By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It occurred to me recently that, within the DFW music scene, people really love to draw county lines. So what we were trying to illustrate with our 2012 Dallas Observer Music Awards nominees is that Dallas, Fort Worth and Denton aren't three separate entities, but rather one big music community that can help nurture and foster an identity we sometimes seem to be lacking. There are some known names in the bunch, sure, but we also wanted to elevate some of the lesser-known bands. That said, we're excited about our group of nominees, and we hope you are too. We'll see you in Deep Ellum this weekend (check out our DOMA Bingo card for added drunken fun) and the ceremony at House of Blues on Tuesday.
All the details you need for both events await, in the pages that follow and at dallasobservermusicawards.com. Here's your introduction to our showcase stars.
Reno's (Inside), 210 N. Crowdus St.
Ducado Vega, 6:20 p.m.
Did duo Ducado Vega get their funk in your R&B, or did you get your R&B in their funk? Don't think about it too hard, just enjoy their glammed-up approach to the genre.
The Tidbits, 7:20 p.m.
Dallas' free-form jazz trio the Tidbits have encyclopedias worth of knowledge between them, and are quite adept at balancing improvisation with more straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. The question isn't what instruments will they play, but what won't they?
Big Fiction, 8:20 p.m.
Dallas quartet Big Fiction slapped their aesthetic on the cover of April's Prison Van LP, signaling to all that despite all their rage, they (and we) are still just a rat in a cage. Their daylight set at September's Riot Fest got them to a bigger audience, one craving their bottom-heavy diatribes.
Cutter, 9:20 p.m.
Electronic duo Cutter lurk in the darker corners of dance music, employing drum machines, live drums and keyboards for a sound that's anything but chill.
The Atomic Tanlines, 10:20 p.m.
Denton foursome the Atomic Tanlines stole the show a few months ago at Rubber Gloves, bringing the night to a grinding halt with their brass-knuckles mix of queer politics and classic three-minute punk purge.
Somebody's Darling, 11:20 p.m.
With their latest album, Jank City Shakedown, Somebody's Darling have beefed up the soul, R&B and rock 'n' roll side of their sound. Don't worry, there's still some country in there too.
Zhora, 12:20 a.m.
When singer Taylor Rea left Ishi, that group suffered a big loss. Rea was the vocal anchor, and she gets her deserved shine with new group Zhora, a dreamier electronic endeavor. An EP came out earlier this year, as did a slowed-down reinterpretation of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven." Fingers crossed for a full-length soon.
The Roomsounds, 1:20 a.m.
This four-piece really went for it by titling their debut album We're #1. They've also got a song called "Kinks," so you know what era they're coming at you from.
Dada (Inside), 2720 Elm St.
Sarah Sellers, 5:40 p.m.
Local singer Sarah Sellers first came to my attention via Dallas jazz institution Damon K. Clark. But beyond that shining recommendation, I had no idea she'd been a contestant on American Idol, or that she had a pretty hefty series of YouTube song covers out there, reinterpreting Adele and Lana Del Rey. Or that she's a prolific food blogger. Or that she has a killer voice.
Clint Niosi, 6:40 p.m.
Clint Niosi's 2008 LP, The Sound of Dead Horses Beaten Against Cold Shoulders, was a fine album built around his voice and acoustic guitar, but its spareness made it feel like a bookend on something bigger. Even the artist himself admits that: "I felt in hindsight that perhaps it could have been a bit more daring." The Fort Worth guitarist's new LP, For Pleasure and Spite, explores that. It is angry at times, quiet in others, the extremes when dealing with grief and loss, which were the foundation of the album.
Home by Hovercraft, 7:40 p.m.
If you've ever wanted to employ the phrase "hardcore ballooning" and have it not refer to some sort of sex act, Home By Hovercraft have you covered. Helmed by husband and wife Seth and Shawn Magill, the five-piece's music is classically informed, and yet pop in its translation. Their musical components include tuba, piano, mandolin and a step dancer, and they're currently at work on songs for the musical On the Eve, which is about Marie Antoinette, time travel and a hot air balloon.
Ronnie Fauss, 8:40 p.m.
The way Dallas singer-songwriter Ronnie Fauss was "discovered" by the folks at New West Records is pure old-school. It was an acoustic in-store gig at Houston's famed Cactus Records, which caught the right ears and led to the next chapter in Fauss' career. Certainly the in-store performance was serendipitous, yet it would be a mistake to assume all Fauss has done in recent years is simply perform on occasion and hope the right person hears his songs. Since the release of his 2009 EP, I Can't Make You Happy, Fauss has been a regular on bills with Brent Best (Slobberbone), Danny Balis and Grant Jones. But Fauss will soon be taking his time-tested songs far beyond the metroplex with his first full-length album, I Am The Man You Know I'm Not, which is also his debut release on Normaltown Records, an imprint of New West.
