Hot Sounds in the City

The 5th Annual Houston Press Music Awards

Best Alternative Rock -- Dive
If the city's close-in musical infrastructure is crumbling and leaving the up-and-coming scene to the suburbs, then Katy -- boasting a host of rising young guitar bands -- is the 'burb with the mostest, and Dive is king of the hill. A front-runner for last year's "Best New Band" category, Dive leapfrogs this year to "Best Alternative Rock" on the strength of the strong Exhibit A CD release, frontman Eddie Dickey's charismatic stage prowl and the band's inventive, precision-tight take on modern guitar rock.

Dive's not terribly "alternative" in the traditional sense of the word (the tunes on Exhibit A don't put much distance between themselves and commercial radio playability), but its members are young, and that's good enough for alternative today. And never mind the categories anyhow, especially when, in the course of a few short years, you've gone from a garage band with just a few too many grunge records in the collection to a real live gigging unit with a distinct sound and, alongside metal perennials dead horse, Houston's largest rock draw. (B.T.)

Best Latin -- Sol y Luna
Sol y Luna is on a mission -- the band means to bring rock-espanol to the rock forefront. Some of the players, although they and their fans may not recognize this, have already made rock-espanol a major movement for party-band fans. Alan Acosta, David Acosta, Adolfo Postel, Lanny Vaughan, Javier Zenteno and Ryck Ramirez honed their talents with bands such as Joe King, Little Joe y La Familia and Norma Zenteno, and no one dances in Texas without knowing something about one of those acts.

Sol y Luna is rock. They've got a Gibson guitar, a Stratocaster and a Fender bass. For Latino flavor, they've got Spanish guitars and conga drums. Song writing brothers David and Alan have a romantic, serious Latin tone in their lyrics, too. "De Una Mujer," a tribute to Frida Kahlo, seems topical beyond the realm of Latin culture, and "Paz y Amor" has a hippy flavor typical in a lot of rock-and-roll, but "Americano," a wake-up call for America to rediscover its lost greatness, has an unashamed patriotism that only a country singer would voice in English.

Sol y Luna, then, has traditional values -- including silk tour jackets, the ultimate expression of classic rock. They've also got a forthcoming eponymous CD, and your vote. (E.S.)

Best New Act -- The Hadden Sayers Band
Cowboy yodeler Don Walser's got a lovely tune called "Sidemen" that's all about the plight of the poor second stringers, forced to play backup for the frontman night after night, contributing to the glory, but never reeling it in themselves. That's more or less true, except when the sideman in question has frontline ambitions and strikes out in pursuit of fame and fortune on his own terms. Hadden Sayers, a.k.a. Had Binion, is traveling just that path, after gaining critical but rarely public recognition as a bluesy guitar slinger extraordinaire with Miss Molly's Whips.

The band Sayers assembled earlier this year to bear his name includes acoustic guitarist Barbara Donaho, bassist Charlie Knight and drummer John Hamilton, and they lay a groovy, Southern-rocking bed for Sayers' solo excursions and soulful vocals. When the Sayers Band's four-song demo was released, it suggested a feet-on-the-ground version of Austin's Arc Angels. But at a show some months later, you could tell by the flashy pose and the new emphasis on extended jam solos that Sayers was loosening up and shooting for something just on the far-out side of meat-and-potatoes guitar rock -- a direction that should be well-reflected on an 11-song CD scheduled for release in early October. "It's not so much that I want to do the Stevie Ray Vaughan thing," Sayers has said, "but more like John Mellencamp, if he could play the shit out of the guitar." (B.T.)

Best Act That Doesn't Fit a Category -- Feo y Loco
A while back, Headquarters soundman Tom Powell was comparing the local acts he's run the board for to the national acts that obviously influenced them. When talk turned to Feo y Loco, he said "Oh yeah, those guys are good. They're a lot of fun." Yeah, but who do they sound like? "Nobody, really," he answered. "Feo y Loco is way different. I don't even know what kind of music you would call it."

That, of course, is why there's the "Doesn't Fit a Category" category. There's no pigeonhole that Feo y Loco even comes close to fitting in. Still, that doesn't keep them from frequent appearances at clubs all over town. And the steady, enthusiastic fan base the band has built during its short life shows there's an obvious need for groups whose originality has overwhelmed their influences. Like the name says, they really are wild and crazy. If you haven't caught them yet, they're not hard to find. Just don't drive yourself crazy trying to figure out who they remind you of. (J.S.)

Best Metal/Hard Rock -- dead horse
Greg Martin (vocals/guitar), Michael Haaga (vocals/guitar), Robbie Guyote (drums) and Allen Price (bass) have been plugging away as dead horse for seven years, springing from Pasadena, Texas to perform with the likes -- and at the invitation -- of such global heavies as Pantera and Sepultura. They've also established a North American presence that covers the better part of the land mass. Along the way, they've created a line of merchandising nearly as omnipresent as that of Motsrhead. And they've done all this as an unsigned act.

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