¡Viva H-town!

Latinos come to the fore in this year's music awards

Critic's pick: Silverleaf

Best Indie Rock

Kiss Kiss
Kill Kill

They may have named themselves after a Bollywood B-movie, but tonight the band graded out at an A-plus. Together just under two years, this fashionable foursome crafts polished, catchy songs -- which is why they're constantly compared to Interpol and the Strokes. A strong Internet presence and frequent local shows ensure the band will make hay in this category for years to come. -- Brian McManus

Critic's pick: UME

Best Tejano/Grupo

Sangre Latina

Former rock guitarist Erikk Castillon and singer Bianca Morales launched the six-piece group Sangre Latina in 1997. With a style they call Tejano-pop, the group counts Kid Rock, Jay Perez, Pink, Santana and Lil' Kim as its musical influences. While the group's management team (Gordy "The Boogieman" Rodriguez and Jesse "Jumpin' Jess" Rodriguez) hasn't been able to land the group a recording contract yet, Sangre Latina has been getting lots of both industry and audience attention. Morales was nominated for the Tejano Music Awards' 2002 Female Rising Star, and Castillon was nominated in the Best Guitarist category that same year. -- Olivia Flores Alvarez

Critic's pick: Grupo Animo

Best Metal/Industrial

Faceplant

Hailing from the chemical wastelands between Pasadena and Texas City, this quintet wins this award year after year, and when they're all on stage, their energy threatens to blow the roof off the joint. They've played dates on the Warped Tour and are sponsored by everyone's favorite cough syrup, Jägermeister. The HPMA crowd was treated to two fast, rhythmically upbeat songs of their melodic, rap-rock style, and as is the norm, Bryan Broussard conducted the audience's reaction with hand-written cardboard placards. Even with the disadvantage of playing for industry types and not their own enthusiastic crowd, Faceplant turned the sucka out! -- Brian McManus

Critic's pick: Faceplant

Best Salsa/Merengue/Latin Pop

Caliente

Once again, the Diaz Music Institute's student orchestra edged out some of Houston's most popular Latin bands. Walter Suhr & Mango Punch! and Accent both have more than a dozen years as regulars on the local circuit, and Norma Zenteno has more than two dozen. But it was a group of kids who took home the prize. Don't think that just because these kids are beginners, they aren't professional. Jose Diaz, the group's director, insists on a conservatory-style training program. And while any student can join the workshop, only the most talented and most dedicated are accepted into Caliente. Latin music greats Pete Escovedo, Eddie Palmieri, David Sanchez and Ndugu Chancler have all taught master classes or performed with the group, and each has praised the mini-musicians as among the most talented in the country.

Since all of them are underage, none of the kids could attend the awards ceremony. -- Olivia Flores Alvarez

Critic's pick: Norma Zenteno/Mango Punch!

Best Hardcore

Machine Gun Romantics

Mikey, Alex and Ryan tried playing shows after a fourth band member left, to less-than-satisfactory results. "It sounded totally weak," the band admits. Not to worry -- they've just added a new member, Houston's preeminent shredder Beau of Calculus and Coffin Grinder Fame. This adds so much more fury to an already vicious lineup that it's almost not fair. The band received its first-ever Houston Press Music Award. Visitors to their Web site can learn that, contrary to popular belief, they're not a straight-edge or screamo band. What they are is Houston's best hardcore act -- the people have spoken. -- Brian McManus

Critic's pick: Machine Gun Romantics

Best Zydeco

The Zydeco Dots

After last year's major upset victory by Lady D and the Zydeco Tornadoes, Houston voters returned to the Dots, who have won this competition more than any other band in any genre. Guitarist Tom Potter graciously sent out props to the Diva of Zydeco from the stage, though you can bet the two bands will go at their friendly rivalry this year with renewed vigor. -- John Nova Lomax

Critic's pick: Step Rideau

Best Reggae

D.R.U.M.

D.R.U.M. is to the Houston reggae community as Lil' Jon and the Eastside Boys are to crunk music. They're the undisputed kings. They combine history in the scene with a distinct reverence for their music and a worldly vision, and are as much a part of Houston as the Astros, Rockets and Oilers -- I mean Texans. Combining roots sensibilities with dub-ish rhythms and even a little hip-hop, D.R.U.M. has been the local reggae band of choice for years. At this year's ceremony, where they received their 5,027th HPMA, band leader Alafia Gaidi and percussionist Robert Smalls accepted the honor humbly, and with a raise of a fist in the air, they were gone. Probably to a gig. -- Matt Sonzala

Critic's pick:Dubtex

Best Jazz, Best Funk/Soul/R&B

Drop Trio

The instrumental jazz funksters took home multiple awards for the second year running, though this year's tally was down by one from last year. (Scene stalwart Ezra Charles beat out relative newcomer Ian Varley for Best Keyboardist.) Still, not a bad start for a band that has been together for less than three years. The band's upcoming album, which will be culled from lengthy all-improvised sessions, will showcase what's both funky and jazzy about this trio. -- John Nova Lomax

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