Whenever anything so wonderful as music is concentrated in a small area in our giant sprawling behemoth of a town, it is truly cause for celebration. For once, you'll run into friends walking in the street, instead of obliviously blowing past them on the freeway. If you tire of indie rock -- or sour on salsa -- zydeco, reggae, metal or styles too bizarre for description are mere footsteps away.
This year's soiree of sound should be twice as sweet since we have so much to be thankful for. It was just one month ago that many of these venues in and around Bayou Place more than lived up to that description. The bayou was, in fact, all over the place.
But now, at least at this writing, we're high and dry. Three score and four of the Bayou City's finest bands (and one from Canada) for five bucks -- do the math, folks. That's less than a dime a band. Cheaper than a ticket to some movie you may hate, cheaper than a burger and fries at even the greasiest of spoons.
So take a peek at these thumbnail sketches, and map out a battle plan. Check out a few unknowns to go along with your old standbys. Then vote with a good conscience, and may the best bands win! The writers who contributed to this year's supplement include Sande Chen, Mike Emery, Melanie Haupt, Aaron Howard, Craig. D. Lindsey, John Nova Lomax, Paul J. MacArthur and Bob Ruggiero.
The Allen Oldies Band
Best Cover Band
These perennial cover band favorites are a phenomenon of their own, with tuxedo-clad front man Allen Hill and the ubiquitous group just as likely to pop up with the boys at a wedding, corporate party or the end of a 10K run as they would at a club date. Specializing in innocent, danceable '50s and '60s AM pop from "Tossin' and Turnin'" and "Sweat Pea" to "Hang On Sloopy" and "96 Tears," the world of Allen Oldies is like a trip in the Wayback Machine. Baby boomers love the human hit parade, while Gen X sees kitsch value. And for what he lacks in, uh, vocal quality, Hill makes up for with his nerdy/goofy enthusiasm, energy and gimmicks, like passing out edible samples to the audience while singing "Peanut Butter." Also includes David Beebe (drums), David Schoenbaum (organ, guitar), Mikey Trafton (bass), Jim Hinkle (guitar) and Joe Earthman ("teen idol" and saxophone). -- B.R.
The Allen Oldies Band plays at 4 p.m. at Harlon's Bayou Blues.
Anguish In Exile
Best Metal/Hard Rock
An "industrial-death" metal band, Anguish In Exile has deep roots in the Houston heavy music scene. Mainstream recognition for this outfit is long overdue for this highly mechanistic yet human ensemble. There is much musical pain and torment on hand -- and the lyrical content isn't a walk in the park either -- but if you enjoy your industrial with guitars or your guitars with a mechanical soul, you could do far worse than checking out what Anguish In Exile has to offer. -- C.S.
Anguish In Exile performs at 5 p.m. at No tsu oH.
Best Alternative Rock
Pop rock. An easy musical form to listen to, not so easy to create. Unless, apparently, you are David Keys. For the first time in Keys's performing history he has a stable lineup around him, with brother Darwin Keys on drums, Alex Tittel on lead guitar and Bill Walter on bass. The overall effect of such stability has been to center the band's energies on what it does best: perform instant pop-rock standards with both confidence and flair. Harmonies abound, the guitars and drums are loud, and you can sing along to just about anything you hear. If that sounds like fun, that's what it's supposed to be. The band's recently released Dancers finally has found its way to where it belongs: in the hands of the major labels. Now the real work begins. -- C.S.
Ashbury Keys plays at 7 p.m. at BAR Houston.
It's hard to consider a band that's been around since the '80s as "underground," but most dance music seems to be underrated in Houston. No matter. Bamboo Crisis has had its share of tunes spun in the clubs. With fast BPMs and a harsh industrial vibe to match the sense of foreboding doom, Bamboo Crisis aims to conquer the dance charts. Armed with its recent release, Konspirosphere, the band just finished a tour of other states. -- S.C.
Bamboo Crisis performs at 8 p.m. at No tsu oH.
Houston punk stalwarts Bickley are working on new material and looking to record in August or September. The band overcame a professional speed bump earlier in the year when three-tour-old drummer Dave Wreckoning first was advised against continuing with the band on medical grounds and then apparently had the decision reversed on appeal (and promise of future moderate behavior). In any case, he's been back behind his purple metallic flake kit since mid-April. For those unfamiliar, Bickley performs punk at its most elemental and least refined; short songs about beer, female anatomy and the genre itself, all played at a speed just the right side of gratuitously fast. -- C.S.
Bickley performs at 8 p.m. at the Aerial Theater.
Bozo Porno Circus
Faves Bozo Porno Circus, last year's winner in this category, deliver hard, driving rhythms designed to shock and titillate. It's all in good, sexy fun, although the grinding music can be quite scary. BPC is definitely more on the dark side. Fantasies alighted and senses engaged, BPC gigs are always a theatrical spectacle, replete with outlandish costumes, provocative dancers and fetish accoutrements. Audience participation is encouraged at key moments. Be prepared to unleash your inner pervert. -- S.C.
Bozo Porno Circus performs at 9 p.m. at No tsu oH.
If DJ Sun is the most ubiquitous spinner in our summer-baked land, then Sean Carnahan is the prettiest. He can't help it -- it comes with the territory. As the other most-popular DJ in the city, this past Best Dance/DJ winner is known for setting off fashionably hip house grooves for all the pretty people that frequent Houston's snazziest clubs. Just name one trendy-ass club (Prague, Hyperia, Pacific Street), and chances are he has given that joint his stylish seal of approval. He also keeps tabs on the city's nightlife, tracking down all the nocturnal hits and misses on his Web site, www.77002.com, and in his monthly column in Paper City. So if downtown Houston ever went looking for an honorary mayor, it is likely Carnahan could win the job and be a uniter, not a divider. -- C.D.L.
