It’s sort of sad that the Music Issue is my last full issue as the music editor at the Current. Going through each and every one of your ballots, finally, I felt like I was getting a handle on what makes San Anto’s music scene tick. I learned which metal band voted for themselves so many times that, had we not disqualified them after a duplicate IP address search, they would have won everything from best singer/songwriter to best electronic act. I learned that you guys have a pretty broad definition of what qualifies as jazz, R&B, and punk. You may also be confused about what a “music advocate” actually does. It seems as though country/folk/Americana acts are on the rise, given that musicians from those genres won broad categories like best vocalist, best singer/songwriter, and best album. Not to mention that Casbeers, which regularly books that type of sound, won best venue.
I had mixed feelings about winners that I knew utilized their vast e-mail and social media fanbases, which resulted in many votes coming from outside the city. Several acts urged fans to vote not only for them but for a host of recommended acts that the voter may or may not have actually ever heard. How could we control for that? Should we even try?
The Current isn’t spared from a potential ethical conflict either: local musician Chuck Kerr very recently joined our team (again) as art director. I want to assure our readers that Kerr started a week after the polls had closed and the votes had been tallied. Also, as far as I know, no one on the Current staff even voted in this poll. You get enough of our opinions as it is.
That said, collectively, you guys did a great job this year. There were a couple of (much deserved) repeat winners, but for the most part, you eagerly voted a bunch of newer acts into Rammys, and rewarded veteran players who made big strides in 2010. That kind of community support is crucial to the music scene we all want to be a part of, no matter what we listen to.
Speaking of the music scene, we’re really excited about the music-issue parties this Thursday and Friday night. Thursday night, we celebrate Rammy Award winners with a free party at Boneshakers (116 W. Mitchell, facebook.com/boneshakers) with Bryson Brooks, Marcus Rubio and the Gospel Choir of Pillows, and Henry + the Invisibles. Friday night is the big motha, though. With the top-notch help of Drunken Monkey Promotions and Scuba Gooding Sr. of the Super Soul Shakedown, we’ve put together five free shows featuring Rammy Award winners all along the St. Mary’s Strip. See our Facebook event for full line-up (facebook.com/sacurrent). Come out to support your growing local scene.
TIE: Rachel Laven, Vito Salinas
As part of the perennially popular family band the Lavens, Rachel Laven perfected a bubbly, folk-tinged delivery of her original Americana songs. Now the 18-year-old and brother Niko are spreading their wings beyond the family nest.
Robert “Vito” Salinas, former lead singer for pop-punk outfit Dieboy, carries his new “Texicana” alt-country outfit Blackbird Sing with an earnest twang and a hint of vibrato.
Matt Gates (Audiomouth)
Sure, he can lead a band and write songs about ocean proms, and that is all well and very, very good, but it’s Rubio’s eagerness to stick his fingers in several different pots that puts him in this year’s winner’s circle. The Current has been particularly impressed by Rubio’s embrace of electric noise of late, what with the sonata for musical saw and electronics, an unholy array of effects at live shows, and a little chorus of blips and bloops that seems to follow Rubio into whatever project he’s currently working on. Beyond this new futurism though, Rubio’s dexterity with a variety of old-school actual instruments makes him a valued player for collaborations as well as his own initiatives.
BEST ROCK ACT
We Leave at Midnight
We Leave at Midnight (or, as the Current is fond of pronouncing their acronym: “Wuh-LAM!) takes sugary California pop, grinds it into the dirt, divides it into six parts, and stitches it back together again into a quilt crazier than Brian Wilson in the ’70s. Whether streaming off this year’s EP or played live, the effect is an intricate cacophony teetering on shambling mess, with jangley keys, sunny vocal harmonies, proggy guitar riffs, and a downright funky rhythm section. Atop this, singer/songwriter John Dailey (now a full-fledged San Antonio resident) howls, coos, and delivers some seriously spiteful lyrics in misleadingly velvet tones. Madcap as it may be, WLAM’s music never runs off the rails, content with a gloriously manic ride.
BEST METAL ACT
We meet again, Deadpool. The thrashers are undefeated in their pursuit of the Metal Rammy, and we’re happy once again to dole it out. Not because we’re scared of them and their dedicated “Deadpool Society,” but actually because they run a damned tight ship in an often lax sea of local metalheads. In the midst of an extended hiatus, during which Deadpool has been working on new material intended for their fourth release, the band still manages to support other local metal acts like Las Cruces and Perish the Land. Now that’s a great society.
