By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Nominated for Best Latin/Tejano
Mad, as in mad funky. Mad, as in mad rockin'. Mad, as in...well, sometimes just pissed off. Mixing equal parts hard rock riffs, Latin rhythms and hip-hop-speckled vocals, the Mad Mexicans provide as much flavor as a bowl of mole sauce. These six "rockeros," as they call themselves, rock the party in Spanish one minute, English the next, all the while pumping out hard-charging rap-rock that swerves from party anthems ("Mexican Party") to angry political treatises ("Mad Mexicans"), all of which makes for some mad fun.
Nominated for Best Act in Town
Pleasantly scruffy, clad mainly in white and as radio-friendly as they come, Hey Hollywood is the stuff of which emo dreams are made. This quartet's high-energy output is deceptively sweet; at first listen it's charming but nondescript. Subsequent listens, however, prove otherwise: Hey Hollywood's songs are seamless, intensely rendered tunes that are cohesive without losing their individual parts: Drums that bang and pop, and glittering lead guitar lines that provide the cement for a rhythm guitar wall of sound.
Nominated for Best Hard Rock
Part Pearl Jam, part Foreigner, maybe a teeny bit Rush, Exit 380 takes its hard rock influences seriously. This quartet, formed in Denton, also takes those influences to places they haven't been. Anchored by the intricate, expert bass playing of a man known simply as "the Hutch," 380 is a reminder of why we all liked grunge and why just plain, un-ironic rocking out is an underrated endeavor.
Nominated for Best Act in Town, Best Hard Rock, Best Album (Baboon)
Baboon's scritchy-scratchy guitar, rocked-out but danceable drums, and wired vocals courtesy of Andrew Huffstetler are by now the soundtrack of Dallas life. This is a storied group whose history dates to the mythical days of the early '90s, but don't let that fool you: This crew still produces some of the best music and most lively shows Big D has to offer. As last year's release Baboon made clear, the group continues to craft hook-laden pop with an edge; they haven't lost a step.
Nominated for Best Hard Rock
Named after the creepy stalker villain from the flick Cape Fear, Max Cady indeed fills the soul with an adrenal fight-or-flight instinct. Why? Cuz the sound of a Gibson pounding fuzzy through a Marshall rig is supposed to scare the shit out of you, that's why. But with Max Cady, it's a good scare, the kind of heart-pumping thrill you'd get on a 110-foot bungee jump. Power chords and a dirty attitude, drums spanked like a tantrum-prone toddler, ragged vocals sung about topics ranging from bad girls to bad crimes—these are the blood and guts of Max Cady. Beware.
Nominated for Best Metal
If Glenn Danzig spawned a son whose glands produced twice as much testosterone as the normal man, then suffered a lacerated vocal chord, the child might—might—sound as hard as Mitra's singer Kurt Grayson. This is good old-fashioned scary metal, of the double bass drum, Metallica/Megadeth rapid-fire riff variety. Straight-ahead, throat-ripping, head-pounding metal—Ace of Spades, muthafuckas!
Nominated for Musician of the Year, Best Country/Roots, Best Folk/Acoustic, Best Male Singer
You know how when you go to some club for a beer or two, or maybe to an open mic somewhere to check out some mellow Wednesday night gig, and there are about 85 "singer-songwriters" pouring their hearts out, and really, you want to pay attention, but soon your mind starts to wander...that chick's hot...wonder if there's a pool table...God, this music's boring. That never happens when Doug Burr takes the stage, whether solo or with an ensemble backing him. See, in Burr's hands, a song becomes more than a song—it grows into an intense moment of transcendent focus, centered on his sure-footed melodies and knack for building a slow-burning hook.
Nominated for Best New Act, Best Folk/Acoustic, Best Song ("Sad Song"), Best Male Singer (Ryan Hamilton)
My, Smile Smile has grown, literally and figuratively, in the past year or so. What started out as a duo—Ryan Hamilton on guitar and Jencey Hirunrusme on piano (the two share vocal duties)—has expanded into a full band, fleshing out the delicate sound at the group's core. Hamilton and Hirunrusme share a rare vocal intimacy; their voices mingle like vines. Call them experimentally traditional—the core duo manages to write plaintive, yearning almost folk-like songs updated with unexpected melodies. The real treat is Hirunrusme's keys, lovely lines of slightly skewed chords and solo licks meander through the songs like a lonesome traveler. We've seen Hirunrusme lugging around what appears to be a cumbersome Fender Rhodes to and from gigs. We appreciate the effort.
Nominated for Best Experimental/Electronica
Free your mind and your ass will follow goes the saying, but what happens when your mind is blown? Such is a good question to ask at a Faux Fox show, where surreal costuming provides a visual metaphor for the ass-shaking electronic/punk/pop/rock/dance freakout groove offered by the Denton group. Simultaneously menacing and engaging, Faux Fox injects much-needed energy into a musical universe plagued by Top 40 boy-rock and Avril Lavigne. If all were right in the world, Faux Fox would top the charts.