By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
The Godzilla theme of this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards can be interpreted in many ways. Godzilla could represent the growing presence of corporate venues, their monstrous feet crushing everything in sight. Or it could represent the ubiquitous destruction/construction cycle we've seen in Big D over the past, oh, gazillion years, as developers stomp all over perfectly fine buildings to make room for cardboard apartments and cheap retail. Or maybe it reflects the misguided fear that DFW/Denton music is degenerating.
All possibilities, but we prefer to think of it this way: Sure, it's all those things, but more important, our music scene is as storied, powerful and fierce as a giant T. rex.
Nothing proved that more than the DOMA Nominees Showcase, which featured 35 performers at six different stages around Lower Greenville (see page 61 for more on that). Many of the venues were shoulder-to-shoulder packed, everyone from SMU sorority girls to pierced Tigger's denizens smooshed together to enjoy everything from funk to jazz to acoustic to Britpop to metal-punk. It was, quite frankly, a blast, but more than that it was proof that people are still interested in live music and that the available music is as varied and powerful as it's ever been.
Equally inspiring: More than 4,000 of you voted in this year's contest, about 1,000 more than last year, not to mention the countless number of you who shaped the ballot by communally selecting nominees. Some of this year's winners will come as no surprise, but you will see a number of new faces in the following pages. There were some upsets too, as well as some dang close calls in the rap/hip-hop category, blog/Web site category and live venue category.
Whether you won by a landslide or just missed the cut, whether you participated as a nominee, a voter, a showcase attendee or just an interested fan, you should be proud of yourself, Dallas. Your involvement is what makes the DOMAs happen; your votes are what matter; and your enthusiasm is unmatched. Your contributions, in fact, are what make local music such a vigorous, vibrant scene of gigantic proportions. Congratulations to all—that shit is a monster, y'all. —Jonanna WidnerChris Holt
"The last couple of years have been a matter of picking and choosing," Chris Holt says, citing his 14-month-old son as the most recent reason for paring down his musical obligations. "I had to cut it down to projects I really believe in," he says. Those projects amount to playing with Salim Nourallah and the Noise, Sorta, Johnny Lloyd Rollins, and his latest band the Slack. "Luckily, I'm able to work with a lot of guys that are really good. Salim, Trey and Johnny, they're great songwriters," Holt says, humbly excluding himself from the list.
The city's busiest musician finds that over the years—as he's obviously amassed a crazy amount of talent, musical knowledge and mastery of multiple instruments (not to mention a day-planner)—he's also come to grips with reality and the rock star dream. "As I've gotten older I've realized I want to make music ultimately to please myself." He quickly adds, "I mean, I want people to dig it and have fans but...if we're able to make a living and be happy, any kind of extra success that comes with it we're thankful for." Holt clearly has an incredibly loyal fan base and band after band requesting his services, so fingers crossed, that happiness part of the equation is working out.
As for working...on the Slack's upcoming release of Wishful Sinking, Holt offers that it's an evolution from 2005's solo effort Summer Reverb, just more accessible, but not in a "bad" way. "I don't think there's anything good on the radio. I'm not aiming for anything commercial because I don't think that's a good thing to aim for." More hours in the day, more days in the week and three functioning Chris Holt clones for restringing and tuning in between gigs? That's an entirely different story. —Merritt Martin
Best New Act, Best Female Vocalist, Best Folk/Acoustic
In less than a year, 21-year-old Sarah Jaffe's music has matured quickly and beautifully. Her haunting voice, though always affecting and poignant, once crackled with touches of insecurity; now it has blossomed into a mournful instrument, breaking when it's supposed to break, soaring when it's supposed to fly. Likewise, Jaffe's songwriting has proved precocious: Unlike so many unaccompanied singer-songwriters, she doesn't feel the need to fill up songs with over-strummed chords and sing-songy folk. Rather, the quiet parts of her already quiet songs are not voids but places to breathe, spaces to allow emotions and finely plucked strings to linger just a bit longer, like a lover leaving for the last time.
Jaffe attributes her recent good times—musically speaking—to some rough times, personally speaking. "I think that in the past few years I was into different relationships that took a toll," she says. "I was able to express through songwriting differently than when I was 18...I feel a lot better about my writing at 21."