Houston Press Music Awards Winners

Devin the Dude, Katie Stuckey and The Dimes clean up

The Houston Press Music Awards turned 18 this year — the event is finally old enough to go to war, vote and get into shows. And grouse if you must about the technical glitches at both the showcase and the awards ceremony (curse you, PowerPoint!), but these seemed to be the best ever. Warehouse Live's ballroom — easily the best venue we've ever enjoyed — felt full and was definitely buzzing. The Dimes, Skyblue72, Arthur Yoria, Million Year Dance, Scattered Pages and Black Math Experiment kicked ass onstage, the beer flowed and the Mexican food didn't last long.

And at the end of the night, a trio of first-time winners walked away with the lion's share of the hardware: Devin the Dude (Local Musician of the Year, Songwriter of the Year), Katie Stuckey and the Swagger (Best Folk/Acoustic, Best Female Vocalist) and triple winners The Dimes (Best Indie Rock, Song of the Year, Best New Act). Other first-timers included Karina Nistal, multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey "Uncle Tick" Muller, Peekaboo Theory, The Mighty Orq, Chrome 44 and drummer Patrick "Beans" Wheeler.

This being the Music Awards, plenty of old standbys also claimed statuettes; no one will bat an eyelash to learn of victories by stout perennials the Big Easy, Blanco's, Zydeco Dots, John Evans, Drop Trio, Fondue Monks and the Mucky Duck. Minus Cactus Music and Video, Soundwaves continued its domination of the music retail category.

Devin the Dude
Daniel Kramer
Devin the Dude
Chrome 44
Daniel Kramer
Chrome 44
Peekaboo Theory
Daniel Kramer
Peekaboo Theory
Flamin' Hellcats
Daniel Kramer
Flamin' Hellcats
Molly and the Ringwalds
Daniel Kramer
Molly and the Ringwalds

Generally, our Music Awards ceremonies generate some controversy, public nudity or simulated onstage blow jobs, but the only tongue-waggable podium moment this year came from Little Joe Washington, whose non sequitur-filled acceptance speech for Best Blues Act ("Guess what? I'm a bad motherfucker. I don't know what the hell I'm here for") was the only breach of etiquette of the entire three hours. Several winners said little beyond thanking their fans, but Best Traditional Rock winners Southern Backtones provided a note of levity when their initial absence from the stage prompted emcee Grease Munkey of KIOL-FM to speculate, "They're in the back drinking." There's always a few gaffes, and again, this year was no exception. Zydeco Dots guitarist Tom Potter thanked the Houston Post for his award. It's okay; we miss the Post too.

And as always, the ceremony offered the Houston music community a chance to publicly grieve fallen players. Poor Dumb Bastards, winners for Best Punk, dedicated their award to recently deceased bandmate Hunter Ward, who died June 30 of a suspected drug overdose, and the evening closed with Dr. Roger Wood eulogizing the late, great blues shouter/songwriter Jimmy "T-99" Nelson, who passed away the day of the showcase. John Nova Lomax and Chris Gray

Songwriter of the Year, Local Musician of the YearDevin the DudeThe only rapper other than South Park Mexican to take songwriter honors, and the only MC other than S.P.M. and Chingo Bling to take the much-coveted Local Musician of the Year award, Devin richly deserves each plaudit. He is among the most locally oriented musicians ever. While lots of local rappers name-check H-Town landmarks, Devin's witty rhymes weave the city in as a backdrop with consummate skill. In one old song, you can "meet [him] at the sandwich shop at Bellfort and Scott"; another finds him jonesin' for weed, stuck behind the train off Mykawa; in "Lacville '79" he trolls "Chim-in-ey Rock" looking for a girl "that will give me the cock"; and in this year's single "The Almighty Dollar," he's girl-watching at T.S.U. and tortured by the delectable aroma of the Frenchy's chicken he can't afford. Houston comes to life in his lines.

Another reason these awards come as no surprise is that Houstonians love songs about getting messed up. Past songs of the year include "My Dad, Two Whores and a Crack Pipe," "No Really I Can Drive" and "High So High" — and anybody with even a passing acquaintance with Devin's work can tell you he is a master of that art form.

