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.

Burden Brothers
Mark Graham
Burden Brothers
Taz Bentley
Mark Graham
Taz Bentley
Vaden Todd Lewis
Mark Graham
Vaden Todd Lewis
Casey Orr
Mark Graham
Casey Orr
Corey Rozzoni
Mark Graham
Corey Rozzoni
Chris Holt
Mark Graham
Chris Holt
Flickerstick
Flickerstick
A Dozen Furies
A Dozen Furies
“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott
Slick 57
Mark Graham
Slick 57
Boys Named Sue
Mark Graham
Boys Named Sue
Fishing for Comets
Mark Graham
Fishing for Comets
The Silvertones
Mark Graham
The Silvertones
Hard Night’s Day
Mark Graham
Hard Night’s Day
Matt Pence
Mark Graham
Matt Pence
Lizard Lounge
Mark Graham
Lizard Lounge

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.

Chris Holt
Musician of the Year

No one will be more surprised about Chris Holt winning Musician of the Year than Chris Holt. Endlessly self-deprecating and just plain nice, the 32-year-old Holt is almost too polite to be a rock star. When the Dallas Observer photographer asked him to sit for a second photo for this issue, he worried his first batch of portraits had just been that bad. But Holt, without making much of a fuss about it, has quietly become one of the busiest, and most reliable, musicians in town: This year alone, he played with Olospo, The Lonelies, Petty Theft, Hard Night's Day, Jones Thing, Rahim Quazi and Sorta, in addition to playing weekly all-request gigs at the Barley House, finishing a solo album, Summer Reverb, and generally being the go-to guy for guitar and keys. His talent and musical dexterity have almost become a handicap; he does so much it's sometimes hard to figure out what he actually does. His band Olospo (cringe-inducing name inspiration: Polo Sport) packs in the patchouli-wearing, tank-topped lovelies by playing wildly intricate music that is part Rush, part Ben Folds. Holt shirks the "jam band" label ("I hate Widespread Panic!" he once said), but how else do you describe a band that plays self-described "13-minute musical odysseys"? Meanwhile, his work with cover bands has revealed what a versatile player he is, while his all-request gigs (sometimes performed under the name "Chris Holt's Jukebox") spotlight a near-encyclopedic facility with pop music and a charming willingness to throw caution three sheets to the wind. And yet, not enough people have heard Chris Holt the singer-songwriter, who draws inspiration from Elliott Smith and Wilco to craft songs that can be as memorable as they are melodic. But his side projects are so popular, and entertaining, that it's sometimes a battle for Holt to get even his biggest fans to listen to his new work. Well, not anymore. --S.H.

Flickerstick Tarantula
Best Album (Idol Records)

There is nothing wrong with liking Flickerstick. That wasn't so easy to admit back in 2001, when the group was on its way to winning VH1's Bands on the Run. Flickerstick (especially then-drummer Dominic Weir) made for phenomenal television, fighting and hooking up and drinking like all great reality-television superstars are contractually bound to do. But musically--well, at least they looked good on TV. Their live shows were charismatic, but their album Welcoming Home the Astronauts (re-released by Epic in the wake of Bands on the Run), while at times catchy and melodic, was ultimately safe. And by "safe," we mean "boring." The only exception was "Beautiful," an anthem for young drunk girls everywhere.

But plenty of young drunk girls (and their young drunk boyfriends) became fans of the band. Fortunately for Flickerstick, those new fans stuck by the band during a four-year gap between new albums with only a live record (2002's Causing a Catastrophe--Live) and EP (To Madagascar and Back) to tide them over. The wait was worth it: While Tarantula, released last year on Dallas' Idol Records, isn't exactly dangerous, it's a more diverse album than Astronauts, the kind that not only maintains a fan base but also builds it. Astronauts sounded like a band in search of a major-label deal. Tarantula, on the other hand, sounds like a band happy to be liberated from corporate clutches; the music and the musicians have never sounded freer. "When You Were Young" echoes the Bunnymen with a symphonic sound, and "Teenage Dope Fiend" is the kind of teen anthem that made The Vines (briefly) stars, with its "c'mon, c'mon, c'mon" chorus.

