Crazy Tony Avitia Say what you will about Crazy Tony Avitia, but the man will not be ignored. Since tearing out of the northside in the late '80s as a member of 30footFALL, Avitia has released numerous compilation CDs of local and Texas funk, punk and rock on his Broken Note label and won several Houston Press Music Awards as a member of the "slip-hop" ensemble I-45. Avitia's latest gambit is promoting huge shows -- and he attacks that endeavor with boundless energy. Earlier this year, Avitia let the world know, via a massive flyer campaign, that "Crazy Tony Is Back!" And thank God he is.

Lagoon! by Clouseaux This band's tiki lounge exotica sound demands a tiki-lounge-exotic-adelic album cover, and they deliver. The picture on the cover presents us with a palm tree, Polynesian warriors plying the coast of a mountainous island under a full moon, and another godlike tiki guerrilla standing in the foreground. The picture calls to mind a '50s-era children's book -- We Go to Tahiti, or something like that. We also like the concept: Lagoon! makes reference to not only the band's South Seas island sound but also Sig Byrd's Houston, another of this year's winners. (See Best Out-of-Print Book About Houston.)

Lagoon! by Clouseaux This band's tiki lounge exotica sound demands a tiki-lounge-exotic-adelic album cover, and they deliver. The picture on the cover presents us with a palm tree, Polynesian warriors plying the coast of a mountainous island under a full moon, and another godlike tiki guerrilla standing in the foreground. The picture calls to mind a '50s-era children's book -- We Go to Tahiti, or something like that. We also like the concept: Lagoon! makes reference to not only the band's South Seas island sound but also Sig Byrd's Houston, another of this year's winners. (See Best Out-of-Print Book About Houston.)

KPFT
KPFT/90.1 FM It's tempting to play the contrarian and give this award to some other spot on the dial, but KPFT is simply the best station in town. No other station has as much variety; blues, zydeco, rock en espaol, jazz, several forms of rock, world music, old-school Tejano and hip-hop all vie for space in the KPFT weekly schedule, not to mention some good, some bad and some ugly current-affairs programming. While the commercial stations all aim for the lowest common denominator, KPFT tries the opposite approach, and if the results are sometimes maddening, much of the time it's pretty damn good.

KPFT/90.1 FM It's tempting to play the contrarian and give this award to some other spot on the dial, but KPFT is simply the best station in town. No other station has as much variety; blues, zydeco, rock en español, jazz, several forms of rock, world music, old-school Tejano and hip-hop all vie for space in the KPFT weekly schedule, not to mention some good, some bad and some ugly current-affairs programming. While the commercial stations all aim for the lowest common denominator, KPFT tries the opposite approach, and if the results are sometimes maddening, much of the time it's pretty damn good.

Alley Theatre
Alley Theatre Most regional theaters would be delirious with a season that included just one recent Pulitzer Prize-winning play. But the Alley Theatre's artistic director, Gregory Boyd, is not your typical AD. Last season he proved it by filling up his stages with some wonderfully controversial shows, including two Pulitzer-winners. David Auburn's renowned Proof and Suzan-Lori Parks's Topdog/Underdog ran back to back, sandwiched between several other productions that were every bit as wonderful. There was a soaring production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and a biting rendition of Adly Guigis's Our Lady of 121st Street. And for the first time ever, the Alley produced a musical: Steven Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, featuring its very own company of actors, who proved their musical stature when the show was extended several weeks.

Alley Theatre Most regional theaters would be delirious with a season that included just one recent Pulitzer Prize-winning play. But the Alley Theatre's artistic director, Gregory Boyd, is not your typical AD. Last season he proved it by filling up his stages with some wonderfully controversial shows, including two Pulitzer-winners. David Auburn's renowned Proof and Suzan-Lori Parks's Topdog/Underdog ran back to back, sandwiched between several other productions that were every bit as wonderful. There was a soaring production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night and a biting rendition of Adly Guigis's Our Lady of 121st Street. And for the first time ever, the Alley produced a musical: Steven Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, featuring its very own company of actors, who proved their musical stature when the show was extended several weeks.

The Meridian
The Meridian Sure, this pagoda-studded hulk may look like the Chinese seafood warehouse that it once was, and yeah, it might be pretty hard to find the door to the place, but the Meridian is bringing in a lot of acts, from the remnants of the MC5 to Gavin DeGraw. The divan-dotted, haremlike antechamber is a nice touch, and the skyline view is pretty awesome, and what's more, they're still building over there. Plans are in the works to install a massive pub on another floor, and for a rooftop party place, possibly with a pool.

The Meridian Sure, this pagoda-studded hulk may look like the Chinese seafood warehouse that it once was, and yeah, it might be pretty hard to find the door to the place, but the Meridian is bringing in a lot of acts, from the remnants of the MC5 to Gavin DeGraw. The divan-dotted, haremlike antechamber is a nice touch, and the skyline view is pretty awesome, and what's more, they're still building over there. Plans are in the works to install a massive pub on another floor, and for a rooftop party place, possibly with a pool.

The John Sparrow Mod rockers the John Sparrow have the sort of appeal that spans generations. If you're a teenager or a twentysomething, they sound superhip. If you're in your thirties or forties, they remind you of the Jam, and singer Kevin Richardson is fast becoming the American Paul Weller. If you're an old fart that still likes to rock, the John Sparrow will remind you of the Kinks and the Who, especially madman drummer Mikey DeLeon, who is well on his way to becoming the American Keith Moon. (On stage at least; let's hope he doesn't have that guy's appetite for prescriptions.) The John Sparrow is signed to L.A.'s Bomp Records, the historic garage rock/punk/power-pop label that helped launch the Plimsouls, the Romantics and Iggy Pop's solo career; an album is coming soon.

Best Of Houston®

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