Houston Music

Meet the 2015 HPMA Reader's Choice Nominees

Let’s get one thing out of the way – being named a Houston Press Reader’s Choice nominee is not some sort of bad-news proposition. Certain types always see a half-empty glass, no matter what good stuff may be in it. To them, the notion that the six acts listed here escaped the recall of the Awards’ nominating group, only to be saved by their faithful fans, is some sort of mark on the bands and/or the nominators.

We who prefer a half-full variety of drinking receptacle see this negativity as nonsense. The truth is, we enjoy an excess of award-worthy talent in Houston. How deep is the talent pool? The following nominees come from six separate genres. So where’s the bad news in that? With a finite number of slots in a finite number of categories, some hard choices may have meant the omissions of some of the acts listed here...as well as many, many others. The beauty of this specific group is its legions rose up to ensure their favorites got the recognition they clearly deserved.

So, congrats to these acts, your 2015 HPMA Reader’s Choice nominees:


Genre: Hardcore punk

Members: Brandon Lyday (lead vocals); “Mohawk Steve” (guitar and vocals); Blake Lyday (drums); Floyd Willis (bass); Mikey Seals (guitar)

The Fans: “This means a lot to the band. Everyone who doesn't get a nomination feels ‘snubbed’ and, for some more than others, rightly so. So, for our fans to reach out on our behalf is even more meaningful than a nod from a writer,” says Floyd Willis. “We try to be supportive of all local artists. We invited local painters, photographers, graphic designers and musicians to showcase their creativity at our ‘H-Town Warriors’ show earlier this year and provided them with booth space at no charge. We want to build the local community and not just fans of our music.”

The Gigs: “We have been very grateful for getting the opportunities to play with many of our inspirations, such as Swinging Utters, The Adicts, Lower Class Brats, Street Dogs, The Misfits, Agent Orange, The Dwarves, TSOL, Anti-Flag, Against Me!, Pennywise, The Casualties and finally, Bad Religion,” Willis says. “We also got to play the inaugural Houston Whatever Fest, and look forward to playing again this year. What's amazing is the majority of these have been in the last two years and we have to send a big thanks to the booking agents that believed in us, John Escamilla, Tracy Sanchez, Jason Price and Christian Larson.”

The Gig to Get Your Vote: Willis: “We are releasing a digital EP, War, on August 7 at Warehouse Live. Opening acts are Khobretti, Hogs of War and Action Frank. The $10 cover will get you a code to download the EP for free."


 "I spin cool noises for cool people in cool places."

Members:  DJ MIK ONE

The Fans: "My relationship with my fans is truly amazing," says DJ MIK ONE, who has DJed since before he was a teenager and went pro in 2001 at the age of 18. "I couldn't ask for a more loyal, supporting group of people. The reason I'm even here talking with you is because of them. Event after event they request me, which is a blessing because I am a true working DJ."

The Gigs: "I had the chance to open up for DJ Qbert via Scion which was a huge blessing. Scion played a large role in helping me develop a presence in the automotive community. I now DJ primarily automotive events so I get to play in very special and different venues, from the George R. Brown Convention Center to Constellation Field and everything in between, with huge parking lots."

The Gig to Get Your Vote: DJ MIK ONE next performs at the Spekture Automotive Experience, 2-7 p.m. Sunday, August 9


Genre: Blues/Rock/Jam

Members: Steve Krase; James Henry; Rock Romano; Michael Morris; Robert Markoff; Al Pagliouso and Johnny Smith

The Fans: "To be selected in the Readers Choice category means that our fans are the most awesome in all of Houston! It makes me want to jump up on the bar!" Krase says. 

The Gigs: Over eight years together, there have been plenty, Krase says. Whether at their routine haunts or overseas supporting a Houston blues legend, Krase said he and the band are appreciative of every opportunity to play for blues fans.

"We enjoy doing high-energy sets! It doesn't matter where!"  Krase says. "The Big Easy and the Shakespeare Pub have been the most supportive of our music and my personal shenanigans! Also being able to back the awesome Trudy Lynn at the Lucerne Blues Festival in Switzerland was way cool!!"

The Gig to Get Your Vote: "August 1 is my Birthday Bash at the Big Easy!" Krase said. Happy birthday, Steve!