We tried not to like it--really, we did--but our toes began tapping in spite of themselves, and soon enough, we were singing along. So go ahead and start liking them. Seriously, there's nothing wrong. --Merritt Martin

Stacy and Sherri Dupree (Eisley)
Best Female Vocalist
"Melodic," "angelic," "melancholy," "lovely," "crystalline," "cloying"--these are but a smattering of rock-crit adjectives slathered upon the sisters DuPree, whose Eisley bowed, at last, with a full-length, Room Noises. Those who would dismiss them as cloying--and, Rolling Stone, we're looking in your direction--miss the point entirely. Or perhaps they simply can't stomach so much loveliness in one sitting. This is light stuff but not lightweight, sweet stuff but not saccharine, moody stuff but never so mellow you could roast it over a campfire between graham crackers and chocolate bars. There's a reason Coldplay loves them so, and why Snow Patrol took them on tour: They make modern rock for people not yet ready to move into the future, for those who prefer their heartbreak comforting and their romance discomfiting and their salty tears just a tad bit sweeter than everyone else's.

Sure, the DuPrees write and perform material that's not hard to mock ("how the pollen fell all around your face in strange, yellow patterns"; "all the war horses wore rubber bands"). Anything's easy to dump on if you refuse to get it. But make no mistake: It takes guts to get out there and pretend punk (or, for that matter, rock of any kind) never happened, to open your mouths and let fly with some of the most florid imagery and baroque vocals this side of Tori Amos or Kristen Hersh or that chick from the Cardigans. Punk doesn't take guts. Singing about dreary birds parading across dreary skies and bats with butterfly wings, Holmes, that takes real balls. It's deceptively simple--the innocent longings of young women not yet ready to give up little-girl things, not yet ready to accept that what's out thereis far less interesting or rewarding than what remains untouched and unblemished in here. --Robert Wilonsky

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.

Damageplan
Metal

No one here will ever pretend, even at this late date, that we ever quite got Damageplan or, before that, Pantera; the Observerarchives are too stuffed with unflattering words to try to take them back. We felt the loss of guitarist Darrell Abbott, absolutely, but from the distance reserved for those who write about local musicians and cross paths with them. I'd met the man several times--he and brother Vinnie Paul even showed up to a Dallas ObserverMusic Awards shindig several years ago to claim a prize they needed as much as another doorstop--and found him charming and guileless, a superstar who pretended as though he were unaware of the status bestowed upon him. And certainly, we were all stung by the news of his murder on December 8 on a Columbus, Ohio, stage--at the hand of a deranged fan, no less. But it didn't hit us as hard as it did those who, on December 14 of last year, crowded into the Arlington Convention Center to mourn his passing and share their grief and final fuck yeahs for the man called Dimebag. They were his family, immediate and extended and forever.

But getting it isn't so important anymore, because we're well past having to; Abbott and Damageplan and Pantera have now passed into myth, the realm of legend to which beloved and tragic figures are allowed instant access. Abbott is another Marvin Gaye now, another Sam Cooke, another Peter Tosh, another Tupac--or, at least, another Mia Zapata or Bobby Fuller--a rock-and-roll martyr whose death guarantees he will live forever, a rock god made immortal by an assassin. For proof, look no further than the countless rock-mag covers he graced after his death, listen no further than the hallelujah choruses sung by the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Zakk Wylde and the other guitarists who filed onto the stage in Arlington. Now, everyone in town will claim to have known Dimebag, to have partied with him at the Clubhouse, to have built a guitar for him, to have ruined his liver with him in 18 states (as Wylde mentioned from the stage that night).

What becomes of Damageplan now? No one is quite sure, though there have been the inevitable rumors of a DVD release, of a second album mostly completed, of outtakes from the New Found Powersessions. There's also talk of old, unreleased Pantera tracks finding their way into stores, including some from a never-completed post-Reinventing the Steeldisc. And what will become of the music made by Rebel Meets Rebel, Dimebag and Vinnie Paul's country collaboration with David Allan Coe? Answers will come shortly, but the music business has taught us that dead musicians live profitable afterlives on the new-release schedules.