Devin's music appeals not just to critics and other rappers but also to many who don't care for hip-hop at all; you hear rock fans say things like "I can't stand rap — except for Devin" fairly often. That's because he never brags about his bling — indeed, he doesn't sport any — and has an all-too-rare self-deprecating sense of humor. And he lives many of his songs — he really does drive the 1979 Cadillac of "Lacville '79," and when he raps about his love for both Bud and bud, he's not frontin' in the slightest.

Devin's busy '07 continues; as you read this, he's on the West Coast touring new album Waitin' to Inhale, and next month his Coughee Brothaz posse releases their own full-length album. — J.N.L.

Best Indie Rock, Best New Act, Song of the Year ("Delilah") The Dimes Moments after ripping through an electrifying version of "Delilah," the song that would later net The Dimes a third statue to join their awards for Best Indie Rock and Best New Act, the Stratford quartet was happy to finally relax. "It feels good to be backstage," said guitarist Cley Miller as he, singer Carlos Sanchez, drummer Iram Guerrero and bassist Jose Sanchez crowded into one of Warehouse Live's tiny dressing rooms. "We get nervous before we play."

The Dimes agreed the Warehouse stage was cozier than their previous gig, preceding Saliva at the Verizon Wireless Theater at last Sunday's Music Awards Showcase. "It was weird," said Miller. "We never played on a stage that big before."

"We were so separated from each other," agreed Carlos Sanchez. "We don't like that."

Last year at this time, The Dimes — who formed in early 2004 — were preparing for the release of their debut EP, which launched them on their three-award trajectory. And although they were the night's big winners, their after-show plans would hardly betray them as such.

"I've got school tomorrow, so I've got to go home and go to sleep," Miller said.

"I have a job interview," offered Jose Sanchez.

"I have to go to work," moaned Carlos.

That left the drummer as the only wild card. "I might go out and celebrate," he allowed. "Maybe Poison Girl." (Hope he brought a fake ID.)

Besides, The Dimes didn't have to party all night to earn their rock and roll bona fides. They're pretty good at talking smack, albeit inadvertently: When naming off bands that helped them break into the scene (a list that also includes Flowers to Hide and the late Stolen Library), Carlos meant to say Bring Back the Guns — with whom they split a bill this Saturday at the Proletariat — but it came out "Bring Back the Buns." Everyone had a good laugh about that one.

If that's not enough, before a single award was given out Wednesday, Carlos had already bled for his art. "I was walking out and the sound guy, or one of the guys, hit me in the face with the door," he said, his T-Shirt pockmarked with blood and a decent-sized cut on his left eyebrow. "I was like, ‘aw, shit,' and that's when I started bleeding." — C.G.

Best Female Vocalist/Folk/Acoustic Katie Stuckey and the Swagger First-time candidate Katie Stuckey must have one helluva e-mail list. Winner of two awards in her first time on the ballot, Stuckey doesn't seem to have played enough gigs around town or have a high enough profile to have won — not that she isn't a legitimate talent. Anyone who has caught one of Swagger's infrequent shows knows Stuckey, trained at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, can belt 'em out with the best voices around. Her band puts some overdrive in the proceedings, making her "folk-acoustic" designation all the more puzzling. It also seems odd that someone trained at such a high level would choose country music as a vehicle, but Stuckey says it makes perfect sense: "Country just fits what I like to write, what I think about, how I put things together." She also reports that she's got an album "made with friends in L.A." that will drop in the next few weeks. So why base herself in Houston? "I believe if you're going to build a fan base in country music, you have to be in Texas," she says. "This is the place. And Houston's just great. I mean, come on, how thrilling is it for me and my band to be sharing the same stage with people like Devin the Dude and Million Year Dance? Not enough people understand how cool the Houston music scene is." — William Michael Smith

Best Male Vocalist Tony Vega The bluesmen did most of the cussin' in their acceptance speeches this year, and while he didn't quite match Little Joe Washington's Toastmaster theatrics, Tony Vega expressed his feelings at being voted Best Male Vocalist thusly: "You guys shocked the shit outta me!" In his rambling two minutes, the longtime local blues-circuit landmark also reckoned, "Houston fuckin' rocks!" Vega also took the moment to announce to a rapidly dwindling crowd that he is moving to Austin. "Not for the music, but my wife's got a job there," he swore. "And I want to thank my wife. Baby, you're H-H-H-HOT!" There's a song in there somewhere. — W.M.S.

