By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
It's a good time to be playing music in Dallas.
Disagree? Well, sorry there, bud, but you're just flat-out wrong.
Here's your proof: This year, thanks in large part to a massive upswing in online and text voting, we received more votes than ever in the history of these little Dallas Observer Music Awards. Some three times as many, in fact. That's an impressive feat, considering that we've been handing our trophies out for, oh, going on 22 years now.
But what does it mean, exactly? Well, for starters, there's a receptive audience around town—a mass of fans not only willing to go out and see a performance or buy an album from their favorite act, but also a group of people willing to go the extra mile, show their support and make sure they do their part in helping their favorite musicians perform well in contests such as this one.
Let's not make any bones about it: These awards don't necessarily crown the best music the town has to offer—that's too tall of an order for anyone in these bountiful times for impressive local music. But let's not discount these honors, either, for they do something perhaps just as important. These awards show us who's the best in town when it comes to actively engaging their fans. That much can be accomplished through a few means—the two most effective of which are 1.) actively campaigning to get fans to vote as soon as the ballots are released, and 2.) creating music that is so powerful that, even without campaigning, fans can't help but support it on their own.
Looking at this year's list of top vote-getters, it's clear that each of those roads was taken by many of these acts—and, in many cases, both of these factors came into play. Without any doubt, given the sheer volume of votes we received this year, each of this year's winners is deserving of its nods.
For years now, local musicians have rallied behind the ever-annoying every-city complaint that there just aren't audiences to support a thriving local scene. Well, it's time to stop the bickering, folks. Thanks to this year's winners—from the already-deified Sarah Jaffe and the insta-juggernaut of Ishi to the long-deserving RTB2 and internationally adored Midlake—the crowds are finally here.
And, oh, what a sweet chorus they're receiving in return. —Pete Freedman
Best Solo Act • Best Album • Best Song
Best Folk Act • Best Female Vocalist
Apologies to the many musicians forced to square off against Sarah Jaffe in this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards ballot. Guess we shoulda seen this coming, but you never really stood a chance.
With this year's sweep of the five categories in which she earned a nomination, Jaffe's dominance over these awards stands as the big story of not just this year, but of the past three. Indeed: The five trophies she's earned in this year's awards, added to her three wins apiece in 2009 and 2008 (both years, she earned honors in the Best Folk Act, Best Solo Act and Best Female Vocalist categories) not only give Jaffe a whopping 11 awards over that time span, but they also show her as an unfathomable wrecking crew. For three years running now, Jaffe's walked away with a trophy in every single category for which she's been nominated.
Uh-huh: North Texas sure loves it some Jaffe.
Thing is, with the release of Suburban Nature, Jaffe's debut full-length, released on Kirtland Records in March, the indie folk singer has proved herself a cherished commodity beyond our region. Paste Magazine named her "The Best of What's Next." National Public Radio picked her song "Clementine" as a song of the day back in June. USA Today has written endearingly about her, too.
So what could possibly be next for Jaffe? Why, how about her first headlining tour?
Come August, just in time for the vinyl release of her stunning Suburban Nature debut (which includes a heart-stopping alternate version of her song "Vulnerable"), Jaffe will embark on just that, joined by her seasoned, trusty and incomparable backing band of Robert Gomez, Scott Danbom and Jeff Ryan.
"Just me and the boys," she says with a laugh. "I'm excited, but I'm also a little timid."
Well, Sarah, consider this year's voting an emphatic "There's nothing to fear!" from your adoring North Texas fans whose voracious appetites for your songs have them already clamoring for more, just four months after your first LP.
Fortunately, Jaffe concedes, there is more on the way—an EP she hopes Kirtland will release in the fall, and one that she recorded herself at her Denton home.
"I've just made it a goal of mine to become a better musician," the already tasteful guitar player explains. "I bought a drum set. I bought a bass."
And, slowly, she's teaching herself to play those instruments—maybe not as well as her bandmates play them, but well enough to feel comfortable recording her own backing parts.
