Your Two-Steppin' Guide to the Rodeo Cookoff Bands

As one of the biggest entertainment-based enterprises on the planet, not just in Texas, the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is one of the few local events that people halfway across the country and around the world travel to see. As such, its concert calendar has become increasingly crowded with pop stars like Pitbull, Robin Thicke, Bruno Mars and the Black Eyed Peas, as well as the top draws Nashville has to offer. In recent years this strategy has allowed the rodeo to regularly smash its own attendance records, but it could also leave some of our many visitors wondering, "This is Texas...where's all the country music at?"

That could well be why that on the eighth day, the rodeo gods created the World's Championship BBQ Contest, the three-day event (or "cookoff" for short) that serves as a sauce-smeared, hickory-smoked prologue to the Rodeo proper and gets underway this very evening down in Reliant Park. Here among the invitation-only tents and savory smells is also all the twang you could possibly hope for courtesy of these dozen acts, many of them from right here in God's country. Look for it at the Miller Stage In the Garden and Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon.

So get your boots on. Hope you're ready to drink some beer.

(Note: some of the following acts, and lots more besides, will be appearing at the Hideout tent during the course of the rodeo. See that schedule right over here.)

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27 All acts perform at the Miller Stage In the Garden unless noted

JUSTIN VAN SANT Time: 7:15 p.m. Hometown: Houston Twitter Bio: "I sing the songs I was born to sing the best that I can" Sponsored By: Lone Star Beer, Rebecca Creek Whiskey Might Remind You Of: Gary Allan Sample Songs: "Swear I'm In a Small Town," "Destination Me and You," "Without That Woman" Sample Lyrics: "On any given road/Just a good stone's throw can prob'ly hit Town Hall" ("Swear I'm In a Small Town")

SUSAN HICKMAN Time: 7:30 p.m. (Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon) Hometown: Humble Twitter Bio: "Texas Country Music Recording Artist" Might Remind You Of: Gretchen Wilson Sample Songs: "Hell Still Hasn't Frozen Over," "Do Me a Miracle," "Whipping Post" (yes, the Allman Bros. warhorse) Sample Lyrics: "I'm not angry anymore/I don't hate love like I swore" ("Hell Still Hasn't Frozen Over")

Hickman also plays 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, also at the Rockin' Bar-B-Que Saloon.

CODY JOHNSON Time: 9:15 p.m. Hometown: Huntsville Twitter Bio: "Living in East Texas, married to my best friend, chasing my dreams...Cowboy, Hunter, Fisherman, Songwriter, Performer." Might Remind You Of: Dierks Bentley Sponsored By: Bud Light, Wrangler Sample Songs: "Dance Her Home," "Ride With Me," "Texas Kind of Way" Sample Lyrics: "Might as well lock me up in Huntsville/If your memory's here to stay" ("Texas Kind of Way")


MIKE & THE MOONPIES Time: 3 p.m. Hometown: Austin Twitter Bio: "New Album The Hard Way Available Now!" Might Remind You Of: Cross Canadian Ragweed Sponsored By: Lone Star Beer Sample Songs: "The Hard Way,"Puttin' It Down," "Damn Strait" Sample Lyrics: "How could you take her, just like you were taking a rose/Damn Strait, damn Hank, damn Jones" ("Damn Strait")

SAM HUNT Time: 5 p.m. Hometown: Cedartown, Ga. via Birmingham, Ala. (he's a former UAB quarterback) Twitter Bio: "Download Raised On It on iTunes" Might Remind You Of: Jason Aldean Sample Songs: "Raised On It" Sample Lyrics: "Only sign we ever got stuck/Was the muddy chain in the back of the truck" ("Raised On It")

CHASE RICE Time: 7:15 p.m. Hometown: Daytona Beach, Fla Twitter Bio: "New EP Ready Set Roll available now on iTunes" Might Remind You Of: Luke Bryan Sample Songs: "Ready Set Roll," "How She Rolls," "Best Beers of Our Lives" Sample Lyrics: "Here's to ridin' on the high life/A little puff and a hell-yeah high-five" ("Best Beers of Our Lives")

JACK INGRAM Time: 9:15 p.m. Hometown: Austin (via The Woodlands) Twitter Bio: "ACM Award winner, CMT Award winner, Songwriter, Road Warrior, Father of 3. I play country music." Might Remind You Of: Keith Urban Sample Songs: "Barefoot and Crazy," "Beat Up Ford," "Wherever You Are" Sample Lyrics: "She's got her shades on, and man she's lookin' strong/Mine all mine for the weekend" ("Barefoot and Crazy")

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BREELAN ANGEL Time: 12:15 p.m. Hometown: Baytown Might Remind You Of: Miranda Lambert Twitter Bio: "Country music singer/songwriter....Get our single, 'Halfway to Wasted,' NOW on iTunes!!" Sample Songs: "Halfway to Wasted," "It's My Turn" Sample Lyrics: "I'm loadin' this gun up with whiskey/Shootin' down his lies one glass at a time" ("Halfway to Wasted")

MAX STALLING Time: 2:30 p.m. Hometown: Dallas Twitter Bio: "Dallas, TX" Might Remind You Of: Jerry Jeff Walker Sample Songs: "Runnin' Buddy," "I-35," "I Ain't Drinkin' Alone" Sample Lyrics: "We've always chased the girls in Uvalde/Don't see why he needs him one in San Antone" ("Runnin' Buddy")

BART CROW BAND Time: 4:30 p.m. Hometown: Austin Twitter Bio: "Songwriter, singer, bad guitar strummer, husband, dad, eternal optimist from Austin TX w/ a band. And they good too." Might Remind You Of: Randy Rogers Band Sample Songs: "Loving You's a Crime," "Wear My Ring," "Run With the Devil" Sample Lyrics: "Got my eyes set on you one time back in '94/ And all my friends told me I was crazy and they said you were a whore." ("Loving You's a Crime")

AARON WATSON Time: 7:45 p.m. Hometown: Abilene Twitter Bio: "I'm just a Christian artist singing in a Honky Tonk World" Might Remind You Of: Brad Paisley Sample Songs: "Lips," "July In Cheyenne," "Raise Your Bottle" Sample Lyrics: "Raise your bottle to the boys and let's remember/The fallen and the price they had to pay"

KEVIN FOWLER Time: 9:30 p.m. Hometown: Austin (via Amarillo) Twitter Bio: "New album How Country Are Ya? available 3/4/14" Might Remind You Of: Your older brother who took you hunting and fishing; Hank Williams Jr. Sample Songs: "How Country Are Ya?", "Hell Yeah I Like Beer," "Girl In a Truck" Sample Lyrics: "Good for your heart, it's good for your mind/It's good for gettin' you through a lonely ol' night" ("Hell Yeah I Like Beer")


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