Genre: Lo-fi atmospheric folk

Members: Matt Kinard

The Fans: "I believe that the relationship is one of creator and witness. Neither one more important than the other. For me it’s similar to a therapy session where I open up and the audience takes on my burdens," says Kinard, whose first Paper Sparrow show was only six months ago at Notsuoh. "Without the opportunity to play in front of such supporting human beings I’m not sure were I would be. For that I’m truly grateful."

The Gigs: "Super Happy Fun Land has been a supporter for me," he says. "Not only have I found some of my favorite Houston bands (like) Dead Leslies, but also great touring acts that have given me a lot of great advice and support. It's also the only place that I found in Houston that really cares for its musicians as artists and not just someone to fill a spot as a promoter trying to get people to their bar."

The Gig to Get Your Vote:  Kinard is slated to play SHFL's tribute to Elliott Smith on August 6 and is "working on more shows as we speak," he says. For updates, check Paper Sparrow's Web site.


Genre: Classic rock music and a far-out visual experience for Pink Floyd fans

Members: Randy Edgar Wall (keyboards and vocals); Guilherme Fonseca (guitar and vocals); James Roosa (guitar and vocals); Andrew Saad (saxophone and vocals); Corey Tice (drums and vocals); Jordan Wright (bass); Gilly Brown (hoop dancer/human light show) and Jill Griggs (hoop dancer/human light show)

The Fans: They're appreciative for the homegrown Floyd experience, according to Randy Wall, particularly since Floyd "no longer tours, due to two of the members being dead and Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour each wishing the other was dead. We feel obligated to be an outlet for Houstonians to get their Floyd fix."

"As far as fan relationships go, we usually say 'hello' to fans on the break and they seem to like that," Wall adds. "We've even considered giving away T-shirts, but who wears tribute band T-shirts other than ironic hipsters? Pink Floyd fans cover a broad demographic, just like Houston. As a result, music lovers of all stripes attend our shows, if it doesn't rain that day. Some of our fans cared enough to write in to the famous Houston Press as a "Reader's Choice" pick for your annual "Best Of" shindig. We think this is really neat. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and the heart of our bottoms."

The Gigs: "The Last Concert Cafe, a historic Tex-Mex restaurant/live music venue/former bordello, held Pigs on the Wall's first show in September 2013. Despite this, LCC continues to host our live music events," jokes Wall. "We also perform at the king of tribute band venues: The Concert Pubs. One on Richmond Avenue is single-handedly keeping the Richmond strip on life support, and the other covers the north side. POTW will also venture out to Tomball to drop occasional F-bombs at a non-profit live music venue and church. We take special pride in performing the song "Sheep" at this venue. Fans will understand."

The Gig to Get Your Vote: "If you want to witness the mayhem and hoop(la) girls, knock twice and cross the border without ever leaving downtown. Last Concert Cafe is hosting our upcoming show on Saturday, August 1."


Genre: Rock and Roll

Members: Darr Nieuwoudt (drummer); Tyler Lucas (guitar/vocals); Andy Stewart (guitar/vocals); Alex Iannuzzi (bass/vocal)

The Fans: Vanilla Whale's "very loud" psychedelic blues-rock has earned a following over its two years together. 

"Being nominated for anything is always an honor. To know that our music has influenced people and stuck with them enough to vote for us is amazing," says Darr Nieuwoudt. "We have a very loyal fan base seeing that we play so many shows around Houston, ranging from 40 minute sets to three-hour sets. It has been fun to watch our fan base expand over the years with only one album under our belt. We have many close friends in the Houston area that are a major factor in our recent success."

The Gigs: "For us, every act has led to other doors opening. Whether there is one person in the crowd or 300, you are guaranteed to leave impressed! We look at any show as paying our dues," Nieuwoudt notes. "We have been lucky to open for acts like Living Colour, who are childhood idols of ours. One of our favorite acts to play with is the Eric Tessmer Band, a group we have followed for years out of Austin, who we view as the best blues band and some of the best musicians in the state; for them to include us in their Houston gigs is such an honor. This week we are opening for Lita Ford, who played with acts like Ozzy Osbourne, so this is a major opportunity for us."

The Gig to Get Your Vote: Friday, July 31 with madSons at That One Bar. For more dates, check the band's Facebook page.

Vote in this year's HPMA poll here. Winners will be announced on Thursday, August 30.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.