HPMA Showcase: The 12 Best Artists of 2012

Rocks Off asked the writers we had covering Sunday's HPMA showcase downtown to pick out one or two of their favorites among the 50 or so performers.

SLIDESHOW: HPMA Showcase - The Bands

SLIDESHOW: HPMA Showcase - The Crowds

Bang Bangz: Bang Bangz set up a mellowed dreamscape for their audience, culminating in tunes that transported to a sound directly off The Postal Service's Give Up. This reference goes directly to the last few tunes, which were most explosive with a "z". In other wordz, those tunes had whatever possible flair the added "z" in the band's name means , plus more.

Their stage setup was simple, free of props or a lightshow, which did not add to or detract from their sound, being good enough all on its own. Also, having seen Bang Bangz three times beforehand, this was their best performance yet. Here's wishing they only get better. ALEXA CRENSHAW

Chango Man: Scene veterans Chango Man never disappoint, but they were really feeling it Sunday night as they rocked one of the larger small-venue crowds with a toasty set of Latin-flavored rock and roll.

This seven-piece ensemble laid down a wicked barrage of guitar licks and Mex-ified percussion, but took it up one step further with a "live, onstage band practice," delighting the crowd with a wicked impromptu version of Ray Charles' classic "What'd I Say?" that was as hot as anything I heard all day. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Female Demand: Even though I only watched them for a few minutes, I'm going to go ahead and say Female Demand, because I've been trying to see them for a while now and nothing ever quite lined up. Then there they were playing in the corner of Dirt Bar and it was like, "What took me so long?" Bass and drums only, aka awesome.

When a band doesn't even bother to recruit someone to play guitar, keyboards or any other more "melodic" instrument, it's usually an indicator that they're only interested in creating as much woozy, crashing, fucked-up racket as two human beings can pound out. Female Demand didn't disappoint. CHRIS GRAY

Glasnost: Having spent the last few weeks shoulder-deep in EDM, it's nice to be reminded that there is in fact electronic music out there with a more human element. I liked Glasnost a lot when I saw them at Free Press Summer Fest, and found myself even more impressed this time around.

As musicians, the boys have chops; the guitar lines that could be static and boring become something big and spacey while the drumming shifts between straightforward dance beats and fancy flourishes. Plus, who doesn't like a good cowbell breakdown near the end of a set? CORY GARCIA

Nick Greer & the G's: In his all-black getup accented with a red bow tie, Nick Greer didn't look like the blues funkster he turned out to be. Backed with a tick-tock-tight rhythm section, Greer poured out some greasy Dr. John-ified soul that had the crowd at Ben's Beans grooving immediately.

It didn't hurt that he had a four-piece brass section -- two trombones, two trumpets -- who, in their matching blue dress shirts and ties, dressed up Greer's funky tunes with some serious Crusaders swagger. This is definitely a band I'll be catching a show with soon. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH

Electric Attitude: Not only did Electric Attitude sound great, but their lead singer Blake Shepherd, had a great deal of charisma and stage presence. You could not take your eyes off him. If he keeps up the good work, I think the band will go far.

One of the other highlights was bass player/singer Kwesi Sackey's near-falsetto voice. To me, it really stood out (but in a good way). Bottom line: Electric Attitude has attitude. CHRISTINA LYNN

excuseMesir: Eight words can be deceiving. I read excuseMesir's description of their sound and headed in to Reserve 101 thinking I'd catch a bit of light jazz, something soft and breezy. I did not expect to be dumbstruck by the power of one song.

I know "Siren Song" may have been nominated, but holy hell, "Sleep Well" just floored me; it was far and away the best thing I heard all day. This group may know how to jam, but when they tap in to the emotional stuff and let things get heavy it's something magical. More please. CORY GARCIA

Floorbound: Floorbound have been quoted saying that their mission, as musicians, will not be complete until they have partied with every person in Houston. Early Sunday evening, they got a little closer to that goal, as they performed in front of new and familiar faces alike in the corner of Dirt Bar, the same place in which plenty of other people have screamed at the top of their lungs, though without the assistance of well-composed and rehearsed music. It's been a while since I saw Floorbound's harmony-heavy, hard-rockin' live set, and Sunday was a nice refresher. MATTHEW KEEVER

Free Radicals: When I heard Free Radicals, it was like hearing some of my Billy Joel records - more specifically, aspects of 52nd Street. To me, it was like what I would imagine it would be like to hear extended jam sessions from that classic album. However, their show-stopper was their horn section, out of this world and insanely good. They got people dancing, which, as an audience member, was fun. CHRISTINA LYNN

Maximus: Age is just a number, proved precocious classic rock cover band Maximus at Pete's Dueling Piano Bar. The band, whose youngest member may or may not still be in elementary school, and whose oldest member doesn't look a day over 15, put most fledgling rockers to shame.

Rocking Kiss tees and X's on their hands (Pete's is, after all, a 21-and-up venue), these soon-to-be famous young rockers riffed classics by Jet and Guns N' Roses -- not to mention a nearly five-minute guitar duo to Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Freebird" that led to a standing ovation -- and some pretty proud parents. ALTAMESE OSBOURNE

Nathan Quick: Nathan Quick still performs with a few other local musicians from time to time, but he has been focusing on his own music for a while. Compared to what he's done in the past, it's more rootsy, very rock and roll.

Quick has always been a bluesy kind of guy -- ask him about John Mayer, and he'll find something nice to say about his ability as a guitar player, and but also gladly remind you of Lightnin' Hopkins -- but his previous bands always tried to pull back a bit and fit his style into a mold rather than break it. Sunday night, his guitar got the audience's feet tapping as Quick's raspy voice, aided by a glass of scotch, filled Ben's Beans with a lot of soul. MATTHEW KEEVER

The Suffers: The Suffers' rocksteady formula is most appealing in the shameless talent of the band in its entirety. Lead singer Kam Franklin's bellowing vocals lead a tremendously soulful band. The greatest appeal in rocksteady as a genre is that it fits to many different tastes, including those who have a penchant for R&B, reggae, jazz, acoustic or guitar-driven rock and so much more.

Point is, The Suffers can rile up any crowd in its entirety because of how their tunes can reach out to so many different types of people. Also, they happen to be great. Did I menion that already? ALEXA CRENSHAW

The Suffers: A tough one, but I will go with the amount of Houston talent onstage at one time as my barometer and say The Suffers, who closed out the Lucky's Pub stage. A close second would be Venomous Maximus at Warehouse Live's studio stage next door, who debuted some new material from their upcoming full-length.

So my Sunday went from metallic heights of ecstasy to smooth, baby-making ska and R&B. Whatever works, and Houston's lucky to have both in abundance. CRAIG HLAVATY

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