Midtown Throwdown

After years of covering other people's festivals, the

Houston Press

has decided to toss our own hat in the ring with this weekend's first-ever Best of Houston® BestFest. We've pulled together two days of what we think is the best Houston music has to offer, past and present (mostly present), and a few honored out-of-town guests.


Houston Press Best of Houston

But there's lots more than just music, like all kinds of food and art. See www.bestfesthouston.com for details. And ­enjoy. Chris Gray



TEXAS BRASS BAND: Wonder what a mash-up of a New Orleans street parade and a halftime show by TSU's "Ocean of Soul" might sound like? Funky, funky, funky. Show up early Saturday and watch this ten-man group kick off BestFest with a bang. Gray

ALTHEA RENE: This crazy talented, classically trained flautist won a Showtime at the Apollo contest in 1989, and has gone on to perform with some of the biggest names in both jazz and R&B — Al Jarreau, Sheila E., Herbie Mann, Nancy Wilson, even Tony Bennett. Aptly titled, Rene's latest CD is 2008's No Restrictions. No Anchorman jokes, please. Gray

THE TONTONS: It seems as if the road-tripping Tontons haven't been in Houston much this year, save for a few tour kickoff gigs and a recent local launch for their Golden EP. The band is catching fire around the country, and they can count Houston hip-hop czar Bun B as one of their biggest fans, and rightfully so. Their distinct sound, made up of gypsy stomp and garage-rock breakouts, is almost criminally catchy. Craig Hlavaty

SLIM THUG: Never mind Netflix, Slim Thug's bawdy Twitter feed may be the most entertaining thing on the Internet. The Boss Hogg Outlawz honcho keeps the party going 24-7, occasionally pausing to lay down a verse or hit up his followers to kick in for wildfire relief. Gray

BUN B: Besides showing up at almost every rap show worth attending, Bun B turned in a few devastating sets of his own (Free Press Summer Fest, for one) this year, had a "Bun B Day" declared in his honor by the mayor last month, and taught a religious studies course at Rice University. Always repping "UGK for life" and "R.I.P. Pimp C," Bun may be the most beloved rapper in Houston. Gray


HELL CITY KINGS: Led by Houston punk Zelig Josh Wolf, Hell City Kings were nominated for a Best Song Houston Press Music Award last year for "Never Let Go." Their metallic brand of death-punk is sure to be a great fit with Saturday's other rockers, with possible partial nudity. Watch for flying clothes and sweat, and maybe blood. You've been warned. Hlavaty

THELASTPLACEYOULOOK: One of Houston's most promising rock bands, thelastplaceyoulook just notched a main-stage spot at October's BuzzFest XXVII and are currently gearing up to release a new album. They're veterans of almost every genre in the local music scene. We think it's time for the rest of the world to hear what they can do. Hlavaty

LOS SKARNALES: It's just not a festival without Los Skarnales. Houston's ska-punk pachucos have been an instant party since the mid-'90s, from the old Fitz to the new Fitz, Summer Fest to ­iFest. Now it's BestFest's turn. Gray

CHAMILLIONAIRE: It's been a rough year for Chamillionaire, but hopefully a cleansing one. The Jersey Village-raised rapper had to relinquish all rights to his much worked-over Venom project in a January severance agreement with Universal, leaving the Grammy winner ("Ridin") free and clear to contemplate what's next. So far that's been two mixtapes, Major Pain 1.5 and the mix-it-yourself Badazz Slow Mixes, and whatever he's got planned Saturday for his first Houston performance of 2011. Gray

AGAINST ME!: Easily one of the fieriest and most fun punk bands going these days, Florida's Against Me! has a crazy-loyal fanbase that grows exponentially with every gig. Do you love Bruce Springsteen, Jawbreaker and the Replacements in equal measure? Meet your new favorite band. Hlavaty

TOADIES: The Toadies righted some past wrongs with last year's Feeler, which was originally intended to be the follow-up to 1994's epic alt-rock yawp Rubberneck. Its actual follow-up, 2001's Hell Below/Stars Above, is still one of the scariest records we've ever heard. Expect the North Texans in fighting shape and ready to settle some scores Saturday. Gray



NICK GAITAN & THE UMBRELLA MAN: The term "swamp pop" doesn't get used much anymore, but it certainly applies to this five-man crew steered by bassist and reigning Houston Press Musician of the Year Nick Gaitan. It's a rich Gulf Coast gumbo of country, conjunto, R&B and rock and roll that sounds like Houston. Gray

WILD MOCCASINS: It's hard to find anyone who has a bad word to say about Wild Moccasins. The local five-piece's sunny blend of New Wave and Belle and Sebastian-esque bliss-pop continues to soothe fans anxious for their proper New West debut, which is slowly but surely taking shape. Gray

HONKY TONK BLOOD BROTHERS: Entirely written, produced, shot and edited by "Blood Brothers" Johnny Falstaff, Hank Schyma and John Evans, and featuring Sideshow Tramps' Craig Kinsey as a sage yet shady spiritual adviser, Honky Tonk Blood blurred the line between documentary and satire in its macabre imagining of the local music scene. Falstaff's absence Sunday means the other three's chances of survival increase drastically; see the movie (now on DVD) and you'll know what we mean. Gray

BUXTON: The nicest guys you'd ever want to meet, Buxton can be scary-good. On the verge of releasing New West debut Nothing Here Seems Strange, the band has honed a flinty roots-rock edge while maintaining the ethereal folk beauty of 2008's A Family Light. That side continues undiluted in offshoot Ancient Cat Society. Gray

HAYES CARLL: One sharp cookie, Hayes Carll took his scruffy Americana to the movies (Country Strong) and outer space on this year's KMAG YOYO, an odds-on favorite for Album of the Year. Now all he has to do is lie back and let the awards (and royalties) start rolling in, but he's too much of an itinerant road dog ever to let that happen. Gray


RYAN SCROGGINS & THE TRENCHTOWN TEXANS: Tattoo artist Ryan Scroggins and his rock-steady Trenchtown Texans have become a weekend Continental Club favorite, rubbing country, bluegrass and blues into some deep reggae and dub grooves. This summer's two-fer of albums, Folk Devils and Move to the Country, is a winner. Gray

LITTLE JOE WASHINGTON: Both living legend and local treasure, Little Joe Washington embodies Houston blues. Whether rocking back and forth in a steady shuffle or contorting like he just stepped on a power cable, Little Joe is a real live wire. Gray

CAROLYN WONDERLAND: Never one to sit still, Carolyn Wonderland returns to her hometown behind Peace Meal, her excellent new album of rootsy blues-rock and gospel cries. See "Chatter," p. 48. Gray

DEER TICK: These Rhode Island indie-punk roots-rockers have made an album a year since 2009, and next month drop Divine Providence, a love letter to their hometown. Lead singer John McCauley's voice encapsulates all the heartache of being young, blitzed and cursed with romanticism. Hlavaty

CAKE: They have never been flashy or even fashion-forward, but Cake proves that all you need to build a strong career is quirky songs and a taste for the absurd. Since the early '90s, the Sacramento group has been operating an assembly line of instantly recognizable pop singles, from 1996's "The Distance" to "No Phone" from 2004's Pressure Chief. Showroom of Compassion, their sixth disc, came out in January. Hlavaty

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