Dallas Observer Music Awards
Last year, at our 20th annual Dallas Observer Music Awards, there was a distinct theme of tradition behind all the festivities. And rightfully so: 20 years is indeed a long time. Countless great acts have passed through and risen up in Dallas during that time period.
But there's just something youthful about turning 21, isn't there? Something inherently exuberant. Something perhaps a little self-centered.
So pardon me if this year's music awards introduction isn't about the storied past, or about the promising future. Rather, let's discuss the state of how things are today in the regional scene.
Web Extra:Check out more photos of the DOMA nominees at our house party photo shoot here in our slideshow.
Make no mistake, this is a regional scene we're talking about here, folks. Dallas bands travel to Denton and Fort Worth with regularity. Denton bands travel to Dallas and Fort Worth. Fort Worth bands...well, you get the idea. Point is, this is no longer just Dallas' scene. And, consequently, it's no longer just Denton's to bitch about. Or just Fort Worth's to rebel against.
A large part of this transformation? Technology. Heard a band namedropped while standing in line for coffee this morning? Look 'em up online; they're likely playing somewhere in the region in the near future. Hear about a great new singer-songwriter from another part of town? Plug that name into a search engine; you can probably stream (if not download) most of the artist's catalog if you're Web-savvy enough. Wanna know exactly how a show up in Denton is going? Hop onto some band or blogger's Twitter feed to find out. Point is, it doesn't matter if you're from Dallas, Denton or Fort Worth; the information's all out there. And it's easy to access.
But it's also easy to provide: This year, in addition to online voting and print balloting, we allowed music fans to send us their picks for DOMA winners via text message; at least one winner in this year's awards, Best Funk/R&B Act Backside Pick, likely won its category thanks to cleverly picking up on the fact that it was winning fans at Saturday's DOMA Showcase on Lower Greenville and asked the audiences to text vote their support. Pretty much the entire patio at Zephyr's—from gray hairs to pretty young things—responded by texting upon command. (Turns out, 15 percent of all the votes we received this year came via text messaging.)
But, at Zephyr's, those texters didn't vote because they saw promise in what they heard, or because they were so familiar with the band's local history. No, they did so because they liked what they were hearing and were simply enjoying the moment.
With other DOMA winners this year, like the exuberant Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, the heart-wrenching Sarah Jaffe and the schizophrenic The Paper Chase, shouldn't we be pretty pleased ourselves?
Here's saying we are. And here's celebrating those who've helped us realize it.
It's been a long year since Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, then still a relatively new act, walked away with an award for Best Blues Act at the 2008 Dallas Observer Music Awards. Of course, things tend to happen to bands over the span of long years like this one—lots of things.
In Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights' case, that includes getting signed to a major label (Atlantic Records) and touring the country (first with Cross Canadian Ragweed, later as an opener for Kid Rock and Lynyrd Skynyrd) while playing some 230 shows.
Y'know, nothing major.
What's crazy, though, is that, for Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights, this next year should be an even more eventful 365 days—and the madness is set to start as soon as two weeks from now, when the band will head to Nashville to hit the studio with producer Jay Joyce (The Derek Trucks Band, John Hiatt, The Alternate Routes). If all goes according to plan, the session should produce the band's major-label debut, a disc the talented frontman for whom the band is named hopes will see the light of day come February 2010.
And before that disc's release? More local performances and, yes, more tours (including an upcoming cruise with Lynyrd Skynyrd) for the blues-jam act—which is fine by Tyler. And well it should be: Onstage is where Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights truly shine, captivating audiences with their high-energy performances and recalling a young Black Crowes—or maybe another mid-level band struggling with their own limitations in the harsh face of stardom: Almost Famous' Stillwater. Of course, eliciting such comparisons hasn't always been easy, the affable Tyler explains.
"We work hard," he says. "We've always been pushing forward, and we've always been very ambitious."
