Music Awards Survey

A rundown of every act on this year's bill

The Handsomes
Best Pop/Rock, Best New Act
One year

Party-hearty rockers the Handsomes offer good-time music tinged with funk, pop and ska, a blend popular at the Lounge, where they pack in 300-plus a show. "Music is our favorite thing to do in life," they say, and since two members are law students, the success of their band would ensure that there were two fewer lawyers in the world. The band name causes them much grief; it started as a joke, but the band "booked our first show with it, and it stuck." Says one member, "I used to be sort of embarrassed when people asked what the name of the band was. I've gotten over it." The band has yet to tour, so they have no horror tales from the road. They do, however, have one from here in town: "There were real ram skulls glued to the amps of one of the bands we played with recently. Their crowd didn't dig us too much."

Carolyn Wonderland
Best Guitarist
About 12 years

Chingo Bling
Chingo Bling
Mark Towns
Mark Towns

"That too few people know anyone outside of their circle" is the "grossly overgeneralized" lament this rootsy rocker has about her hometown, a place she says "rubs off on you whether you play blues, metal, zydeco, hip-hop, country, jazz or what have you." Though she now calls Austin home six nights a week, she still can be found every Tuesday at the Last Concert Cafe alongside her "talented" band of players "with big hearts." "Doug Sahm, Albert Collins and Billy Joe Shaver" are the first monikers she rattles off when asked to name her favorite artists, but that list goes on to include 16 more people ranging from her mom to Bach. Clearly, without music, this girl would be in a world of hurt, but she thinks she could find some contentment penning "a lot of paranoid anti-government rants...but with no guitar parts."

Blu Torch Lounge
809 Congress, 713-228-3409

5 pm Greg Wood
6 pm Slop Jar Jr.
7 pm Pilot Radio
8 pm Mango Punch
9 pm Los Skarnales

Greg Wood
Songwriter of the Year
Two years with current lineup

Charles Bukowski, Bob Dylan, Bill Hicks, Beggar's Banquet-era Rolling Stones, Sam Kinison, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Penthouse "Forum" and John Prine roil together in the soul of this immensely talented barroom bard, one of the finest songwriters alive. What's more, he can really sing, too; a high lonesome Kentucky keen often creeps into his conversational baritone, one that injects a full $40 on the hype-full of desperation into his tragicomic songs about death, debauchery and desolation.

Slop Jar Jr.
Best Funk/R&B/Soul

"A fun band" that mixes "funk, heavy rock and jazz" with "excitement, passion and plain craziness" is how Slop Jar Jr.'s members describe themselves. The band's lineup is Chad Strader, formerly of Global Village, who fronts a group consisting of every member of the defunct band Soular Slide that isn't named Shawn Pander. The band's freewheeling live shows have drawn comparisons to everything from This Is Spinal Tap to The Muppet Show to Jesus Christ Superstar.

Pilot Radio
Best Alternative Rock
Four years

"Sharing the stage with Hank Williams Jr., Sugar Ray, Dishwalla, Cowboy Mouth and Bob Schneider" are prominent pages in the scrapbook of modern rockers Pilot Radio, and they have a soft spot for "the bands, as well as people, that are honestly trying to make a change in the local scene for the better." The location of live venues, however, is something they dislike about the scene.

Walter Suhr & Mango Punch
Best Salsa/Merengue/Latin Pop
More than 13 years

Guatemalan-born salsero Walter Suhr and his merry band have had quite a year. Not only did the group perform at the Super Bowl pregame show, where they got to "stand side by side with Willie Nelson, Toby Keith, Aerosmith, Beyoncé and Josh Groban," but they also played at Mayor Bill White's inauguration. The band's album ¿Qué me pongo? has made it onto heavy rotation on Spanish-language MTV, VH1 and HTV. Suhr's composition "Nothing, Nothing" will serve as the theme for the fall flick Love for Rent. Mango Punch enjoys the "loyalty, word-of-mouth and great love and support from people" in the Houston scene, but they say they dislike control of many clubs by a few promoters, and what they see as "a big void in the coverage by local newspapers." Ouch!

Los Skarnales
Best Rock en Español
Ten or 11 years

Most people don't think of the Village People when they hear the ska/punk/cumbia/rock/rockabilly/ Tejano music of Los Skarnales, but their day jobs beg the comparison -- tattoo artist, exterminator, janitor, construction worker, and the final member is a UH student/Children's Museum worker. The blue-collar band will have a new CD, Pachuco Boogie Sound System, out by the end of this month. The band says it loves H-town's diversity of music, but dislikes the city's "close-minded people." Little-known Skarnales factoid: "The guy who looks the oldest in the band is actually the youngest...and he's a virgin."

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