"I'm just learning," she says with her token nonchalance. "And that's just really, really appealing to me. I'm fucking up on my own, and I'm learning the basics. It's exciting when you know that you're not the best, but that you're getting better."
At this point, though, Jaffe's already there. With her third straight sweep of these awards, she's accomplished what past girl-with-guitar icons from these parts (read: Edie Brickell, Sarah Hickman) never could. And she's proving herself to be more dynamic than those past heroines, too. The next EP, she says, will be a more lo-fi affair, more akin to the songs she says she's identifying with these days and dealing with a different subject matter than the shy, bitter material of her earliest recordings.
"I just feel like a different person," she says. "And I want to be gutsy with my music."
We'll be listening. —Pete Freedman
Best Group • Best Blues Act
From Leiber and Stoller to Andre 3000 and Big Boi, some of the world's greatest music has been created by duos. And anyone who has witnessed the interplay of drummer Grady Don Sandlin and singer/guitarist Ryan Thomas Becker knows that the dynamic between them defines the band.
They do too.
Their working relationship may fluctuate in other projects (they also play together in The Slow Burners and, most recently, with THe BAcksliders, and Sandlin also produced Becker's 2009 solo turn, Neighborhoof), but they know not to mess with what works so well in RTB2.
"RTB2 will always be the collaboration between the two of us," Sandlin says. "We've talked about doing more of a singer/songwriter-based band that isn't as fast and abrasive, with lusher, bigger arrangements."
But that would be for Becker's solo material. As the initials indicate, RTB2 is the Ryan Thomas Becker duo, with Sandlin an equal partner.
What's not so clear to them is how the band won Best Blues Act along with Best Group.
"There are elements of blues in what we do," Becker says. "Everything we do is based on roots music, and blues go into that. So many bands sound more bluesy to me than us."
Yeah, Becker hits plenty of blue notes in his scorching solos, and the group's raw sound has earned comparisons to other blues-influenced duos like the White Stripes and Black Keys. Furthermore, both cite vintage blues masters—Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Muddy Waters—as influences. But Becker isn't interested in blues as the rigid set of rules that purists sometimes make it.
"I go back to older blues players," he says, "and I'm a big fan of guys who took the blues and broke the boundaries of it, like Captain Beefheart. With it being just Grady and me, we have the freedom to do that—to make it weird and interesting."
Sandlin, meanwhile, loves the marriage of blues to early rock 'n' roll—and there, he finds validation for the group's bass-less approach.
"I was listening to Sonny Boy Williamson," he says, "and saw in a picture that he was playing with a guy on electric guitar, a drummer and Sonny Boy singing and playing harp. I was like, 'Cool, they're doing it without a bass player, too.' And I knew Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis also played live without bass. The guitar/drum rhythm combo isn't exactly a new thing." —Jesse Hughey
Best New Act Best Electronica/Dance Act
"I don't even know what I'm in line for, but this seems like the place to be," one concertgoer standing in the nighttime heat outside Trees told us just before Ishi took the stage at Saturday's DOMA showcase.
The line started forming well before the thoroughly buzzed-about new electro-folk quintet took the stage in Deep Ellum, as if some unknown force had planted an "Ishi" bug in every other ear, calling them to the neighborhood's most storied reopened music venue.
If Ishi's hip trance-dancing live show didn't sound so much like the future, you'd have been forgiven for thinking it was 1998 in Deep Ellum again—the crowd could hardly be navigated between the hundreds of sweat-slinging fans (old and newly baptized) with hands in the air and beers in bellies.
You can't really blame the crowd's enthusiasm: Ishi sounds like having sex in space, and the Dallas music scene has gone full nympho for their mix of acoustic-driven folk—found mainly on their spring-released debut, Through The Trees—and hi-fi dance pop, with which they seduce their live audiences. Co-vocalists Taylor Rea and John Mudd make sweet aural love to each other on signature party hits like "Shake Your Dandelion," while the soothing synth-drone of "Pastel Lights" challenges every hip it encounters not to gyrate with abandon.
And after they've exhausted the Kama Sutra with their audiences, Ishi turns it all down for acoustic tunes that sound much more appropriate for the morning after.
