By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
DJ Sun is a man who knows what people want to hear. If he didn't, he wouldn't be nominated in this category for the -- what is it now? -- 20th year in a row. Whether he's dropping the latest Jazzanova joint on "Soular Grooves," his perennially popular KPFT radio show, or trying to show uptight Houstonians that soulful lounge music doesn't begin and end with Sade, this reigning king of local acid jazz has, as Niles Crane might put it, developed a vintage of great music that would soothe the palate of anyone adventurous enough to embark upon it. Many others have tried to take over the Sun King's throne, but those pretenders to the crown have all failed miserably. -- C.D.L.
9 p.m. Spy (upstairs)
Best New Act
Warm, breezy Southern rock is Drifter's stock-in-trade; it's a soulful blend that reminds one of Houston's balmy April weather. Twentysomething twin guitarists Paul Beebe and Craig Feazel and bassist/ keyboardist Cullen Evans show a professionalism and dexterity that belie their youth both on stage and in the studio, as their two-year-old debut, Wherever You Will, attests. Feazel's fiery, controversial comments about the jam-band scene in a recent Press interview may not have won him many friends over at the Last Concert Cafe, but elsewhere in town they love him and his band all the more for it. -- J.N.L.
6 p.m. Lotus Lounge
Best World Music, Best Ska/Reggae
Let us check in with Divine Rhythm, United Rhythm to find out how the band has maintained its place as Houston's most well-known reggae/world music collective. Well, for one thing, the perennial HP Music Awards winners have steady gigs going every which way. They recently took the Orange Show's peculiar stage, and twice a month they're downtown at the Red Cat Jazz Café. If you want a weekly fix, you're gonna have to venture over to the unnervingly chic Hotel Derek on Friday nights. You'll find D.R.U.M. in Ling and Javier, the boutique hotel's restaurant-bar, encouraging all the upscale folks to look up from their entrées and indulge themselves in the laid-back rhythms they used to skank to back in their dorm rooms at Rice. So, to all y'all would-be Marleys out there: Follow the lead of D.R.U.M. and hit some unlikely spots. It'll show you're trying to reach more than the average roomful of wall-to-wall Rastas. -- C.D.L.
8 p.m. Spy (outside)
A trio that sounds as full and loud as a quintet, Dune*TX marries pop melody to psych-metal intensity. Last month, the band released the hard-charging Goldenarm, a salute to the spirit of late-'70s kung fu matinees and the follow-up to 1999's Machowagon, and it's already garnering drive-time airplay on KPFT. Guitarist/vocalist Chris Sacco, bassist Rusty "The Pride of Cypress" Guess and skinny drummer Tim Herrmann always bring it live, so pin your ears back in advance and prepare for the attack of this three-headed psychedelic garage-pop monster. -- J.N.L.
8 p.m. The Brewery Tap
Houston's answer to Daniel Lanois has it going on in the studio on both sides of the mike. "With You in My Arms" -- off his bluesy, countrified folk album, Paperhalo -- was nominated in last year's competition as Song of the Year. And if there were a Best Local Producer award (and there may be one next time around), he might well be up for the prize annually. Egan is Houston's first-call producer for local alt-country and Americana acts. So far his credits include Mando Saenz's recent Watertown and projects by Lise Liddell and the Tequila Cowboys. -- J.N.L.
4 p.m. Lotus Lounge
Best Cover Band, Best Keyboardist (Pete Gray), Local Musician of the Year (David Beebe)
You gotta love a group that cites both Doug Sahm and the Astros' orange rainbow jerseys as musical inspirations. Former Banana Blender Surprise member David Beebe, then as now also a club manager, was looking to fill the Monday-night slot at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge when he decided to start his own group rather than book anyone else. Thus were born the El Orbits, a cross between a slightly sleazy Vegas lounge act that mistakenly got booked on The Lawrence Welk Show and a David Cassidy backup band. The group was an instant hit. These days the El Orbits spend their Mondays at the Continental Club, which Beebe now manages, as part of the popular Bingo Night. There, they push their CDs and offer up offbeat renditions of "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Moon River" to the bingo-addicted masses. -- O.F.A.
4 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe
Local Musician of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Best Male Vocalist, Best C&W
Pasadena-bred John Evans, contrary to the album he released last year, is definitely not The Biggest Fool in Town. He's big all right, about six foot five, but a fool he ain't. The rockabilly/honky-tonker tours nonstop throughout Texas (he has a weekly slot at the Black Cat on Sixth Street in Austin) and as far as New York. And he's up for more awards than anybody in the whole competition this year. Evans has the songs, the chops, the band and the look to break as big as any country act Houston has ever known, so catch him now if you haven't already jumped on the bandwagon. But if you do go to his showcase, be sure to bring your fire extinguisher. Evans's string bass player loves to torch his instrument at the end of every show. -- J.N.L.
5 p.m. Hard Rock Cafe