By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Then again, Griffin was a wildly popular local figure for quite a while, so, in certain circles, there was an electric anticipation surrounding MC 900 Ft. Jesus' first live appearance in seven years. Ah, yes, that's right, Griffin is a real musician, not just a white rapper. He's a classically trained trumpet player, ex-member of the Telefones and Lithium X-mas and member of lounge-jazz combos the Enablers and Young Millionaires. But, wait, isn't he also that cartoonish chrome-dome who was packed up in a box and thrown in a truck in the "If I Only Had a Brain" video? The eccentric misfit who released "Truth Is Out of Style" along with DJ Zero?
Well, yes, but it's this bizarre mix of credibility and absurdity that defines MC 900 Ft. Jesus. It's doubtful seasoned pros like Earl Harvin and Dave Palmer, who joined Griffin for both his last album (1994's One Step Ahead of the Spider) and his recent pair of live outings, have spent much time playing karaoke machine for juvenile raps about fast-food drive-thrus. Then again, working with Griffin also means an opportunity to saturate the air with the sublime darkness that seeps from the heart of the pathological arsonist in "The City Sleeps." Or to conjure the dangerous, sexy funk haze of the crash-worship sketch "New Moon."
Griffin draws the lines, and his backing band of Harvin, Palmer, sax player Chris McGuire, bassist Dave Monsey and guitarist Phil Bush filled them expertly at the recent shows, Harvin's almost inhuman groove serving as a base for Palmer's delicate tonal shadings. It's true--this year's Industrial/Dance winner is a jazz band, at least in the live arena. A jazz-funk fusion, anyway, augmented by the trumpet-playing of Griffin, who claims Miles Davis and the Mahavishnu Orchestra as partial inspiration for 900 Ft. Jesus' shift from an electro-industrial act to a well-oiled live machine. Griffin claims to be mining more electronic terrain as he develops new material, but anyone who saw the 2001 resurrection of MC 900 Ft. Jesus witnessed a rare intersection of groove, atmosphere and inspired character sketch. --Michael Chamy
Winner for: Cover Band
Weener co-front man Glen Reynolds told me awhile back that he kinda hoped Weener wouldn't take home this award again, no offense. Give it to Hard Night's Day or someone else, he said. Maybe he was just frustrated, given that the last few Weener shows in the 214 haven't gone so well, attendance figures cliff-diving from the near-sell-out, scream-along shows when the group (Chomsky's Reynolds, singer-guitarist Jason Weisenburg, Baboon bassist Mark Hughes and Pinkston drummer Ben Burt) first started. Now that the real thing's back after a long hiatus (the self-titled, so-called "green album" last year, and Maladroit on the way in a month or so), apparently, the appeal of the carbon copy has waned somewhat. Fairweather friends, all of 'em. Fact is, the band's never been better; it has a firmer grasp of Weezer's catalog than Weezer does, plays more of it and--there, I said it--delivers the goods better than Rivers Cuomo and company. (Hey, if you wanna watch four guys nailed down in front of their microphones, looking as though they're in the middle of a colonoscopy, have at it.)
Lately, Weener has been playing more often (and to a much better reception) in Austin, where audiences are still in the passionate throes of the honeymoon that ended in Dallas shortly after Weezer came out of hiding. Still, as far as I'm concerned, the allure remains, especially if you want to hear live versions of anything off 1996's Pinkerton, the disc Cuomo has all but turned his back on, spitting and shitting on it anytime a microphone is near enough to catch his mumbles. Currently, Weener is in the process of learning the songs off Maladroit; Reynolds scored a copy of the unreleased album a few weeks ago from a friend at Weezer's label. So the band continues, for now, and like it or not, it takes home another one of these. If there's justice in this world, the next time Weezer comes to Dallas, Weener will open. A battle of the "band," if you will. Doubt that Cuomo has the stones for that, though. --Z.C.
Gypsy Tea Room
Winner for: Live Music Venue
Only one thing makes for a "best" live music venue: the, ahem, live music, if you didn't already know (and some of you didn't, apparently, which is probably why you weren't nominated, so shuddup already). Everything else is a moot point--save, perhaps, such trivial things as acoustics, sightlines and the generosity of bartenders kind enough to double a single of Maker's Mark. That's it--that's fucking it, end of story. I don't care how many autographed drum heads you got up on the wall, how many local comers you're booking (gee, nice of you to do so, but this is a voters'-choice award, not some kinda charity), how many ads you're taking out in the Observer, what kind of cold-meat platter you put out for the talent or how so-effin'-cool your front-door people are. If you're booking crap, you are crap on that given night. And, please, don't tell me taste is subjective: When the Gypsy's booking Norah Jones and Wilco and Antipop Consortium, in addition to such varied locals as Chomsky and Earl Harvin, that, my friends, is called stuffing the ballot box. No one else even stood a chance.