Their versatility, honesty and energy have helped catapult them to local stardom. And they're just getting started. —Andrea Grimes
Best Country Act
Best Cover/Tribute Act
Boys Named Sue
After nearly a decade, the Boys Named Sue still have four original members—Sue-Ay, Snakebite Sue, Bobby Sue and Dub Sue, the names of whom occasionally protect the innocent—as well as a patented party-hard, drink-hard, good-times-always attitude.
Frontman John Pedigo, or Sue-Ay if you're looking to point fingers, is a little amazed that they haven't lost any members along the way.
"Any normal person would've jumped ship long ago," he said, while admittedly nursing a wee bit of a hangover. "But we've realized none of us are normal."
"Not normal" is clearly an appropriate description for any band who can ably blend a Bob Wills classic with that beloved and not-so-innocuous Light Crust Doughboys call for pussy (for the uninitiated, it's literally, "Here pussy, pussy..."), and make it appeal to the beer-swilling masses—be they lovers of C&W or punk rock.
The Sues claim original songs too, though, and, according to Pedigo, more are on the way: The Sues' new album, Clown Country, is due out this fall. And ol' Sue-Ay hopes the Sues' technique of "write and record songs as quickly as possible" proves fruitful for the new album—which includes "Honky-Tonk Time Machine," a song title that would prove a death rattle for any band but the one who wins over packed houses with songs like "Honky-Tonk If Yer Horny" and "Light Beers Away." —Merritt Martin
Best Hard Rock Act
Chris Bonner, guitarist for THe BAcksliders, doesn't really care what label is thrown his band's way.
In 2007, the band won a Dallas Observer Music Award as Best Blues Act. In 2008, it was another DOMA for Best Hard Rock Act. Now the band has won the Hard Rock award once more.
"I'm just happy to be appreciated by local fans," says Bonner. "I think people in Dallas are really expecting someone to break big, and that has created a lot of excitement."
And while Bonner isn't quite sure THe BAcksliders live up to the "Hard Rock" category, he's just happy to be in on the fun.
"There's just not a Rock category or a Pop category," says a bemused Bonner, "although there seems to be about 20 country categories."
Well, he's got a point there.
Regardless, however one wants to classify the sound, THe BAcksliders' energy and pop smarts continue to make the band one of area's most consistent concert draws. —Darryl Smyers
Best Alt-Country/Roots Act
Whiskey Folk Ramblers
This year, Whiskey Folk Ramblers shifted from the bluegrass- and gypsy-tinged traditional country of their 2008 debut, Midnight Drifter, and started melding swing, jazz, surf rock and spaghetti Western sounds for their sophomore disc, ...And There Are Devils.
But while he'd stock the new CD in the rock aisle, frontman Tyler Rougeux is cool with the Alt-Country/Roots Act label his band has earned—especially when it puts his band (a Best Country nominee last year and 2008 Best New Group winner) in the company of so many bands he's friends with and admires.
"I actually voted for Telegraph Canyon," Rougeux admits.
A broken-down van and repossessed trailer have delayed a planned West Coast tour for the Ramblers, so while they save up for new wheels, the band is actually already working on new material that Rougeux says is along the lines of Devils' sound—for now. Already, the Ramblers are throwing some new ideas around.
At this rate, there's no telling which category they'll fit under in a couple of years. Rock? Jazz? Perhaps Best Group will be most fitting. —Jesse Hughey
Best Experimental/Avant-Garde Act
When it comes to pigeonholing an act into a genre, few local bands are harder to pin down than Grapevine's nine-piece outfit Mount Righteous.
Self-described as "anti-orchestra," the band's current crop of high-energy songs blend elements of punk, rock and, yes, marching band sounds too, to form a sound that's capable of winning over even the most skeptical of music snobs and critics. And, though the "Mount Righteous sound" has grown edgier, more aggressive and less acoustic since the act's 2008 debut, When the Music Starts, the one element that has stayed consistent is the band's rollicking, get-your-ass-outta-the-bleachers live sets.
