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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 Indie Hip-hop
Chingo Bling

Chingo couldn't go pick up his award because, as one of his peeps explained, he was in San Antonio filming a Bud Light commercial. No doubt some of the backpacker types among you will grouse about that not being a very "indie hip-hop" thing to do -- Bud Light! Da horra! -- but we think you should just zip it. Chingo is independent and Chingo is hip-hop. And what's more, he's a comedic genius and a unique character who could come from only Houston. -- JNL

Best Alt-Rock
LoneStar PornStar

"Funk-driven, ass-shakin', gangster style, hard rock and then some" is LoneStar PornStar's self-description, and evidently there's a bunch of you funky, hard-rockin' gangsters with shaking asses out there. Man, talk about coming out of nowhere. LSPS has been around for a little over a year, and here they are winning this intensely competitive category, beating out the likes of previous winner Silverleaf and several other bands with huge local followings. Good stuff's busting out all over for these guys: The band members are signing endorsement deals with instrument makers, studios are giving them free time, and now the band has topped it all with this award. -- JNL

Best World Music
The Gypsies

Look at a map of Europe -- hell, make it one that includes all of Russia, North Africa and the Middle East -- and pick a country at random. No matter if you come up with Syria, Moldova or Ireland, Gypsies bandleader Greg Harbar could probably play you ten or 20 tunes from that country on his trusty accordion. What's more, the gray-maned, heavily mustached Byelorussian-American with the Gypsy soul could discourse at length about that country's song traditions and finest musicians. Harbar seems to be aging in reverse these days, and his band has one of its best lineups ever. Which is saying something, as this is the Gypsies' fifth win in this category (or one very much like it). "I'm just thrilled to death," Harbar says. "This makes me want to do something new. I'm looking for another guitarist. I want to start mixing in some Middle Eastern Gypsy disco flamenco stuff."

See what we meant at the top of this blurb? -- JNL

Best Folk/Acoustic
Hayes Carll

Carll couldn't play at our showcase or pick up his award for the best of all reasons: He was on tour, playing to big crowds full of important people in places like Chicago and Nashville. (His Ego Brother cohort John Evans accepted on his behalf.) For Carll -- a multiple previous honoree whose "Highway 87" was 2003's Song of the Year -- the crowds promise to get only bigger from here. Later this year, the lanky, laconic troubadour will be opening up for country/Americana legend Buddy Miller in places like London and Dublin. (Or at least that was the plan -- after I typed that line I got word that Miller canceled that tour for "family reasons." Carll hopes the tour will be rescheduled for January.) And to think -- a few short years ago, the only people who knew about Hayes were the hard-core regulars at Wrecks Bell's Old Quarter in downtown Galveston, where Carll honed both his talents -- performing and raising hell -- to razor-sharp perfection. Still, his fame has yet to catch up with his talents. To paraphrase Steve Earle, the road lays long behind this kid, and he's still got miles to go. -- JNL

Best Drummer
Paul "Falcon" Valdez (Tody Castillo)

To use a football analogy, some drummers are like Earl Campbell. They're all about power -- they get back there on that stool and knock the snot out of stuff. Think Ginger Baker or Keith Moon or one of those north Mississippi blues guys for a musical comparison. Others are like Barry Sanders -- they dance, they dip, they dodge, they duck around corners. They always surprise you. Paul "Falcon" Valdez fills that bill. It's always amazing to hear the variety of sounds he gets from his tiny kit, and even though you find yourself sometimes focused on his grooves when he plays behind Tody Castillo, he's not obtrusive by any stretch of the imagination. His is the perfect accompaniment to Castillo's honeyed tenor: a gentle cascade of thwaps, jingles and hisses. -- JNL

Best Cover Band
Molly & the Ringwalds

Sure, Ronald Reagan is still dead, at least until Republicans can revive his corpse, but this totally awesome '80s band is flying higher than 99 Luftballons. And whether it's the raucous ("She's Tight"), mawkish ("Voices Carry") or Mohawkish ("Sheena Is a Punk Rocker"), the all-Ringwald surname coalition of Carrie, Jennifer, Sam, Dekan and Gene parties hardy like Kurt Cobain never existed. "We were happy that a Continental Club band won," said Carrie of their third consecutive victory. They also get bonus points for constantly changing up their set lists. Jennifer says they will be adding many more "gay-tees" songs to their repertoire. Gay-tees? "They're cheesy '80s danceable songs like 'Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go' and 'It's Raining Men,' " she says. The Ringwalds also want to encourage "more making out and porn" among audience members when they play Journey's "Open Arms." And be sure to check out the band photo on their Web site, which now appears in an official DeLorean car calendar! -- BR

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