Sean Carnahan spins at 7 p.m. at Spy (upstairs).
Best C&W; Best Rockabilly
After spending three years in Los Angeles, Dayton returned to Texas, dividing his time between Austin (where his son lives) and Houston. His last release, Tall Texas Tales, is less a country or rockabilly album than a showcase for his considerable writing talents. In the coming months, expect a change in record label name, an appearance at Enron Field (the first in a series of monthly Astros concerts), a long-awaited mainstream country album, Hey Nashvegas (slated for September), and a live album recorded at the Continental Club. Dayton's band has remained the same since he first left for L.A.: Brian Thomas (a former Alamo Jet) on steel, banjo and Dobro; Charlie Sanders on bass; and Eric Tucker (a former Road King) on the drums. No longer caught up in the "next big thing" hype, Dayton has revealed a self-reflective, conscious core that keeps him much closer to Texas than Nashville. -- A.H.
Jesse Dayton performs at 9 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe.
DKC has wrung the storied New Orleans-to-Houston stretch of I-10 dry of every style of music in earshot. The "Sounds of the Swamp," they call it, a voodooesque blend of blues, rockabilly, swamp pop and Southern soul. Unlike that Taco Bell mutt, these chihuahuas are more likely to lapse into Cajun French than vato Spanish. And what about that name? Has the SPCA inquired into its origins? Perhaps. The band's Web site states unequivocally that "no animals were harmed" in the naming of the band. -- J.N.L.
Dropkick Chihuahuas perform at 8 p.m. at Harlon's Bayou Blues.
DJ Chicken George
It looks like there's a little conflict in the Best Dance/DJ category this year. But first, the facts: DJ Chicken George has spun in such clubs as Spy, the now-defunct Lava Lounge and most recently, the Friday-night "Rebirth of Cool" over at the recently shuttered Current Nightclub. But his stylings can mostly be heard across the airwaves, when he spins records alongside DJ Sun on his Soular Grooves radio show every week. That's right, fellow Best Dance/DJ nominee and past winner DJ Sun! But neither party is sweating about winning the award. George, who has been a show regular since 1995 and a co-host since 1999 when DJ Theory left town, is just looking to provide the same jazzy-groove aesthetic he shares with his friend and on-air partner. -- C.D.L.
DJ Chicken George spins at 5 p.m. at Spy (upstairs).
Why does one get the feeling that if it were up to DJ Sun, he'd create more days in the week for him to do his nightly turntable duties? After snagging up this award last year, you'd think the hardest-working DJ in Houston (this isn't hyperbole; evidence has shown he is everywhere he can possibly be) would take some time off and soak in all he has accomplished. Oh, hell, no! Apart from keeping his regular weeknight gigs and presiding over his long-running Saturday-night radio show, KPFT's Soular Grooves, he's always up for new things. In fact, Thursday, July 12, he will kick off "Blue," his newest weekly residency, this one at the Saba Blue Water Cafe, where he will hype up his latest CD, 9 Before 10. -- C.D.L.
DJ Sun spins at 9 p.m. at Spy (upstairs).
Best World Music
The men of D.R.U.M. (Divine Rhythm, United Motion, just in case y'all forgot) are still out there, enticing audiences with their African/world/plain ol' reggae riddims that people have grown to expect from them. When they aren't playing massive events (like the Pan-African Cultural Festival last May) or opening for visiting bands (like Steel Pulse at Fitzgerald's), they're keeping their ideas, words and music fresh. They've been laying down tracks for their upcoming album, which will feature a few offerings penned by percussionist/newest addition Carlos Johnson. It's a big world, and D.R.U.M. is looking to play music for everyone out there. -- C.D.L.
D.R.U.M. performs at 7 p.m. at Cabo.
Best Drummer (Robert Lee Williams)
Last year this band walked away with the honors in the Best Hard Rock/Metal category. This year Drunken Thunder is nominated again. Problem is, the band doesn't seem to exist anymore. Back in February, Bobby Thunder himself put a stake in the group, ending unofficial rumors to the same effect, when he posted the following to the band's message board: "That's it we are all going to A.A. meetings and joining other bands. So it has been nice the Web site will be gone pretty soon so it's been fun and it's been fucked up but who fucking cares !!!!!!!!! later." Since then, Bobby Thunder has been playing drums in the Jack-ons; Trevi is playing bass with Transmaniacon Motorcycle Club; Damon is singing with the Hammerdowns; and Rigo is playing guitar in Heroicdose. Along the way, however, a talented and entertaining garage unit has reached its end, and Lord knows there aren't nearly enough of those to go around as it is. See the reunion at this year's showcase; it might be your last chance ever. -- C.S.
Drunken Thunder performs at 6 p.m. at No tsu oH.
Best Alternative Rock
Dune, TX is the perfect combination of bubblegum pop and pure rock fury. Not only can the band move between the forms, it manages to combine them into one whole. As such, Dune, TX remains perhaps Houston's most overlooked outfit. Sure, they've gotten their props in the press and are "respected" by the scene and all. But something this big needs mass exposure. Or at least the same number of kids that swarm lemminglike to see whatever nu-rap-metal clone is playing in the Heights on any particular weekend. To its credit, Dune, TX has been doing more shows out of town of late. The only downside to this is that opportunities to see the band here are becoming increasingly limited. This will likely only become more the case as work begins in earnest on the next full-length CD. -- C.S.