If nothing else, Abbott's murder did get some of us, the disinterested or the unfairly dismissive, to go back and listen to what we might have missed the first time around, and sure enough you can hear what so many others got from the very beginning--the groove beneath the growl, the rumble beneath the roar, the look-at-how-much-fuckin'-fun-I'm-havin'smile of a talented man who dug playing sidekick to front men (Phil Anselmo in Pantera, Pat Lachman in Damageplan) who always seemed so pissed off about something. So, to Damageplan we offer our congratulations on this award, handed to you not just by us, but also from the thousands who voted for you and the millions who cheered for you then and now. --R.W.

The Polyphonic Spree
Avant-Garde/Experimental

The first mistake The Polyphonic Spree made was recording an album. The second was recording another one. I'm not trying to piss on their parade. You may enjoy The Beginning Stages of... or Together We're Heavy, and that's perfectly OK. But you'd be hard-pressed to make a compelling argument that either record is revolutionary. Go ahead and take that case to a jury. They'll be out less than an hour.

Here's why they shouldn't have made a record, or two of them: While there's nothing much avant-garde or experimental about the band in the studio, there is plenty of it onstage. With 20 some-odd people in matching robes singing and swaying and stomping like a church choir as imagined by David LaChapelle, The Polyphonic Spree's stage show is a breathtaking happening that lures in even the most cynical observer. It's an overwhelming blast of sight and sound, leaving your eyes and ears as helpless as the last Texan rebels at the Alamo. Go to one of their shows and you will be entertained, whether you like it or not. But none of that, not one single bit, comes across on a CD. Which is a shame. They should have taken their show on the road, invading a town for a few days as the word of mouth built into a tidal wave, then scurried off to conquer another city. They would have had an air of mystery, that certain something that turns rock shows into events. They did this in Austin at South by Southwest and New York at the CMJ New Music Marathon, never needing an album to put asses in the seats. It would have worked. They've actually talked about this. (Broadway, perhaps?) After a couple of tours, then they could put out a DVD, so people could hear and see The Polyphonic Spree, the way the group should properly be experienced. I'm telling you: genius. Would that make any money? I don't know. That's why I don't manage bands. --Zac Crain

Boys Named Sue
Country and Western

Texas is made up of two kinds of folk: people who get country music and people who can't stand it. The latter will point to Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn and Randy Travis while making a gagging noise, but what they don't know is that many people who love country music do the same thing, too. See, that's watered-down, mainstream junk, and there's great music to be heard in the country genre, but for newcomers, sitting at home with Willie, Merle and Johnny records isn't the best way to start. What y'all need is a dirty bar, a few beers and Boys Named Sue. Easily Dallas' best gateway to the country genre, the Boys, whose members come from fine local bands like Slick 57, Trainwreck and Deadman, are a cover band trapped in the days when Sun Records meant something, yet also have one foot planted firmly in the present. Classic country jewels written by Roger Miller and Doug Sahm get mixed up in the set list with Southern versions of Violent Femmes and Pixies songs, and whether the band re-creates Eminem beats with pedal steel or plays the hell out of its Johnny Cash namesake, it does its damnedest to unite the two kinds of country listeners with a good, boozy time. --S.M.