Album of the Year (Liberation) Million Year Dance Million Year Dance delivered on their Best New Act victory at last year's awards by taking one of the most prestigious categories of all, even though — if you want to split hairs — 2006's six-song Liberation is actually an EP. Singer Jonathan Welch smoothed things over in his acceptance speech, saying, "It's been a true pleasure to share the same space with everyone — this award is for everyone who made a full-length album." MYD also opened the ceremony with the lush, Radiohead-like "All the Names of God." "We love playing that song," Welch said backstage. "We chose that specifically." The song will appear on the record MYD is currently working on, but they were happy Liberation's victory gave them a chance to "repromote" the EP. Furthermore, the band took home a bonus prize for winning Album of the Year: a copy of Guitar Hero II. Guitarist and percussionist Doyle Odom, who carried the game offstage, was a little nonplussed, but Welch spoke up immediately. "We're going to rock that mother," he said. — C.G.

Best Metal Chrome 44 If ever a local metal band was more determined to make it big, Houston has yet to meet them. With their win, Chrome 44 seems well on their way to fulfilling the promise proclaimed on their Web site: "No setback or hurdle will hinder them from making their dream come true." At the moment it looks like hurdles are being blasted away with slick, hard-driving riffs, a dedicated fan base and the new addition of vocalist Sloane Gallegos, who called the win "Amazing!" The band, which recently completed their second full-length album, ÉInto the Red, performs at JavaJazz August 16. Don't be surprised if these guys not so subtly force their way into greater prominence; they are all hungry for a successful full-time career. As for the Press award, bassist Dave Hancock quipped, "It will go in our little trophy booth. We'll start one for this." — Linda Leseman

Best Bassist Nick Gaitan Nick Gaitan is pleased and relieved to have prevailed in one of the closest races on the ballot — the former Los Skarnales member of and current upright thumper for Umbrella Man and the Octanes edged out Fondue Monks ace Rozz Zamorano by a handful of votes. "I knew it was gonna be close," a hungover Gaitan said the next day. "I was really surprised. That was something else. I'll take it though, shit. The competition is always really good — I was happy that Shawn Supra was on the ballot this year. He's a great, great bassist. I've seen him in so many bands, and it was bad-ass that he finally got on the ballot this year." — J.N.L.

Best Guitarist The Mighty Orq Like several winners, bluesy rocker Orq was hungover when reached the next day. "It's worth it," he said. The first-time winners sent a shout-out to bandmates Matt Johnson and Westside Johnny, plus Tom at the Big Easy, where Orq has enjoyed a Monday-night residency of several years' duration. "That's all I can think of right now," he said. "Cream soda doesn't have any caffeine in it." Orq and band have just completed a new CD, To the Bone, which they're shopping to labels, and are working on lining up dates for another European tour. — J.N.L.

Best Punk Poor Dumb Bastards Unlike a decade ago, when Poor Dumb Bastards won Song of the Year with "My Dad, Two Whores and a Crack Pipe," this year they accepted their statue for Best Punk fully clothed. But this year was considerably more solemn, as the four-piece is still recovering from guitarist Hunter Ward's June 30 death from a suspected overdose. "This isn't very punk rock," singer Byron Dean said from the stage, "but this goes out to our fallen hero Hunter." Ward had been a Bastard for seven years, and Dean credited him with rejuvenating the band. "Not that we were ever stagnant, but we had hit a routine," he said a little later. "Then Hunter came, and he was like fresh blood or fresh air." "He was our eyes and ears down in Montrose," added bassist Steve Scholtes. Asked the best way the Bastards can honor Ward's memory, they replied in unison, "keep playing." With an album due in January, the Bastards will play the Damon O'Banion memorial show at Meridian August 18, and planned to treat Wednesday's award better than they did the one they won for "Crack Pipe." "Our first award, we went to Lola's and broke it on the bar," said guitarist Mike P. "This one'll go to Bob, our drummer. He's actually lived a lot longer, so he gets the award." — C.G.