We caught up with the band's mastermind and bass drummer, Joey Kendall, just after his group's showcase performance this past weekend at Trees: "I thought it was magical," he said. "Half of us grew up seeing our idols play in Deep Ellum, and at Trees, whether it was local or touring bands, and we were just saying how rad it was that we were that band now. It was surreal."
Which, oddly enough, is usually the reaction Mount Righteous elicits. —Daniel Rodrigue
Best Punk Act
Spector 45's now-legendary pre-sundown set at last year's DOMA showcase on Lower Greenville ended with bass player Adam Carter's blood on the stage at The Cavern and on the sidewalk out front.
It was kind of a mess: Frontman Frankie Campagna and Carter spent the evening at the hospital. Then, 29 stitches and three days later, Spector 45 won last year's award for Best Punk Act.
Fairly impressive stuff. And though that bloody set will not be forgotten any time soon, neither, it seems, will the Deep Ellum-based band's triumphant set at Reno's Chop Shop during this year's showcase.
It's no wonder the greaser punk outfit has such a big following in Dallas (and in Deep Ellum in particular). And, whether Spector 45 was tearing through their own crowd-pleasing tracks like "Suicide Song" or rip-roarin' through a Johnny Cash cover, the act's offering at this year's showcase sounded tighter and more mature than ever.
But make no mistake, the act hasn't gotten any less punk. Its old-school Ramones-style punk rock is still present, but it's been tempered with a heavy dose of rockabilly and even a little pop. But the band's most important realization of late? That it doesn't need broken bottles or blood to keep its crowds entertained. —Daniel Rodrigue
Best Indie Rock Act
Since their inception, Midlake—dating to their debut with 2004's Bamnan and Slivercork—have been damned with the old "Big in Europe" tag. And that'd be a fairly frustrating fate—if it weren't also true.
Sure, the band saw some stateside praise with its 2006 breakthrough, The Trials of Van Occupanther, but domestic praise following the release of this year's The Courage of Others never came.
So, back to the drawing board, right?
Well, not entirely. Overseas, the band remains as big as it's ever been, sharing powerhouse bills with indie icons such as The National and Beach House. And, soon, Midlake will enjoy a romp through Australia and New Zealand.
Foreigners have no problems continuing to lavish the band with rightful praise—earlier this year British music magazine Mojo named Midlake the Best Live Act around—but here in the States, appropriate appreciation for Midlake has been harder to come by. Until, that is, these very awards, which serve as proof that even if the rest of the country can't keep up with Midlake's ever-deepening well of influence, we in North Texas enjoy it just fine, thanks. —Pete Freedman
Best Metal Act
Fair to Midland
Winning Dallas Observer Music Awards is nothing new for the members of Fair to Midland. Since the release of the band's last record, 2007's Fables from a Mayfly: What I Tell You Three Times is True, the band's been a mainstay in these celebratory pages, winning alternating Best Metal Act and Best Hard Rock Act nods.
Pardon us for the categorical confusion, but you try pinning a style on a band that blends elements of jam, prog rock, metal and hard rock into its head-spinning mix. It ain't easy—not for us, and, turns out, not for the band, either. For the first time since that last album's release, the Sulphur Springs-based quintet is actually in the region for this year's awards season, finally taking a break from its rigorous touring schedule to focus on finishing its long-awaited follow-up.
Meaning? For the first time since they started getting nominated, FTM are actually around to celebrate their victory.
"Well," drummer Brett Stowers said with a laugh when that point was brought up at this year's DOMA photo shoot, "you've got us there." —Pete Freedman
Best Funk/R&B Act
Fergus & Geronimo
While Andrew Savage and Jason Kelly's creation, Fergus & Geronimo, may not technically qualify as rhythm and blues in its strictest definition, the band's releases have surely incorporated influences from doo-wop to Midwest soul. And, by adding in some elements of punk to the mix, the Denton-based act's created a sound all its own. Their recent signing to the Seattle-based label Hardly Art (a sub-label of the mighty Sub Pop) coincides with the completion of their first full-length album—an 11-song LP completed back in January.
