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Season's greetings from The COPS
Season's greetings from The COPS
Photo by Violeta Alvarez

Punxmas Picks Houston's Top Punk Hits

While their neighbors join the herds shepherded into overcrowded malls by promises of big savings, the fans and bands of Punxmas will be ringing in the season as they have for several years now – by cranking up the volume and moshing the holiday blues away. ‘Tis the season.

The two-day event returns for a twelfth installment tonight at Houston Undrgrnd. You can see every band on both nights – 23 in all – for $20, which means you’re seeing each act for about 87 cents apiece. And, since sponsor Buffalo Bayou Brewing Company is donating free beer for the first hour of each day of the fest, the bargain and quality of this holiday tradition is one even Santa’s elves can’t beat.

To celebrate the occasion, we asked some of the festival’s participants to stuff our stockings with the best or most important punk rock songs to come from Houston bands. The list below isn’t ranked in any order, but it is dominated by a pair of bands that put Houston punk on the map. It’s just a collection of songs Punxmas wants you to now file under "Holiday Hits," along with Frosty and Rudolph and the others.

DRI, "Commuter Man"
Selected by Brandon Barger, Killer Hearts

Killer Hearts have two seven-inch discs releasing soon on SpeedFreak and Beluga Records and plan to tour beginning in summer 2018.

"We are playing a couple fests like the Down South Show Down in Atlanta in January and doing some club shows in Las Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling," said Barger, the band's talented guitarist. "Our next Houston show is gonna be with Dirty Fences (NYC) and Trouble Boys (ATX) at Walters, January 13th."

Killer Hearts takes the Punxmas stage at 7:15 Saturday night.

"I think one of my favorite Houston punk songs is 'Commuter Man' by DRI. It was the song that introduced me to them and totally rips it out in under a minute! Also, "Dicks Hate The Police" by The Dicks. I know they're from Austin, but it's a Texas punk classic nonetheless, so I think a mention is understandable."

AK47, "The Badge Means You Suck" and Really Red, "First Offense"
Selected by The COPS

The COPS full-length debut album, First Offense, drops in February on Artificial Head Records. The band will tour in support of the album in February and March. Past this weekend, The COPS can be seen with the legendary Dead Kennedys at White Oak Music Hall, December 15. They close tonight's activities with a set slated to start around 12:45 a.m.

We've always found The COPS to be not too verbose. Maybe they know anything they say can and will be used against them. Or maybe they don't need to say much since they're the law and the law speaks for itself. Either way, their picks were Really Red's "Starvation Dance," courtesy of Officer Jeff; and, the AK47 track "The Badge Means You Suck," picked by Officer Halston, who simply says, "It's a banger about the HPD and it's shittiest cops."

Art by GFF guitarist and illustrator, Diego Garza
Art by GFF guitarist and illustrator, Diego Garza
Photo courtesy of Punxmas

DRI, "I Don’t Need Society"
Selected by Eric Christian

Christian's bands, Gold Cherry and This Year's Tiger, are absent from Punxmas' performing acts this year; but he says, "This weekend I’ll be helping out on the stage over at Houston Undrgrnd for Punxmas, where we'll be giving people a glimpse of the overhaul that’s been happening there. We will be introducing our new lights, sound and atmosphere. We are set to start a new standard for quality and respectable entertainment from all genres of music starting this Friday with bands such as Broke Off, Revels and The COPS. Punxmas is proof Houston’s punk’s scene is one of loyalty."

Of his pick, Christian says it's "punk, hardcore, trash, metal all squished into one song that was so angst and anti-social your parents sent you to a shrink. One of the biggest 'Fk you' songs ever written. Who can’t relate to 'Fk the system - they can’t have me!?'  This should be the goddamn national anthem."

