By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"Michael recommended Earl for the band, and I thought we'll take him, because he's called Earl," Thompson says. "Earl Palmer, Earl Harvin--anybody called Earl is just fine. I've always wanted to play with somebody called Earl, anyway, so I didn't even have to hear him. I figured he could do anything--he can--and his name is Earl, so I didn't think there'd be much of a problem. Then he turns up for rehearsal and bang, from the first downbeat, away we go." --R.W.
I Love Math
Winner for: Folk/Acoustic
Since John Dufilho started his one-man band the Deathray Davies four years ago while he was in his other group Bedwetter, the joke has been that he believes idle hands are the devil's playground. That he's constantly writing, playing, recording, whistling, whatever. There's music and it must come out somehow. The same can be said for his bandmates in I Love Math, the side project to the Deathray Davies he started with Jason Garner (also formerly of Bedwetter and currently the bassist for the Deathray Davies). Something had to take up those spare minutes when Bedwetter disbanded, right? Rounding out the quartet are fellow overachievers guitarist Aaron Kelley (who writes and records for his Edge of the World Studios) and drummer Philip Peeples (on hiatus from The Old 97's) who stepped in when Deathray Davies/I Love Math drummer Bill Shupp moved to Los Angeles. As proof, I Love Math's self-titled album on Summer Break Records hasn't been on the racks long, and already six tracks have been laid down for the next album. More will be recorded once Dufilho and Garner return from the Deathray Davies' West Coast tour in the coming weeks. To this band, the quasi-regular Sunday-night gigs at the Barley House--rife with obscure British covers and guest appearances by friends in such bands as Lucy Loves Schroeder and the Happiness Factor--are like a break instead of the marathon, brain-picking sessions they would be for others. You don't have to do the math, let alone love it, to understand this is a busy band, and not just some folkies sittin' on stools. --Shannon Sutlief
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