2005 Dallas Observer Music Awards

Case Solved: Killer musicians captured, thanks to your tips

A Dozen Furies
Best New Act
A few weeks after their guitarist Marc Serrano first appeared on MTV's reality show Battle for Ozzfest, the five sufficiently scruffy, black-clad members of A Dozen Furies piled into my office for an interview. Back then, they were nobodies--kids from Plano with metal in their mouths, who quit their day jobs and toured the country in a crappy van (that is, until the van broke down). But an odd benefactor presented himself in the form of Ozzy Osbourne, reality-show guru, possible loon, whose new enterprise was a kind of Real World/Road Rules Challenge for the black hoodie set. The band beat out 300 hardcore acts at an L.A. audition to land a spot on the show, which picked Serrano as ADF's on-camera representative.

"I was really excited the night the show came on," said Serrano, a pint-sized pretty boy with tattoos wrapping around his arms. "The minute the credits started rolling for the show before ours, my heart started fluttering."

"It could turn out to be really big," said lead singer Bucky Garrett. "It's like American Idol for metal bands."

In those days, the boys were adjusting to their minor fame, grappling to explain the show's concept to local news anchors and wondering, privately, what all the attention would mean. Of course, A Dozen Furies went on to win Battle for Ozzfest, landing $60,000, a slew of Guitar Center gear, a record contract with Sanctuary Records and a slot on the second stage of this summer's Ozzfest. The band is currently at work on its first full-length, which follows up last year's Rip Down the Stars,an EP that flaunts its commitment to noise and speed above all else.

So now, those sweet, unwashed boys with marquee dreams have become bona fide local heroes with one of the city's biggest draws. Serrano rocked a leather bikini on national television. And they have no doubt collected enough stoned-with-celebrity stories to last a decade. But I will always think of them as the goofballs in my office, cramped four to a couch, cracking so many in-jokes that Serrano finally threw up his hands and said, "See, this is why I do all the interviews by myself." --S.H.

DJ Merritt
DJ/Electronic

Year after year, DJ Merritt pulls off a win in the DJ/Electronic category, and on some level, the reason is simple: Everyone has heard, and heard of, DJ Merritt. Dallas has its fair share of nightly DJ hot spots, and more regulars are making their names known around town with residence gigs, but Merritt has the lock on our attention with his work on Edge Club, a live club-mix show that's been around since 102.1 was 94.5 on the dial. The show has survived not only a switch in frequencies but also last year's unofficial station merger with the late 97.1 The Eagle. Luckily, Merritt has maintained Edge Club's quality, making dance station 106.7 KDL sound boring in comparison, with rapid-fire mixes of recent dance tracks, self-produced beats and rock-song segues. That work alone is enough to deserve the award, but Merritt doesn't rest on his radio laurels, as you'll find him spinning at every nook and cranny in town, from hot clubs to DJ competitions to even museums like the Nasher Sculpture Center. It's one thing to have a known name as a DJ, but Merritt wins by working his butt off to earn that recognition. --Sam Machkovech

One O'Clock Lab Band
Jazz

Remember when jazz was for the young and rebellious, the kids who dared to turn off the squeaky clean Tin Pan Alley classics and get turned on to music a little sexier, a lot less predictable and--gasp--improvised? Yeah, neither do we. Nowadays, jazz seems as dated as zoot suits and stockings with seams. To the average music buyer, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington are just names on cheap compilation CDs, and jazz is something you hear in restaurants or elevators. But there is at least one place where jazz is still for the young. The University of North Texas has been offering a bachelor of music in jazz studies since 1947 (it was the first university to offer such a program), and it's still the place college freshmen come looking for their own Birth of the Cool, toting trumpets, guitars and other instruments in black cases strapped across their backs, talking up faculty members and professional musicians such as Neil Slater and Ed Soph and, most important, sweating the annual auditions for the lab bands--nine jazz performance bands with the top one, the One O'Clock Lab Band, featuring 20 of the best jazz musicians from a school of nearly 400 outstanding undergrad and graduate student musicians. The One O'Clock is more than an extracurricular activity. The band has headlined the Montreux International Jazz Festival, been nominated for Grammy Awards and toured Europe, Mexico, Australia, Canada, Japan and more. In addition to being world-renowned, the One O'Clock Lab Band has affected local music, too: All of the four other groups nominated in this category have UNT jazz studies connections, including some lab band alumni. --Shannon Sutlief

Slick 57
Rockabilly/Roots

Were this some high school poll, and not the Dallas Observer Music Awards, John Pedigo and "Big Ward" Richmond would surely win for class clowns. Hilarious and never above (below?) a cheap gimmick, the high school buddies sharpened their schtick as drama geeks at Woodrow Wilson High, where they crafted absurd home videos before turning to the far more respectable (and lucrative!) career of touring rockabilly band. Along with drummer Rob "the Heartthrob" Schumacher, they make Slick 57 not just a good show but an entertaining one--Richmond furiously plucking those stand-up bass strings, Pedigo jumping around the stage with his guitar, flinging his wounded Billie Joe Armstrong howl to the back of the rafters. Their aptly named second album, LOVE/LOST/EXHAUST, is like a beer-soaked, roaring midnight drive with a guide who probably shouldn't be behind the wheel. The best songs here barely pause for breath: They're celebrations of riffage, speed, booze and other proper forms of young male suffering. But funny enough, the more these guys bleed, the more we smile. Slick indeed. --S.H.

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