And with various members moving back and forth between Denton and Brooklyn, who knows how long the Puppy will call our area home? Good thing our voters are making sure the band knows it's appreciated here. —Darryl Smyers

Best DJ

DJ Merritt

Members of galleryCat and Mount Righteous
Members of galleryCat and Mount Righteous
RTB2 and THe BAcksliders
RTB2 and THe BAcksliders

With over two decades of DJ experience under his belt, his own radio show that airs every Saturday night from midnight to 3 a.m. on KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge and ample amounts of other projects up his sleeve, it's no wonder that DJ Merritt is walking away with this year's Best DJ award.

Already, 2010's been a busy, productive year for DJ Merritt. And the longtime scene vet shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.

He's looking at a European tour and stops off stateside at Paris Hilton's Summer Party in the Hamptons in the upcoming months. He's also back in the studio, working on music with fellow area DJs and producers Left/Right, Shock of Pleasure, Kelly Reverb and LehtMoJoe.

"[I'm] going to have lots of tracks coming out," Merritt says of his plans for the rest of the year. "As for big shows coming up, [I'm] working on a new crazy hybrid set that we should be able to unveil soon!"

We look forward to that. Whatever it may be. —Catherine Downes

Best Latin/Tejano Act

Mad Mexicans

Technically, there's almost nothing "Tejano" about Mad Mexicans. But there's little doubting the six-piece's Latin roots: At live shows, which remain as exciting a visual display today as they were when the band first started getting recognition in 2002, Mad Mexicans add an extra member to their lineup whose only job is to wave a Mexican flag back and forth throughout the set.

Yep, these fellas are proud of their roots. And rightfully so: Born on the tail-end of the once-mainstream rap-rock wave, Mad Mexicans' sonic stylings won't necessarily blow you away, but their use of both the Spanish and English languages goes a long way in explaining the band's draw.

And, well, that's about as Tejano as it gets, no? —Pete Freedman

Best Male Vocalist

Jonathan Tyler(Jonathan Tyler &The Northern Lights)

There's little doubting the draw of Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights. Fact is, the band brought more people to its outdoor stage performance at this year's DOMA Showcase than any other act on the bill. But for frontman Tyler, whose charismatic, animated onstage persona and gruff, bluesy vocals stand as his band's centerpiece, the performance was more than just about playing to his loyal supporters.

"I'm all for seeing more culture in this town," Tyler says while enjoying a much-needed day off from his band's rigorous touring schedule, which finds it playing upward of 250 shows a year. And his band is doing its part to ensure that Dallas gets recognized beyond the city limits. A proud native, the rocker is trying to help the new wave of Dallas music—one that isn't content on relying on the Erykah Badus, Toadies and Polyphonic Sprees of yore—reach the masses. Constant touring? Well, that's just his chosen method of doing so—even if it's meant giving up cigarettes and drinking less so that his voice will stay in line.

"That's been my thing the whole time," he says. "We just go build our fan base one by one." —Pete Freedman

Best Instrumentalist

Ryan Thomas Becker

Whether it's on the keyboards, on his guitar or with a sack full of assorted percussion instruments, Ryan Thomas Becker plays with the kind of raw passion and reckless abandon that simply can't be learned in a classroom. That goes for his voice, too—which he very much considers an instrument, and which earned him a Best Male Vocalist nod this year.

So, while it makes him an anomaly among the other Best Instrumentalist nominees in this year's crop, it makes perfect sense that Becker's self-taught.

"It's nice to be noticed for my playing," he says. "I am so appreciative and honored just to be in the same category as these UNT-ers...Sometimes, I feel deserving and think it would be great to win, but other times I'll see someone else, like Chris McQueen playing with Foe Destroyer, and I can't look directly at his playing or I'll go blind." —Jesse Hughey

Best Record Label

Kirtland Records

Kirtland Records is just a small six-person operation—and that might be the biggest revelation there is to be shared about the label that this year alone has released new albums from the Toadies, Smile Smile and the DOMA-dominating Sarah Jaffe.

Yeah, it's been a busy one for Kirtland—and it's only about to get busier. In August, the label will release vinyl pressings of both Jaffe's Suburban Nature and the Toadies' once-lost-now-found Feeler. After that, Kirtland general manager Tami Thomsen says, the label will make a radio push for Smile Smile's Truth on Tape.

That alone sounds like a lot of work. But then there's this: Gavin Rossdale and his old Bush gang are about to launch a reunion—and guess who owns the back catalog. Yep: Kirtland, which is preparing for the '90s favorites' return by reissuing a couple of their records on vinyl.

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