Forget records and CDs and MySpace—THe BAcksliders are a band best experienced live, preferably on a cramped stage in a sweaty club in a dubious part of town. And if you think it's unusual for a rock band to be named the Best Blues act in town, then you haven't heard Kim Pendleton sing. Imagine a much sexier Janis Joplin, all Tina Turner fishnets and Mick Jagger swagger, milking each song for all it's worth as husband/guitarist Chris Bonner, bassist Nolan Thies and drummer Taylor Young make a righteous garage-soul racket behind her. (Now imagine her doing the same thing in her third trimester, as she did earlier this year before having her first baby.) Relentless self-promoters, the band has recorded two albums and played 130 shows in their brief two-year existence—and it's doubtful even parenthood will slow them down too much. "I have little advice on rock momdom," Pendleton says. "Just be clean and find a good sitter." We'd gladly volunteer for the job, but we heard THe BAcksliders were playing. –N.W.B.

Shanghai 5
Best Jazz

Ironically, Shanghai 5 is in the process of finishing up their latest record with Earl Harvin in the producer's seat...Earl Harvin, the winner of a bajillion Best Jazz DOMAs, including last year's (at which point he was officially retired from the ballot). Reid Robinson, the angular and tree-tall Shanghai-ster, is hesitant to describe the sound of the new recorded effort for a lack of satisfactory words, but mention of the collaboration with Harvin plays to the band's "all together" style enough.

Robinson asserts that Shanghai 5's forte is really putting on and performing in variety shows. "We do better when we collaborate with people," he says. "It makes our energy better, and it's really more about the whole show than about an individual act. Those are the shows we love to have." The band has worked often with hip-hop outfit PPT, played with the odd-duck Trachtenberg Family Slideshow Players and was featured on PBS' Roadtrip Nation. They dig activist events for the sheer challenge of turning what could be an uncomfortable situation into an entertaining but meaningful occasion. Hell, they even collaborated with designer Lori Fox on a DIFFA jacket.

THe BAcksliders
Noah W. Bailey
THe BAcksliders

And all this variety only celebrates Shanghai 5's diverse grooves. The group produces a mélange of sound, with elements of cabaret (much of that coming from Amy Curnow's torchy pipes), blues, tiki/luau, lounge, rock and outright improv. By that very definition, Shanghai 5 is all forms of jazz rolled into one incredibly hardworking band. —M.M.

Burden Brothers
Best Hard Rock

When former Toadies frontman Todd Lewis and former Reverend Horton Heat drummer Taz Bentley decided to merge their angst, neither could have imagined how quickly their new band would entrench itself in the musical consciousness of Dallas. Or maybe they did. By tapping into the recognizable, male-centered passion of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Guns N' Roses, Lewis knew that Dallas bands are not often known for subtlety or arty pretension. Buried in Your Black Heart, Burden Brothers' 2003 debut, was meat-and-potatoes rock with riffs hammered into your skull by sweat, volume and veteran dexterity. Mercy, the sophomore follow-up, showed the band expanding its range, however slightly, mixing in some somber reflection ("Life Between") to go along with the expected snarl of "Shine" and "She's Not Home."

Live, Burden Brothers have created a buzz not heard around these parts since, well, the Toadies' halcyon days. When they play the Granada, the line stretches seemingly to Fair Park and the shows become cathartic celebrations, linking fans of disparate ages in a communal sauna of familiarity and fury. The day after a Burden Brothers performance, once the hangover subsides, fans are never too far off claiming they've seen the best band in Dallas. —D.S.

The Paper Chase
Best Experimental/Electronic

In the last year, The Paper Chase have seen a new album released (Now You Are One of Us), along with seeing Alaska (and many other parts of America), Europe and a lineup change (new drummer Jason Garner). Hell, they've even celebrated the birth of the first TPC offspring. It's been a busy year for John Congleton and the rest of the band, but they've taken it in stride, continually knocking audiences on their asses show after show.

Much of what makes The Paper Chase successful both live and recorded is a flawless combination of the beautiful and the cataclysmic. Lyrically, the band ventures heavily into the horrific and political (which, to be fair, is often horrific), and while the instrumentation supporting such lyrics ventures into minor keys and throbbing, low tones, it does so with near luxurious symphonic aplomb. The experimentation with mood via melody leaves one both frightened and feeling romantic and, at the same time, incredibly challenged and energized.

All this comes from some of the most passionate but approachable folk in the industry. Every member of The Paper Chase has his iron in more than one musical fire, but the chemistry is unparalleled when they play together and, for this, they are grateful. "Every aspect of the band, as far as how we work together, has been so healthy," Congleton says. "A lot of what's fun about being in a band is having a shared experience with these other guys. And I can feel fairly safe in saying everyone's giving everything they've got when we're playing live. It's nice to share that with other people. If other people think it's awesome, that's fucking great." —M.M.

The Valentines
Best Indie

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