Annual Houston Press Music Awards Showcase: 7-18-99
Music to Feed the Soul
By Lisa Lerner (photos by Scott Angle)
showcase revealed talent Houston already knew it had: From Jazz to Blues, Rock, Swamp,
C&W, Zydeco, Punk, Funk, Metal, Ethnic --you name it, it was there. The choices were
many: Fifty-five bands for five bucks was a real bargain for runners. See www.HoustonPress.com/musicawards99
for a complete listing.
I put myself to the test, bar-hopping the Bayou City, panting
upon arrival, and enjoying every moment. It was like savoring a different brand of fine
Merlot at every turn. Voters abounded everywhere. From strong local supporters, to
newcomers from out of state, the crowds thickened by the minute as the ballots simmered.
THE CLAY FARMER BAND:
My own journey began at Spy Patio to see relative newcomers to the Country scene:
The Clay Farmer Band. Although nominated for Best C&W, this band rocks! Its brand of
original lyrics combined with the talents of its four members created a charged
atmosphere: Clay Farmer was an energized force that felt like a locomotive on the loose,
yet never derailed because of its focus and soul. I love their style. The crowd reacted
very favorably, and many were dancing soon into the set, even though it was an early gig.
Some audience comments:
"I like the Rock and Roll aspect of their Country
sound." - Chris Lane
"True Texas Rock - in the spirit of all the
greats." - Deana Larkin
"Great mix of rockin' sound with fine C&W vocals." - Roger Wood
"I'm a Yankee and hate Country music, but I'd come back
to hear them again. They were great!" - Tony Myer - Dallas, Tx.
"The Clay Farmer Band kicks ass." - Anthony
"Smokin'!!" - Mayor of the Heights
ARTIS TURNER AND THE MEGATONES:
Next, we ran over to Harlon's BBQ to see legendary Artis Turner and the Megatones,
with Terry Green on guitar (nominated Local Musician of the Year and Best Guitarist).
This six-piece group found in its audience many of the Bayou
City's blues artists/Houston Blues Society members, eating BBQ and getting into the
groove, which is a jazzy blues with brass (one of which is a MF Superbone, a horn that
plays trombone range and has 3 valves like a trumpet, according to Michael Luther). Artis
Turner wooed the audience with his jaunt among the tables, and Terry Green teasingly
smoked his guitar occasionally, leaving me wanting more. I spoke with Terry and Artis
after the show:
Artis: "I began singing at 18 years old. Picked up drums
later. Influences are jazz, and music, regardless of who plays. Blues - First, Albert
King, then B.B. King."
Terry: "Artis was part of the original Ready Room Mafia.
He played with Milton Hopkins, B.B. King...I finally got the guts to talk to Artis...11-12
Artis: "Terry Green is a great guitarist, innovative
Terry: "There is more than one facet on the jewel of
truth...everyone learns. Artis is a veteran of soulful music. What I love about playin' in
the Megatones is I can hide back with the rhythm section and don't have to take down
JUG O' LIGHTNIN':
Nominated for Best New Band, Best Folk/Acoustic, Best Underground, Best Bassist,
Mike "Mopar" Sinclair.
To say that lightning faceted the dark sky above the Aerial Theater Patio when this
band came on might sound a little far-fetched, but...well, guess what? I had at least 50
witnesses, which were an eclectic mix of hard-core Rock enthusiasts and Beverly Hillbilly
look-alikes with tattooes and T-shirts: A good-vibe crowd. The sound is a unique Swamp
Rock a.k.a. Mississippi Delta Blues that could get Vaudeville and Punk. I liked it.
Picture this 3-piece: An inverted washtub painted blue, with two-strings as an
electric upright bass; a 3/4 scale acoustic guitar with a humbucker pick-up; and a mighty
drummer. Crowd reaction:
"Coolest band to go see for something fun and
uncommercial. All fun and no crap!!" - Stephanie
"Style awesome! My friends..." - B
"I think they're fantastic, and have a great sound! I
can't wait to see where they're playing again, 'cause I'm there!" - Kevin
BOURBON STREET BAND:
Back at Harlon's, the crowd was really warming up to this 5-piece band plays
Zydeco/Blues/Funk (nominated for Best Cajun/Zydeco). The bandmembers' signatures are their
berets and hopping dance tunes that audiences crave. Some of the tunes we enjoyed were
Phil Withers, Rev. Al Green, and Otis Redding covers. Audience member reaction (thanks for
"Love that Temptations thing the bass player and
keyboard player do -- great band to dance to even if you don't dance cajun. They make
others' songs their own." - Kate Simpson
WONDERLAND AND THE IMPERIAL MONKEYS:
Nomination: Best Blues; Songwriter of the Year; Best Female Vocalist, Carolyn
Wonderland; Best Drummer, (former Imperial Monkey) Leesa Harrington Squyres.
I believe that many people packing other venues headed over to Harlon's to see this
local wonder with quite a following. The joint was standing-room-only, and the band
delivered as always promised: Powerful, soulful vocals combined with heady guitar riffs
and rockin' bass/drums. Still, there is no mistaking the band's Blues roots, and the
audience was every bit Blues enthusiast as it was the younger head-bangin' variety. This
band satisfies them all. I wanted to go check out a few more bands, yet couldn't pry
myself away, much less get the photographer to leave (we were hopelessly smitten). The
crowd was excited, happy, and energetic: It was for this reason I was unable to obtain
audience comments, as no one could sit still long enough!
Nominated Best Folk/Acoustic; Song of the Year "This is My House".
I really wanted to see this act. Caught up with the sisters at the end of the show.
Lisa said they've sold about 1000 copies of the new album, "Someplace Far Away from
Here". She said it was a good audience here. They have been touring the Southwest,
Europe (Belgium, Germany, France). They are getting airplay in Italy. They began in 1990,
but off and on since they were kids. The first CD "Ain't No Perfect Diamond" was
cut in 1997. They first recorded a demo cassette in 1990. Their self-described genre' is
eclectic. When asked what was their most interesting gig, they both responded
Lisa: In Germany, the audience was great...we both speak
German, so there was no language barrier...we lived in Germany during grade school. Our
step-dad was on a sabbatical there (Heidelberg area).
Roberta: In a sense, it was like going home. We did a fest
there, and changed, evolved. Country/Bluegrass Fest -- they love (old) Country music and
Bluegrass over there.
Lisa L.: What are your plans for the future?
Lisa & Roberta: A record deal! The right one.
Following are some audience comments:
"First time to see them. Rock/Country, etc. Steel guitar
was good! High- powered Rock/Country harmonies." - Kevin Whited
"There's nothing like a real Texas Country/Folk/Rock
band." - Tom Beron
"I think Jesse Dayton's the hottest thing on two
wheels." - Annabelle Ruch
"When I saw TKOH, I thought James Brown was in the room." - Anthony Wilkinson II
"Dropkick Chihuahuas had a rowdy, drinking crowd!
Energy! Marvin, the guitarist, had a belt amp that was cool. It was a good, Blues-based
sound with Elvis-like deep vocals." - Scott Angle
There is nothing like trying to be two or three places at
once. Actually, I would have preferred to have been ten places at once to see all the
acts. Houston definitely has talents that range octaves you would not believe. Bayou Place
was a unification of an energetic artistic community, connecting with a loving and
supportive audience across all the venues. Each venue is unique -- I will be back to
explore them further. The world needs to wake up to Houston's thriving musical scene;
otherwise it will miss a spectacular display of fireworks. I am surprised these gifted
artists are not already world-renowned for their unique abilities.
Special thanks to Mayor of the Heights for consultative
assistance on this review.