Best Blues Little Joe Washington Very much in line with his mercurial guitar style, Little Joe Washington's acceptance speech was all over the map. In addition to his Ali-like boast — "I'm a bad motherfucker!" — he launched into and abandoned a telling of one of his adventures abroad. (Since the speech was somewhat hard to decipher, we'll retell it here.) A few years ago, when Washington was flying to Japan to play a festival, the flight attendant asked him if he wanted pasta for dinner. Washington misheard her, and when he returned to Houston, he told sometime manager Reg Burns that he was insulted and astonished to be offered "possum" for dinner on the plane. "I told 'em I didn't eat possum," he told Burns. "They brought me chicken."

Washington also thanked the Press, and after his speech, denigrated the Chronicle. "I'm the invisible man there," he said. (To be fair, they did profile him a couple of years ago.) The pint-sized bluesman richly deserves whatever ink he gets. The sole survivor of a group of titanic Third Ward homies that included Johnny Clyde Copeland, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, Albert Collins and Joe "Guitar" Hughes, Washington's stinging tone and near-psychedelic licks constitute some of the finest blues on planet Earth right now. — J.N.L. Best World Music/Reggae D.R.U.M. This is the D.R.U.M.'s 12th time taking home an award. The category's name has evolved over the years, but they remain Houston's most popular cosmopolitan band. In his acceptance speech, front man Alafia Gaidi declared his love for Houston, a result undoubtedly due in no small part to the fact that this city has treated the band well for more than 17 years. And despite having played with everyone from War to Burning Spear, D.R.U.M. plans to celebrate this year's victory in typical working musician style: continuing the tour they just kicked off in the most otherworldly of all locales — Oklahoma. — Amy Prasad

Best Experimental/Avant Garde Peekaboo TheoryAfter winning Best Experimental Wednesday night, Peekaboo Theory spent the next day relaxing. "We're kinda resting because yesterday was a lot and we've been working on our album," says lead singer Jamescayn Thursday afternoon. All they have left, he added, is to have the record mastered and the artwork completed. "We're in the last stretches." Considering the band wasn't even around this time last year, their progress has been impressive indeed. "We're all really firm believers in putting whatever you believe out in the universe, and it will come back to you," Jamescayn said. "We just played any show everywhere we could play with any bands, hit it hard, went out and supported other bands, and I think our sound placed us in the bracket where we were." That's because, he says, what they're doing now is only part of an eventual whole. "The music we're doing is experimental to us. We're producers; I think it matches what we're doing right now," he reckons. "I don't think it matches the whole picture, but it matches where we are right now." Peekaboo's eclectic sound should fit right in at their next gig, August 12 at the Santa Fe Music Festival in New Mexico, alongside Wu-Tang Clan, Everclear and Blue October before returning for a homecoming show August 18 at Meridian. — C.G.

Best Pop Skyblue72 After warming up the crowd before the ceremony with selections from forthcoming CD Feel My Way Home, Skyblue72 returned to the stage to collect a trophy for Best Pop Act, taking the award with a grain of salt. "It's cool," said drummer and vocalist Jessica Zweback, also 2003 winner for Best Female Vocalist. "We're excited, dude." However, she added, "We have a pop element for sure, but we're more of a rock band. I'm not a big genre person anyway. I think we cross-pollinate." The trio was psyched for another reason — they had just picked up Feel My Way Home, which they recorded mostly live at Jessica's brother (and SB72 bassist/vocalist) Frank's house in January, that very day. "We're really pleased," Jessica said. "Our first CD was a little bit more produced, but this one is more what-you-see-is-what-you-get." The trio barely has time to break down their gear before they return to Warehouse Live for Saturday's CD release show with Shawn Pander, Deep Ella, Lanky, Rebbesoul and Nine O'Clock Scholars. — C.G.

