1996 Dallas Observer Music Awards (Part I)

To hell with tradition. Instead of dedicating the annual Dallas Observer Music Awards issue to just the winners, this year we decided to feature all the bands nominated before the ballots are counted. The Music Awards are, after all, voted up by the readers, your chance to prove the critics wrong, right, or just irrelevant.

But this introduction could be the hardest part, trying to sum up in a few paragraphs what the list of nominees in the following pages represent. Though every musician here would be a welcome addition to the music scene in any city, Dallas is their home. Yet we too often take them for granted when looking for something to do on a Friday night.

After all, what are Bedhead and Cowboys and Indians and Ronnie Dawson and Caf Noir--and on and on--if not artists whose talents transcend locale? This grading on a curve might work in Seattle or Austin ("They're good...for a local band"), but when you can go for days listening to nothing but homegrown music without hitting the skip button, you know you're sitting at the head of the class. After years of trying to define itself as a bona fide "scene"--or, more accurately, as a tenuous music "community"--Dallas may have finally hit upon the right formula: There isn't one.

Who would have predicted a decade ago that Ronnie Dawson, a man who first set foot on a local stage in 1956, would become one of this town's most viable musicians 40 years later? Who could have foreseen the rise of a boogie-punk band, the Toadies, to the top of the charts with a death threat? Who would have predicted that fluff-pop Deep Blue Something would conquer the country, yet still get shut out in the hometown nominations?

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Maybe there is a God, and He doesn't get VH1.
Dallas has a tremendous musical heritage, one that often goes overlooked every time a major-label A&R scout comes to town promising to sign someone to a contract written in disappearing ink, and most of the bands nominated honor that heritage. Some nominees are direct links (Dawson, Marchel Ivery, Josh Alan, Big Al Dupree, Cowboys and Indians), but even more are nods to the past as they head butt into the future (Bedhead, Mazinga Phaser, Comet, REO Speedealer, Dooms U.K.). If Dallas had promise in 1987, when Island came through to document The Sounds of Deep Ellum, then it has more than delivered a decade later.

The 1996 Observer Music Awards nominations committee came up with a representative sample of local music; now it's up to the voters to decide who's the best of the best--or at least the most popular. If you don't vote, don't complain. Like they say on MTV, rock the vote, but even more importantly, vote the rock.

Robert Wilonsky, music editor

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