2005 Dallas Observer Music Awards

Case Solved: Killer musicians captured, thanks to your tips

The musicians you see on these pages were not chosen by me. For the first time, we opened up the nomination process to the public, resulting in one of the most eclectic, and representative, ballots ever. Longtime bands this paper has never nominated--The Feds, Fair to Midland, Olospo--stood proudly alongside bands we'd never even heard of. In the end, it didn't make too much difference: The Burden Brothers swept.

But wait, it did make a difference. Because this year, the awards truly belonged to the fans of our local music scene--the ones who stand in line, who buy the CD and the shirt, who go to the in-store and the club gig, who know all the lyrics and elbow their way down front every Friday night. Let's be honest: In Dallas, there aren't as many of us as we wish. I can't tell you how many conversations I've had with people about how--how!?!--to get this city more excited about local music. Well, take a look at that picture. There's a lot of talent there. I hope you're not missing out on it.

If you're reading this, you're probably not. The bands probably know your face; the bartenders probably know your drink. And if so, this issue is for you. Because you know that while Austin is the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world and Houston is the new rap capital of the South, Dallas is something entirely its own--a mix of talent and personality, mood and mettle, art and quirk. There is something hardscrabble and flinty about the musicians of Dallas--because they have to fight for every ounce of respect they get. When the clubs are empty, when the money runs out, when major-label deals go sour, when everything flat out sucks, they do not quit. And we love them for that.

On the following pages, you will find a wide array of musicians: from a young, ambitious band that won the reality-television-show lottery to an older, ambitious band that beat back anger and disappointment to find success a second time around. From two bookish teenage sisters from Tyler with ribboned, mythical visions to the devil-be-damned band of the late Dimebag Darrell. We raise our glasses to all of you with this promise: We will keep coming, if you keep on going.

A few people to thank, because I can: Amanda Bigbee, Amber Abdullah and Jacquie Washington, for the thankless (well, not quite!) task of entering ballots; all the writers, but especially Zac Crain and Sam Machkovech, who tempered my angst with equal measures help and humor; Mike Simmons and Mark Graham, for putting together what, as far as I can tell, is the most artful music awards issue ever; Lindsay Graham, for inspiration and counsel; and the people out there brave enough to take the stage. It is yours to enjoy. So is this issue. --Sarah HepolaBurden Brothers
Best Act Overall, Best Guitarist (Corey Rozzoni), Rock/Pop, Best Male Vocalist, Best Songwriter, Best Bassist (Casey Orr), Best Drummer (Taz Bentley), Best Song (“Shadow”)

True story: The Burden Brothers were playing some radio-sponsored concert in Chicago to promote their new single "Shadow." It was one of those do-what-ya-gotta-do gigs, in which they were one of a gajillion up-and-coming bands, the rest of whom were a little less '70s arena rock and a little more shut-up-and-shred-asshole. So one look at this hardcore crowd, and the Burden Brothers know it's not their scene. I mean, these are dudes wearing nail polish and eyeliner onstage, for Christ's sake. Still, they hadn't guessed how bad it would get. The kids started booing them, throwing shit at them, calling them fags, and at that point there are two things you can do: You can leave--or you can rock. As Best Guitarist award winner Corey Rozzoni tells the story, the band flew right in the face of it, yelling back at the audience, playing even louder and fiercer, laughing at every epithet hurled, a full-throttle punk-rock middle finger of a set.

I tell this story for three reasons. 1) Maybe it will make other artists feel better about the fact that the Burden Brothers won practically every award they were nominated for. 2) I still seek revenge for the night band members got me drunker than a Kennedy at prom. 3) Most important, though, it shows the serious stuff these guys are made of. Theirs is the story that comes after VH1's Behind the Music, after the rise and the crash and the aftermath, when there is simply a band that wants to play music for you, less interested in fame than longevity, with a simple, clear mission: Rock Your Face Off Like a Motherfucker. That's the inspiration for the name of their DVD, in case you were wondering: RYFOLAMF. Catchy little acronym, isn't it?

By now, the story that precedes the Burden Brothers' awards sweep here is local lore. Burned by major-label woes and band turmoil, Toadies front man Vaden Todd Lewis calls it quits and, for the hell of it, teams up with buddy Taz Bentley, former ace drummer for Reverend Horton Heat. The two start churning out hard stuff--fast and dirty and loud. And, because they can, they put the songs online. Only the songs turn out to be good--a little too good to pass up. In short: Band signs with Kirtland Records, band offers up radio-ready single (last year's Best Song award winner, "Beautiful Night"), band releases Buried in Your Black Heart and then sits back and waits, right? Actually, no. This past year saw the Burden Brothers--which also includes Best Bassist award winner and veteran player Casey Orr and the young, talented guitarist Casey Hess--hoofing it around the country, filming videos, playing thankless gigs like the one in Chicago, opening for Billy Idol at SXSW, all the while promoting their slow burn of an alternative-rock single, "Shadow," which readers voted overwhelmingly to crown best song of the year. Not to mention the fact that they're still writing new material. That nightmare gig I told you about? It inspired Lewis to write a song called "Goodnight From Chicago," which brings up what really sets the Burden Brothers apart from other bands. Because some let their anger eat them alive, and some use it to rock your face off like a motherfucker. True story, I swear. --S.H.

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