Etc.: A party band with a reverence for '70s rock's lost gems, the members of Madd Oxe act more like fans than musicians when they're on-stage -- which isn't to downplay their ample chops. Perhaps most important, they know how to have a good laugh at their own expense, a plus for any group with no designs on an evening other than tearing up the joint.

Madd Oxe performs at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: La Mafia
Nominated for: Best Tejano/Latin
Sound of choice: Modern Tejano
Time logged: Sixteen years

Etc.: Things started happening for this Houston band when they began touring Mexico, and some self-styled purists insist their music is too country/Mexican/pop to be Tejano. But fans on both sides of the border buy their CDs in chart-making numbers. Case in point: ticket sales for La Mafia's Go Tejano Day performance at the rodeo were second only to the George Strait show.

Artist: Man or God
Nominated for: Metal/Hard Rock
Sound of Choice: Mean metal/punk meld
Time logged: Two years

Etc.: Former Skrew and Skatenigs members rock loud, hard, tight and smart. Of all the long list of bands in Houston vying for the title of baddest band around, Man or God, most insiders say, is at the top of the hard-core heap.

Artist: Mercy Cafe
Nominated for: Best Funk/R&B
Sound of Choice: More soul and R&B than funk
Time logged: One year

Etc.: Though the rest of the band does a strong job of distilling a wide variety of influences into a smooth, easy-listening lager, Mercy Cafe's real standout is lead singer Mignon Murrell. The group could well be just another bar-band fixture if it weren't for her powerful lungs.

Artist: Miss Molly
Nominated for: Best Female Vocalist
Sound of choice: Bayou Queen blues
Time logged: Eleven years

Etc.: Molly may have moved her bad self to Lake Conroe for the bass fishing, but she remains busy, touring everywhere and writing new songs with manager Dickie Malone, some of which should find a home on an upcoming CD, tentatively titled Roswell. Upcoming: Molly's Seventh Annual Birthday Bash, with a slew of slated special guests, at the Garden in the Heights August 3.

Artist: Renee Montgomery
Nominated for: Best Female Vocalist
Sound of choice: The belter's belter
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: The Montgomery-fronted Skillit split up in May, and as of a few weeks ago, Montgomery had moved to Austin. Now, she's trying to maintain a bi-local presence by writing songs with former Skillit-mate Cris Rogers in Houston and easing into Austin's open-mike scene. She also started playing guitar last year. Don't be surprised to see a demo tape before long. And don't be surprised if the Austin exposure lands her a slot on next year's Austin Music Awards ballot. The woman can sing.

Artist: Trish Murphy
Nominated for: Best Folk/Acoustic; Best Female Vocalist; Song of the Year ("Wrong Side of Town"); Songwriter(s) of the Year

Sound of choice: Contemporary, melody-rich folk
Time logged: One year
Etc.: It's hard to believe that Trish Murphy has been working solo now for only some 12 months. In that relatively short period of time, she's accomplished a lot. Perhaps most significantly, she's succeeded in putting her toothy, collegiate pop past with Trish and Darin to rest for good.

Artist: Necessary Tension
Nominated for: Best Jazz
Sound of choice: Pub improv
Time logged: Five years

Etc.: The past year saw the release of an eponymous CD, recorded live at Rudyard's, but that's just a souvenir of the rotating lineup's (flautist Bob Chadwick, bassist David Craig, drummer Keith Karnaky, et. al.) raison d'etre: an endless stream of low-key Thursday-night jam session entertainment that's become (along with Horseshoe's Wednesday nights at Mary Jane's) the most reliable off-night pleasure in Houston's local constellation.

Necessary Tension performs at 8 p.m. Sunday at Q Cafe.

Artist: The Orphans
Nominated for: Best Rock/Pop
Sound of choice: Rock and roll
Time logged: Almost two years

Etc.: A product of Houston's far western reaches, the Orphans are steered by a trio of childhood buddies with a common love for straightforward, emotionally direct songs that have bold melodies and tons of heart. So far, these simple pleasures have translated into an uncommonly good local debut, Homecoming, numerous club appearances and, of course, a nomination in this year's Music Awards.

The Orphans perform at 4 p.m. Sunday at Cydney's.

Artist: Mondo Perez
Nominated for: Best Drummer
Sound of choice: Whatever's required
Time logged: Four years (with Under the Sun and the Surrealtors)

Etc.: Mondo Perez has two jobs: one behind the set with Under the Sun, the other keeping the drum stool warm for the Surrealtors. While the two bands are quite different -- Under the Sun more blues-rock; the Surrealtors more acoustic pop -- his considerable skills are just as obvious with both.

Mondo Perez performs with the Surrealtors at 4 p.m. Sunday at the Ball Room, and with P.J. Cooper and Under the Sun at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rhino Room.

Artist: Pierre and the Zydeco Dots
Nominated for: Best Cajun/Zydeco
Time logged: Nine years (with varying Pierres)

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