Dune, TX performs at 7 p.m. at Spy (outside).
The El Orbits
Best Cover Band
The cool thing about lounge groups is that they can't settle on just one style -- they fill their swanky cocktail glasses with any part of the American music lexicon. Formed by a club manager to fill a Monday-night gig at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge, the El Orbits weave their loungy magic on tunes made famous by Blondie, Sinatra and Glen Campbell. But their specialty is jazz and pop standards from the '50s and '60s, which means you can expect some soothing mellow tunes. -- P.J.M.
The El Orbits perform at 6 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Best Jazz/Best Piano
Paul English is a busy man. He's always finding a way to bring his music to new audiences. As for English the pianist, one word comes to mind: tasteful. English can forge out complex harmonic twists with the best of them, and his use of classical and pop influences is certainly worth studying. (His funky version of Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage" is always a showstopper.) But it's his consummate taste that always shines through -- that, and he just seems to have the time of his life playing. -- P.J.M.
Paul English plays at 9 p.m. at the Red Cat Jazz Cafe.
Feo y Loco
Years ago Feo y Loco won the award for "Best band that didn't fit into a category." This year the group has been slotted into Best Tejano/Latin. Is that because Feo y Loco has jettisoned its politically and socially skewed worldview in favor of conventional conjuntos? Maybe the guys are now sporting big hair and glittery sombreros? A more likely explanation is someone with a sense of the absurd was smoking some wacky tobaccy when they threw Feo into Best Tejano. Are songs like "Lesbians Trapped in the Body of a Man" and "Living in America" (featured on the Dr. Demento radio show) nuevo norteño music? Go ask Ramiro Burr. -- A.H.
Feo y Loco performs at 8 p.m. at Spy (outside).
Somewhere out there in the metaphysical desert, Pancho Villa, Eddie Cochran and the Clash circa English Civil War mated and gave birth to these out-of-control vatobilly dudes. They exude a menace utterly lacking in virtually every rockabilly band since the rebirth of the genre under the Stray Cats' aegis in the early '80s. Expect lots of 120-beats-per-minute tunes, tattoos, long hair, thrashing guitar solos and lyrics like "I'll give you some blow if you give me your panties," from their new CD, Going to Your House. -- J.N.L.
Flamin' Hellcats perform at 5 p.m. at Harlon's Bayou Blues.
Best Bassist (Rozz Zamorano)
If there's one thing the Fondue Monks have consistently left in their wake during their six-year career, it's been plenty of good times. The drinks flow, the smiles widen, and the conga lines start wherever they damn well please. Part jam band and part frat rock, this band has never had a problem pleasing a crowd. Also beyond reproach are the individual talents of the members. Vocalist Denver Courtney is a made-to-order rock front man, while bassist Rozz Zamorano performs with such seamless fluidity as to be putting on a show of his own. Is it cheesy? Sure. But it tastes great, and chicks dig it. What else do you need? -- C.S.
Fondue Monks perform at 5 p.m. at Cabo.
Best Metal/Hard Rock
One word: uniforms! After years of playing their brand of angst-riddled barroom rock, the boys of goneblind have decided to dress themselves up this year, decking themselves out in black pants, black shirts and black ties. But when you think about it, this change in gear reflects the unified bond this rock quartet exudes. Even bassist Mitch Burman, who closed his longtime Richmond club Instant Karma in favor of running his Engine Room, has said he would give up his club-running duties if that meant concentrating more on his band. Like many of their fans, goneblind is convinced it's going places, and the guys are making sure they look good when they do. -- C.D.L.
goneblind performs at 6 p.m. at Spy (outside).
The Good Luck Band
Best Cover Band
The musicians who have played in the Good Luck Band read like a who's who of the Houston country music scene. In its cover band guise, the group performs classic country music. That takes in a wide range of early- and even pre-Nashville material, from 1930s- and 1940s-era songs by Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family and Bill Monroe to more recent hits by Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Willie Nelson. It's music for those who remember when country music came with whiskey on its breath and love and murder in its heart. -- A.H.
The Good Luck Band performs at 5 p.m. at Spy (outside).
Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters
Best Horn/Horn Section; Best Blues; Best Funk/R&B; Local Musician of the Year
You know that filthy sax solo on Little Richard's "Keep A Knockin'," the one with some serious soul? That belongs to Grady Gaines, a true Texas Tenor if there ever was one. A disciple of swing/R&B pioneer Louis Jordan's, Gaines plays with the type of enthusiasm and verve that epitomized Jordan's slaphappy outings. To say Gaines is a legend in Houston music circles is hardly a reach. He has associations with Sam Cooke, Johnnie Taylor and Curtis Mayfield, and his Texas Upsetters have been a prominent fixture in town since the late '50s. Gaines plays R&B the way it should be: with equal cups of swing and soul. -- P.J.M.
Grady Gaines and the Texas Upsetters perform at 5 p.m. at Spy (downstairs).
Song of the Year ("Kid Chemical"); Songwriter of the Year (Matt Brownlie)
"Kid Chemical" from Groceries' debut EP, Knuckleheads & Icons, exemplifies the addictive power of last year's Best New Act winner. The slow boil to climax, the intricate shifting chords, the yowling vocals and the crisp beats merge pop with punk-tinged indie. At the same time, chief songwriter Matt Brownlie pays tribute to the songs of Joel Stein. Since the band doesn't write by jamming, the songs are mostly deliberate, plotted-out pieces. The band is at work on a new full-length release, rumored to be edgier but just as likable. -- S.C.
Groceries perform at 6 p.m. at Cabo.
