By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Their time allowed them to hone their impressive live show before eager college audiences and, perhaps, to gain a better perspective on the scene back home. Sure enough, their best song, "Fa Shiggadow" (released online as a free-to-download mp3) showcases that latter: A slap in the face of the D-Town Boogie movement, the song, with its lyrical content and neck-breaking electronic beats, may be the single best indication of what's to come in the Dallas hip-hop scene.
Best Jazz Act
Being selected as one of the area's top jazz acts is quite a feat, especially if you don't consider yourself a proper jazz musician. Such is the case with Denton's Paul Slavens.
"I feel uncomfortable considering myself a jazz musician, especially when there are so many bona fide great jazz musicians in Denton," says Slavens, who, since performing in the legendary Ten Hands in the '80s, has been a widely revered member of the North Texas music community.
Thing is, Slavens has equal, if not more, respect in the rock community as well. Chalk it up to Slavens' love for pop music, which is evident on both his radio program, "The Paul Slavens Show" (which airs on KXTX-FM 91.7 KXT on Sundays from 8 to 10 p.m.), and his live improvisational performances, in which he often invites guest musicians to step outside their musical comfort zones.
The results are usually quite stunning.
Wanz Dover has worn many hats in his almost two decades years of contributing to the Dallas music scene. He's taken turns as a space-rocker, a post-punker, a dubstep innovator, a festival organizer and a laptop musician ambassador, and he's had his moments in the sun with each.
There's little doubt, though, that the area in which he most consistently shines is in his role as a DJ. Despite his efforts to increase to profile of area laptop wizards through his legendary Laptop Deathmatch competitions, Dover's DJ-ing style is all analog. He spins vinyl records of all sorts, settling most comfortably on forgotten classics in the garage and punk realms. But, if need be, he can play anything — and not just because he boasts one of the largest vinyl record collections you're likely to find anywhere. Fact is, few in the region even come close to matching Dover's musical knowledge.
Best Latin/Tejano Act
As one of the few nominees on the ballot that hasn't released any albums, EPs or mixtapes, Denton's 10-piece ensemble Mariachi Quetzal has built its cred by booking shows, fostering an online presence and performing every Friday at La Milpa in Denton, where they blend mariachi tradition with decidedly non-traditional touches courtesy their covers of performers such as Johnny Cash and James Brown.
Their pedigree is unquestioned — Quetzal branched out of UNT's Mariachi band in 2008 — and so too is their simple aim.
"We set out to meet the demand for mariachi bands in the public," says violinist Sarah Knuth rather nonchalantly.
But their long-term goal of teaching the mariachi art to new generations is where the group becomes an especially endearing ensemble.
Best Cover/Tribute Act
Normally, a tribute act is dedicated to a band with quite a bit of name recognition. Let's face it: There's a reason why bands like Kiss and Led Zeppelin seem to have tribute acts based in every city in America.
Alas, Dallas' own Howard Kelly loves The Cramps, a renowned if somewhat cultist psychobilly band that came out of New York in the late '70s. So he created The Gorehounds, an over-the-top recreation (sonically and visually) of one of the seediest bands burped up in the initial wave of post-punk.
"The Cramps were the last great rock 'n' roll band," insists Kelley.
Who can argue with such passion and zeal?
Best Record Label
This year has been full of ups and downs for local record label, management company and concert promoter Spune Productions. Sure, the label signed Seryn, but back in the summer things took an ugly turn as label owner Lance Yocom fell ill with a terrible case of pneumonia. Now, with Yocom back and healthy once more, the label has become the fixation of many local bands looking for a record deal.
"I'd attribute it to bands seeing the success of activity surrounding Telegraph Canyon and Seryn over the last couple years," Yocom says, justly proud.
Salim Nourallah just plain loves working with local acts. His commitment to the North Texas music scene has always been apparent in his own songs and in the music of bands that he has produced. He most recently showcased this by producing such promising young acts as Sealion and Whiskey Folk Ramblers, but he has some heavy hitters in his roster, too, such as the Old 97's.
"I still feel like the DFW music scene is terminally underrated," Nourallah says. "We have as much or more talent here per square inch than any other city in America."
House of Blues
When Live Nation-owned House Of Blues first came to Dallas in 2007, it was to the chagrin of many local music fans uneasy with the idea of a new corporate venue.