2003 Dallas Observer Music Awards

Thirty or so nominators, culled from the rank and file of the local music industry, decided what names made it onto the ballot for the 2003 Dallas Observer Music Awards. Slightly fewer than 6,000 of you decided what names made it onto the 15 pounds of sculpted metal we call a music award, the trophies we handed out on April 15 at Gypsy Tea Room. Nothing complicated about that. It's as simple and plain as a Lewisville housewife.

That said, there will be griping. Also: bitching, carping, fussing, fighting, grumbling and complaining. There always is. But maybe there will be less of that this time around. We certainly hope so, because though this is little more than a popularity contest--and what election isn't?--most of your picks are right on, right now.

There was no big winner this year, as there was last time around, when Chomsky took home six trophies. The story instead was that it was a tight race on many fronts; five male vocalists were separated by little more than the length of a mike stand throughout, constantly jockeying for position. If the polls had stayed open another week, there might have been a different winner. One more week, and it could have been someone else altogether. And each one deserved it. It was the same all over: In almost every category, you could swap the winner for one of the also-rans, and there would be no dip in quality, no lack of merit.

Perhaps it's a testament to the strength of our local music community (and it is ours, whether some of you want it or not) that roughly the same amount of voters participated in 2002 and 2003, yet there are very few repeat winners. (Maybe it's something else entirely, but we choose to read the situation that way.) We wouldn't be surprised if we end up saying that next year, too.

But remember, and this is important: This is only one issue. The award show was only one night. The voting lasted only a few weeks. If you want to really do your part, drop a five-spot at the door of any club in Deep Ellum or on Lower Greenville or wherever. Go see local bands. Buy their albums. Tell your friends about them. That's how you can elect some real winners. --Zac Crain

The Polyphonic Spree
Winner for: Best Act Overall and
Avant-Garde/Experimental

It was Saturday night, the last night of this year's South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, and my ears were ringing but my heart was OK. (Credit: Captain Audio.) I slipped around the side of the stage for no reason in particular, except that I'd had a few and felt like a bit of a walk, the kind of random left foot-right foot a couple of belts encourages. Past the tower of speakers on the corner, past the people sipping drinks and talking loudly into each other's ear, their conversations trying to find a footing above the music. Up a few steps and around a corner and then I was at the edge of the fray, the rugby scrum disguised as a tent revival disguised as a rock concert. Gaz Coombes and Danny Goffney of Supergrass, the band due onstage next, behind my back, eyes straight ahead, mouths turned up, transfixed. Twenty or so people in choir robes in front of me, each dancing around the stage to their own beat, stomping and twirling and singing and jumping and hugging and laughing, Tim DeLaughter, curly-haired and sweaty-faced, in the center of it all. I grabbed a pole with my left arm and swung out for a better look, just avoiding getting sucked into the whirlwind of feet and arms and trumpets and microphone cords and guitars and whatever a foot or so away. DeLaughter caught my eye, and his grin, already mirroring a 14-year-old on his first tab of Ecstasy, got a little bigger, his eyes a little brighter. The song was winding down and so was the show, and when they were both spent, everyone at Stubb's was noticeably happier than they were before, beaming like kids sharing a secret, the kind of smile that makes your face hurt the next morning. This is how you fall under the Polyphonic Spree's spell.

It happened the first time I saw the band, which was also its first show ever, opening for Grandaddy at Gypsy Tea Room in July 2000, back when the group topped out at a mere dozen members. Just about everyone there was hooked on Polyphonic from the first note, singing along with heads back and arms to the sky, even though only the people onstage had ever heard the songs--grand and giddy as a teen-age prince then; even more so now--before. And it's been happening ever since, especially in the past year or so when the ever-expanding group hit the road like an atom bomb, to paraphrase an album title from DeLaughter's former outfit, Tripping Daisy.

It began at least year's SXSW, when music journalists and pretty much everyone else took to the Polyphonic Spree like a baby to a breast, offering up public displays of affection to rival the then-forthcoming Ben & Jen romance. Same thing happened later in the year at the CMJ New Music Marathon. And again at this year's grip-and-grin in Austin. But the band's status in the U.K., somewhere between Kylie Minogue and Jesus Christ, causes all of that to seem like illegible scribbling in badly photocopied fanzines. British music bible NME rapturously relates the Polyphonic Spree's comings and goings like it's covering a prime-minister election (and recently gave the band the "Fuck Me!" Award for Innovation at its own annual awards show) and is so over-the-top in its praise that it's almost back at the bottom. Death in Vegas and Peter Gabriel have enlisted the group to remix their singles, and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker directed a video for "Hanging Around"--known as "Section 6" on the U.S. version of their debut, The Beginning Stages of.... (Cocker also donned a choir robe and sat in with the band during one of its concerts at London's Shepherd's Bush Empire last year.) They even have a major-label deal: The Beginning Stages of... was released in the U.K. in 2002 on 679 Recordings, a subsidiary of Warner Bros.

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