Best C&W; Album of the Year (Moving the Goods); Best Guitarist (Aaron Loesch)
The Houston Press gig will be, for all intents and purposes, Horseshoe's adios. The band more or less ceased to exist last year. As for the illustrious and hardworking entertainers who composed Horseshoe: Guitarist Aaron Loesch is tearing up stages with Jug O' Lightnin' and is nominated for Best Guitarist; guitarist Scott Daniels plays full-time with Carolyn Wonderland and now resides in Austin; drummer Michael Fischer plays around town with various artists and will soon be a daddy for the second time; bassist Ben Collis continues to front the Good Luck Band (nominated for Best Cover Band); singer/lyricist Greg Wood recently recorded a solo album for Jesse Dayton's label, produced by Dayton and Charlie Sanders. Should be out by summer's end. We'll miss this talented band. -- A.H.
Horseshoe plays at 6 p.m. at Spy (downstairs).
Best World Music
It has officially been a decade, and Irie Time is still making people feel gosh-darn great every chance they get. Whether it's doing a weekend gig at the Hard Rock Cafe or being an opening act at a reggae festival, this quartet isn't content until it shows audiences just how irie it is. But these guys are looking to branch out. According to their Web site, www.irietime.com, they have been recording new tunes and looking for management and label affiliations. They also have a new CD, which is "being considered by a number of record labels." -- C.D.L.
Irie Time performs at 7 p.m. at Harlon's Bayou Blues.
With this year's release of Magnolia, Davin James has raised the stakes. No longer content to confine himself to the hard-edged country he always called his own, James has blossomed into a champion of Dixie's many styles. Gospel, blues, old-timey New Orleans jazz and rockabilly all cross paths in a fragrant grove of sweet-smelling magnolias. Gary P. Nunn already has cut several of his songs, and all that James needs to have more of his tunes recorded is a little more exposure. To that end, he will be touring later this summer on the East Coast and in other areas far from his Kingwood home. -- J.N.L.
Davin James performs at 5 p.m. at The Hub.
Best Alternative Rock; Best Male Vocalist (Tex Kerschen); Best Female Vocalist (Margeaux Cigainero); Best Pianist/Keyboardist (Rob Smith); Song of the Year ("100 Dollar Bill"); Album of the Year (Social Disease)
As you can tell from the slew of nominations, Japanic has became quite the popular band. But what the hell is it that makes people take notice of this quirk-heavy ensemble? Is it because their music reminds listeners of a simpler time, when kids wore their hair like that dude from A Flock of Seagulls, when they listened to Duran Duran on their Walkman, watched every episode of Square Pegs and knew all the lines in Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Or maybe it's because people admire a band that has the ballsiness to sound so endearingly retro-campy in this ultracynical age? Or maybe people think the band members are just being smirking smartasses, and fans are acknowledging that they get the joke? Well, whatever it is, Japanic has the moxie and the talent that makes them run -- run so far away. You can't get away. -- C.D.L.
Japanic performs at 9 p.m. at Cabo.
Although they may appear goofy -- extremely goofy, undeniably goofy -- on the outside, the hard-driving skills of the Jewws are not to be easily dismissed. This trio of misfits (two of them also perform in the peppy rock outfit Junior Varsity) has been one of the few refreshing reasons to check out local live music of late. Fleshing out bad-seed punkabilly the same way a sculptor shapes clay, the Jewws draw from their mountain of influences, from the Ramones to the Yardbirds to Annette Funicello, to come up with what can only be described as minimalist garage rock. Oh, sure, they're still a bunch of kooky, kooky nuts. But when it comes to performing, the nuttiness often takes a backseat. -- C.D.L.
The Jewws perform at 6 p.m. at The Mercury Room.
Best New Act
"Neo-Celtic groove-a-latious mondo pop indulgence" is how these Irish-tinged fusionists describe themselves. The Celtic part is explained by the presence of band members with names like O'Sullivan and Kean, and the mondo pop indulgence can be justified by the fact that this has to be the only Celtic-based band with members named Wolf and Lars. Of course, it's not as cut-and-dried as that, as the Wolf in question happens to be Wolf Loescher, who spent several years with his half-American, half-German family living in Scotland and soaking up the ways of the Celts. Jiggernaut is that rare band that can have you bopping at a club or jigging on the heath. What's more, as evidenced by the song "The Corgi Set," they can do it not only on the same song but somehow at the same time. -- J.N.L.
Jiggernaut performs at 5 p.m. at the Red Cat Jazz Café.
Jug O' Lightnin'
Best Guitarist (Aaron Loesch); Best Drummer (Chris King)
It's hard to imagine, in a megalopolis like Houston, birthplace of Destiny's Child, that there are young men interested in reviving, albeit loosely, old-timey music. Jug O' Lightnin' is the musical Frankenstein of the Bayou City, cobbling together country, roots and blues influences to create a sound that is purely its own, and very definitely alive. From Mike Sinclair's jug-band-influenced bass lines emanating from his homemade two-string electric washtub bass to Aaron Loesch's impressive fingerpicking to Chris King's winner-take-all drumming, these guys are forging inroads on the path less traveled, something sorely needed in this town. Haven't seen them yet? Check out Jug O's free show at Rudyard's every Sunday night, a nearly two-year-old tradition. -- M.H.
Jug O' Lightnin' performs at 6 p.m. at Harlon's Bayou Blues.
