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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 Jam/Improvisational Rock Band
Moses Guest

Previous winners in the Best Rock/Pop category, Moses Guest is occasionally described as Houston's own version of the Grateful Dead, but that's a lazy and essentially meaningless comparison. Graham Guest's band is known for innovative musical transitions and brain-teaser psychedelic noodlings, but the trump card is the Southern rock touch that takes the Guest sound into some of those twisting Allman Brothers alleys where the Dead were unlikely to tread. Despite their jam band reputation, the band put out a tightly meshed studio album, Guest Motel, in '04 that highlighted musical skill over showmanship and proved they could tighten it up and trim it down when necessary. -- WMS

Best Female Vocalist
Lisa Novak

Novak is another perennial club fave getting some just recognition after years in the trenches of obscurity. Despite her day job, she's maintained a long-standing Friday-night showcase at the Harp where her style -- soft alt-country mixed with savvy pop and jangly folk -- is a perfect fit. She augments this regular gig with shows at such diverse venues as Rudz, the Continental and most recently the Armadillo Palace. Novak -- a winner last year with sometimes singing partner Melinda Mones in the Folk/Acoustic category -- has as her specialty slightly jaded, I-see-through-you, almost-love songs. Her sophisticated writing has finally begun to get some attention from the ladies of Nashville. Novak always avoids the saccharin, and she's working on a new set of songs for an album to follow up her 2004 release, Tougher Skin. -- WMS

Best Zydeco
Zydeco Dots

Do you think places like St. Louis or Cincinnati or Minneapolis have a Best Zydeco category? Hell, no. All the more reason to thank your lucky stars that the Dots call Houston home. Over the past 18 years, these guys have become an institution, a movable feast, an instant party, the ultimate good-time band. One of the hardest-working groups around, the Dots usually leave a trail of sweaty dancers slumped in chairs when they wind down one of their marathon boogaloos. This gumbo recipe never fails, which is why the Dots are perennial winners -- champs every year but one -- in this category. 'Nuff said. -- WMS

Best C&W
Sean Reefer and the Resin Valley Boys

The name alone is enough to get you arrested, but the Reefers take country several tokes over the line with their amped-up Hank Sr.-meets-the-Ramones treatments. They call their country-on-steroids brand of music THC -- Texas Hill Country -- and they not only talk the talk, they walk the walk when the lights go down. Steel guitarist Dan Johnson recalls Lloyd Maines's early putting-the-psychedelic-back-in-country work with the Joe Ely Band, and vocalist Sean Raiford -- a former bandmate of John Evans, the guy they unseated in this category -- puts the authentic country keen in the Reefer sound. Like all the best H-town country outfits, the Resiners have no compunction about swerving over the yellow into rock or red-lining the tachometer into punk territory, which makes these first-time winners crowd faves at clubs as diverse as the Continental, Fitzgerald's and Last Concert Cafe. Now, when does the rest of the country catch on? -- WMS

Best Indie Rock
Bring Back the Guns

It's not the first time the boys in BBTG (formerly Groceries) have had Best Indie honors hoisted upon them by Space City's adoring public, and it's for good reason. The quartet weaves infectious, spastic and complex confections that are a sweet ear treat. In fact, the band has nearly outgrown traditional applications of the term "indie" (unkempt and barely crafted slacker tunes à la Pavement) with the many tempo changes, time signature freak-outs and red-faced blowouts that dot their tight-as-a-Simon Cowell-tee live set. -- Brian McManus

Best Screamo/Hardcore
The Last Place You Look

"Surprised" was guitarist Richard Sherwood's reaction to his band's win. Asked who he thought might take the trophy, he humbly replied, "All the others. We thought everyone [in our category] was more popular than us." The five of them will keep their hard-earned statue in their rehearsal space at Francisco Studios, perhaps as a reminder of just how far they've come in only two short years. The band will forgo its usual winter tour to record in October. Soon after, they will begin shopping their product to majors and larger indies like Victory Records. -- BM

Best DJ
DJ Sun

DJ Sun continues to dominate with his soular grooves and house beats. One of the most recognized names of deckdom, Sun can be seen all around the city behind the ones and twos, from sleek, upscale lounges (Social) to the relaxed vibes of the coffeehouse (Onion Creek). And it seems that whether you're fully caffeinated or sleepy with hops, DJ Sun can still manage to find the tracks to fit your mood. That's why he's so good and why, again, he has another Houston Pressfeather in his cap. -- BM

Houston's Finest Venues

With the exception of Azteca's upset win over Elvia's, Houstonians tend to vote for the same venues year in and year out. And most of them won again this year. Followers of this event will already know these winners by heart. But for those of you who are new in town, here's the list:

Best Folk Venue: McGonigel's Mucky Duck

Best Latin Venue: Azteca's Bar and Grill

Best Concert Venue: Verizon Wireless Theater

Best C&W Venue: Blanco's

Best Blues/R&B Venue: The Big Easy Social and Pleasure Club

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