BEST PUNK/HARDCORE ACT
Take an allegiance to traditional conjunto music, blend with punk ferocity, add in a seriously entertaining live show, and it’s not hard to see how Piñata Protest would sweep both the Conjunto and the Punk categories. This is fun-for-the-whole-familia punk rock, courtesy of Alvaro del Norte’s accordion prowess and the band’s musical mischievous streak. With a brand new album, Plethora (we still thrust our hips in salute to The Three Amigos reference), and a West Coast tour planned for early January, these Protest-ers are poised to spread their raucous conjunto confetti to a national audience.
Fear Snake Face
BEST HIP-HOP ACT
San Antonio is a lot of things, but sexy ain’t one of them … unless you’re at a MoJoe show. While the live band lays down the smooth grooves, Tre and Easy Lee start sweet-talking, as on the appropriately titled “One Minute Mack.” But, just when you think things are starting to get sleazy, MoJoe reminds you they’re interested in more than just one thing, like, transcending their circumstances, or whatever. At this point, what you really want to hear is more compliments about how fine you are. And on that tip, MoJoe always delivers.
BEST ELECTRONIC ACT
Mexicans with Guns
The luchador-masked misterio that is Mexicans with Guns deserves a little hometown recognition, if only because the extremely well-connected man behind the mask, Ernest Gonzales, is bringing San Antonio to the rest of the electro world as it so rarely comes to us. This year alone the heavy-bass fanatic released his Me Gusto EP, reached out on the collaboration Friends of Friends Vol. 3, made an SA-tastic music video (more on that later), and toured the West Coast, in addition to continuing duties heading up the innovative Exponential Records. Fruits of his effort included multiple mentions by Fader magazine, an interview with an effusive Los Angeles Times, and a grip of remixes for big-name artists both domestic and international.
With musical idols like Gillian Welch, Neko Case, and Ryan Adams, it’s hard to steer too far off-course. If ever she did, Good’s siren-like voice could make up the distance. Read more in our profile of the young up-and-comer on page 47.
BEST COUNTRY/AMERICANA ACT
Melissa Ludwig Band
Taking her cues from Patty Griffin over Taylor Swift, Melissa Ludwig and her polished band (including husband Mitch Connell on lead guitar) make rootsy, sophisticated Americana. Ludwig delivers heart-on-her-sleeve lyrics with sassy confidence and her watertight band isn’t afraid to experiment with a little pop gleam. It’s just as radio-friendly as whatever former Disney star/American Idol-winner/rapping cowboy crapola Nashville is churning out at the moment, and we wager the live shows are about a million times more charming.
In and Outlaws
BEST JAZZ ACT
Now that’s a changing of the guard. For years, Jim Cullum and his beloved pre-war sound has rightly reigned over a tiny fiefdom of local jazzers, but it looks like San Antonio is finally ready for some good-natured feudal pushback. Royal Punisher are just the type of cats to appeal to us younger Current demographic types, what with their rock ‘n’ roll background (many are veterans of Shit City Dreamgirls, see page 19), their Zappa covers, and their regular gigs at the Mix and Boneshakers. But make no mistake, this isn’t some lame fusion act, Royal Punisher’s reverence for Coltrane, Davis, and co. dominates the setlist, perhaps convincing more than a few young hipsters that the bebop era really was the birth of the cool.
San Antonio Jazz Workshop
BEST BLUES/R&B ACT
For us, Ruben V is always the bridesmaid, never the bride, in this category. Until now. Everywhere else around town, the prolific blues guitarist and singer has been a hot commodity for years. Style-wise, Ruben prefers to sand the rough edges of blues down to a slick surface, perfect for putting your feet up, stirring a drink, and soaking in the atmosphere.
TIE: Henry + the Invisibles, Greg G
BEST CONJUNTO/TEJANO ACT
See Best Punk Act.
Steve Jordan (posthumously)
A party was held for the 2010 Rammy Award winners Dec. 16 at Boneshakers. Check out the photos below:
BEST WORLD/FUSION ACT
Jai Roots Herb-n-Café Project
If Jai Roots fused any more musical styles together, he could be the house band on the Island of Dr. Moreau. Thankfully, the afro-Latin-reggae enthusiast knows where to draw the line, or bend it, or blur it. He and the rest of the seven-piece Herb-n-Café Project (including three percussionists) provide a needed island detour for land-locked San Antonians via their infectious, hip-shaking collaboration.
