So far this week in anticipation of this Saturday's Houston Press Music Awards Showcase, we have covered your blues cats, the metallic monsters, the relaxing buzz-y bands, and the ones who whip a crowd into an utter frenzy on any given evening. This entry looks at the bands and artists who are making major national headway into markets past Houston, and even Texas.
Of course we are just listing the ones who are playing the HPMA showcase, so we didn't forget about Fat Tony, Kirko Bangz, Wild Moccasins, Buxton, B L A C K I E, or Robert Ellis. You know, the guys who are getting notices in national music blogs and other papers of note, further expanding Houston's ever-increasing rep as a stellar music city. No doubt by this time next year, Grandfather Child -- whose Lucas Gorham is nominated for his steel guitar work - will be making jaw drops from coast to coast.
But to tell you the truth (puts on helmet) we hate having to deem who will get "big" and who will not, so this list can only be informed by who has already been making waves outside of Houston. We want everyone to succeed, to be honest, because it can only make writing here on Rocks Off all the more easier. Plus, it's fun to rub it in the face of the other Village Voice paper up north whenever one our kids gets mentioned on the Huffington Post, or when the music blog in New York digs them at CMJ.
(PETE'S DUELING PIANO BAR STAGE, 1201 Fannin, 2 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Electronic Act
Dark-beat duo //TENSE// inhabit the shadowy nexus of leather, skin and sexuality. In a city largely dominated by rap, indie and country, Robert Lane and Mariana Saldana are leading a charge, along with the like-minded Balaclavas, into unknown, terse and strangely comforting musical territories. Since their debut about four years back, they have opened for not only polar opposites Faster Pussycat but also spiritual forebears Nitzer Ebb.
Folk Family Revival
(HOUSE OF BLUES (FOUNDATION ROOM), 1204 Caroline, 5 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Americana
Led by gifted singer and picker Mason Lankford, Folk Family Revival is a band wise beyond its years, with more gig experience under its belt already than most groups of guys twice their age. This year FFR released Unfolding, a surprisingly crisp and sturdy country-inflected album built around Lankford's burly tenor. FFR already plays with the swagger of guys who have been on the red-dirt circuit for decades, without the whine and pomp, so the next few decades of FFR should be a joy to watch.
(WAREHOUSE LIVE (STUDIO STAGE), 813 St. Emanuel, 5 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Rap Group
Since 2007, the Niceguys have been a tremendous force in the underground rap scene, skyrocketing upwards and performing at SXSW earlier this year. You may be under the impression that the foursome raps only about clothes, but the Niceguys are the epitome of the DIY work ethic, driven to nothing less than perfection in their music no matter how long it takes to achieve. - Jef With One F
Roky Moon & BOLT!
(WAREHOUSE LIVE (STUDIO STAGE), 813 St. Emanuel, 8 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Rock
Like a cross between David Bowie, Brian De Palma's Phantom of the Paradise and that Meat Loaf album your parents used to make out to before you were born, Roky Moon & BOLT! have a distinct way of hugging your eyes and your hips in all the right ways. This year they not only released American Honey, an album largely recorded and mixed in a day, but also have gone on sporadic touring jaunts as far west as Marfa.
Something Fierce (HOME PLATE BAR & GRILL (DOWNSTAIRS), 1800 Texas. 7 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best LP/CD/EP (Don't Be So Cruel), Best Song ("Future Punks"), Best Punk / Garage
Amongst all your Robert Ellises, Fat Tonys, Buns and Slims, Houston trio Something Fierce often get overlooked for all the vast praise they have gotten nationally for their brand of hepped-up garage-punk. This year the band released Don't Be So Cruel on influential label Dirtnap Records, went on a national tour and just got added to SXSW's 2012 festivities. The infectious "Future Punks" from Cruel is nominated for Best Song this year as well.
(LUCKY'S PUB, 801 St. Emanuel, 8 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best LP/CD/EP (Kinetic), Best Song ("Ghosts"), Best Male Vocals (German Hernandez), Best Rock, Best Guitarist (Fausto Padilla), Best Drummer (Chris Kelly), Best Bassist (Josh Tenorio), Best Keyboardist (Colton Majors) Take a dash of pop, a hint of rock and roll, cook it on high and sprinkle a little alternative on top, and you'll have the closest recipe to that of Otenki, a Houston six-piece that has been playing shows and acquiring the ears of fans for the better part of a decade now. The band mixes in-your-face instrumentation with high-end vocal lines that smooth out the sound; band manager and guitarist Enoma Asowata believes the resulting accessibility is one of Otenki's greatest strengths. No matter your musical taste, Asowata is sure that he and his band have a song you can connect with.
Otenki also takes relationships with fans seriously and, with the help of social media, they do a lot to let them know the band is there for them. "It's really humbling to get tweets and e-mails from kids in places like the Dominican Republic saying that they're starting a fan club for us," Asowata says. "I hope we're around for a while so they can get more music from us, and we can enjoy them a little longer." - Matthew Keever thelastplaceyoulook
(WAREHOUSE LIVE (BALLROOM STAGE), 813 St. Emanuel, 9 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Rock, Best Male Vocals (Justin Nava), Best Songwriter (Justin Nava), Best Drummer (Mikey Garcia), Best Song ("Band to Save Me")
Modern-rock radio fans already know thelastplaceyoulook from their catchy-as-sin radio single "Band to Save Me" and lead singer Justin Nava's husky vocals. The band has been a mainstay on the rock circuit here in Houston for years, playing packed gigs at Warehouse Live at least every other month without oversaturating their fan base. Back in October they played the main stage at 94.5 The Buzz's biannual Buzzfest in The Woodlands and turned plenty of heads, even when playing at half past 1 p.m.
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(WAREHOUSE LIVE (BALLROOM STAGE), 813 St. Emanuel, 10 p.m.)
Nominated In: Best Female Vocals (Asli Omar), Best Indie / Alternative
The Tontons may have left their record label and struck off on their own, but this young band bears watching closely. They've built a loyal following with loud, over-the-top performances that highlight magnetic singer Asli Omar's killer vocals. Their EP Golden is making nice waves and helping them widen their touring range. And they represented H-Town well in the first annual Houston Press BestFest, where they were paired up with national touring acts and seemed to easily hold their own. They have as good a chance as any band on the indie scene right now to break out with their next release. - William Michael Smith