By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Nominated for: Funk/R&B
There are two things about college towns that you can count on: There will be funk bands, and at least one will call itself Function Junction. We don't exactly know why college towns sprout funk bands with such alarming regularity; maybe it's the number of parties generated, or the fact that a brain clouded with malted hops and bong resin will dance to anything. As for the name Function Junction, it's a common malady among funk bands to try to work the word "funk" somewhere into their band name, and usually into six or seven song titles ("Give Up the Funk," "We Want the Funk," "Funk It Up," etc). Any funk band worth its salt has at one time considered the moniker--then usually rejected it because it's so obvious. (Funkadelic got there first, last, and always.)
Here's the problem: in Dallas and Denton, there is at least one band that goes by Function Junction, but there could be three: Function Junction, Funktion Junktion, and Dysfunktion Junction. We're not sure if the multiple Function Junctions are the result of misspellings by clubs or if there are actually three different bands who unfortunately go by this name. No amount of reporting has been able to clear up the matter, but that's OK. We've seen the band that spells its name Function Junction, and they were exactly what you expect in a funk band: a groove-happy, bass-slapping party band. If the nomination was actually meant for another band, we're pretty sure the previous description would still apply.
Grand Street Cryers
Nominated for: Best Act Overall, Alternative Rock/Pop, Male Vocalist (Tim Locke), Songwriter (Tim Locke), Single Release ("Angie Wood"), Album Release (Steady on Shaky Ground, Rhythmic Records)
The Grand Street Cryers story starts innocuously enough. The band--then known as Dead City Radio--contributed a song to a benefit compilation put together by a group of students at Collin County Community College, 1996's Eat Yer Vegetables. The song, "Angie Wood," was good enough that local radio gave it a couple of spins. Then some more. Then a lot more. If you think you haven't heard it, you're probably wrong. "Angie Wood" has the kind of bouncy hook and indelible chorus that radio programmers crave, a statement of fact confirmed by the song's continued appeal--not to mention its second straight nomination for Single Release of the Year.
If "Angie Wood" penciled in the Grand Street Cryers' name at the top of the Local Band Most Likely to Succeed list, then the album that followed, Steady on Shaky Ground, rewrote their name in ink. The album featured more of the same jangly folk-pop, though only one song--the sprightly "You Win Again"--could match the exuberance of "Angie Wood." Steady on Shaky Ground is radio-friendly without being middle-of-the road, though at times it does cross over into Toad the Wet Sprocket territory. The band--singer-guitarist Tim Locke, bassist Fred Koehn, drummer Max Linter, and guitarists Steve Duncan and Greg Beutel--even included a couple of songs that showed a bit of a country influence (the train-a-comin' rhythm of "Loser Not Blues," the pedal steel on "Any City").
A big key to the album's success is Locke's voice, a soothing instrument that possesses a range equal to any other singer in town. His laid-back singing style and the band's vaguely non-threatening folk-pop sensibility has led to more than a few comparisons to Jackopierce, a slight you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. Those comparisons should vanish with the release of new material--sometime in the near future--which shows off a darker, less jangly side of the band.
Hard Night's Day
Nominated for: Cover Band
Everyone, even rednecks and Reds, likes the Beatles--and if you hear someone say different, he's just a goddamned liar, pining away in denial. Whether it's the mop-topped pop or the latter-day hirsute guru infestations, the boogie-rock and roll retreads or the philharmonic epics, even when pooped out as Muzak or sung by Ringo, Lennon's and McCartney's songs give you no choice. You're predestined to like them. Even boob-jobs such as William Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" can make you smile as much as The Breeders' superior stab at "Happiness is a Warm Gun." All this makes Hard Night's Day's job much, much easier. These guys are preaching to the choir, for Chrissakes. As long as they stay reverentially true, the word and the chord of the Fab Four will comfort you. Since Hard Night's Day has been known to actually channel the songs note for note on occasion, tribute act isn't just a fancy synonym for cover band--it's the God's honest truth.
Nominated for: Local Musician of the Year, Jazz
Behind the drum kit, Earl Harvin is still larger than life; he's a frontman behind the action, looming over the bassist or pianist or sax player even though obscured by the snares and cymbals. He contains such knowledge and talent that he can't be expected to just keep the beat--the room's too small for that, even when he's playing the arenas with Seal. That's why he plays with whoever asks him, whether it's MC 900 Ft Jesus or Seal or Shara or Johnny Reno or his own prog-punk band rubberbullet or his monster jazz ensemble, because he can't contain himself playing just one thing, night after night. To ask him to perform one music would be like asking Michael Johnson to stop running in the middle of the race--Harvin's got too many places to go, and it seems as though there are never enough seconds in a minute.