By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
Critic's pick: Sherman Robertson
DJ Sun has won again, and as Chris Farley would say, well, la-di-freakin'-da! With the rather wacky selection of nominees, it seemed almost inevitable that the jazz/soul/groove maven would take home the prize this year (again!). But Sun feels he won because audiences are attuned to what he spins. "I think I'm consistent with what I do, and I think I bring some freshness to the table," says Sun. "That's what people comment on when they see me perform." But if Sun had it his way, he would be known as a DJ and a teacher. "I always want people to be informed about the music," he says. "I want people to know what I'm spinning, because I think it opens up avenues for these underground musicians." Lately, some national ink has been opening up avenues for him: "Soular Sessions," his long-running residency at Cafe Brasil on Monday nights, was recently named one of the ten hottest nights in America by URB magazine. So don't be surprised if Sun pulls a DJ Spooky one of these days and moonlights as a professor of the art of the groove over at UH. -- C.D.L.
Critic's pick: DJ Ceeplus
30footFALL is a little uncomfortable with its punk designation. Here's how the band describes itself: "30footFALL is a rock band conveniently labeled 'punk rock' so that you will know what clothes to wear when you go to the show. The same label applies for your convenience when buying records." Clearly, 30footFALL has come a long way from the days when lead singer Butch's lyrics consisted entirely of "arrgh, fuck, puke, kill." In fact, they've since released eight of their own EPs and full-lengthers. Houston band trivia: For 50 points, name the prominent local musician and 2002 award-winner who sang at 30footFALL's first gig. Give up? It was I-45's Tony Avitia. -- J.N.L.
Critic's pick: Sugar Shack
Best Indie/Alt Rock
We wrote in the Music Awards preview that this band and Groceries have been neck and neck as Houston's top indie act for several years now. It continues to be so, as this was one of the closest races of the year. In the end, the Squares pipped the Groceries at the post by nine votes out of several thousand cast. Vocalist/guitarist Erica Cruz told the assemblage that "Groceries probably deserved the award," but we think she was too modest. The Squares' new album, The Sound Made Visible, gets better with each listen and with each knob twist toward ten, and it was probably this record more than anything that pushed them over the top. If you want to see for yourself, check out the Westbury Squares at the "Fuck Y'all, We're from Texas!" show August 17 at Fitzgerald's, where they'll perform on a huge bill with a bunch of yet-to-be-revealed bands. Who knows? Maybe Groceries will show up for a good old-fashioned battle of the bands. -- J.N.L.
Critic's pick: Westbury Squares
The Zydeco Dots' Web site describes the band's stranglehold on this category as "incessant," and we really can't think of a better word for it ourselves. It's also a good way to describe the beat and the good times at one of the Dots' several hundred shows a year. Now led by zydeco legend Leon Sam, who first hit the tour road with his family as a 16-year-old in the '70s, the Dots figure to maintain their relentless hold on this accordion-driven grouping yet again in '03. -- J.N.L.
Critic's pick: Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws
This was the second competition in the last 12 months that pitted La Mafia's Oscar de la Rosa against his brother and former bandmate Leonard Gonzales, whose Los Magnificos were also nominated. The first one was the Grammy Awards, and though neither hermano took home the prize this year, each of them has a trophy case full of awards. De la Rosa will just have to make room for one more. No doubt he'll be shoving his Grammys and Latin Grammys to the side in order to give his 2002 Press Music Award pride of place, at least until September, when the Latin Grammys come around again. -- J.N.L.
Critic's pick: Lisa y Aventura
Best Rock Venue
Though its Web site is still advertising the Robby Krieger, Disco Biscuits and Sir Mix-A-Lot shows that happened back in April 2001, Houstonians know that the ramshackle former Polish dance hall is the place to go for rock in all its permutations. This is the club's 25th year in existence, a run that few clubs in this city have ever approached, and Fitz's has survived near-bankruptcies, the oil bust, genre changes (anyone remember when it was a blues club?), flash floods and "doobie-us" pot busts along the way. With the area's best punk, rock and rap-rock bands taking turns on the stage downstairs, regional and national acts touring through the upstairs, plus a weekly Emo's Tribute Night, Fitzgerald's may just make it another 25 years. -- J.N.L.