Mora Collective, 9:40 p.m.
It's curious that the Dallas band Mora Collective — bassist Chris Isaacs, saxophonist Zach Puchkors and drummer Eric Yacula — have yet to find an audience in their hometown. Cowtown listeners remember the heydays of ace fusionists Bertha Coolidge and dub juggernaut Sub Oslo, and the trajectory of Confusatron, which started as a trio, busking downtown in front of the Houston Street Coffee Haus, and wound up a groove-oriented septet that regularly blew the ceiling off the old Black Dog Tavern. Mora Collective's sound, which combines jazz, dub, hip-hop and space-rock, fits easily into this matrix.
Blackstone Rangers, 10:40 p.m.
In the span of about a year, Blackstone Rangers have gone from an electronic duo to what we've come to label as "distorto-pop." The trio's summer release on Dallas Distortion Music, Into the Sea, found a more comfortable home in the woods of bright melodies and clean riffs.
Michael Donner & the Southern Renaissance, 11:40 p.m.
Southern renaissance is right: This Dallas five-piece has put their own spin on country music. They're nominated for Best Country Act, but there's no honky-tonk two-stepping here. Just a knack for harmonies and storytelling, as heard on last fall's No Better Time.
The Colurs, 12:40 a.m.
Multi-instrumentalists Max Townsley and Drew Erickson make up Denton's The Colurs, and they've recently released their self-titled debut EP, on which they play all primary parts. They even composed an accompanying orchestral score.
Trees (Inside), 2709 Elm St.
Summer of Glaciers, 5:40 p.m.
Angelus bassist Ryan Wasterlain went the solo route with project Summer of Glaciers, and released Small Spaces this past spring. Now rounded out by vocalist Miranda Alvarado, the duo make some beautiful elevator music.
Pinkish Black, 6:40 p.m.
To the multitudes that got wind of Pinkish Black's self-titled debut LP via online tastemakers such as Pitchfork, Brooklyn Vegan and Cvlt Nation, the Fort Worth-based duo's new album must have seemed like a bolt from the blue. Released on Handmade Birds, the imprint of Denton musician R. Loren (Pyramids, White Moss, Sailors With Wax Wings), Pinkish Black is a fully realized piece of work by musicians in command of their materials: dark, brooding, intense and ultimately cathartic. It's also the culmination of more than 20 years of music-making for two of the most prolific musicians the Metromess has produced — a refinement and distillation of all they've done before.
Blixaboy, 7:40 p.m.
Wanz Dover (also nominated for Best DJ) made up his own genre to describe his music as Blixaboy: Futro. An EP, Intro to Futro, was released earlier this year, and Dover keeps refining techno and dubstep. Seeing him do it live is an added bonus.
Mystery Skulls, 8:40 p.m.
Mystery Skulls, the R&B/synth-pop project of Luis Dubuc, rocked Homegrown Festival in May and then Dubuc took off for the West Coast. Here's your chance to catch him after some hardcore touring and recording. Hopefully we'll hear some new tunes from a possible new EP.
Dustin Cavazos, 9:40 p.m.
Who is Dustin Cavazos?
Dustin Cavazos ... a Mexican dude who raps. Just here, rapping. Writing songs. Hanging out with friends. Playing video games. Riding my bike.
How do you define success?
Success is defined on so many levels. Everyone has their own idea of what success is. I think if you look at the root of success, I think anybody, the gist of success for people is being happy. For me, success would be being happy and seeing the people around me as happy. What's the point of being happy if your best friend isn't doing so great? Or the people you grew up with aren't doing so great? There has to be happiness all around.
The Phuss, 10:40 p.m.
This Fort Worth punk trio released their sophomore album, produced by the Toadies' Vaden Todd Lewis, earlier this year. The tempos rarely change, the riffage is the type that raises blood pressure and angst fuels each track. See what the fuss is about.
A.Dd+, 11:40 p.m.
It's hard to think of a local hip-hop act that's raised a higher profile this year, or perfected the art of hip-hop storytelling more than A.Dd+. A long-awaited mixtape, Dive Hi Fly Lo, should be dropping any minute now.
Daniel Hart, 12:40 a.m.
Violinist Daniel Hart has been around. One listen to his 2012 album, The Orientalist, and you get a sense of that instrumental wanderlust. Joyful single "O Sangeeta" will get stuck in your head for days.
Trees (Outside — DJ Stage), 2709 Elm St.
Yeahdef, 6 p.m.
Tape Mastah Steph, 7 p.m.