But we'll have to wait on that disc's arrival. First up is another EP, which, like their previous "Harder Than It's Ever Been" single in 2009, will come out on the burgeoning Woodsist label.
And while plans for Savage and Kelly to move to New York in September will likely take them out of the running for future DOMAs, that will likely coincide with the release of their debut LP. So maybe it won't be a total loss. —Rodrigo Diaz
Best Hip-Hop/Rap Act
While heavily steeped in an undeniably hip-hop aesthetic, Thomas "Big B.E.N." Benjamin of Dem Southernfolkz wants to make it clear: His band is not your average, run-of-the-mill hip-hop group.
"We don't take a standard conventional hip-hop approach to making our music," Benajamin says.
Instead, the trio blends various elements into its mix—everything from funk to rock—and, clearly, this less conventional approach is working.
The act's debut album, The Message, made quite an impact shortly after its release in the fall of 2008, and, since then, they have toted their music, all of which is rich in soul, throughout the region. Good thing, too: Theirs is a message well worth receiving. —Catherine Downes
Best Jazz Act
Seeing that Denton's Snarky Puppy have won the DOMA for Best Jazz Act the past two years now, it should come as no surprise that this large ensemble has achieved the three-peat by garnering this year's award.
Since forming in 2004, Snarky Puppy have been led by bassist and primary composer Michael League and, each year, the group seems to grow more adventurous while also somehow still finding new fans to add to its legion.
Maybe it's just the fact that League and his crew don't conform to the standard conventions of the jazz genre that sets them apart from many acts that have sprung from the musical wellspring that is the University of North Texas. Indeed, Snarky Puppy's ability to mix elements of funk and soul into their dense sound has consistently kept audience members (joyfully) out of their seats.
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
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
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
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 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.
Uh-huh. Kirtland's pretty busy these days. Just don't talk about that in front of Thomsen. Says the label rep who can regularly be spotted scoping out the local scene: "I'm afraid that, if I admit to that, I'll just get busier!" —Pete Freedman
The upright piano in Salim Nourallah's Pleasantry Lane Studio serves more than one purpose, and these days it's getting increasingly more use as trophy case loaded with Dallas Observer Music Awards from years past.
As that piano gets more crowded, though, so too does Pleasantry Lane. The waiting list of bands hoping to record with Nourallah gets longer with each year. And as the clientele improves, so does the gear. Notable records in 2010 include Whiskey Folk Ramblers' ...And There Are Devils and Old 97's' forthcoming double album, The Grand Theatre, along with loads of releases from lesser-known acts.
Says Nourallah of his tireless recording schedule: "It's kind of a dream job."
Judging by his work ethic, he really means it.
While this year's competition (notably John Congleton, Dave Castell and Matt Barnhart) are working with more well-established acts, Nourallah isn't afraid to get his hands dirty with unknown and, sometimes, even downright bad artists.
He'll never admit it, but he has the uncanny ability to make bad music enjoyable. Dude can straight-up polish a turd. —Daniel Hopkins
Best Booking Agents
The Granada Theater's been the setting for a healthy majority of our favorite concerts over the past few years, and the past year was no different.
With memorable shows by Neko Case, Neon Indian, Robert Randolph, The Hold Steady, Beach House, Yeasayer, Dinosaur Jr. and many, many more, it's easy to see why the Granada was voted the Best Venue for the fourth straight year. (Your votes also handed them the award for Best Booking, though, to be fair, fellow nominee and current Loft/Palladium Showroom booker Kris Youmans was a large part of that before he left last February.)
But what's really telling is the number of high-quality, audience-friendly venues that have sprouted up in the Granada's wake over the past year—La Grange, the Kessler, a refurbished Trees, etc.—all of which emulate the venue's friendly vibe towards bands and fans alike, while eschewing the horrible black-box-with-a-stage setup that was the M.O. for much of Deep Ellum and Lower Greenville over the years.
And, far as Granada owner Michael Schoder is concerned, the competition's welcome. You might have even seen him and his wife, Julia, checking out the scene at our DOMA Showcase last weekend in Deep Ellum, happy as anyone else about the neighborhood's resurgence.
