As in years past, Rocks Off asked our writers covering the HPMA showcase to tell us the act they like best that, until Sunday, they'd never seen before.
American Fangs I caught American Fangs for the first time Sunday night, and came away impressed by how polished they sounded. They talented five-piece played tight as hell, no doubt sharpened up by a bit of serious touring. They sounded like pros ready for a much bigger stage, tucked away as they were into a dark corner of Dirt Bar. Somebody get these guys on the Warped Tour. NATHAN SMITH
Caretta Bell To be completely honest, I had no idea who Caretta Bell was as I walked to Ben's Beans late Sunday afternoon. She was one of the few artists performing whom I'd never seen live. Since I was in dire need of a second wind anyway, I walked into the coffee shop, ordered a latte and proceeded to just about spit it out as Ms. Bell began to sing.
Self-described as soulful, sultry, sexy and sassy, she proved herself all four as well as resilient and resourceful. Her drummer may have been a no-show, but the crowd inside Ben's was happy to clap the beat for her, and she and the remaining members of her band didn't miss a step. MATTHEW KEEVER
Doughbeezy Doughbeezy was in unfamiliar territory: a 7 o'clock rap show on a Sunday night. He must have known House of Blues holds Sunday gospel brunches, because he almost seemed to request permission before launching into "Head," which is all about getting some. Head, that is. Soon enough, his never-miss-a-syllable flow got a small Bronze Peacock Room crowd hyped with "Wake & Bake" and "F_CK YOU," call-and-response jams about rolling smoke and telling folks to fuck off, respectively. Now that's more like it.
His set was shorter than I hoped it would be, but it was banging and showed why the Southeast Beast has the right people paying the right kind of attention to what he's doing. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
Doughbeezy Rumor has it that Doughbeezy is one of Houston's best up-and-coming rappers. After hearing much ado about the local spitfire, he did not disappoint, especially considering the half-empty (or half-full?) venue. Despite a set that ran shorter than expected, he rhymed with lyrical lethality, making up for his brief set with inventive coverage of the standard sex-drugs-and-guns script, cleverly whipping together metaphors such as, "My flow a $100 bill; you just the change in the couch."
Further amplifying his signature were his minimalist, snare-heavy beats, reminiscent of the '90s, when ballers rocked gold grills and bald fades. I now see why he is nominated for two HPMAs this year. ALTAMESE OSBORNE
FLCON FCKER Sometimes you come across an artist that just happens to hit all the right buttons for you. Cool gear to manipulate sound? Check. Interesting music? Check. A rad mask? Check again. I don't know why I've waited so long to see FLCON FCKER, but after 30 seconds I had totally bought in. Consider me on board, person with no vowels. I can't wait to hear what's next. CORY GARCIA
Jealous Creatures I caught a strong whiff of the Pretenders while watching Jealous Creatures, but that could just because they happen to have female lead singer. Really, I think it's because of the tough, tuneful songs that really go somewhere, and know exactly where that is. They passed the test I give every band I see for the first time at the HPMA showcase with flying colors: Jealous Creatures made me want to go see them again immediately. CHRIS GRAY
The Niceguys Humor and music don't always work well together, but when they do, it's not something you can deny. The Niceguys have the ability to not only deliver a dis, but to do so over infectious beats that could rival some of rap's best. Aside from the fact that they stopped a song midway through it, they played it off in a way that I'm still not sure if it was intentional or not.
And of course, who can deny a group's appeal when they've made enough of an impression that Bun B makes an appearance during their set? On top of that, The Niceguys stay true to their name, using a heavy dose of Southern hospitality to draw the crowd in and welcome them to the show. I almost hate to say it, but Fat Tony better watch his back. ALYSSA DUPREE
The Niceguys I had never seen The Niceguys onstage, and I suppose I still haven't. I've seen them in the crowd, on the ground, and everywhere but the stage, which is too awesome. Those Niceguys spent the most of their set rapping down in front of the crowd rather than up onstage. Well, until Bun B jumped up there to rap with them, that is. And yeah, if you missed that, please be jealous because it was as worth it as it sounds. ANGELICA LEICHT
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