Track Meet, 8 p.m.
Wanz Dover, 9 p.m.
DJ Sober, 10 p.m.
Dada (Outside), 2720 Elm St.
The Rich Girls, 6 p.m.
I saw these guys at Double Wide on Halloween weekend, and their sax player, who was dressed as the sax player from Lost Boys, had a great ass. What else ... oh, and they did some great covers of Hall & Oates as well.
John Singer Sergeant, 7 p.m.
John Dufilho's alter ego, John Singer Sergeant, is sure good at sharing the spotlight. His self-titled album, out this past spring on Kirtland Records, featured the vocals of Sarah Jaffe, Ben Kweller, Rhett Miller, Apples in Stereo cohort Robert Schneider and others, while Dufilho played the backing music. Who might show up this time?
Brain Gang Blue, 8 p.m.
"Party On," the single from Brain Gang Blue's Numb EP, was the party anthem we all wanted. But beyond that, the rapper and producer heightened his profile by getting in some production credits with current superstar Kendrick Lamar in Dallas over the summer.
Hunter Hendrickson, 9 p.m.
When it comes to finding an opening act for a touring guitar virtuoso, Dallas guitarist Hunter Hendrickson's phone number has been at the top of talent buyers' lists recently. Whether it was John Mayall or Victor Wooten, the young Hendrickson and his band properly shredded the stage before the well-known headliner took their turn at it.
The Blurries, 10 p.m.
Last fall's Paper Cuts was one of those sleeper albums. It required multiple spins to not just seem like some track-by-track affair, but a cohesive whole. After a few passionate tumbles in the sheets, a bigger picture emerges, as does their inspired take on '80s guitar pop.
Mariachi Quetzal, 11 p.m.
They're a 10-piece mariachi band from Denton, so you know they know how to fill a room. Also, when's the last time you saw a mariachi band at Dada?
Oil Boom, midnight
This group's summer EP, Gold Yeller, houses one of our Best Song nominees, "The Great American Shakedown." If you're a fan of hand-claps, hip-turning riffs, songs about black gold and the kind of rock and roll that makes you want to pour a beer on your head, then check them out.
Snow Tha Product, 1 a.m.
Claudia Feliciano has lived in Fort Worth for the past three years, but she's flown under the local-music radar. Google her alter ego, Snow Tha Product, though, and you'll find a wealth of YouTube videos with hundreds of thousands of views, a handful of mixtapes and a Twitter account with 25,000-plus followers. "When I started about five years ago, female rappers were dying out," the 24-year-old says. "I started putting stuff on YouTube and MySpace, and people started paying attention."
The Prophet Bar, 2548 Elm St.
Joseph SoMo, 6 p.m.
Joseph Somers-Morales (SoMo) has been on fire lately. From the release of his My Life mixtape to being "shouted out" by Maybach Music Group's Wale on Twitter, SoMo and crew show no signs of slowing down.
Year of the Bear, 7 p.m.
This Fort Worth trio was born from the ashes of Lift To Experience, but their music is a little less fire and brimstone. This summer's "Super 8 / That Violent Light" 7-inch pointed to more of a '90s jangle, heavy on the reverb.
My Wooden Leg, 8 p.m.
Nestled quite comfortably in the Best None of the Above category are Michael Maftean and Joshua Jones of My Wooden Leg. The duo is a little of everything, as heard on their new album, The Jealous Disco, but they call themselves a Gypsytronic Balkan rock band.
Datahowler, 9 p.m.
Playdough, 10 p.m.
Doug Krum does his share of playful boasting on his new mixtape, Writer Dye: Deux or Die, the sequel to the Writer Dye mixtape he put out in 2010. Both find him sampling and re-imagining classic rock and hip-hop songs. "I know there are people just into making all original music, and that's dope," he says. "And I do that here and there, but I really like samples."
Nervous Curtains, 11 p.m.
As the main songwriter for Nervous Curtains, pianist Sean Kirkpatrick is the driving force of the group's elegant, somber sound, but drummer Robert Anderson and fellow keyboardist Ian Hamilton save it from becoming too arch. With that minimal setup, there's still a labyrinthine feel to Fake Infinity — it's almost metal in concept, but Krautrock in its execution. This time the themes are success and failure, and the lyrics are definitely more abstract than Out of Sync With Time, but its references are grounded a bit more in reality.
Quaker City Night Hawks, midnight
Is there a shortage of sleeveless jean jackets this fall? It might be Quaker City Night Hawks' fault. The Fort Worth group's song "Ain't No Kid" was just featured, rather appropriately, on the TV show Sons of Anarchy, and a follow-up to last year's ¡Torquila Torquila!, tentatively titled Honcho, is coming soon.