Fishing for Comets
Folk/Acoustic

Fishing for Comets may be the poster children for 2005's DOMAs, a year that marks the first time fans' votes created the ballot. Because Fishing for Comets is here for one reason: fans. Fans who voted in the ballot phase. Fans who voted in the award phase. They credit their fans for everything; they're fortunate, they say, to have people who like them. (Counting Cindy Chaffin from TexasGigs.com as one of those fans doesn't hurt either.) As a group, Fishing for Comets has been playing for less than six months. They're not widely known, they've played mostly opening gigs, their debut CD isn't well-distributed. In fact, the female-fronted quartet didn't start a nomination campaign until the week before the ballot voting was over, and even then it was at a fan's urging. So, for those who haven't heard this dark-horse contender--an all-acoustic band that also features Sam Romero on guitars, Eric Swanson on bass and mandolin, and John Solis on drums--the easiest comparison is The Sundays, a band that singer-songwriter Camille Cortinas hadn't even heard of until recently. Both have sweet, simple vocals trilling over equally sweet, simple lyrics. But the Lisa Loeb comparison works, too. Neither would be bad company for Fishing for Comets, but the band members prefer to think of their music as intimate and personal, which is how they like their shows, too. They like smaller clubs such as Ginger Man, Club Dada, Liquid Lounge and Standard & Pours (though they've also played Trees). This is one folk/acoustic winner with no aspirations of plugging in and taking off; they just want more gigs in more venues in more cities and to finish their first full-length within the next three or four months. Sweet and simple, just like their music. --S.S.

Common Folk
Funk/R&B

On "Jukebox," the third song on Common Folk's 2003 debut, Souled Out, brothers Terry Williams and Tony Ballard tick off their musical influences: "We put stock in Lauryn Hill/Miss Badu 'cause she keeps it real/Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway/BeBe Winans and Marvin Gaye/Alicia Keys with some Macy Gray." With that in mind, Common Folk sounds exactly like you might expect: warm, back-in-the-day soul with plenty of room for handclaps and Bootsy Collins bass. Their songs are honest, earnest laments of good black men getting right in the world--and bringing their culture along with them: "Seven G's on your pinky ring/It's all right if you like the bling-bling/And if you like the finer things/As long as they don't control you," they sing on "Consumed," the album's opener and finest track. In a musical climate where crunk passes for innovation and violence seems practically a prerequisite for a successful career, a band like Common Folk is like a cool breeze cutting through the dank room: musicians who make good music but also seem like good people, which is awful nice for a change. --S.H.

Dot Matrix
Hip Hop/Rap

This year's battle for best hip-hop/rap is encouraging for a city whose rap radio ratings are sky-high but hasn't seen a national superstar since the days of the D.O.C. In March, voters put three of Dallas' hottest MCs on the ballot: There's Pikahsso, the one-man posse who drops jokes and rhymes as smoothly as he sings Funkadelic-inspired hooks; there's Tahiti, the craziest, wittiest old-school rapper in town who drops all blingin' pretenses and moves a crowd by admitting that he's "whack"; and there's definitely Steve Austin, the self-proclaimed "champ" who rocks a mike with so much fire and confidence it's hard not to call Damon Dash or P. Diddy and beg him to sign this guy now. Still, these three rising Dallas hip-hop icons weren't enough to dethrone six-member Dot Matrix from the group's top spot at the DOMAs for the third year in a row. Their rap-rock attack finds a unique boost in a sax player who balances the band's jazz and rock elements, and their dual MCs kick verses back and forth on the old-school tip without falling into hip-hop clichés. It was easier to call Dot Matrix a lock for the contest years ago, but this year's neck-and-neck vote hints at an even more exciting race next go-round. --S.M.

Rob G. and the Latin Pimps
Latin/Tejano

When I received a CD by a band called Latin Pimps, I made sure to procrastinate opening the plastic seal. After working in a kitchen where every generic Latin band in the world became the soundtrack to flipping hamburgers, I was burned out on the genre. And the band's goofy name didn't help. But I noticed Centro-matic's Matt Pence (winner of the Best Producer award) credited with mixing Me Voy (translation: I'm Going), and it was enough to pique my interest. Turns out the music is more than merely palatable--somewhere between Gipsy Kings and Calexico, which means it's mainstream enough for a casual listener but has interesting musical twists for the discerning ear. This full-on Latin band succeeds in both traditional Latin rhythms, with lovely horn melodies over strumming guitars and Robert Gomez's Tecate-soaked vocals, and also more experimental sounds, like the ringing bells and xylophones peppered through "Me Voy Postludio." Don't write off this category as I almost did. Rob G. and the Latin Pimps are making music that deserves even bigger awards than this one. --S.M.

