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Hothouse Flowers

Groceries spoil in the heat, while the rest of Houston's music community blossoms

Even after such exciting times, Olivares is happiest here at home -- with his first fans. "It means a lot to me that the public voted for this award. From the very beginning we've enjoyed the affection and support of Houston fans. And I want to thank them for all the support they've given us over the years, and now for this award, too." -- O.F.A.

Critic's Pick: Fito Olivares

Best Latin Venue
Elvia's

This year's win makes it ten in a row for Elvia's. Not bad considering the club's been in business for only 12 years. And the club's beautiful blonde namesake, Elvia Parsons says winning is still a thrill. "I love it! I still get excited. And ten years, wow!"

During her acceptance speech Elvia scolded the crowd in her charming, slightly fractured English saying "There are lots of you here that I haven't seen at my club. What's wrong with you? Why don't you come to see me?"

Elvia has a simple recipe for success -- great music and a family atmosphere. "That's really what it's about, isn't it? That people feel comfortable, like they are at their own home," she says. "And we just opened a new patio so there's even more room to dance!"

Ever the booster, Elvia was still calling out "I want to see you at the club soon! Don't forget! Come to see me!" as she left the awards presentation and made her way into the Houston night. -- O.F.A.

Critic's Pick: 610 Arena

Best Jazz Venue
Cezanne

It's another nod for the tiny Montrose jazz club which has been the site of some incredible performances over the years. Joshua Redman and his group played there during his very first tour, giving fans an up close look at a legend in the making. Houston's own heavy hitters Dennis Dotson, David Caceres, Kido Zapata, Sebastian Whitaker and Mike Wheeler frequently take the stage. Bob Henschen, Joe Locascio, Harry Shepard and Kellye Gray are also regulars.

The biggest draw lately has been the Weekly Jazz Jam, which is on the schedule for most Thursdays. The Jam's house band features Ken Ward on piano, Aric Nitzberg on bass and Keith Karnaky on drums and anybody who's got the chops (or guts) to sit in. -- O.F.A.

Critic's Pick: Red Cat Jazz Cafe (posthumous award)

Best Cover Band
Molly and the Ringwalds
It was Revenge of the Nerds, Continental Club style, as the lounge's new Friday happy-hour residents captured the Best Cover flag from long-standing champs (and fellow CC lizards) the El Orbits. Proof that the Eighties are officially back? To a point, but above all else it demonstrates what a solid human jukebox the Ringwalds have morphed into since their humble birth (opening for Best Cover also-ran Allen Oldies Band) three years ago. A karaoke segment is currently being integrated into the Friday gig, so drop in, sign up, and play (for a moment) on a true winning team. -- J.T.

Critic's Pick: Molly and the Ringwalds

Best Horns
Secret Agent 8
Saxophonist Clay Duncan has a not-so-secret formula for coming up with cool horn lines for his ska fusion band: Duncan doesn't listen to ska. Yet this musical juxtaposition is exactly why Secret Agent 8 has developed its hybrid sound that combines elements of ska, R&B, jazz and rock.

Trombonist Chris Jensen, heading into his junior year as a music major at Southwest Texas, and trumpet/flugelhorn player Aaron Koerner are both jazzheads, in fact. "Everybody in this group brings different influences," says Duncan. "Aaron and I don't approach our writing from the point of view as being in a ska band. For the songs I wrote on the last album ("Stay" and "Things to Come") I just worked off the chord progression at my keyboard and developed the melody lines."

SA8's latest album -- Start.Action.Stop -- is full of inventive ascending and descending lines that run through the collage of influences. And though a couple of band members dress in traditional ska garb at their shows, the focus is on the licks, not on the floor gymnastics routines of '70s-era ska bands such as Madness.

Duncan is glad to see the band getting some citywide recognition with the award. "I really wish it was a best band award rather than focusing on just (the horns)." As for SA8's somewhat cloudy future, we must point out it's not officially affected by the Press Award curse, considering that the wheels were in motion before the group picked up its trophy. Trombonist Jensen, one-third of the winning horn section, has just gotten married and packed his bags for Tyler, where he will be, of all things, the manager of a Ryan's Steakhouse. And drummer Justin Brouillard, whose work was one of the best elements of Start.Action.Stop, has finished his training with the Texas City Fire Department and will play his final gig with the band Aug. 30. Rehearsals and auditions will continue this month so that the group's newest members will be ready for gigs in September. -- G.B.

Critic's Pick: Secret Agent 8

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