creating a wealth of love within the Houston scene by hosting a free release show with 11 other bands. The album is at turns chaotic and lush, smacking of early-'00s Brit-rock — worth a spin for the My Morning Jacket faithful. CRAIG HLAVATY

Matt Harlan (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Folk

The word "troubadour" gets thrown around about any kid with an intense beard and a guitar case in his car. Matt Harlan, though, is the real deal. A wide-traveling, storytelling man who can spellbind with his low-key style and stark production, Harlan is like a prairie wind in ­human form. No one tells it like he does. JEF WITH ONE F

The Mighty Orq (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Blues, Best Other Instrument, Best Guitarist, Best Bassist

The Mighty Orq and crew make unpretty, salacious blues-rock more suited to a bar fight than pitching woo. That's a compliment. This world-traveling quartet is now a decade old and has been playing icehouses and darkened corners in bars all over Texas and as far away as Germany, where they recorded a 2011 live disc. CRAIG HLAVATY

1311 Leeland

Steve Krase & the In Crowd (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Blues, Best Other Instrument, Best Guitarist, Best Bassist

Steve Krase paid his dues playing harmonica with recently deceased local blues giant Walter "The Thunderbird" Price for some years. Primarily a covers band glued together by longtime area bassist Sparetime Murray, the guys in the In Crowd regularly hit all the usual blues joints in town, handling themselves like the dedicated veterans they are. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

D.R.U.M. (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Reggae/Ska/Dub

Already winners of 14 HPMAs in various categories, Divine Rhythm United Motion is Houston's most solid world-music act, and no festival is complete without an appearance. But the message of the music is really D.R.U.M.'s defining attribute; no other local band is more likely to unite an audience in primal brotherhood. JEF WITH ONE F

Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Zydeco

In 2011, the first-ever Zydeco Music Awards gave Step Rideau the Centric trophy for longevity. The Louisiana native, and Houstonian since the mid-'80s, has built an international reputation for boogie-down zydeco on eight albums up to 2010's Like Never Before. Most weekends he's at one area festival or another, and we're glad he's at ours. CHRIS GRAY

Espantapajaros (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Rock, Best Guitarist,

Best Drummer

Led by Argentine guitar whiz Pablo Espantapajaros, this scorching rock outfit originally included his brother Mariano. It's one of those well-kept secrets so typical of the Houston music scene. Formed in Buenos Aires in 1996, a Houston act since Pablo moved to Houston in 2006, Espantapajaros never stopped with its blazing, run-you-over style of psychedelic overamped rock. The 2010 release Following the Star didn't get near the attention it deserved. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Zydeco Dots (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Zydeco

One of the longest-running, most financially successful bands in Houston history, Zydeco Dots do so many private events the public rarely has a chance to catch their spot-on Gulf Coast grooves. These guys can do this in their sleep and have won enough HPMA awards to open a trophy shop, but they just keep on rockin'. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

1201 Fannin

The Journey Agents (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Soul/Funk/R&B

Hardworking six-piece the Journey Agents glide with a Primus shimmy and a funk inflection, making their shows prime chillout spots no matter where they are. You may even feel like taking your shirt off. Last year's All Up in It! was forged in pure boogie, a rarity inside the Loop. CRAIG HLAVATY

Maximus (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Cover/Tribute Act

Unlike some other Houston cover acts, the kids of Maximus aren't stuck on one particular artist; they just want to rock all the rock there is to rock and have been doing it since before they could shave. Catch their version of "Welcome to the Jungle" at Lucky's some night, and you'll count yourself just that. JEF WITH ONE F

Chango Man (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Latin Artist

These vatos locos have been one of the most interesting rock...errr...Latin bands in the Houston scene for a long time. Super-gluing the Beatles' jangle onto high-energy Latino grooves, Chango Man's wall of rhythm creates a party atmosphere within minutes. If you can't shake your booty to "Devil's Cumbia," you might want to see a doctor. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Leah White & the Magic Mirrors (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Song, Local Music Video, Best Songwriter, Best Female Vocals