Tum Tum, 1 a.m.
"Yeah Doe" has quickly gained the support of the blogosphere and DJs across the country, delivering a powerful punch over rolling snares and a menacing 808, produced by California-based producer Bux, who was discovered by Mason "Bric" LaDue, Tum's A&R and right-hand man. "That's what be wild about everything," Tum said of the connection. "People say social networks don't work. Social networks really do work!" From an outsider's perspective, Dallas music has always been synonymous with boogie, a subgenre of Southern hip-hop music. As of late, we've seen the rise of new hip-hop artists like A.Dd+. "There's a whole lot of different music out here now and I love that," Tum says. "Nobody sounds like each other. There's a whole lot of music out here people can adapt to instead of focusing on one part."
Reno's (Outside), 210 N. Crowdus St.
Vanessa Peters, 6 p.m.
In the years between 2009's Sweetheart, Keep Your Chin Up and her latest, The Burn The Truth The Lies, Vanessa Peters endured the changing tides of a relationship and the dissolution of her band. She landed back in Dallas, where she recorded a Christmas album last July, which reignited her passion for music. For her latest, she enlisted the help of engineer Jim Vollentine and a pretty killer backing band: John Dufilho, the Polyphonic Spree's Jason Garner, Buttercup guitarist Joe Reyes and keyboardist Rip Rowan, who produced the album.
The Gorehounds, 7 p.m.
If you love the pomp and gore of the Cramps, you will love this cover band. 'Nuff said.
The O's, 8 p.m.
Salim Nourallah & Treefort 5, 9 p.m.
The spring release of Hit Parade, Nourallah's latest album with his Treefort 5, found the Dallas producer getting back into the habit of making great pop songs and expressing his love of all things '60s and '70s.
Danny Rush & the Designated Drivers, 10 p.m.
Singer and guitarist Daniel Folmer heads up an Americana band whose recent release, Brown and Blue, sprouted out of Folmer's existential transition from despair to peace.
J. Charles & the Trainrobbers, midnight
It's an impressive feat that J. Charles & the Trainrobbers are nominated for Best Americana/Roots act in this year's DOMAs without having released a full-length album until a few weeks ago. Upon Leaving is a stunner of a country-rock record that adds to the impressive year in North Texas country and roots.
War Party, 1 a.m.
Fort Worth just keeps on spitting punk bands out of its basements, and War Party is just one of many in the Lo-Life Recordings cabal. Classic punk that toes the line between war and, uh, partying.
LaGrange, 2704 Elm St.
Black Market Pharmacy, 6:20 p.m.
This laptop trio was just involved in the Silent Disco, but this performance will be neither silent nor a disco. Their new Aura Borealis EP is full of glitchy beats and heavy bass.
The Breakfast Machine, 7:20 p.m.
This Arlington group competed in our Rock the Park event this past spring, in hopes of landing a spot on the Homegrown Festival lineup. They didn't win, but their live show was certainly captivating. They swing somewhere between rock and pop, and singer Meghann Moore had pipes that would blow your bangs off your forehead.
Jessie Frye, 8:20 p.m.
This Denton darling has been steadily rising in profile since the release of last year's Fireworks Child. A new album is in the works, so catch her now before she hits the big leagues.
Bad Design, 9:20 p.m.
Recalling the post-punk and hardcore bands that frequently played Rubber Gloves in the late '90s, Denton four-piece Bad Design just released a new self-titled album on Gutterth Records, their second LP since forming in 2009.
Eyes, Wings & Many Other Things, 10:20 p.m.
Napalm Beach, the latest album from Eyes, Wings & Many Other Things, wasn't one of those psychedelic albums that abides the loud-quiet-loud formula. The group's gone from a duo to a quintet, which helps balance their more experimental meanderings.
Mohicans, 11:20 p.m.
Dave from Mohicans seemed to be challenging the members of A.Dd+ to a basketball game on Twitter last week. Can someone make this happen? In addition to B-ball, the duo also has some new tracks, hopefully pointing to a follow-up to 2011's Uncas.
Diamond Age, 12:20 a.m.
The solo project of Matt Leer, Diamond Age has gone from a vessel for reinterpreting This Heat guitarist/bassist Gareth Williams' Flaming Tunes album to creating original songs, via loops, tapes, guitar, synth and "smoke and mirrors." His upcoming album on Pour Le Corps, Broken World, is an excellent distillation of past, present and future tense.
Vulgar Fashion, 1:20 a.m.
Denton death disco duo Vulgar Fashion have garnered a lot of buzz from fans who appreciate an avant garde approach to electronic music. Check out their Violitionist Session for a better idea of what you can hear and see at their DOMA showcase performance.