Best Hardcore The JonBenét Unlike former schoolteacher/fake murderer John Mark Karr, who grabbed headlines again recently due to his domestic-dispute arrest in Atlanta, The JonBenét have their name in the paper for a much better reason. They weren't in attendance to pick up their award, but they help break in new bass player Bryan on September 8 at Proletariat. See for yourself why this year's hardcore voters judged them newsworthy.— A.P.

Best Local Rap/Hip-Hop Karina Nistal Yeah, she may have won a statuette in the local rap/hip-hop category — one of three she was nominated for this year — but Karina Nistal doesn't fit the usual Houston rapper profile. For starters, she's cute, usually a major no-no in the rap community. And then, there's her usual queen-of-the-night rep —showcased on last year's debut album, Nistyle — of laying down soulful vocals over dance grooves, along with dropping rhymes mostly en español. Let's face it: They don't call her "Diva Karina" because it's catchy.

But this win isn't just her victory, it's a victory for her music/art collective the Rebel Crew, whose members canvassed hard for their songbird señorita. "At first, it wasn't [important], because I love what I do and I'm gonna do it regardless of winning an award or not," Nistal said minutes after her win. "But to my team, it was a big deal for me to achieve this award. So I had to take that extra step to get these awards, and I had to campaign and ask people for votes." Nistal finally has a trophy to show for all the hard work she and her outfit went through. And now, like so many queens before her, she retires to her domain, where she must rest before she valiantly takes on the night once again. — Craig D. Lindsey

Best Roots Rock/Rockabilly Flamin' Hellcats "We've been around for 14 years and we've never sounded better," enthused Jaime Hellcat after his band's first victory since 2001. "We have as much energy as we did when we first started." The ever-ebullient, fast-talking Jaime says his roots-rocking new rhythm section — drummer Richie Vazquez and bassist Dropkick Dave — has reinvigorated him. "The guys I had were punk guys, and we just kept getting heavier and heavier and one day I just said, ‘Dude, when did we become Judas Priest?'" The vato-billy gatos are getting airplay in Australia and the UK and are headed out to California for some shows later this summer, but in the meantime, you can catch them at Rad Rich's bash next Saturday (August 18) at the Meridian. — J.N.L.

Best Traditional Rock Southern Backtones "I'm really honored to win," bassist John Griffin said a couple of days after Southern Backtones took Best Traditional Rock for the second year in a row. "I never really expect to win." The decade-old band recently started working on its next album, squeezing it around playing in town once a month, scattered regional gigs and the movie singer Hank Schyma and fellow HPMA winner John Evans wrote and are now filming. But just how traditional are these Traditional Rock winners? "I guess we definitely have elements of traditional rock — we're certainly influenced by it. We're kind of a combination of indie and traditional rock," figures Griffin. "We used to be a lot more rockabillyish. The name kind of confuses people — we still play that stuff live, but we don't really write songs like that anymore. For years, we were in the roots/rockabilly category, so I think this is a more accurate description. But just to win is nice." — C.G.

Best Cover Band Molly & the Ringwalds With their fifth win in a row, Molly & the Ringwalds are starting to own Best Cover Band the way Zydeco Dots own zydeco and D.R.U.M. owns whatever they're calling the world-music category this year. They have Friday happy hours at the Continental locked down in perpetuity, but went MIA before the Press could get a comment on their most recent victory, so we cobbled together a possible acceptance speech from their seemingly bottomless repertoire of Reagan-era titles: "Add it up. A little respect — just what I needed. I know what boys like, I love rock and roll. I want you to want me, don't you want me? Faithfully, one way or another, nothin' but a good time." — C.G.

Best DJ DJ Red It's easy to see why DJ Red edged out the mighty DJ Sun in the best DJ category for the second straight year. Let's begin with the fact that, unlike most DJs around here, he's not an asshole.