Houston's most successful children's-music purveyor, Leah White has a backing band that could play with any grown-ups in town. She's a mom who teaches elementary starter-music classes in her off time, and won a 2009 Nickelodeon Parents Choice Award. White's 2011 Houston-centric album Our Roots Are Strong is still leaping off the shelves at local record stores. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Bang Bangz (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best CD/LP/EP, Best Electronic Act

Bang Bangz features Tax the Wolf's Mario Alberto Rodriguez and Elizabeth Salazar trading breathy, bitter nothings over heavy synths and dreamy guitars informed by Moby's ambient pop and French darlings M83. Live, the group is a trio with Vik Montemayor on drums, with backlighting and atmosphere for days. CRAIG ­HLAVATY

1209 Caroline

Skeleton Dick (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Garage/Punk/Hardcore

Seeking their third consecutive HPMA, five-piece Skeleton Dick has given many a punk-loving Houstonian plenty of reason to pogo, mosh and gruffly chant along to their infectious tunes while bobbing their heads up and down at 70 miles an hour. They also happen to be one of the most fun live acts in town. MATTHEW KEEVER

Female Demand (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Experimental/Noise

Bradley Muñoz and Jonathan Perez are masters of all that is loud and strange, with songs that combine all the ingredients of heavy metal in a world where down is up and dogs are cats. New Outside the Universe is easily the most daring Houston album this year, snorting the line between Black Sabbath and a Tchaikovsky ballet. JEF WITH ONE F

The Abyss (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Modern Rock

If you think the Cure's Bloodflowers is as good as it gets, then Sean Ozz's dark rockers are definitely the band for you. This is The Abyss's second attempt to claim an HPMA trophy, and the increasing crowds at their shows may help them snatch the brass ring with black leather gloves. JEF WITH ONE F

Floorbound (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Rock

Even though they're more than capable of power-blasting your mind out the back of your skull with amperage alone, there is real depth and introspection to Floorbound's songs. The foursome's "Only the Lonely," for instance, makes an unbeatable anthem to bleak heartbreak. JEF WITH ONE F

Beetle (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Cover/Tribute Act

Every Thursday, Houstonians of all drinking ages twist and shout through Beetle's three-hour magical mystery happy-hour set. Covering every single stop along the Fab Four's pop odyssey, the weekly event has a devoted following, which means the Continental Club's dance floor can get crowded. Get there early if you want right up front. CRAIG HLAVATY

813 St. Emanuel

Thurogood Wordsmith (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Solo Rapper

More than several times, the #Thurogod has delivered. The rolling frolic of "All Cried" submitted tricky, horn-heavy production punches with his slyly aggressive rasp, while "A.M." meta-boasted, "Damn it feels good to be a man that can do things." Point being, he's been a talent, and now he finally gets to reap a modicum of the praise he's deserved. SHEA SERRANO

Little Joe Washington (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Blues

A perennial odds-on Best Blues HPMA favorite, 73-year-old Little Joe Washington still has a fire in his belly and showmanship that's made him a favorite with Houston's hipster set. The diminutive bluesman now fronts a smack-your-face backing band and horn section led by local trombone hotshot Billy Cohn, ratcheting his shows even higher up the frenetic scale. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Venomous Maximus (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Metal

Black-clad, über-inked Venomous Maximus is one of the most successful metal bands to come out of Houston in years. Beloved of headbangers and headbanging blogs all over the States and from points beyond (and freshly returned from a short U.S. tour), the four-piece evokes Black Sabbath and Mountain in evil dirges that also pull in older metalheads. CRAIG HLAVATY

Los Skarnales (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Latin Artist

If you've lived in Houston long and haven't seen Los Skarnales, you probably don't much care about the HPMAs anyway. Frequent winners and perennial nominees, the band has gone through some personnel changes since last year but keeps playing revved-up shows to a faithful flash-mob-like following. Skarnales are also extremely popular in Monterrey, where they recently played a huge festival. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Doughbeezy (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Local Musician of the Year