Now add "important" to that list. With or without being voted the region's Best Group, this much is indisputable: When it comes to area acts most likely to succeed in the near future—at least, by following the old tried-and-true major-label route—there's Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights and, well below them, everyone else.
Which—no surprise here—has Tyler champing at the bit for what's to come: "I get anxious," Tyler says in his cigarette-sculpted and whiskey-drenched voice—a voice that's blatantly not an act. "Not to the point where I'm losing sleep, but I do get anxious.
"If we have radio success, that'd be cool. But we're just trying to make good music and tour and make some fans along the way." —Pete Freedman
In the year since the release of Sarah Jaffe's breakout Even Born Again EP, the Denton singer-songwriter has seen her star rise from being the local opening act at small club shows to performing on the Austin City Limits digital offshoot ACL Stage Left and being asked to perform at the upcoming Austin City Limits Music Festival.
For acts hell-bent on making it to "the big time" and having their picture splashed on every music magazine in the world, two appearances under the Austin City Limits banner would be enough to have them slobbering with anticipation of finally being on the cusp of breaking through. But Sarah Jaffe manages to keep a level head about everything and remain gracious at the attention she's getting locally and regionally.
"I feel honored," she says about just being nominated for this year's Dallas Observer Music Awards. "It's nice to have people love what you're doing; I'm so happy."
And she'll remain happy, she says, so long as she's making music on her own terms: "I didn't start out expecting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone and go into it with those kind of expectations," she says. "If I end up being on more of an underground scene as opposed to more people knowing about me, either way I'm still being me."
Part of Jaffe being herself is exploring new sounds. She has a new album scheduled for release this fall—hopefully before she performs at the Austin City Limits festival, she says. The new album was again helmed by Best Producer nominee John Congleton of The Paper Chase. While Even Born Again was meant to have a raw, intimate sound, Congleton pushed Jaffe to explore a broader sound this time around.
"He kind of looked at me to go crazy creatively," Jaffe says. "We kind of brought more to the table, and it all came together. It's different. When it comes out we'll see what people have to say."
One thing you can count on: The new album will continue to showcase confessional songwriting and a voice that drips with honesty and emotion.
"I'm on the path of growing with my audience, and [that's] what I want to do," Jaffe says. —Lance Lester
After the Paper Chases enthralling performance (on second thought, scratch that adjectiveits redundant) at South by Southwest earlier this year, a prominent local music journalist who had seen his share of Big D bands turned to a fellow scribe and proclaimed, Best live band in Dallas. There may be a few other bands that could vie for that title, but when it comes to naming the best album to come from a Dallas-area band in the past year? Well, theres no question. Some Day This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1 also happens to be the best in The Paper Chases decade-long career. All 10 songs on the disc touch on the theme of calamity, an idea that mastermind John Congleton initially kicked around as the inspiration for a solo album during a time when the future of the band was up in the air. Thank God the band stuck it out, though, as its hard to imagine the songs without Sean Kirkpatricks trademark house-of-horrors piano, or without the start-and-stop-on-a-dime rhythm section of longtime bassist Bobby Weaver and new drummer Jason Garner, who lock into a groove as if theyve been playing together for years. No song better sums up the combination of gallows humor, apocalyptic fervor and the weird contrastsbetween chaos and beauty, melody and discord, even death and lifethan What Should We Do With Your Body? (The Lightning). It has everything weve come to love about The Paper Chasethose herky-jerky rhythms, creepy samples (in this case, an emergency broadcast system test and monstrous barnyard sounds) and Congletons cartoonish wailing. Personifying the titular lightning, he sings, Im the single flashing curse/That finds you in the universe. The sentiment that deathbe it in the form of lightning, flooding or the common coldwill find you no matter what is the thesis statement of the album. But what makes the album so great is that such a grim sentiment is set to triumphant, exuberant and even (dare we say it) melodic rock and roll. The exaltation makes perfect sense because, as Congleton put it in a May Dallas Observer interview, its a relaxing feeling to just accept the fact that these things are going to happen, and theres really not much you can do about it. Vol. 2, scheduled for a 2010 release, cant get here soon enough. —Jesse Hughey
Taylor Young and John Pedigo seem to have been part of the Dallas music scene forever. And that's because they have. Just not together and not as the alt-country duo known as The O's.