If you utter the name Ethan Klein in some circles, folks will wonder if it's the same guy who designs furniture. (That's Ethan Allen.) Although he doesn't know the first thing about building an end table, Klein does some designing for people. One of the founders of the Scooby-Doo Crew, he has been crafting pulsating dance music for club audiences since going pro in 1992. His turntable know-how recently landed him the responsibility of booking DJs (along with DJ/partner in crime Chello) for the Thursday-night dance playpen "Community" over at Club Upscale. So it's safe to say that sitting down is the last thing Ethan Klein wants people to think of when his name is mentioned. -- C.D.L.
Ethan Klein spins at 6 p.m. at Spy (upstairs).
Lil' Brian Terry and the Zydeco Travelers
Abandoning cowboy hats and Wranglers for baggy hip-hop attire, Lil' Brian Terry and the Travelers may well be the genre's brightest hope for crossover success. But it's the music, not the cool threads, that make this band great. Thanks to a sturdy relationship with Buckwheat Zydeco and his label, Tomorrow Recordings, the future looks bright for the Travelers. The band's most recent record, Funky Nation, doles out great original material. Whether Lil' Brian will be the ultimate bridge between big-city soul and Creole boogie remains to be seen. Until then, fans in H-town might want to catch a glimpse of the man before he becomes the next big thing. -- M.E.
Lil' Brian Terry and the Zydeco Travelers perform at 7 p.m. at The Hub.
Best Punk/Ska; Best Horn Section
During this past year, Los Skarnales (the name is a play on "ska" and the Spanish slang word carnal for "buddy") dropped its horn section, which makes voting for Los Skarnales in the Best Horn Section a bit problematic. Oops on us. The band added a new keyboard player/lead guitarist, Mark Speer (formerly of Sound Patrol), and acquired a new manager. Its new sound is more hard-edged, with many of the former horn lines now being played by Speer. Since the band started out seven years ago as a four-piece punk-ska ensemble, the move is a return to its high-powered, pre-horn beginnings. -- A.H.
Los Skarnales performs at 9 p.m. at BAR Houston.
Ever since they evolved out of We've Got Airplanes, ever since their first gig back at the Houston Popfest in the summer of '99 (at which they shared a stage with Silver Scooter, among others), Lucky Motors and their punky power pop have been purring along nicely. Their diverse grab bag of styles can include anything from dinosaur rock to Dinosaur Jr., so expect the unexpected. -- J.N.L.
Lucky Motors plays at 4 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe.
The Luxurious Panthers
Bill Clinton once met a centenarian at some Arkansas political schmooze-fest. "You must have seen a lot of changes since you were born," said the then- governor. "Yep," said the aged one. "And I wuz agin' ever' one of 'em." Much the same can be said for the Luxurious Panthers and their brand of unreconstructed rockabilly. It sounds as preserved as a fine-tuned '57 Chevy, and revs just as hard. -- J.N.L.
The Luxurious Panthers perform at 5 p.m. at The Mercury Room.
Best Rock/Pop; Best Keyboardist (Rick Thompson)
The reigning king of the city's jam scene, singer/guitarist/songwriter/ philosopher/attorney at law Graham Guest continues in his mostly successful quest to be the coolest dude in Houston, if not Texas or the world. Really, now, outside of bad Hollywood movies, how many young lawyers are also touring rock stars? Lately, MG has been sporting an acoustic alter ego for its Dixie-fried jam-based sounds, with Guest trading banjo solos with red-hot keyboard mainstay Rick Thompson. -- J.N.L.
Moses Guest performs at 9 p.m. at The Hub.
Best New Act; Best Funk/R&B
Don't classify Phuz as a funk group, even though it recently played with Groove Collective and DJ Sun and Soular Slide. The band's aesthetic is more ambient pop. It cuts a deep groove but layers it with lots of sultry ambience and theatrics. Think of the sound like a textured film score with highly apocalyptic flourishes. The five-member group consists of four Filipino-Americans: Edwin Casapao on electric and upright bass; Edward Casapao on drums, percussion and samples; Dea on vocals; Ken Sarmiento on acoustic and electric guitars; and Italian-American and honorary Filipino Jamie Ruggiero on keyboards. The band's first CD, Water, is set for release this month. Phuz will tour the Southeast and the East Coast behind the album, and will return for a CD release party on September 1 at the Engine Room. -- A.H.
Phuz performs at 5 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe.
An original member of the electronic collective Firing Squad, Jason Walsh (a.k.a. Population Zero) is a longtime veteran of the rave scene. Although he is comfortable with either trance or drum 'n' bass, Walsh tends to veer left of center and toward the unexpected. Sometimes it even seems to be a mixture of both styles. During the performance, he may also throw in live percussion or guitar. Last year's nominee in the same category showcased a trance set; now he's aiming to demonstrate his drum 'n' bass abilities. At present, Walsh is assembling tracks for a possible EP or album. -- S.C.
Population Zero spins at 8 p.m. at Spy (upstairs).
Best Metal/Hard Rock
Raised on a diet of old Rolling Stones, Hanoi Rocks, the Black Halos, Guns N' Roses, the Yardbirds and Dogs D'Amour, teenage brothers Derek and Evan Dunivan have already hit the big time, having signed to Ozzy Osbourne's Divine Recordings imprint and spent this summer as a main-stage act on the Divine One's annual Ozzfest soiree. The Dunivans, along with Jarrett Gardner and Mike McWilliams, spent a big chunk of this year recording Pure Rubbish's debut EP with GNR producer Mike Clink. The result is exactly what the influences, ages and producer involved would lead one to believe: gutter sensibilities with a dirty innocence and a professional shine. The band's mission? Nothing short of reviving punky blues-rock from its long commercial hibernation. Father Willie (Dunivan, Personality Crisis) must be proud indeed. -- C.S.