Silvertones
Blues
You might be surprised at the number of blues clubs around town: Keys Lounge, Deep Ellum Blues, Lota's Goat, Hole in the Wall, 6th Street Grill, J&J's, to name a few. It's hard to believe they can all stay in business, what with no radio station to support the genre like rock, hip-hop and Latin music receive. Even more interesting is that one band plays so many of these joints it could single-handedly keep them all afloat. The Silvertones, three-time winners of the best blues award, have been rustling around Dallas since 1993, and to put that in perspective, blues legend Stevie Ray Vaughan has been dead only three years longer than they've been together. It's an appropriate touchstone, as Leo De La Vega leads his rock-leaning blues quartet with loud howls and guitar wails that would make Vaughan a proud papa. The guys are currently at work on a third LP, and in the meantime, you can always catch them live. Don't worry if you miss a show--you'll just have to wait a couple of days. --S.M.

Hard Night's Day
Cover Band

Show me someone who doesn't like the Beatles, and I'll show you a grouch who hasn't actually listened to them. Look, I don't care what kind of music you're into--the Beatles wrote a song for you, whether it's the buzzmuffle of "Revolution 9" or the pure heartbroken perfection of "Junk." People who hate the Beatles are just being difficult, which is exactly how I feel about people who don't like Hard Night's Day. Sure, they're a cover band. Sure, it's the least controversial music ever. Get over it. This Fab Four tribute act (oddly numbering five) are not only great musicians, but they also put on a show that is as hard to resist as a two-scoop ice cream sundae. HND's regular happy-hour gigs at Club Dada, The Bone and Lakewood Bar & Grill (among other locales) are sunny, toe-tapping evenings that bridge the chasm between moms and granddads, little girls and their daddies, couples of all ages, even snarky music journalist-types nursing a beer or seven. And by show's end, you'll find the whole strange crew on the dance floor, awkward and unconcerned, singing along to, say, "Come Together," which is exactly what this band makes happen. There's a reason Hard Night's Day has won the cover band category three years in a row. You like them. You really, really like them. --S.H.

The Adventure Club
Best Radio Program That Plays Local Music
Josh Venable's Sunday-night show The Adventure Club is DOMA's safest bet--with eight awards received in its 11 years on The Edge. But it's not just his home on a Clear Channel station, his longevity, a prime-time slot (6 p.m. to 9 p.m.), rabid fans, industry connections and great prize giveaways that cinch his victories. He has the music, too. Where else can you hear Christy Darlington cover Morrissey's "Sister I'm a Poet," not-yet-released tracks by The Deathray Davies and an acoustic session with the pAper chAse? It's those rarities that keep fans TiVoing The Simpsons and Arrested Development so they can tune in to The Adventure Club. Granted, Venable doesn't play local music exclusively, but he places it on an even scale with Bright Eyes, Morrissey or The Libertines--opening ears and, possibly, wallets of people who might not spend their weekends in bars catching local talent. In this category, Venable is like the local band on a major label--homegrown talent with the wattage and financial support that the other guys don't have (except for fellow Edge program/DOMA nominee The Local Show with Chris Ryan, The Adventure Club's harder-edged, red-headed stepchild). But the indie kids, some of whom credit Venable for encouraging them to start their own shows, deserve props as well. KTCU's The Good Show brings bands into the studio each Sunday night to perform a few of their songs, play some others and maybe request a few of their favorites. And KNTU's Frequency Down this year added a new segment called "Playing Favorites," in which local bands play one song that best represents them and a handful of tracks that influenced or inspired them (The Happy Bullets and Black Tie Dynasty are among the participants so far). Tune in if you can; it's not like you're cheating, since they air after The Adventure Club ends anyway. And, of course, you can catch Texas Radio1 online, all day, every day, at TexasRadio1.com. When you get down to it, they're all pretty safe bets. --S.S.

