By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Winner for: DJ/Electronic
Kid Icarus is in the DJ booth at Zero Degrees in Austin, looking like Steve Buscemi at a rave, breaking beats like Middle East peace treaties, nodding to his own bass lines, spinning the hard house tracks he loves like family. His new 12-inch single, "Hello Tomorrow"--a release on his own Prototype Platinum label that already charted on BBC Radio One DJ Judge Jules' show--kicks in the front door and slips unseen out the back, the music never stopping or slowing, every cut pumping its arms toward the finish line. There is an edge to his set, an aggression, each new song big-shouldering its way into the mix like a street-corner thug, trying to punk the others out. Doesn't matter, because they all end up getting sliced from stem to stern by Icarus, who keeps it all weird and wired in the way you'd expect from someone whose favorite bands are Sonic Youth and New Order. The rhythm changes your heartbeat; the bass completely stops it. He's manipulating his audience as smoothly as he manipulates his decks, bringing them in then pushing them right back out.
It's the annual South by Southwest Music Festival, so this set should be making him a star. Except that no one is here. Two bartenders, an older couple who have clearly turned up at the wrong venue, a couple other Zero Degrees regulars trying to adjust to the massive amount of room on the dance floor. If Icarus cares, or even notices, he's not showing it, dancing in the dark by himself to himself. The SXSW gig is a rare occurrence these days. Since the 24-year-old Kid Icarus first started making his own mix tapes at home a few years ago, he's slowly risen to the top of the local electronic-music scene, currently holding down a residency at Tunnel on McKinney Avenue and producing his own records on the side, speed-freak sprints that kick you in the junk before you even see them coming. Maybe next year, he can get a crowd in the double digits. --Z.C.
Winner for: Rap/Hip-Hop
Finally a Dallas-based rap group that doesn't beat you over the head representing where their apartment lease happens to be. Close your eyes while listening to Dot Matrix's music and you might just think they were from Detroit or Brooklyn. Lots of old-school call-and-response stuff, traded verses, real horn charts and a frenetic live show to beat the band. No hint of that slow-and-low Dirty South crawl, just a banging party on wax from a lucky-seven gang of kids who truly appreciate all the right influences; from the Pharcyde to Coltrane, J5 to the Jungle Brothers, you can tell their hearts (and ears) are in the right place. In the hyperkinetic, transitional world of sixth-gen hip-hop, I have a feeling Dot Matrix may be around a while. Hope so, because besides The D.O.C., Dallas has yet to produce a hip-hop artist who successfully beats down our image as Vanilla Ice's hometown. Maybe DJ BMX, Lord Regal, Anoimis and the rest of the relentless Matrix crew are ready to put all that to bed. Raise a glass and bust that ass--Dot Matrix is jumping off right here and now, y'all. --Jeff Liles
Winner for: Label
Idol boss Erv Karwelis has a knack for spotting humble, hard-working musicians; bands on Idol actually know how to play their instruments, and they probably even (gasp!) enjoy it. The groups on Idol's roster--Macavity, [DARYL] and the Fags, among others--try and try hard--and Idol gives back in kind. Karwelis gives baby bands a fighting chance and he'll support said bands, and their better-known labelmates, in boardrooms and back yards and wherever else they need him. He must be doing something right, because every group associated with Idol has done well and/or is still doing it. This label's showcase at last month's South by Southwest in Austin is a case in point: A packed and enthusiastic house greeted each act, and major-label business cards landed in the merch booth after every set. Even Spinal Tap's Harry Shearer came by and checked out Chomsky. That's why, as far as local labels go, Idol is living up to its name. --M.M.
Winner for: Producer
We still don't know exactly what Matt Pence does when he's recording bands, but we're completely certain that's a good thing. He wouldn't be him (or as good) if you heard him all over the recordings. He's both the Invisible Man, and a pied piper of unknown and underappreciated talent. This year his work schedule has included everyone from old-school bluesman CeDell Davis (who recorded with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and his fellow Minus 5 musicians) to multinominated Dallas band Sorta to Tulsa's Rhodes-happy, Magnetic Fields-ish Aqueduct. And that's just a sampling of more than a dozen locals/regionals/nationals seeking help on their albums. One or two per month doesn't sound very taxing until one factors in the amount of time Pence hasn't been in the studio. (Hint: not much.) Besides a huge renovation to the Echo Lab--the space he co-owns with fellow engineers Dave Willingham and Matt Barnhart in Argyle--he also spends several months each year behind the kit with Centro-matic and its spin-off South San Gabriel. He's prolific, but you'd never know it without poring over liner notes. And that's the highest compliment. --S.S.