Pure Rubbish performs at 7 p.m. at the Aerial Theater.
Best Metal/Hard Rock
Some bands dream of becoming fixtures at the neighborhood bar. Others cast their nets a little wider and hope to tour regionally. Others will settle for nothing less than world domination, which appears to be the path that Spring's Sevenfold has chosen. Already their radio-friendly modern rock has won them far-flung friends, even landing them a spot on a bill at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with John Fogerty. Meanwhile, Sevenfold has signed a sponsorship deal with Uncle Ben's Rice and has been known to butter up certain critics with a Rice Bowl or two. -- J.N.L.
Sevenfold performs at 6 p.m. at the Aerial Theater.
Snit's Dog & Pony Show
Best New Act; Best Rock/Pop
It usually takes months, if not years, for a new act to kick butt. That's because band members must first mesh before they can spread out into the realms of invention. But from the first night that Snit's Dog & Pony Show opened for Joe Ely at the Continental Club in January 2000, it was obvious Snit had that dirty, greasy rock thing down cold. Anchored by former Hollister Kevin "Snit" Fitzpatrick on vocals and rhythm guitar, and former Sonny Boy Terry guitarist Adam Burchfield, the band is utterly in command of that old-time rock and roll that Bob Seger extolled. Since adding former Hadden Sayers bassist Jessica Buchheit (nominated in the Best Bassist category), one could argue that Snit's is the closest thing we have to a Houston all-star rock band. -- A.H.
Snit's Dog & Pony Show performs at 7 p.m. at Spy (downstairs).
Best Alternative Rock
Checked out Simpleton's Web site and was intrigued by the following: "Things are rapidly moving fast for simpleton after there [sic] double grammy nomination for best album and best alternative album..." Don't remember Simpleton's name from the Grammy telecast? That's because it wasn't nominated. Somebody better tell the band's PR team that submitting an album for Grammy consideration is not the same as being nominated. But no matter. We love their Chili Pepperish funk-punk and the way they are, as they put it, "a band not really on the run but board [sic] and broke and sleeping together in a none [sic] gay way." -- P.J.M.
Simpleton performs at 5 p.m. at the Aerial Theater.
Best Female Vocalist (Lisa Morales); Best C&W
Coming off a rough stretch in which a record deal fell through and Roberta Morales had a bout with cancer, Sisters Morales have been back this year doing what they do best: being the type of band you don't want to follow if you're scheduled later on the bill. The sisters' high-energy, country-influenced sets can rock hard enough to drive a crowd into a frenzy. Lisa Morales has been stretching her wings a bit and has some solo dates ahead featuring music she doesn't sing with the band. However, it's doubtful the sisters will stoop to any sibling rivalry if Lisa gets the nod for Best Female Vocalist. The two seem to exude sisterly love on stage -- that is, when they're not rockin' the place down. -- P.J.M.
Sisters Morales perform at 8 p.m. at Cabo.
The funk-groove stylings of this group reached a whole new audience with its appearance on the Debra Duncan Show earlier this year, but clubgoers have been hooked on this Slide since its debut release last year of the never-a-wasted-note Too Tasty for Color TV. With a sound that's clearly a tip of the towering hat to the jazzy white funk of Jamiroquai and the late great Spin Doctors, the band succeeds in playing music to get a good buzz to. The lineup is also something of a One Nation Under a Groove, featuring an African-American, an Asian, a Hispanic and a Caucasian. SS includes Shawn Pander (vocals, guitar, drums), David Wolfe (guitar), Mike Mead (bass), Greg Benivides (drums) and James Bourdier (trombone). -- B.R.
Soular Slide performs at 7 p.m. at The Mercury Room.
How can you not love a voodoobilly band that cites Danzig as a major influence? And how can you not love a band that, with the opening dirty bass lines of "Fallen Angel" (from Los Tormentos de Amor), takes you hurtling down a darkened desert highway in one of those classic cars with the fins, next to a boy with a smoke dangling from his lips, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his T-shirt sleeve and a big ol' slicked-back pompadour? Singer/guitarist Hank Schyma and bassist Mykal Foster, partners in crime since 1997, will have you shimmying on graves and sweating whiskey before you know it. Count your blessings if you catch these guys on a double bill with Austin's psychobilly nightmares the Flametrick Subs. You won't ever look at that wuss Deke Dickerson the same way again. -- M.H.
Southern Backtones perform at 8 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Best New Act
The final eruption of Swamp Gas gave rise to this foul beast of a honky rap crew. Southern Lights in their six months together have managed to mate the Residents' sheer weirdness with Geto dope, Fifth Ward-style, into this purely Houstonian mutation. Known to do tribute shows to everyone and everything from Neil Young to the Urban Cowboy movement (Yankee Mary Cutrufello once joined the boys on stage, leading them in singing "Houston Oilers No. 1," for shame), Southern Lights will release Black Cracker, the first CD under their new name, later this month. -- J.N.L.
Southern Lights perform at 7 p.m. at No tsu oH.
South Park Mexican
Best Rap/Hip-hop, Local Musician of the Year
Well, it looks like our favorite breakout rap star has had another very good year. After practically running away with all the awards he was nominated for last year, he went on to conquer the rest of the American landscape. By now, everyone knows of his three-record deal with Universal, which distributed his last releases, The Purity Album and the rambunctious Time Is Money. But he also found the time to hype up other artists from his Dope House Records stable, including Lone Star Ridaz, Baby Beesh and other usual suspects. And, hey, any Latino rapper who samples Wall of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio" shows he at least has a taste for the dryly ironic. -- C.D.L.
