By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
The Curtain Club
Winner for: Live Music Venue
Bands have enjoyed playing at The Curtain Club from the moment it opened, partly because co-owner Doug Simmons knows how they should be treated. He's been on both sides of the equation, from managing 4 Reasons Unknown (God bless him) to running clubs such as the now-defunct Rhythm Room and Trees. Fans flock to The Curtain Club because it's one of the most consistent venues in town, always featuring local bands and almost as frequently good ones. And Simmons' business partners like The Curtain Club because Simmons knows how to make a buck. When The Toadies played two overflowing shows at Trees in February, Simmons was scalping tickets out on the sidewalk, not letting a slow night at his bar keep him from turning a profit.
So The Curtain Club's win in the Best Live Music Venue category shouldn't have surprised anyone, least of all the other nominees. After all, The Curtain Club got the nod last year when many complained (OK, just other club owners) that it wasn't even eligible, having opened for business only a shade more than three months before the winners were announced. Hey, if your club can't defeat a venue that was barely finished when the final vote was cast, well, that's not our problem. So after last year's results, it was almost a foregone conclusion that The Curtain Club would take top honors again this year--that is, if it was still around.
That hasn't always been a sure thing. After all, it's hard to make a living hosting only shows by local bands. It's a lofty and honorable goal, but the fact is, there aren't enough good bands to go around, and crowds don't exactly support the ones that are good. The club's once-stellar local bills have slipped as of late--this weekend, it presents two shows by Pimpadelic--but The Curtain Club is still hanging around, doing better than ever. And it still puts on better shows than most: For every two Pimpadelic shows, the club puts together one fantastic show, such as the bill that featured The Commercials, Chomsky, Centro-matic, and Post from Vermont. Besides, it's not all Curtain Club's fault; you try finding enough good bands in this city to fill 20-plus shows every month.
Sure, the Gypsy Tea Room is prettier, Deep Ellum Live brings in better touring bands, Trees has more history, and the Galaxy Club has...well, what exactly does the Galaxy have these days? But when it comes down to it, the only thing that matters is what you hear, and The Curtain Club has the best sound system in town, the same one that used to be in Trees. It has the best sound man as well, James McWilliams, another Trees refugee. In fact, most of what makes The Curtain Club the best club in town used to make Trees the best club in town, including Simmons, and Craig, the amiable upstairs bartender who can make even a bad band sound good if you have enough cash. For that reason alone, The Curtain Club deserves to win this award as long as he's still working there.
One Ton Records
Winner for: Local Label
Aden Holt began One Ton Records five years ago solely because he didn't see any need to give away his own money. His now-defunct band Caulk--which broke up in 1998, shortly after the release of the band's third and final disc, Imaginary Enemy--was all set to release its debut on another local indie. But at the last moment, Holt wised up and figured it was better to pocket the change than divvy it up with someone whose only interest in his band was its suggested retail price. In short order, One Ton went from pragmatic creation to brilliant endeavor, releasing in quick succession Caulk's Learn to Take, selling out of all 1,000 copies initially manufactured; Welcome to Hell's Lobby, a Denton-rock collection featuring the likes of Slobberbone, Record Player, and Wayward Girl--and still among the most transcendent of local rock comps; Jeff Liles' debut as cottonmouth, texas, White Trash Receptacle; and Doosu's debut, ...so called the cupboard's bare. Holt, then working for a local graphic-design firm, suddenly and rather inexplicably found himself acting as label boss, a role he's rather comfortably grown into over time.
Indeed, only Leaning House Records' co-founders Mark Elliott and Keith Foerster compete with Holt in terms of adhering to a "vision" for their label. Where the Leaning House boys have resigned themselves to making millions (of pennies, quite unfortunately) by sticking to their bebop guns, Holt has turned One Ton into the gone-and-lamented Fraternity of Noise's last stand. His is the home of rock-hard hard rock, the place where metal and punk dance on the head of the pin they're jamming into your ear. For the most part, One Ton's roster is chest hair and sweat: Slow Roosevelt (winners in the Metal category, in addition to Peter Thomas' nod for Male Vocalist), Doosu (metal with a heart, no pun intended), Caulk, and even Fixture, the last being Oklahoma kids who must own an extensive collection of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden bootlegs. The exception to the rule is Buck Jones, the most commercially viable of One Ton's bands, or so the local media keep insisting every time the band releases a record (and a new one's due shortly). Never let it be said that Aden Holt's too closed-minded to sign a band that can bring in a few bucks. Now, if only Buck Jones can decide what kind of band it wants to be--heartbreaker or lovemaker, as Pat Benatar used to say. Last time we heard the Jones perform they were doin' it acoustic-style, not a bad move at all.