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Last Night: The Houston Press Music Awards Showcase

"I Don't Get Around Much Anymore." The Ellington tune is bouncing around my head as I take the train downtown (the A-Train?) for the 2007 Houston Press Music Awards Showcase. I just can't stay out ‘til two and work the next day like I used to. I was pretty sure this would never happen to me. Ya live, ya learn.

So, the Press showcase is like the Cliff Notes for a year of going out for me. I got off the train about 4:20 and headed to Grasshopper to start off with the Poor Dumb Bastards. I've seen 'em before but they're a great way to start anything. Grasshopper's stage was above the crowd and it looked sort of like an apartment balcony. The PDBs were powering through one of their hits like the well oiled machine they are when singer Byron Dean grabbed his crotch right above me. I immediately flashed back to the ‘80s in San Marcos, when I saw a man known to me only as "the Mule" pulled out his scrotum and swung it around like a mace from a very similar balcony. They say the best music sends you back. True dat, but I wasn't ready to go there, so I headed over to Live to catch a song by Allen Oldies and pick up my companions for the rest of my journey.

The Oldies were jammin' as always and after a dose of "Treat Her Right" we were ready to move on to Red Cat Jazz for the Octanes. I wish we had seen more of them but the one and a half songs we saw were excellent. It's a trio with a stand-up bass and there's definitely a rock-a-billy influence going on but it's much more Evan Johns than Horton Heat. Guitarist Adam Burchfield may be the best young guitarist in town and if your taste falls on the roots side of things you'll love these guys.

We hung around Red Cat to see Ninevolt but their first couple of songs just didn't hold our interest. The singer had a nice dose of rock-chick attitude but the songs were pedestrian and eventually my attention wandered even farther afield than the guitarist's solos. We headed to Life Lounge to see Wayside Drive because of their cool name. We got there at 5:15 only to find they were still sound checking -- this went on for about five minutes until the system took an industrial-sounding dump and we decided to head on. Ducked in to see Kemo for Emo- just in time to see them walk off stage. Karma for the five p.m. slot was lookin' pretty questionable. Sean Reefer sounded like just the ticket so we headed to Venue to check 'em out.

We walked into Venue and were immediately taken aback by the enormity of the place. What a cool live venue this could be! John Evans was sitting in with the Resin Valley Boys and it sounded mighty fine. They finished up with "Light It, Don't Hide It" and we decided to hang for Snit's Dog and Pony Show.

Snit's thing is ‘70s British pub rock a la Dave Edmunds or Duck's Deluxe and it's usually lots of fun. Not so much this time -- maybe it was the early hour or the Venue's disco light show, but the Dog and Pony Show never really got going. We headed back to Grasshopper for the El Orbits. The current lineup, which features Thomas Escalante and Alison Fisher, leans toward the Gulf Coast sound. We saw 'em play "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and a Little Joe Washington number and headed on very satisfied. From there it was back to Red Cat for Cl'Che.

Cl'Che was anything but. Rapping and singing live to backing tracks, she was wailing it up with a back-up singer whose name I never got. If you're put off by the idea of backing tracks, I can totally understand but these girls were live! Churchy back and forths that were part rap, part singing – Cl’Che's first two numbers reminded me more of raunchy R&B bad girl Millie Jackson than any contemporary hip-hop stuff. Next she brought up a rapper named Candy Red for a more crunk-sounding tune that came closest in the set to living up to her name. However, the final number – which features a chorus of "Oh shit girl! That's my song! I'ma work it on the dancefloor all night long!" -- sounds like a hit to me! Great performance.

We headed back to Life to catch the Wiggins, but they weren't done setting up so we decided to come back after a couple of numbers from the B-52s tribute band the Acqua Velva. If that sounds like fun to you, be assured that it is. Then it was back to Life (back to reality) for the Wiggins who appeared to have finished before we got there--despite the fact it was 20 minutes after we had left because they hadn't started yet. So be it. On to the Venue for the Grit Boys -- who were done as well so it was across the street to Bar Bollywood for Paris Green. What a cool club. It's in the basement of the Jesse Jones building. An Indian restaurant next door was selling snacks that provided some much needed sustenance. I had a keema empanada which was delicious, even though I haven't the foggiest idea what keema is. Do me a favor and keep it to yourself if you know.

Paris Green was rockin' the basement. They would fit comfortably on the Buzz. I don't really care for that stuff myself but these guys were real good at it -- very tight and professional. To me, they sounded ready to be signed, and the crowd was really diggin' em.

Then it was back across the street for Scattered Pages, who are very tight, and have good songs with a pronounced ‘80s guitar band influence. I'll definitely go see these guys again. Several people told me their record is very good as well so I'll be checkin' that out this week too. The songs sounded quite strong. Hell, even the bass player's song was good!

Back to Bar Bollywood for a couple of tunes from Tody Castillo and his new band. Solid as a rock, as usual. I got a phone call while I was there and ducked into the vault/hookah room for some quiet. Very cool place. I'll be heading back there to check out the scene some weekend night.

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Across the street and on to Slainte where we arrived in time to see the Blaggards encore (the only encore I saw all night) which was a supersonic jig that had everyone in the large crowd jumpin' and the floor bouncing! I put them on the list for the future too.

I was beginning to fade so I headed down to the train stop, ducking in to see Spain Colored Orange for my last act. I had heard a buzz on these guys for a while but this was my first chance to see them. Sophisticated pop-ish rock driven by an electric piano, the songs were memorable and kinda complex. Quite good, though I'm sure the band would hate that a lot of it reminded me of Supertramp.

Out of there and down to the train sated, drained and with a new resolve to get my ancient ass out and about more frequently. – Greg Ellis

Click here to see a slideshow of the showcase.

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