By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It was the hottest evening of the year so far, a real scorcher. We've been blessed this summer with cool rains, so nature chose to unveil that certain Texas heat, the kind that makes your head pound and your eyes water, on Saturday, August 11.
The date also happened to be the night of the Dallas Observer Music Awards Nominees Showcase.
It was fitting that nature put the oven on broil that night; for some reason, live music just sounds better when you've got a good case of swamp ass. And as loads of people raced around the sidewalks between the Cavern and What?Bar, we all worked up a pretty good 'un. But our sweat-inducing speed was no chore; it was instead a joyous exercise, racing from one venue to another, raising blisters and beers as we chased down our favorite bands.
Six venues, 35 performers (was supposed to be 36, but Money Waters dropped out), and only five hours to do it all. Decisions had to be made. Cold-blooded choices. Sarah Jaffe or Hey Hollywood? The Valentines or Salim Nourallah? PPT or Zounds Sounds? Should we head to the Cavern or stick to the Billiard Bar? Radiant? Sorta?
Any choice was a good one. At the Greenville Avenue Public House, for example, J.D. Whittenburg and his backing band blew the foam off our beers with a rousing set, one minute alt.country backed with a disco beat, the next breaking hearts with a Beatles-inspired love song. He was followed by, of all people, Steve Austin, the rapper who also goes by the moniker the Bioniq MC, clad in a large white shirt with "Pussy Appreciation Day" slapped across the front. Austin's set was bangin', but the best part of the night was when he and Whittenburg awkwardly exchanged CDs between sets. It was a sweet moment of mutual support, two very different entities merging momentarily in the name of music.
That's the thing about Dallas music, and the showcase itself—where the hell else would skinny white boy J.D. Whittenburg, he of the Farfisa and the bittersweet girl/boy melodies, ever meet Steve Austin, recently backed by Universal, he of the obscene shirt and put-ya-hands-up battle cry? Dallas has both of these to offer, and everything in between, and seeing those worlds mix just might have been better than the actual music.
But not quite better. Because grinding up against this sentimentality was the reality of just how freakin' great every single one of the showcase bands is. The Inner City All Stars ratcheted up the sweat factor at Gezellig with an eye-popping, butt-wrenching set of hybridized funk (they even busted out with a little impromptu "Rapper's Delight" while the tuba provided the funky bass line), wherein even the most wilting of wallflowers was moved to dance. Meanwhile, back at the Greenville Avenue Pub, the Valentines junkie rock felt right at home amidst the pint glasses and boys wearing skinny girl jeans. PPT, always brilliantly, shockingly energetic, surpassed their usual high-voltage set with a quick-witted, pump-up-the-volume performance at What?Bar that included songs from their upcoming album. And that's just a sample of the goodies we saw and heard.
There were a few glitches, as always happens with these things: Money Waters didn't show up (hey, what's a festival if a rapper doesn't bail?) and there were some serious sound issues at Suede that hampered Tame...Tame and Quiet's entire set.
But you know what? T...T&Q were gracious and determined, despite the squeals of feedback. The group didn't bitch, instead trooping through their songs and doing their best. In doing so, it's entirely possible they seriously impeded their chances at gathering extra votes (one point of the Showcase, which took part on the final evening of voting, was to give people a chance to hear who they were voting for), but chalk one up for maturity and just plain coolness. Thanks, T...T&Q, for epitomizing what Big D, Little d and FW should be aiming for, and for making even the rough spots of the evening first-class. It's something we should all aim for, but for at least one night, it was a goal we all achieved.
A giant thank you shout-out to the following people: Candy Lancaster, Jennifer Robinson, the Street Teamers and all the folks in marketing and retail—you did an amazing job and also did all the crap work without complaint. Merritt Martin, Noah W. Bailey, Darryl Smyers and Rich Lopez for rocking some great copy on a tight deadline. Julie Lyons, Patrick Williams and Michelle Mathews for much-needed patience and newsroom help. And, especially, Robert Wilonsky, for walking me through the difficult—nay, Sisyphean—task of learning the ropes of my first DOMA, and for helping so much with the Awards Ceremony.
Most of all, thanks to all the folks who came out to both the Showcase and the Awards Ceremony, and to those who performed. There's no way to say this without sounding cheesy, so here's the Velveeta: y'all are the kick-ass mofos who make this scene better than almost any other in the country. Big ups. See you next year.