Matt Pence
Best Producer

I've had a theory for a while now that drummers make good producers. Partly because they have to listen to more of the band than anyone else, partly because they have to keep the whole mess together, partly just because. I don't really know why. Just something about them. If you want to extrapolate on that theory, the best drummers make great producers, and that's where Matt Pence comes in. I stood next to the stage near where his drums were set up during his band Centro-matic's show in Austin during South by Southwest, and his playing was so tight, so mesmerizing, I barely noticed the rest of the band. Jason Garner and Jeff Ryan, both talented drummers themselves, stood next to me, more or less in awe as Pence turned each fill into a jazz solo without ever losing the beat. That said, maybe it makes more sense to give this award to one of the guys whose recording calendar has more local names on it--say, Paul Williams, maybe, or Stuart Sikes. But you can't really fault Pence just because his reputation has outgrown the confines of the D-D-FW area. So he's spent the last year recording bands that have to dial long distance to call home (like The Long Winters, Glossary and American Music Club). So what? Just be happy that people from outside our little scene (such that it is) are acknowledging the genius of someone in the thick of it. --Z.C.

Idol Records
Record Label
Erv Karwelis used to be virtually guaranteed to leave the music awards show with one of those 15-pound doorstops with the name of his company, Idol Records, on it. There weren't many other labels in town, and Idol was easily better than the ones that were. But then Idol's best-selling bands, Chomsky and The Deathray Davies, decided to ply their trade elsewhere, and a new crop of labels emerged--like Summer Break and, more recently, Kirtland--which gave Idol a run for its doorstop. But Karwelis circled the wagons successfully. Now Idol is arguably better than before, releasing the Best Album winner (Flickerstick's Tarantula), another disc that was just as deserving ([DARYL]'s Ohio) and a nice set by one of Dallas' up-and-comers (Black Tie Dynasty's This Stays Between Us). That's a pretty suh-weet year by anyone's standards, even the guy who (once again) finds himself 15 pounds heavier. --Z.C.

Lizard Lounge
Best Dance Club
Those thieves knew exactly what they were doing. On April 4, 2005, the Lizard Lounge fell victim to a massive burglary, and though we would never condone such behavior, it's hard not to credit the guilty parties for staking out the most consistent, star-studded dance club in town. In fact, the thieves allegedly camped out inside the Lounge the previous night after a packed Paul Oakenfold concert, and it wasn't the international DJ sensation's first appearance at the club, either. In the past year, Lizard Lounge has hosted an amazing number of dance and wax masters, including Richard "Humpty" Vission, Mix Master Mike and Fatboy Slim, and the downtown nightclub has also become a favorite destination for burlesque revivalist Dita Von Teese's Dallas appearances. Granted, the latter might have more to do with the club's twice-weekly "Church" theme nights, in which patrons dress in their finest bondage, leather and goth outfits and speakers pump vampire-loving songs, but it'd be easier to call the "Church" nights silly if so many people didn't keep on packing the place. Dita, Fatboy and Paul know this, and, apparently, so do Dallas voters. The club's safe may be gone, but the thieves can't take the Lizard Lounge's dance cred. --S.M.

Gypsy Tea Room
Live Music Venue
Gypsy Tea Room has consistently kicked out the jams for seven years now. And by "jams," we're referring to the venue's balance of high-profile national and international acts (Muse, Patti Smith, The Roots, ...Trail of Dead, The Futureheads, Robert Plant) and local talent (Black Tie Dynasty, [DARYL], Eisley, Burden Brothers, Jack Ingram). Its roster reads like the perfect mix tape, with equal opportunity given to each genre along with welcome slices of hometown flavor. Originally opened in 1918, the Gypsy Tea Room waited 90 long years for its ingenious 1998 reincarnation as one of the most impressive and beloved music venues in North Texas, with a plush décor and, more important, a perfectly mixed monitor and a competent sound guy. But the Gypsy offers more than just comfort and sonic superiority. Frank Campagna's murals, displayed on the Good-Latimer Expressway side of the building, not only call attention to shows but also suggest the venue really does give two shits about who's on the stage. Jimmy Eat World thought enough of the gesture to place a link to Campagna's Web site from the band's. Patti Smith photographed her portrait, and David Cross used the work in CD liner notes. Plus, GTR has something that's rare and sacred, something few other clubs have: clean and working restrooms. And that, my friends, is priceless. --M.M.

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