Now, we're not calling all local DJs assholes — just the ones who are, well, assholes. The ones who have gotten all up in our asses about not clarifying in print which type of house music they play. ("I play deep house — do your research!") The ones who think they're doing great revolutionary art when they're really just playing one record one minute, then playing another record the next. The ones who take DJing too damn seriously.

"A lot of DJs are way too particular about their styles," the house DJ — just house, that's it — said after picking up his award. "I just like to make people dance."

Red attributes his latest win to the many high-profile gigs he had this past year, opening for visiting turntable heavyweights and doing some killer sets. Said Red, "I opened up for Tiesto. I opened up for Benny Benassi, so I've gotten a lot of exposure this year." Not to mention that Red spins all over the place, doing regular sets at such spots as Rich's, Venue and the Vintage Bar. "Today's music scene is growing in Houston, and I'm just proud to be a part of it."

Humble, successful and not an asshole — maybe he truly is the best DJ in town. — C.D.L.

Best Funk/R&B Fondue Monks Make no mistake, despite their second consecutive win in this category, the Fondue Monks won't be pigeonholed. "We're not a pure funk band," says singer Denver Courtney. "We're funky."

With 16 years together, you would think the band members know each other as well as they know their Texas-flavored blues-rock style. After accepting their award, however, guitarist Steve Olsen revealed with a wink that they just met Courtney "the other night." Still, Olsen has high hopes for the new vocalist: "Sixteen years from now, he's gonna know how to spell ‘Zamorano.'" (That's Monks' drummer Ronnie and bassist Rozz's last name.)

Rozz's sights for the Press awards in 2023 are a bit more ambitious, as he prophesied, "We'll wheel ourselves up there" to claim the trophy. Well, maybe. Rozz is also a realist. "Hopefully we'll be on the next Police tour," he said, "wheeling Sting off."

In the more immediate future, the Monks play Saturday at Antone's in Austin and November 1-4 at the Lone Star Rally in Galveston. — L.L.

Best Drummer Patrick "Beans" Wheeler Patrick "Beans" Wheeler couldn't make it to the awards ceremony because he was playing with Miss Leslie' s Juke Jointers at the Continental Club. When former Los Skarnales rhythm section compadre Nick Gaitan (Best Bassist) called Wheeler after accepting for his former bandmate, all Wheeler had to say was, "Cool, man. Gotta go. Bye." With the breakup of Los Skarnales, Wheeler has moved on to projects such as Umbrella Man, Ryan Scroggins and the Trenchtown Texans and fill-in slots all over town with a variety of artists. — W.M.S.

Best Zydeco Zydeco Dots For anyone who has read Dr. Roger Wood's Texas Zydeco, winning Best Zydeco band in Houston is akin to winning Best Potato in Boise, Idaho, or Best Watermelon in Hempstead. It's huge. The Dots have won so many times now, they almost own the award. They've gotten so popular that, according to Raymond Chavis, they're playing mostly private parties and corporate events these days. But they're still packing the Big Easy once a month and drawing crowds at venues like Jack's For Cocktails. Meanwhile, they're finishing their sixth album and should have it available in the next month. — W.M.S.

Best C&W John Evans After we got to ten, we lost count of the number of trophies this lanky, twangy bespectacled singer has won. Ramblin' Boy, his latest CD, resonates with the echoes of '80s pop-rock, so his nomination in the country category was puzzling to some. Not Evans himself, though. "My band is so schizophrenic with all the different styles we play, that it's hard to put us in a category," he said the day after the show. Keeping with this all-over-the-map trend, Sideshow, his new record, is all-acoustic. It's not on shelves yet, but you can get it at his shows, the next of which is at Full Throttle Coffee this Friday. — J.N.L.

Best Alt Rock LoneStar PornStar Either LoneStar PornStar brought along their own screaming section, or they're just really popular; I'm guessing the latter. The year 2007 marks the third in a row LSPS has dominated the Best Alternative category. Lead singer Gregg Stegman expressed thanks to the fans who voted them into three-peat status. He claims the band didn't expect to win again. "There was a lot of tough competition," said Stegman. "Everybody in here rocks."

