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Houston's Gone Gaaga for Haaga

A former king of the Texas metal world unites Houston's warring rock tribes and wins a passel of Music Awards

Best Keyboardist (Ian Varley)
www.droptrio.com

Somewhere, Jimmy Smith must be smiling. It seems appropriate that the instrumental funk/ jazz/prog-rock Drop Trio should take top honors in the same year that the influential organist passed away. Drop Trio (Ian Varley on keyboards, Mike "Nuje" Blattel on drums and new member Patrick Flanagan on bass) trips the sound fantastic with its amalgamated "spaceship rock." "We are totally honored," Varley said after collecting the first of three trophies. This year saw the band stretching even further with the experimental, totally improvised music on Leap, and fans could follow the group's live progression via extensive free full concert downloads from their Web site to compare different, jam-band-friendly versions of "Wreck of the Zephyr" and "Lefty's Alone." "Every single show, we're reaching for something totally new, and it's exciting," Varley said. "And when you hear a whole show, it has a different character than just individual songs." Hunched over his keyboards like a mad professor concentrating on his next experiment, he sets the standard for piano men by eliciting fat and funky tones out of his Hammond and Rhodes instruments -- all while sporting the best beard on the Houston music scene. Look for the band to release the self-explanatory Live at Cezannein late October. -- Bob Ruggiero

Best Male Vocalist
Best Roots Rock/Rockabilly
John Evans

Just when you think Houston doesn't support its artists well or have much of an original music scene, something happens to you like what just happened to John Evans.

"Man, we were playing CBGB's in New York and we thought, 'How cool is this?' Like we've finally hit the place. Then the openers are like this friggin' jam band and the lead instrument is a flute! Even worse, the band after us is an all-girl band whose shtick is -- are you ready for this? I mean, we're at CBGB's now -- fuckin' ray guns. This one girl actually told us, 'We're a lot heavier than you, but we hope you'll stick around and see our show.' I almost cried when, right in the middle of her set, she said, 'Can I get more iPod in the monitor?' People really dug us there, but man, were we ever aware of how much great music there is in Houston after that deal."

Evans, who's won multiple Press awards muchos tiempos, likes Houston because "there's all these great players and bands, guys like Hayes Carll and Los Skarnales and Resin Valley Boys, stuff that is just so original and artistic and unlike anything else you ever run into out there on the road. And they're not just hacking away at it like it's some cool hobby, they're real artists, perfectionists. Once you've gotten out of here some, you realize most of the good bands here aren't trying to fit into some genre or some commercial clique, and that's why Houston is such a great musical place to be from." -- William Michael Smith Best Rock en Español
Los Skarnales

Best Bassist
Nick Gaitan (Los Skarnales)

Were it not for Haaga's huge year, this would have been almost as much el año deLos Skarnales, who won these two awards and finished a close second to Haaga in the Album of the Year stakes. Folks, this band is peaking right here, right now. If you haven't seen 'em in a while, if you're put off by the idea of seeing a band that has "ska" in its name because that's, like, "so 1996," put aside your prejudices and get your elitist ass down to one of their shows. These days, their blue-collar barrio blend encompasses not just ska and punk and rockabilly, but also norteño, cumbia, ragga/dancehall and even some elements that sound like zydeco. It's like somebody took all the sounds coming out of Houston's eastside petrochemical sprawl, dropped them in a molcajete and mashed them up into one kick-ass guacamole of a band. Most of you know what Navigation Boulevard and Canal Street look like -- this is what they sound like. -- JNL

Best Major-Label Hip-hop
Mike Jones

What's that you say, Mike? "Back then they didn't love me. Now I'm hot they all on me." Bullshit, dude. This is the second time you've won one of these awards -- you can read about it in our archives. Matt Sonzala said you were Houston's next big thing, and as usual Sonzeezy was on point. So, in fact, we didn't think you were too chubby last year, and we damn sure don't this year. We still want to love you, dude, and we showed that love long before BET and MTV knew the answer to your "Who is Mike Jones?" query. We already knew your digits -- 281-330-8004 -- by heart. So don't come talkin' that "Back Then" noise at us! -- JNL

Best Punk
Fatal Flying Guilloteens

Until this year, the infamous Guilloteens were fast becoming one of this event's Susan Luccis. One band had always come between them and top honors, and the Guilloteens would now like to send those guys some props: "We'd like to thank 30footFALL for breaking up," quipped guitarist Brian McGuilloteen, a.k.a. Press columnist Brian McManus, whose Nightfly predecessor, Craig D. Lindsey, accepted the award on the Guilloteens' behalf. Who knows, though? The Guilloteens played a ton of ferocious local shows this year and their margin of victory was pretty big, so they might have sewn it up this time around even with the 30foot dudes. At any rate, Houston's gonna have to wait a while for their next show. Last week's local gig was their final scheduled here until after their six-week national tour. That jaunt will take them to New York (where they will play at CMJ), L.A. (where they will play the Knitting Factory) and then back to Houston (where they will play at Fat Cat's) on October 21. -- JNL

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