Really Red, "Teaching You The Fear"
Selected by Diego Garza, God Fearing Fuck

"After almost 40 years, Really Red's 'Teaching you the Fear' still reflects today's struggles. It's easy to see the fear-mongering so many groups digress to, the comforting hate it provides, (how it) replaces real discussion and debate," says Garza, who is guitarist for GFF, one of Houston's most punishing D-beat punk acts. "A fearful mind wants to be alleviated, this is where people become vulnerable to manipulation or vulnerable to joining a negative echo chamber. It's sad and easy to see why this underrated band and song is more relevant than ever.

"Divide and conquer, well that's an old old game. Divide and conquer, being used again and again."

Garza says GFF is unveiling a new lineup at Punxmas. Their set kicks off tonight at 10:30.  He's also the talented artist behind this year's Punxmas poster art. More of his work can be found at Diablo Macabre on Instagram.

30footFALL, "Better Off Dead"
Selected by Revels' J D Grande

"Probably the most important punk song to come out of Houston, for me at least, is 30footFALL's 'Better Off Dead' from the 1999 album Ever Revolving, Never Evolving," says Revels front man Grande. "From Butch's opening yell all the way to the somber ending, it's pure emotion. As a kid just cutting my teeth in the Houston scene this song was everything you could want in a punk song. Almost 20 years later the lyrics are still as relatable as ever. I never fail to get a little chill every time I hear 'Woke up surprised and disappointed to find out I was still me.'"

Revels is beginning a promising 2018 with a bang by opening for U.S. Bombs, Jan. 6 at White Oak Music Hall.  Grande says that gig will be followed by the long-awaited release of the band's first EP, titled IRREVELANT. Catch Revels tonight at midnight during Punxmas action.

DDA hits the Punxmas stage at 5:30 p.m. Saturday
DDA hits the Punxmas stage at 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Photo courtesy of DDA

Humanicide, "Cut Off Your Arms"
Selected by Joey McLane III, Archaic III

McLane is guitarist and vocalist for the self-described "Southern Sludge-Fueled Ska Punk" of Archaic III.  The band is revitalized and very busy after a long hiatus and released a flurry of work this year, as can be found on its Bandcamp page. Archaic III kicks off Saturday's music with a 5 p.m. set.

"We have come a long way this year so we are looking to slow down on live shows for a few months so we can regroup and write new material. After that we will be back with another bang! No doubt," McLane notes.

"You know, I’m gonna bring it back to ‘04-‘05 era to a band called Humanicide. They had a song called 'Cut Off Your Arms' that literally blew people away when it came out. Just a few friends/teenagers that had amazing chemistry and a huge impact to the local scene almost 15 years ago. R. I. P. the Southmore House!"

Really Red, "Too Political"
Selected by DDA's Dave Tama

Tama's group, DDA, plays at 5:30 on Saturday, so Punxmas fans will be brutalized by its "Gulf Coast powerviolence" early in the evening.  Tama says the band is releasing a split tape in 2018 with Greedy Mouth and plans to tour to promote the new work.

"I think 'Too Political' by Really Red should definitely be on this list. It tackles issues dealing with racism, war, religion, and everyone's favorite topic, politics. Also has a raw, old-school punk sound just like the rest of the punk bands that came out in the '80s."

DRI, "Beneath the Wheel"
Selected by Andre Vorhis, Noogy

Noogy is one of a handful of out-of-town acts gracing the Punxmas stage this year. The hardcore/ska act hails from Dallas and has been hitting Houston frequently in 2017.  Vorhis is the band's charismatic front man. He says Punxmas is the first stop on Noogy's 2017 winter tour, in support of its freshly-released EP, Whatever. He said fans should expect a full-length and more live shows beyond their 7:30 set tonight.

"'Beneath The Wheel' by DRI is a classic about being an outsider caught in the competitive world of modern schooling," he says. "A fast-paced society were the youth have to 'keep up with the traffic or you'll get dragged down, beneath the wheel.' Great tune with a real sense of urgency that keeps it true to the spirit of punk rock."

Punxmas Fest XII begins 6 p.m. tonight at Houston Undrgrnd, 850 McKee. $12 per day, $20 both days.

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