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"ILOVE IT. I always love this (stuff)," Frank Pusateri said with a grin in the lobby of Manikins nightclub on Sunday night.

Pusateri, flamboyant bassist with a group called Only Humen, had good reason to be happy. He had just collected what he called his "reward," a Buffalo Music Awards first-place plaque in the pop bassist category. It was the third straight year he'd won it.

Pusateri had turned out for the first night of this year's Buffalo Music Awards (Part 2 begins at 8 tonight in Manikins) in the height of his on-stage regalia as a tropical party animal, complete with day-glo sunglasses and a broad-billed white cap.

But aside from an occasional kindred spirit like WXBX deejay Tina McMahon, making her last appearance as lead singer with the group Paisley Tease in a hot pink halter top and miniskirt, most of the others weren't nearly as flashy. The dominant modes were black leather and black lace, sneakers and spike heels.

While tonight's show will be the standard late-night, over-21 Buffalo Music Awards affair, Sunday evening was designed to accommodate those previously left out -- the teen-agers, the bands playing original music.

The original bands held forth with great elan. Late arrivals were told of a powerful performance by Beat City, a band dramatically revised since their signing to Amherst Records. Crash Pony, a group assembled after its debut album was recorded, played as if they'd known each other all their lives.

As for the all-ages crowd, they were conspicuously absent. Midway through the evening, fewer than three dozen people had shown up who were too young to be fitted with a yellow plastic hospital bracelet, which qualified the wearer to be served alcoholic beverages at the bar.

Organizer Rick Falkowski was disappointed that the under-21 fans didn't come. "It's not something they didn't know about," he observed. "There was lots of publicity about it."

Also less than successful was the Music Mart -- displays by music retailers and recording studios in Manikins' second-floor banquet room. Staffers for Brockum, the concert T-shirt manufacturer, said it was considerably quieter than their warehouse sale at Sinbads two weeks ago.

As an extra edition of the big show tonight, however, it did all the things the Buffalo Music Awards usually do. It brought together scores of musicians and their fans to celebrate their best, to see one another and be seen.

Every musician was full of news about his latest project. Guitarist Dick Bauerle said his '60s band, Pastime, had become a '70s band. The guys who used to be Big Pond announced they were about to reappear as a group called Huge Hefner.

Nullstadt's Kent Weber, his first-place award for Best Original Bassist tucked under his arm, reported that the band's performance at tonight's Buffalo Music Awards would be their first without keyboardist David Kane.

As usual, the musicians also had their gripes about the show. Most of them centered on the fact that the awards were bringing them out two nights in a row -- Sunday for the original bands and the awards for individual players, tonight for previous award-winning groups and for band awards.

Weber, however, was philosophical about his complaints. "You can moan and bitch about this affair," he noted, "but it's better than having nothing at all."

In accepting their awards, most musicians gave the kind of speech actors give when confronted with an Oscar. Typical was drummer David Joel of Rockcandy:

"Thank you, Buffalo. Thank you to everybody in the group, everybody who voted for me and the Big Guy upstairs."

Like the Oscars and the Grammies, winners of Buffalo Music Awards are determined from ballots submitted by other people in the local music scene. First-place winners three years in a row are inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, making them ineligible for further awards. Two of Sunday night's winners qualified for Hall of Fame status next year -- Only Humen's Pusateri and Dave Elder of Party Squad, tops in the pop-rock guitar category.

Sunday night's awards (winners and runners-up):

Original drummer -- Greg Gizzi (Nullstadt/Them Jazzbeards); Andrew Case (Great Train Robbery).

Pop-rock drummer -- Mike Cox (33 West); Bruce Morgan (Only Humen).

Rock drummer -- Dave Dzialak (White Lies); David Joel (Rockcandy).

Original bassist -- Kent Weber (Nullstadt, Fems); Paul Mordaunt (Standard).

Pop-rock bassist -- Frank Pusateri (Only Humen); Lew Reczak (Skin Tight).

Rock bassist -- Guy Nichols (Trolls, Lost Angels); Joe Martucci (Armed & Dangerous).

Original keyboardist -- Francis Preve (Beat Goes Bang); Jeff Mueller (Standard).

Pop rock keyboardist -- Rick McGirr (Party Squad); Ned Wood (33 West).

Rock keyboardist -- Matt Young (Trolls, Lost Angels); Tracy Russell (Omega).

Saxophonist -- Vince Fossitt (Great Train Robbery); Jack Prybylski (Them Jazzbeards).

Blues guitarist -- Willy Haddath (Black Cat); Bob Falk (Tight Grip).

Original guitarist -- Cage (Nullstadt); Tim Mordaunt (Beat Goes Bang).

Pop-rock guitarist -- Dave Elder (Party Squad); Ray Wood (Only Humen).

Rock guitarist -- Michael Hund (Jamie Moses Band); Frank Grizanti (Omega).

Hard rock guitarist -- Joe Dzialak (White Lies); Kevin Blakita (Izzy Rexx).

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