Every year local Houston free weekly newspaper, The Houston Press puts on it's awards celebration, and we got the invite. The idea is to showcase local musicians and let everyone have a great time. Set up in 12 strategic locations across downtown Houston over 60 bands performed over 5 hours, unfortunately I was only able to catch 4. But trust me, it was well worth it. First off, bracelets for the show were only $5 to anyone who wanted to come see the bands, and secondly, you got to have free reign over 12 clubs and could see what artists you wanted to see. It's a local version of SXSW, but not overpriced.
The first band we saw was Houston's kings of punk rock, 30footFALL. This was the first time I had seen them since long time guitarist, Delron, left the band. The new guitarist fit in perfectly, he wasn't quite a metal as the old guitarist, but sounded awesome. Lead singer Butch was in top form, shoeless, into the crowd, and wearing a nice vintage Cinderella t-shirt. They performed songs off all 3 of their albums, and even some jewels from the old 7"s. It was a fun set, and it was nice to see them on stage at the Ariel Theatre where mostly national acts play. The highlight songs of the evening were "Divided We Stand" which had everyone singing along, and their staple cover, The Cure's "Just Like Heaven". A great band in a great venue playing for the locals, a definite nice time for all.
The next band up was local Texas drunk punk band, Sugar Shack. They were awesome, despite being old guys, they tore it up. They played their first 12 songs in 17 minutes and were left with a great deal of time to kill. For them playing a 45 minute set is like most bands playing every song they know. It was fun to watch, and even better to hear. They kept the crowd in it by joking around, and playing some rockin' songs. Despite them running out of songs before they did time, I was very impressed with Sugar Shack. A definite fun band to catch.
The third band we caught was on the other side of downtown, which meant I had to bail out before Sugar Shack totally shut it down. I wasn't going to miss one song of this next band, I was going to see The Hollisters. I was suprised when I saw them take the stage with a new drummer, but I later learned "Snit" Fitzpatrick left the band for his other band. I was excited to learn the new drummer used to play for Junior Brown, so we knew this guy had skills. The Hollisters came out and tore it up. People were singing along, Mike Barfield's voice was dead on, Chris Miller's lead was perfect, and the mood was set. What started out as a disco looking club soon became just another beer joint as The Hollisters played their brand of old school Country/Rockabilly. When they broke into "Sweet Inspiration" the audience broke out into full swing and the show was completely perfect. A perfect set from Houston's finest.
The final act we caught was Carolyn Wonderland. She was dead on this night, a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, Carolyn Wonderland is one of the finest performers in southeast Texas. Despite making a recent move up towards Austin, Wonderland was nominated for Best Female Vocalist which was a deserving honor. She sang some of the most heart wrenching notes you've ever heard, combined with the way she plays guitar, you are left feeling everything this young lady speaks about in her music. A great performance from another great artist.
The night ended with the voting, and I knew who I was voting for in most catagories. The ones I wasn't sure of, I didn't vote on. It's unfair to vote for people or events you have no idea about. But for the most part I knew the bands, and knew the sounds which made voting easy and fun. It was also nice to see smaller bands winning over bands that were better known to have received radio play. As Butch said during 30footFALL's set "Just because a band isn't on the radio doesn't mean it isn't a great band, get out and support your local bands." That's why I recommend you look around you town and find someone to go see. Even if they aren't all that good, you had an evening out, and maybe even met some interesting people. Support local music, support your community.
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.