LSPS also thanked DA Records, their newly acquired record label. In addition to the national distribution of their 2006 album Protection, which sold out in several Houston-area stores, DA plans to market the band worldwide. The UK, Japan and Europe will soon have access to Protection — probably a good idea, considering the screams of ecstasy bursting from the audience after each mention of the PornStars. Stegman plans to take this euphoric effect to the happiest place on earth. When asked what's next for LSPS, he responded, "Go to Disneyland!"

Mothers, guard your children. — L.L.

Best National Rap/Hip-Hop Paul Wall His new record Get Money, Stay True might not have sold as well as its major-label predecessor, but Paul Wall remains "the people's champ" in H-Town. Wall edged out one-time rapping podna Chamillionaire and a host of other platinum-selling names to claim his second straight win in this category. And just as he did last year, Wall didn't let the fact that he's a big-time national star stop him from coming in and picking up his award in person. That's the way you get to keep being the people's champ. — J.N.L.

Best Misc. Instrumentalist Geoffrey "Uncle Tick" Muller By his own reckoning, Muller plays three styles of banjo, several types of guitar, bass, mandolin, harmonica, dulcimer, Cajun fiddle and "various homemade instruments that don't really have names." What's more, he builds many of them himself, and then plays them in numerous bands, including Sideshow Tramps, the Umbrella Man, Sabra Lazal, Le Hot Club, Two Star Symphony and other local bands without names. "You know how it is, man," he said the day after the event. "It's hard out here for a misc. instrumentalist." — J.N.L.

Best Salsa/Latin Pop Mango Punch! Mango Punch! took Best Salsa/Latin Pop for the third year in a row. With members hailing from Venezuela, Louisiana, Guatemala, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Texas, the band's roots are as diverse as their music. They performed the pregame show at Super Bowl XXXVIII and have played for Mayor Bill White. And according to their Web site, drummer Chad Tumminello is still available for drum lessons. In songs like the hip-shaking question "Que Me Pongo?" Mango Punch! deliver on their promise to bring people together and to provide "fun en español!" — A.P.

Best Jazz Drop Trio When Drop Trio won for best jazz last year, the big discussion was who would be the one to pick up the eighth Houston Press statuette they've received overall. Keyboardist Ian Varley lives in Austin, bassist Patrick Flanagan in Fort Worth and drummer Nuje in The Woodlands. This year they figured it out: None of them showed up.

Friend of the band Jamie Martin accepted the award for them Wednesday, saying afterwards, "[Nuje has] family vacation and Ian has work, and I'm not sure exactly what's going on with Patrick for sure." But don't think the trio isn't grateful.

"Houston is still our home base," said Varley later by phone. "We play in Houston more than anyplace else." The trio got to appreciate their hometown's loyalty on a West Coast tour this past year.

"It's funny, having been out on tour, you realize the world is a bit larger than Houston," says Varley. "And it's hard getting love outside of your hometown. It always feels really great in Houston."

This fall, the gentlemen will embark on a northeast tour, playing big cities like New York and Chicago. But don't ever expect them to stray that far away from the place that made them the funky-ass jazzmen they are today. — C.D.L.

Houston's Finest CD Store and Venues That swanky joint called Venue downtown was deemed the best place in town to hear Latin music, the only surprise in yet another year that saw Blanco's (C&W), the Mucky Duck (Folk) and Big Easy (Blues) continue their strangleholds of at least a decade's duration. Warehouse Live triumphed for the second straight year as Best Rock Venue and Best Concert Venue, and the convincing margins of victory in both categories suggest that its run may continue for a long time.

Since the closure of Cactus Music and Video, Soundwaves prevailed for the second straight year, doubling the vote total of second-place finisher Sound Exchange,which in turn doubled the tally of third-place Sig's Lagoon. Those of you who voted Best Buyin fourth place, ahead of Vinal Edge, All Records and a host of other real record stores, deserve everything bad that ever happens in your lives. — J.N.L.

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