Here's the recipe: Make dope music, do dope things, outwork everybody. That's all Doughbeezy has done for the last 18 months: Released mixtapes, his own official snapback hat, performed at 4,000 shows. Everywhere. The cliché says someone ran out of fucks to give. Doughbeezy is the antithesis — he stole all the fucks ­SHEA SERRANO

801 St. Emanuel

La Sien (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Bassist, Best Latin Artist

These fiery, sexy Latin rockers haven't been around all that long but make waves with smart songs, romantic harmonies and torrid performances. The impassioned quartet have absorbed the edgiest, most dramatic elements of U2, Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. ­WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Another Run (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Modern Rock

For more than a decade now, Houston perennial Another Run has made the kind of music that's distinctive because it's difficult to pinpoint. It's electric, poppy and usually upbeat, and pairs nicely with their unconventional vocals and a few ear-perking harmonies. Latest LP I'll Be There came along in 2010. MATTHEW KEEVER

The Trimms (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Drummer, Best Rock

The Trimms owe their spot on the ballot to one man, a man's man, drummer Gabe Bravo. The perfectly pompadoured percussionist is a rhythmic hellbeast with more swagger than a limping pirate. It's no wonder your average Trimms evening includes party rock and half-naked women. JEF WITH ONE F

Downfall 2012 (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Metal

Downfall 2012 chose its name nearly 15 years ago, and this year has indeed turned out to be an important one for the Humble-based metalheads. The band has become a staple of sorts within the local metal scene, spending much of this year working on another album and occasionally appearing on 94.5 FM's Texas Buzz on Sundays. MATTHEW KEEVER

The Suffers (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best New Act, Best Female Vocals, Best Reggae/Ska/Dub

Fronted by Kam Franklin's heavenly howl, the Suffers bring forth a sexy brew of seductive vocals, horns and an almost ghostly sway that keeps first-wave ska and rocksteady alive. Built on a pedigree of Los Skarnales, Heptic Skeptic and Ryan Scroggins's Trenchtown Texans, among others, the ten-piece drops that holy skanking beat into more than able hands. CRAIG HLAVATY

1302 Dallas

Vince King (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Cover/Tribute Act

Why travel to Graceland when you can look up Vince King most any week of the year and experience the real, live (but faux) Elvis experience? King's tribute act covers every facet of the boy from Tupelo's career, from Memphis to Vegas, and the screams and swoons follow. CRAIG HLAVATY

Mike Stinson (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Country

Mike Stinson moved here as the pen inside Dwight Yoakam's "The Late Great Golden State" and soon enough gave Houston its best honky-tonk album of the young decade, The Jukebox in Your Heart. A wounded warrior-poet like Bruce Springsteen ("Atlantic City" is a set highlight), Stinson has recorded an as-yet-unreleased follow-up that steps on the gas and lets the heartaches fly. CHRIS GRAY

Nick Greer (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Pop Artist

Greer describes his music as piano-rock blues and passionate funk, which is pretty accurate, but he's also making his name in the music industry with the acclaimed Wire Studios. As a songwriter and producer, Greer is already well on his way to ushering good acts like fellow HPMA nominees the Niceguys into pure greatness. JEF WITH ONE F

Potbelly (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Reggae/Ska/Dub

These Cy-Fair alt-rockers pepper their tunes with just enough dub and reggae bounce to squeak into a category they've already won once. The four-piece's recent eponymous CD shows some newfound maturity and musical sophistication in a batch of tunes dealing with divorce, emotional damage, frustration and anger. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Nathan Quick (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Song, Best Songwriter, Best Male Vocals, Best Americana

Nathan Quick's folksy, spiritual, HPMA-nominated tune "Running" combines the timelessness of Neil Young with the bite of Jace Everett. We vote him Most Likely to End Up on the True Blood Soundtrack Next Season. There's too much blood in his lyrics for it not to happen. JEF WITH ONE F

