2001 Dallas Observer Music Awards

Narrow margins remind us that everyone's a winner

Winner for: Cover Band

After a performance by Weener, we overheard an audience member say to one of the band members, "Dude, you rock. Do you have a CD out?" We leaned closer, expecting an explosion akin to Joan Rivers replying to someone who asked if her slipdress came from the Kathie Lee section of K-Mart. After all, big fans--and Glen Reynolds, Ben Burt, Mark Hughes and Jason Weisenburg are such devoted Weezer fans that they spend their free time practicing, perfecting and performing songs written by another set of musicians--are also the most defensive. And, in the eyes of a disciple, admitting ignorance is a sin worse than saying the band sucks. Instead, the incredulous musician responded with grace, directing the new fan toward Weezer's two albums, Weezer and Pinkerton.

With an arsenal containing just those two full-lengths and a handful of B-sides, compilation contributions and covers (Weener covers Weezer covering The Pixies' "Velouria"), it wasn't surprising when the members announced last year they'd no longer be getting their Rivers Cuomo on. However, last month, Weener reunited, with Hughes and Reynolds' newer cover band Bluh opening. (The announcement in Trees' ad of "The Return of Weener" overwhelmed bassist Hughes, who, in the interest of full disclosure, is a Dallas Observer listings editor and contributing writer.) Who'd expect a bunch of local musicians covering a band with a few minor hits would generate such a stir?

Best Act Overall: The Old 97's; Male Vocalist, Songwriter: Will Johnson
Mark Graham
Best Act Overall: The Old 97's; Male Vocalist, Songwriter: Will Johnson

But one of the great things about Weener is (or is it "was"?) that the band's dead-on covers have initiated new fans into the cult of Weezer--and how anyone could have escaped "Buddy Holly" or "Undone (The Sweater Song)" on the radio in 1994 is beyond us--when they thought they had just wandered into an amazing rock show by a band with a funny name. Likewise Weener has pleased even the fans who know all the words and each close-part harmony.

These days Weener probably even sounds more like the '90s Weezer than the Weezer that's on tour does, especially since original bass player and harmonist Matt Sharp left Weezer to front The Rentals. Plus, how could anyone, even Cuomo himself, sing "Say It Ain't So" for the trillionth time with as much passion and enthusiasm as another musician who has studied each note as if it were his own? Perhaps that's the reason Weener is pulling a hat trick, winning three consecutive awards since it formed. These guys are doing these "oldies" because they want to, not because it's what some fans expect from them. And, maybe after Weezer's performance during Edgefest next month, Weener will have some new artillery. Because, in Weener's case, imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery. --S.S.

Earl Harvin Trio
Winner for: Jazz

Giving the best jazz artist award yet again to the Earl Harvin Trio is almost unfair in Dallas, a city that boasts as lively yet unheralded a jazz scene as you'll find anywhere in the country. Most local jazz musicians have to play safe, recognizable, traditional fare to the Big Duh's self-obsessed dinner-crowd set, where solos are interrupted by orders for another bottle of that week's au courant zinfandel.

But when the Earl Harvin Trio plays something that has been occurring more frequently ever since keyboard/piano player Dave Palmer relocated to Austin, it plays in blocks. The group will lay down its heavy, diversified jams over a week during which it plays almost every night from Dallas to Denton and back. It plays rock clubs, it plays jazz haunts, it plays bars. Hell, this small combo could probably wander into a honky-tonk and have the boot-scooters howling and raising longnecks after it turned Hank Williams inside out and Palmer launched into one of his trademark tirades against the government, Napster or some extemporaneous hypothesis about the interconnections of aliens and Pam Anderson's breasts.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that drummer Harvin is a local music veteran with talent to burn, which he always displays during his incendiary solos and polyrhythmic time-keeping. The Trio, however, is his in name only. On any given night, these three musicians possess one of the most instinctual and sympathetic onstage relationships you'll see south of Chicago and west of New York. Palmer's hands dance across his Rhodes like some strange love child of late-'60s Cecil Taylor and mid-'70s Herbie Hancock (that's one ugly baby) as Harvin unleashes an endless supply of sounds from his sparse kit, conjuring the ghost of Beaver Harris with hammer-of-the-gods heavy hitting that can instantly change into sharp and crisp Kenny Clarke high-hat-snare swing before your jaw hits the ground. Through it all, bassist Fred Hamilton never misses a tempo change or silent cue. And when he puts the bass down and picks up the electric guitar or, as he's displayed a few times lately, a specially made-in-India lap guitar that permits him to finger-pick lightning-quick arpeggios that recall a sitar's raga, Hamilton cranks out the sort of free-flowing treble kicks that would make the likes of John Scofield and Pat Martino shit if the Trio would ever play outside Texas again.

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