"I respect all of the independent venues," Schoder says. "This is my family, and I'll be here working the music scene in Dallas for the rest of my life."
Lucky us. —Noah W. Bailey
Best Music Advocate
The old joke doesn't work on Chelsea Callahan. She loves local music so much that she probably would marry it—if she could. For now, though, she's just pleased that they have a really great relationship.
"I don't think there's a reason to be negative," Callahan says. "To me, the music scene in Dallas right now is super exciting. You can almost feel the buzz of people coming together and having great ideas and making them happen."
She's one of those people making things happen—just as she has for years. Callahan serves as booking agent for the Double-Wide, for Renfield's Corner and for "New Music Fridays" at Life in Deep Ellum. She's also the band/venue liaison for local online ticketers Pre-Kindle, and a board member for both Art Conspiracy and the Carter Albrecht Music Foundation. Oh, and she's also a pretty slammin' DJ.
That's a lot for one person. But Callahan does it all—and she attends more shows than anyone else in town.
If you want to see a physical manifestation of the words "busy," "dedicated," "positive" and "enthusiastic" as related to the Dallas music scene, just keep an eye out for the one they call Cha-Cha. You'll run into her eventually, promise. —Merritt Martin
Best Record Store
Considering how many musicians, promoters and music nerds we bump into while perusing the racks at Good Records on a regular basis, it should come as no surprise to see the Dallas institution walk away with the award for Best Record Store for yet another year.
Really, if Good merely sold records it would still be the best in town. But throw in the fact that the store also hosts numerous in-stores, a kick-ass free film series (Music Movie Mondays) and one of the year's best parties (Record Store Day), and it's really a no-brainer.
But it's the guys behind the counter who really keep the customers coming back, whether it's co-owner Chris Penn, graphic designer Kevin Sears, stoner-rock aficionado Jacob Douglas or beloved experimental curmudgeon Mark Church.
"He might look like Charles Manson," Penn says of Church, "but he has a heart of gold and can turn you onto some good stuff."
Sounds like the perfect record store employee to us. —Noah W. Bailey
Gorilla Vs. Bear(gorillavsbear.net)
It's not exactly a secret: If you're the kind of person who longs to know about the coolest music months in advance of everyone else, Chris Cantalini's Gorilla Vs. Bear blog is about as much a must-read as any other outlet. The thing is, that's not the case just for locals. Pretty much anyone hoping to get a pulse on the newest of the new has long been well aware of Cantalini's discerning, hip-beyond-compare tastes.
That much explains why burgeoning web media giant BuzzMedia recently invested in Cantalini's music blog and why Pitchfork Media came running his way when looking to set up a new, alternative site called Altered Zones for readers looking for a more cutting-edge perspective than the one it already provided.
In return, Cantalini promises he isn't selling out—or selling anything at all, really.
But he is reaping some benefits: With BuzzMedia's backing, Gorilla Vs. Bear just earned a slick re-design that also makes its site load much faster. Considering that his blog even has a genre named after it (GorillaVsBearcore), we say the maintenance was well deserved. —Pete Freedman
Best Radio Show/Podcast
The Local Edge with Mark
Every Sunday night, sometime Observer contributor Mark Schectman takes over KDGE-102.1 FM The Edge's frequency and dutifully plays local music during his allotted 60 minutes of airtime.
But not since the early days of Josh Venable's The Adventure Club has an Edge jockey done so much with so little. Schectman scours the scene with a constant grin on his face, constantly searching high and low for the next band he hopes to play on his show. And he does so with a very respectable goal in mind: He hopes that, by showcasing the region's best in his hour-long slot, he can help convince the Clear Channel bigwigs to add their songs into the station's regular rotation. He's gotten close a few times so far, and the man who pays his bills by working as a marketing coordinator for Gold's Gym during the nine-to-five is confident that sooner than later his dream will come true.
And when it happens, you can bet he'll be proudly listening with a laugh and a smile.
"My gosh," Schectman says when asked his thoughts on the local music scene these days. "My local music pants are super tight right now." —Pete Freedman