1204 Caroline

Miss Leslie (5 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Country

Houston's reigning queen of honky-tonk is reason alone to venture out into the city's bars just to make her delightful acquaintance. That's assuming she's not out on tour as far away as Sweden and France, with a voice that's all guts but sweet as homemade divinity. Her regular blogging reveals a rather remarkable woman and musician. JEF WITH ONE F

Tianna Hall (6 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Jazz

Local sports fans have seen Tianna Hall performing for the Astros and the Dynamos, and her dusky vocals can be heard in all the best wine dives around town. With its skill and sweetness, her voice could unman a charging bull. Hall is currently working on her second collaboration with the Mexico City Jazz Trio. JEF WITH ONE F

Second Lovers (7 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Americana

Tiptoeing between Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline and Ryan Adams's Heartbreaker, Second Lovers' debut LP, Wishers, Dreamers & Liars (released in June), backs up all the buzz that's been building since their summer 2011 debut. With hooks and harmonies aplenty, they don't need any Mumford & Sons comparisons to surefire singles like "Daydreamer" but probably wouldn't mind. CHRIS GRAY

Caretta Bell (8 p.m.)

Nominated In: Local Musician of the Year, Best Local Music Video, Best Female Vocals, Best Soul/Funk/R&B

Caretta Bell plays with a touchscreen in the video for "Growing Painz," the first single from her EP due this month and a very Badu-like reflection on days gone by. It's a sly and sophisticated reintroduction to the Houston R&B siren, who first turned heads with her 2009 meditation on matters of the heart, Love's Eye View. CHRIS GRAY

Free Radicals (9 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best CD/LP/EP, Best Song,

Best Jazz

Multiple HPMA winners Free Radicals define the Houston jazz sound: A chaotic mixture of traditionalism and whatever other diverse influences happen to be handy. Their HPMA-nominated new album, The Freedom Fence, tackles everything from the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to the gentrification of Third Ward by incorporating both a salsa flavor and a veritable who's who of Houston's brightest like Little Joe Washington. JEF WITH ONE F

(late-night DJ showcase)
1515 Pease

DJ iPod Ammo (10 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Hip-Hop DJ

For a few years, Fat Tony has stood near the crest of the local underground rap wave, bucking his chest and flaring his nostrils. Right there behind him has been DJ iPod Ammo, guiding Tony's live shows into events of wonderment with nary a mistake nor a peep. SHEA SERRANO

DJ Candlestick (10:30 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Hip-Hop DJ

Candlestick is great for two reasons: First, he serves as the home DJ of The Niceguys, one of the most talented underground rap collectives Houston has seen in the past few years. Second, he is right-hand man to the venerable OG Ron C, pushing the chopped and screwed sound forward onto a younger generation. SHEA SERRANO

DJ Remix (11 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Hip-Hop DJ

A mainstay in the Houston hip-hop scene, DJ Remix inhabits an open-format genre (which means he doesn't strictly stay inside the parameters of rap) most closely associated with the name Damien Randle. You might accidentally know him if you're on the Internet often. He ran www.houstonhiphop.com for years. SHEA SERRANO

GRRRL Parts (11:30 p.m.)

Nominated In: Best Club DJ/DJ Night

If any club DJ act in Houston needs no introduction, it's the duo of Gab-E and Natasha Ninjason. In four years they have established themselves firmly as the No. 1 party spinners in town, with two HPMA wins behind them already. A third would prove once and for all you don't need man parts to fill a dance floor. JEF WITH ONE F

Rudebwoyz (12 a.m.)

Nominated In: Best Electronic Act

Closing out the HPMA afterparty is Rude­bwoyz, the bass-dropping duo of MC Buda Love and DJ Sinik. Buda studied under Texas DUB founder ­Badbwoy BMC and quickly earned a rep as an elite MC among the local dubstep scene, his husky flow and ostentatious rhymes swimming in Sinik's rim-shattering bass. CHRIS GRAY

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