South Park Mexican performs at 9 p.m. at the Aerial Theater.
Minty-fresh power pop and punk from a quartet that boasts three distinctive singer-songwriters. With most numbers clocking in under the three-minute mark, the Sperlings were able to cram 21 tracks onto their debut CD, the curiously titled third record Green Manilow. (Do they think Barry harbors jealous feelings toward them?) Talker-singer Mike Fuller is the most prolific writer, penning nerd-pop gems somewhere between Weezer and Harvey Danger; Carl Sandlin's fatalism channels Elvis Costello; and Robert Smith has a Ramones-style cheer. Drummer Bruce Stone is content to simply thump skins. Not quite (thankfully) stepping into a ska zone, these sounds are well suited to a summer showcase. -- B.R.
The Sperlings perform at 6 p.m. at The Hub.
Songwriter of the Year
Having a namesake who writes for Time might be considered a drawback by most up-and-coming musicians. But when Time magazine's Joel Stein decided to write a column about his "musical doppelgänger," Rice grad power popster Joel Stein, the tables turned. The musical Stein's Web site logged 18,000 hits in two weeks. Houston's Stein also has showcased some original material in his role as a minstrel in the Alley Theatre's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and has toured Bulgaria. Meanwhile, his über-literate 2000 release, Marionette, contrary to Stein's claims of being "in touch with my inner caveman," garnered perhaps premature comparisons to such highly evolved beings as Bob Dylan and David Bowie. -- J.N.L.
Joel Stein performs at 8 p.m. at the Red Cat Jazz Café.
Step Rideau and the Zydeco Outlaws
It's hard to find a tighter act around. Step Rideau is a powerful front man, and his backing Outlaws are no less persuasive. Energy is the dominant force here. From cool squeezebox grooves to funky frottoir shuffles, this is contemporary zydeco that never surrenders to hip-hop, funk or blues. Still, it possesses minor traits from all of those genres. Rideau incorporates the stylings of the masters (Boozoo Chavis, Clifton Chenier) and throws even more heat on the fire to make each performance fun and frenzied. It helps that he's a competent vocalist and bandleader, allowing the rest of the group to take assertive solos while maintaining a firm presence on the pushbutton accordion. But most impressive is the man's ability to take a traditional music and make it sound so damn fresh. -- M.E.
Step Rideau performs at 9 p.m. at Spy (outside).
Best Drummer (Stephanie Paige Friedman)
Though Houston's garage-rock titans draw bigger crowds in Austin and Chicago than they do at home, their unapologetically loud, raucous and short sonic blasts are always an instant youth serum, no matter where they play. "A lot of the band's [original] fans don't come out as much, but we get to play to a new crowd, and that's exciting," drummer Stephanie Paige Friedman says. She also notes that the band is gearing up to record its follow-up to 2000's Get Out of My World on Estrus Records. The Shack also houses Andy Wright (guitar), Johnny Gibson (bass), Kyle G. Otis (guitar) and Mark Lockridge (vocals). "We've got this stability now," Friedman says. "And since I'm married to Andy, at least I know they won't kick me out of the band." -- B.R.
Sugar Shack performs at 8 p.m. at BAR Houston.
Best Punk/Ska; Best Horn/Horn Section
Last year, when the Suspects won for Best Punk/Ska, front man Thomas Escalante suggested that some love be given to the band's underrated horn section. Well, guess what? This year the Suspects have been recognized for their brass talents in the Best Horn/Horn Section category. So are you happy now, you greedy bastards? But you have to admire these boys for producing their patented brand of frat-mixer reggae/ska in even the most uncomfortable of conditions. When they played The Hub at last year's Music Awards showcase, it looked like the band took up a large part of the venue. And as for rumors of a possible breakup, the group declares that as long as there are venues looking for guys to play rude-rock reggae while slightly inebriated, there is no reason to break that bond. -- C.D.L.
The Suspects perform at 8 p.m. at The Hub.
Songwriter of the Year; Best Folk/Acoustic; Song of the Year ("Happy Endings")
A good songwriter can structure a tune that has at least one good idea and consists of a beginning, a middle and an end. A great songwriter creates a sense of wholeness. All the details of character and story add up to something larger than the combined elements. Eric Taylor is a great songwriter. As Taylor sings about Charlie Rich on a tune from his masterpiece, Scuffletown, "with a song like that, you make it all the way to heaven / when you can sing like that, all can be forgiven." In a time when one good idea passes for greatness, Taylor is a songwriter who doesn't ask you to check your brain at the door. He's a songwriter's benchmark. -- A.H.
Eric Taylor performs at 6 p.m. at the Red Cat Jazz Café.
Texas Johnny Brown
Best Blues; Best Guitarist
In this town, you've got your bluesmen, and you got men who sing the blues. Men who sing the blues are just that: novices who crank out a few standards for a club audience and foolishly believe they have what it takes. Then you got the bluesmen, the brothas who sing the blues because, most of their lives, they've had 'em. They're the ones who did this shit back when it wasn't cute. Take a flying guess what category Texas Johnny Brown belongs in. Last year's winner for Best Blues and Best Male Vocalist has been in the swing of things so long, if it weren't for his expertise in forklift driving (which has paid his bills for most of his life), you'd swear playing the blues is the only thing he knows how to do. -- C.D.L.
Texas Johnny Brown plays at 9 p.m. at Harlon's Bayou Blues.
