Clandestine has been touring full-time since August 1998, and these days, it plays festivals and large clubs almost exclusively. Jennifer concedes that at first the band wasn't ready for the travails of touring, but she's happy to report that its performances and audience receptions continue to improve dramatically. The band returns to Houston in late August to celebrate the release of its latest CD. (C.S.)

CRITIC'S CHOICE:Texas Guinness Lovers

BEST LATIN/TEJANO
Norma Zenteno

A longtime favorite on the Houston music scene (both with her group and when she performs with her father, Roberto Zenteno), Norma Zenteno puts together some of the hottest shows in town. Her Latin/pop/jazz/ rock hybrid will get you off your chair and have you shaking your tail feather faster than you can say, "Oye Como Va." She has fantastic stage presence and is a good vocalist (whether she's singing in English or Spanish). Her music: a melting pot that's hard to pinpoint. She'll do a jazz standard with Latin flavor, a Latin song with classic rock spin or add some blues to her salsa. She does not, however, play Tejano. (Want to get her riled up? Call her a great Tejano musician.) Zenteno's blending of musical idioms has been popular with Houston audiences for years, and her winning this category is really academic. There isn't another Latin-rooted act in Houston on Zenteno's level. That's not to say there aren't some hot Latin bands out there, it's just that no one mixes popular and ethnic musical elements in such a satisfying and accessible way. (P.J.M.)

CRITIC'S CHOICE: Norma Zenteno

BEST UNDERGROUND
Beans Barton & The Bi-Peds

Beans Barton has been at this too long to be "underground." This is his band's 14th year of performance artistry. And its lineage in Houston goes all the way back to a '60s outfit, the Dry Heaves. Nonetheless, underground Beans remains. He credits his musicians Jimmy Raycraft (himself a Houston institution, stretching back to the Dishes), Wiley Hutchins and Jim Jackson with allowing him to do what he does. What Beans does, for those not yet initiated, is churn out musically propelled performance art, both for his pleasure and for that of the Houston Food Bank. Beans performs as a sequence of characters, with names such as Dead Earnest and Bass Slackwards, and sings a few songs as each character before peeling off that particular costume to reveal the next. All the while, the Bi-Peds are playing straightforward rock music. Beans also paints on stage. And at the end of each performance (roughly every other Tuesday at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar in the Heights), the finished piece of "art" is auctioned off with the proceeds going to the food bank. Beans's pieces typically fetch $200 to $300 in this setting, though $900 has been reached. As Beans himself says: "Not bad for hanging out at a bar till two o'clock on Tuesday!" All songs are original, composed by the band and with words by Beans. And when you combine this with perpetual opener Jimmy Raycraft's Roaring Calhouns Review, and the Bi-Bulb a cohort who wears two spotlights on his hands like mittens and cavorts around the stage lighting the show you get a night out which, as Beans proclaims, "is neither profane nor profound." (C.S.)

CRITIC'S CHOICE: Phyneas Gauge

BEST DANCE/DJ
Mike Snow

Mike Snow plays from the heart. Up-tempo dance music, which changes complexion but never strays too far from the hook, is what moves him to move a crowd. People like dance music with a voice, something they can sing along to, something that reminds them of their favorite popular songs. This personalization of dance will change the face, so to speak, of the genre. Or at least that's what Snow believes. He says this marriage of dance with something people can cling to, like a voice or a face, will push the genre to a "higher level." Does this mean it'll be Buzz-ready, too?

Hardly, but Mike Snow has been around long enough (15 years) to know what gets a crowd hopping. His tasteful mixes at Spy packed the place regularly. And now that he's going to be working weekends at a new club down on Main, Prague, Snow will apply his workaday ethic to the post-Astros-game clubbers. That means he'll be once again starting off his set with something mellow relatively speaking then pulse by pulse will drive the beats-per-minute up until midnight, which is the time "you can really kick people's asses." (A.M.)

CRITIC'S CHOICE: Audio 3

BEST INDUSTRIAL/NOISE
Rusted Shut

Improvisation isn't the forte only of college theatrical groups and cheating husbands on The Jerry Springer Show. It's the basis of this quartet's live act. Think party music for a kegger in hell.

"We make noise pieces, extended jams," says front man Don Walsh (guitar, voice, noise). "We just crank it up, and we have no set list." Others gettin' rusty with it are Sibyl Chance (bass), Domakose (drums, noise) and Kyle Phillips (guitar). Formed in '87 by Walsh and Chance, after the demise of the cowpunk band Grindin' Teeth, the group started recording its white noise in '88 with Entertain No One and has since released four tapes, has been included on several compilation records and 12-inchers, and has cut a full-length self-titled CD.

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