By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
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.
A Hard Night´s Day
Winner for: Cover Band
These fellows, fab and all that, played a friend's wedding not long ago, and for weeks after I had no desire--no need, let's say--to hear a Beatles song. The reasons were clear enough: A Hard Night's Day has it down, every note and phrase and echo--everything in its place, everything played for a reason. They're chained to history, fetishists first and musicians always, respectful without a hint of irreverence slipping into their game. They're very much like all those early cover-tribute bands to get regular Club Dada gigs: dead things keeping hope alive for all those too young to see the real things in their prime.
But there's a difference between a band like A Hard Night's Day and fellow nominees Queen for a Day: When the former play, they satisfy a particular jones by giving you not merely what you want but what you've known by heart since you were a child; they provide a sing-along soundtrack, nursery rhymes so familiar from womb to tomb. There are no surprises, because there can't be (these are songs made in, and for, the studio, for the most part), and they're such good musicians they're dying to show off how well they can carbon-copy the carbon-dated. Queen for a Day, on the other hand, sends me running to the CD collection because it's less a slavish offering than a spirited interpretation--a hint of what I missed, in other words, rather than the smorgasbord that leaves me sated for weeks. Still, A Hard Night's Day gets to play "Across the Universe," and has the added advantage, as a colleague says, of playing the Beatles--and you can't screw up the Beatles. --R.W.
Winner for: Metal
Pete Thomas is the kind of guy a girl could take home to Mama. He's quiet; he's polite. He has short hair and dresses spiffy in his black-rimmed glasses and cardigan sweaters. On all counts, this should completely disqualify him from fronting a band that qualifies as Dallas' best metal act. But here he is--again--along with his Slow Roosevelt bandmates, guitarist Scott Minyard, drummer Aaron Lyons and bassist Mark Sodders. (Seriously, Slo Ro's fans should just start engraving these things themselves. Or using their collective powers for other purposes.) Last year, we used this space to complain about other bands getting record contracts, hit singles and platinum plaques, while Thomas and company got some free drinks, another DOMA for the practice space and not much else despite having the intensity, the hooks and the smarts that metal lacks these days. While there are still no gold records or magazine cover photos, Slow Roosevelt's third album, Weightless, will be released June 3 on Reality Entertainment and distributed in Europe by Sony. In addition, there's a summer full of national and European tours, a song on Discovery Channel's Monster Garage and another in the HBO movie Gristle. They joke that they've finally sold out. We think they're just finally getting their props. And another fancy doorstop. --S.S.