Thanx But No Thanx
Best Male Vocalist (Eddie Perez)
Houston's own pop-punk three-piece combo is keeping it real. The songs are short and friendly. The kids all dig it. The band has got a logo that looks like it came off a baseball jersey (think L.A. Dodgers). And yet the trio is actually good. Not that this hasn't been the case before with homegrown talent plying these sorts of wares. All of the predecessors, however, have had to leave town to break out. Thanx is the biggest fish in an increasingly underpopulated pool. -- C.S.
Thanx But No Thanx plays at 4 p.m. at BAR Houston.
Imagine a dozen or so of Houston's baddest horn players and a tight rhythm section jamming over tunes by James Brown, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Tower of Power and even Duke Ellington, and you'll have an idea of what TKoH! is about. Actually, you'll know exactly what they're all about. A former Sunday-night fixture at Instant Karma, TKoH! has been on hiatus since March, but there is talk of getting the group to play more regularly. At the Music Awards gig, expect TKoH! to jam and play that funky music -- and probably take home another Pressy. -- P.J.M.
TKoH! plays at 6 p.m. at BAR Houston.
Tony Vega Band
The Tony Vega Band is a contemporary blues-rock quartet that owes more to Stevie Ray Vaughan than to Muddy Waters. Vega and The Mighty Orq (J. Davidson) lend the band the extraordinary firepower of a two-lead guitar and two-vocalist attack. Bassist Brock Proctor and drummer Jeremy Pierce anchor the group's rhythm section. The band just released a studio CD, Dear Sweet Goodness, that's chock-full of blues treats. But it's the intense collective creativity and rock energy of its live performances that set Vega and company apart. -- A.H.
The Tony Vega Band performs at 7 p.m. at the Hard Rock Cafe.
Best Alternative Rock
Vulgarians mistress of the dark Michelle Glaw is a one-woman underground media empire. When she's not fronting this punkish-art rock project, she's publishing a 'zine, designing costumes or writing material like "I'm a Vulga, you're a Vulga, we're the Vulgarians, and if you mess with us, we'll drink your pus." She's just kidding, we think. -- J.N.L.
The Vulgarians perform at 4 p.m. at The Hub.
The first time you saw these guys, they were wedged into an early spot on a Friday-night bill at Rudyard's a year or so ago. Your initial thought, as they stared meaningfully at their grubby sneakers, was "Eh, just another bunch of mopey indie-rock boys with a bad case of hipatitis...but the music's not too bad." Fast-forward to the present, and the only band you remember from that night is these guys. Except now there's a girl (Erica Scandalous, formerly of Spain Colored Orange) in the mix, and she's added just the right flavor of sweet poppiness to make the mood a little lighter. Composed of former members of Rubbur and the Jinkies, the Westbury Squares bring a sort of mod sensibility to the contemporary indie-rock sound, and are a favorite among their local peers and college-rock hipsters. -- M.H.
The Westbury Squares perform at 8 p.m. at Spy (downstairs).
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Best Female Vocalist
First the good news: The buzz is Ron Howard's production company will film a documentary on Wonderland's appearances at the Sturgis Rally. She's played the monster motorcycle gathering for seven years, and now opens its big stage show. Also, Wonderland's new album, Alcohol and Salvation, is studio-cut and due out in August. Now the bad news: Unfortunately, Wonderland is now an official Austin resident. The move has enabled her to write with folks like Guy Forsyth and Ian Moore. After winning every major Houston rock and blues award for the past several years, she probably needed a new challenge. Maybe we should retire her jersey. -- A.H.
Carolyn Wonderland performs at 9 p.m. at Spy (downstairs).
Best New Act
Talented Lavendula songwriter Arthur Yoria, now recording under his own name, writes soulful tunes that also happen to be the catchiest alt-radio-friendly gems you've ever heard. Expressive vocals, solid hooks and soothing choruses form the basis of Yoria's self-produced, self-titled EP. As Lavendula, he received a Musician magazine nomination as "One of the Best Unsigned Bands in the United States" and was voted Houston's Best Singer/Songwriter in the 1998 Public News readers' poll. Lately, frequent gigging has generated a buzz around town. -- S.C.
Arthur Yoria performs at 5 p.m. at BAR Houston.
Raised By Wolves is Zenteno's rock band. The Norma Zenteno Band is her Latin jazz ensemble. The Roberto Zenteno Orchestra is her big-band, salsa, merengue and cumbia vehicle. Which means that on any given day of the week, you're likely to hear Zenteno somewhere in Houston doing something different from what she does elsewhere. That's why Zenteno has won every major Houston Latin music award throughout the '90s. She is one of the city's longest-running unsigned artists, but local audiences don't care about record labels. They know that when Zenteno is singing, you can expect to hear one the best female vocalists in town, no matter the genre or language. -- A.H.
Norma Zenteno performs at 9 p.m. at The Mercury Room.
Hardly a week goes by that this band isn't performing at some festival or function. You name it, and these guys will be there: Mr. A's in the Fifth Ward, Pappadeaux's, Sam Houston Race Park, Family Fun Day in MacGregor Park, Jax Bar and Grill...Such diverse gigging allows folks of all ages to check out the Dots, but this band has its work cut out for itself. While zydeco acts come in and out of H-town, this unit has worked hard to establish itself as the city's defining group. Luckily it has the skills to back up this rep. With the tall, skinny Leon Sam out front on accordion, the Dots tackle both standards and originals. As Sam's cool voice leads the way, the remaining Dots provide a confident pulse, particularly cool washboard player Mike Vee. It's a timeless noise executed with a rare balance of fun and professionalism, making every performance a party worth revisiting. -- M.E.
The Zydeco Dots perform at 8 p.m. at The Mercury Room.