Best of SA 2005 - Music Readers' Picks — Best Music

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These artists ring the readers' bells

After Midnight Blues Band

After Midnight won in the blues category for the second consecutive year. (courtesy photo)

San Antonio blues aficionados often lament that this city is not particularly supportive to blues musicians. But if SA's blues community sometimes lacks for listeners and venues, it's always been well-stocked with players.

The members of the After Midnight Blues Band are not among the most heralded players on the scene, but they've built an intensely loyal following with their spare, no-frills approach to electric urban blues. As proof of that, their ballot-box triumph in the 2005 readers poll represents their second consecutive win in this category.

Like much of their generation, they discovered the blues masters through the example of the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and other British rockers. In fact, they took their name from a J.J. Cale song popularized by Clapton, and one of their stage favorites is a rave-up of Chuck Berry's "Around and Around," in the spirit of the Stones' cover. With three vocalists, and a swinging, efficient rhythm section, they've become a monthly favorite at the Rolling Oaks Sports Bar. GG

Grupo Vida, Flaco Jiménez (tie)

From the Accordion King to the Electric Cowboys: San Antonio's conjunto and tejano fans split their best-of pick this year between Flaco Jiménez Jr. and Grupo Vida. On the surface, it's almost a study in contrasts between the old and new, traditional and progressive, yet both have taken Texas roots music to new heights across the region and around the world.

Flaco Himenez (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Think of the multi-Grammy winning Ambassador Flaco as an elder statesman: a second-wave pioneer in the genre. Jiménez has done it all - rock, country, and an eclectic range of Tex-Mex music. Not quite brash upstarts, Grupo Vida (perennial winners in the Tejano Music Awards Showband of the Year category) follows Flaco's flair for high-energy, cross-over collaborations - touring with the Dixie Chicks, cutting up cumbias and country music, all backed by the button-row squeezebox. Current readers recognize there's plenty of room on the bandstand. Grupo Vida may have a life of their own, but Flaco still reigns supreme. AP

Readers' Picks
Best Music 2005

1. Humanimal
2. Full Throttle
3. Dog Men Poets

1. Paul Langlais
2. Joe Reyes
3. Will Owen-Gage / Lou Cabarta (tie)

1. Sam's Burger Joint
2. Casbeers
3. No third-place winner

1. DJ Gibb
2. DJ Marz/Donnie D (tie)

1. The Cove
2. Sam's Burger Joint
3. Blue Cactus Café

1. Mojo
2. Dog Men Poets
3. Paint By Numbers

1. After Midnight Blues Band
2. Ruben V/Boxcar Satan (tie)
3. Beverly Houston & Breezin'/Jimmy Spacek (tie)

1. Two Tons of Steel
2. George Strait
3. No third-place winner

1. Infidels/Troy Reisner (tie)
2. Buttercup/Cracka McSambo/Dave and Brent (tie)

1. Lokey
2. Humanimal
3. No third-place winner

1. Jim Cullum
2. Groove Movement
3. Bombasta

1. Octopi
2. Red Reverse
3. Forty Thieves/Velveteen Skeen (tie)

1. Flaco Jimenz/Grupo
2. Vida

1. Krazy Kat
2. Hermes
3. Sam Ash

1. Dad's
2. Irish Pub
3. Crabby Jack's

1. Dave Jimenez
2. Rose Lewis of After Midnight Blues Band
3. Ken Slavin

1. Edit Point
2. Rhapsody Street
3. Tribal

1. Humanimal: Mythologies
2. Full Throttle
3. Dog Men Poets: Birth of Cool


These are heady times for SA's premier hip-hop/soul fusionists. In May, they celebrate the release of Dirty Genes, the followup to their impressive 2003 debut CD, Classic Ghetto Soul. Coinciding with album's release will be a documentary film about the band, directed by local filmmaker Cesario Garcia. The group's new music finds it continuing to straddle the line between old-school R&B - they've been known to cover Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" onstage - and modern hip-hop's trippier tendencies.

Mojoe (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Borne out of a high-school friendship between aspiring emcees T.R.E. Scipio and Charles "Easy Lee" Peters, Mojoe has always stood out because of its artsy poetry-slam roots, its use of a live band adept with jazz changes and funk grooves, and its earnest sense of ambition. They speak openly about wanting to put SA on the hip-hop map, and they just might pull it off before they're done. GG

Two Tons Of Steel

You have to respect a band that dedicates an impassioned love song to a car. When that song shares its name with that band, all the better. When Two Tons of Steel's Kevin Geil sings, "I've got a baby named Two Tons of Steel," you'd best believe he means it.

TTS is the archetypal Texas roadhouse band because they dish out a lusty mix of Western swing, honky-tonk and '50s rockabilly. In other words, every genre of music sanctioned by the state. Formed in 1991 as the Dead Crickets, they respectfully changed their name at the behest of Crickets drummer Jerry Allison, who worried about the possible confusion their name could create. Since renaming themselves, they've only seen their myth - and their beer tabs - grow. They might not be the only roots-rock band in the nation that covers the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated," but it's doubtful that anyone does it better than they do on Live at Gruene Hall - Tuesday Live. GG

Will Bailey gets a guitar off the wall to take for a spin at Krazy Kat Music on N. Saint Mary's. (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Krazy Kat Music
3020 N. St. Mary's, 737-0523

With chain stores glutting the market and driving up prices for music gear, Krazy Kat remains the independent little St. Mary's shop that refuses to die.