BEST COVER BAND
Chris Maddin & Chuck Kerr
First came Wilco, then David Bowie, then Arcade Fire, then Flaming Lips, then Radiohead, and next…? Singer Chris Maddin and drummer Chuck Kerr, joined by an extensive rotating cast of players, took 2010’s nostalgia-fest trend of megabands touring on one particularly beloved album (see: Pixies, Pavement, Weezer, etc.), plus the fact that those bands will not be coming soon to a venue near us, and combined it for a shockingly popular monthly cover night. Devoted down to David Bowie’s heterochromia, Kerr, Maddin, and co. breathed fresh energy into watershed albums by a host of critically acclaimed acts.
Melissa Ludwig Band – Now That You’re Here
Money talks, kids. Capitalizing on their cash cow of restaurant gigs, the Melissa Ludwig Band were able to have their debut album mastered by
Jon Cuniberti, a Grammy Award winner who’s worked with everyone from Dead Kennedys to Tracey Chapman. It’s just the icing on the cake, though. We have a feeling “sweet mastering” isn’t on most of your voting criteria, and that you likely responded more to the band’s finely-calibrated alt-country sound on evocative, heartfelt songs like “Breakaway,” and “Get to You.”
Runners up: Girl in a Coma – Adventures in Coverland
We Leave at Midnight – Record an EP
BEST MUSIC VIDEO
Mexicans with Guns – “Dame Lo”
This short film-by-way-of-music video by Brian Torres Korlofsky comes as close to encapsulating the id of San Antonio as any cinematic endeavor we’ve seen, but we don’t expect the City’s CVB to be sending out complimentary copies to conventioneers anytime soon. For one thing, there’s the murder, for another, the fucking, and let’s not forget the brief nod at domestic violence. Yet this colorful San Antonio-shot video (complete with cameos from your favorite residents) isn’t grotesque or depressing, thanks to MWG’s manic beats propelling one jump cut to the next. Instead, the slick production weaves a mysterious tale of bad girls, raspas, late nights, betrayal, and revenge.
Greg G – “Release”
Hacienda – “Who’s Heart Are you Breaking Now?”
BEST MUSIC ADVOCATE
An admittedly devoted fan to several local acts, Sanchez proved his social media mastery by creating a Facebook event, inviting somewhere around 1,500 Facebook friends, and using it as a platform to urge his pals to vote for him. His humble invitation addressed his music advocate qualifications as “because I already know I have at least one vote … and I can’t remember the last time I won something … plus, if I win, I’ll finally have an answer when people ask me what I do. :) ‘Me? Oh, I advocate music.’” When not advocating for himself, Sanchez invites his 1,000s of virtual friends to other musicians’ shows, makes local mixtapes, and helps fill bills at G.I.G. on the Strip.
BEST MUSIC INNOVATOR
Henry + the Invisibles
The “onemanphunkband,” in which Henry plays bass, guitar, and keyboards, plus sings, cues the drum machine, and blends in his own re-mixes all at once has been entertaining weekly at the Rebar for a couple of years now. Roland’s most innovative achievement, however, may be legitimizing the one-man band as serious music-maker. This year, Roland released an EP, contributed a song to Future Sounds of London’s compilation album A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble, saw the same song featured in a couple of films, and won a battle of the bands contest to open for Ghostland Observatory when they played Josabi’s earlier this month.
BEST MUSIC VENUE
Casbeers at the Church
Though the pews can be dance-prohibitive, the rest of the second-floor space at Casbeers’ new digs is positively inspired. The still distinctly church-like venue has impressed many touring acts and kept them coming back. Local musicians dig the excellent acoustics for quieter shows and the gleeful layer of naughtiness for those playing the devil’s music in a former house of worship.
Limelight Music + Drinks
Sam’s Burger Joint
BEST RADIO SHOW
Randy Bonillas’s show on KISS 99.5 FM is the only three-peat winner beside Deadpool. And it should be, if only to encourage corporate radio to take local music seriously. The Texas-based show airs Monday at midnight, and gives lots of love to local heavy acts like Brotherhood, the Heroine, and Flesh Electric.
The Sauce with Hot Mustard
TIE: Super Soul Shake Down, Live on KSYM