Krazy Kat is a musician's dream because it specializes in rare, vintage instruments, particularly guitars and basses. The stock changes constantly, but at any given time you can stroll through their inventory and find a Maple Stratocaster autographed by Jimmie Vaughan or a 1968 Honeyburst Gibson SJ-200. You can also find more esoteric items, such as electric mandolins, used drum machines, or home-studio components. Best of all, Bobdog and the gang are serious music lovers, and you sense that every time you walk through Krazy Kat's doors. GG

Jim Cullum Jr.

Jim Cullum Jr. has devoted his musical career to preserving traditions. He did that on a personal level first by joining his clarinetist father's Happy Jazz Band and keeping it going as the Jim Cullum Jazz Band. But on a deeper level, he maintains an appreciation for early New Orleans jazz, a form of music that is rarely heard outside of New Orleans' Preservation Hall, and even more rarely played with authenticity.

Two Tons of Steel (Photo by Mark Greenberg)

Cullum plays a cornet, rather than a trumpet, because the hot-combo masters such as Bix Beiderbecke and King Oliver preferred the cornet. That attention to detail informs every aspect of his band. A longtime mainstay at The Landing , and founder of the public-radio program River Walk, Live From the Landing, Cullum and his jazz band are one of the best things about having to battle tourist foot-traffic along the River Walk. GG

Dave Jimenez

It's lucky for Humanimal's rambunctious front man Dave Jimenez that this category is not called "Best Singer," because even Jimenez' fans would have to admit that he's not a singer, per se. A metal rapper in the Fred Durst mode, Jimenez sporadically attempts to carry a tune, but he never carries it very far and it's usually pretty hard to figure out where he put it. Jimenez' appeal to Humanimal's fan base has less to do with golden pipes than with the way he sells the band's brazenly juvenile humor with aplomb.

It's not easy spewing out a line like "Doing the moonwalk with Michael Jackson/Jeff Bridges was a hero in a movie called Tron," but Jimenez makes it sound as natural as ordering Chinese takeout. Humanimal is all about big riffs and rowdy laughs, and Jimenez defines everything that their fans love about this band. GG

Humanimal dominated in three readers' categories this year.

'The Mythologies,' Humanimal

What a difference a year makes! In 2004, Humanimal had to settle for second-place in our Best Hair Band category, which is only slightly preferable to finishing second in a Best Steroid Abusing Athlete poll.

This year, however, Humanimal would not be denied, bringing home the gold in three categories (Rock Band, Vocalist, and CD). Their follicles appear to be showing renewed promise as well. The Mythologies is the sound that would occur if the luxurious tour buses of Tenacious D and Limp Bizkit collided on the freeway. There'd be a gory pileup of monstrous guitar riffs, spiced with jokes about erections and fecal matter. Humanimal does throw in a few musical twists such as the prog-rock violin on "A Movie Called Tron," and some bleating no-wave sax. For the most part, however, they keep it simple and intentionally sophomoric, with tracks such as "Teenage Moustache" and "Hamburglar." What kind of future does this offer? I don't know - what is the Bloodhound Gang up to these days? GG

The Cove
606 W. Cypress, 227-2683

A quick scan at The Cove's recent schedule suggests what the club's patrons love about it. Over the span of a few days, The Cove featured the jazz of City Sounds, the folk-rock of True Stories, the veteran garage attack of Los #3 Dinners, the New Orleans R&B of Mem Shannon & The Members, and the Americana of the Swindles.

The Cove comfortably encompasses these and other genres, because it draws music listeners with eclectic tastes. It's also hard to find another local music venue as family friendly as this one. In addition to their menu, which includes subs, burgers, tacos, and vegetarian dishes, The Cove offers a patio "playscape" for kids, and a basketball court for adults eager to compare their reverse slam dunks. GG

Edit Point has been one of SA's finest studios for the last 20 years. (Photo by Lisa Sorg)


The members of Lokey like to say they've opened for so many big national headliners that SA metalheads started treating them like a national headliner. This perennial favorite of the local metal scene has paid countless dues and attained a grassroots buzz which follows them when they venture outside of their home town.

Frontman Terry Anderson has played in local hard-rock groups since 1989, and the rest of Lokey can claim nearly as much experience. With a relentlessly hard sound reminiscent of the Deftones, they've participated in the Vans Warped Tour, earned a sponsorship deal with their beloved Jagermeister, and sold substantial quantities of their CDs, From the Inside and Beautality. They're looking to move from national opener to national headliner in the not-too-distant future. GG

Dad's Sing-A-Long
2615 Mossrock Dr., 340-3887

The karaoke obsessive don't ask much from their favored singing locales. They want a good sound system, a receptive crowd, and, most of all, a wide-ranging selection of tunes from which to pick. Dad's Sing-a-Long meets those standards with an unpretentious vibe and reliably good sound. It's known for drawing some of the best karaoke regulars in town, a big plus for those who like to have a standard by which they can rate their own skills. Also, unlike some bars who offer karaoke only on selected nights, Dad's does the sing-thing every Monday-Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Just do everyone a favor and go easy on the Celine Dion, okay? GG


GG: Gilbert Garcia
AP: Alejandro Pérez

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