Young and Pedigo have previously been involved with such luminary local acts as Slick 57, Boys Named Sue, Rose Country Fair and THe BAcksliders. Since deciding to go it as a duo last June, the pair has made an immediate impact, releasing a killer debut album (We Are The O's), playing incessantly around our area (and beyond) and generally making a drunken nuisance of themselves whenever possible.
"If we win an award, I hope to be so drunk that if I make it to the stage, then I have failed," Pedigo says with only the slightest of grins.
"Perhaps we paid somebody off," Young chimes in, "except we don't have any money to pay off anyone."
It's exactly that kind of ramshackle charm that has made The O's such an instantly likable unit. That, and the fact that both men involved are damn good songwriters. There's nary a weak number on their debut, as The O's found new ways of expanding the alt-country genre while playing only the most traditional of instruments: guitars and banjos. Echoes of folks such as Paul Westerberg and The Kinks helped The O's teach an old dog some new tricks.
It helps that while both Young and Pedigo are serious songwriters, that's about all either one of them takes seriously. —Darryl Smyers
One glance at Clark Voegler's recently posted tour video will show you The Toadies are living anything but the life of an older rock band. No, they're having the time of their lives, getting consumed by fire and playing colorfully named joints like Whiskey Dicks.
It's justified behavior, though, considering that the band's 2008 release, No Deliverance, has given both the band and its fans plenty to stay excited about—both domestically and abroad. In addition to a multitude of U.S. dates, the band also, for the first time ever, graced the U.K., performing in Manchester, London, Leeds, Liverpool and York.
Now the band also has its first U.K. release: a compilation of tracks from each of its studio LPs, in anticipation of No Deliverance's upcoming U.K. release. And next up for the Fort Worth rockers? The second annual Dia de los Toadies, perhaps the biggest proof of the band's current clout. On August 29 in Hico, the band will head a daylong festival alongside other area favorites Bowling for Soup, Secret Machines, Ben Kweller, Eleven Hundred Springs and The Boom Boom Box—all of whom have no problem seeing their name on a bill below that of The Toadies. —Alan Ayo
If you still don't know The King Bucks by this point, well, that's on you—and certainly not on the shoulders of Danny Balis, Keith Killoren, Joseph Butcher, Chad Stockslager and Chris Carmichael. As the Bucks, this five-piece honky-tonk outfit performs, at minimum, three times a week around DFW.
But it's not just a multitude of gigs for which the Bucks are so beloved; it's the classicism of the Bucks' country stance—the kind of thing you just don't expect to see in this day and age. Make no mistake: The King Bucks are as traditional as country gets, showmen to the bone, with a bevy of song selections always at the ready, just waiting to get a crowd onto the dance floor, boot-scootin' away.
The covers the band plays, well, they're just part of the gig when you're known for playing two-hour-plus-long shows. But it's in its own original pieces, released in album form earlier this year on the band's self-titled debut, that this ragtag outfit truly shines, showcasing the fact that its members don't just have ears for the kinds of songs that can get the crowd excited, but that they can write those genre gems too. —Pete Freedman
In a very short time, Alan Palomo's various musical projects have gone from producing local hype to garnering an international buzz. The mastermind behind bloghouse favorites such as Ghosthustler, VEGA and the newly formed, much-hyped Neon Indian, Palomo left Denton for Austin shortly after Ghosthustler disbanded.
Since then, he's been busy recording songs for both projects. Then why, you may ask, is an Austin-based act getting nominated for a local award? Well, it may have something to do with the fact that this New Year's Eve, Palomo returned to Denton for the debut performance of his space disco act, VEGA. Why'd he do that here, and not in Austin (or Brooklyn, for that matter)?
Palomo says, "I wanted the debut to be here because I like the idea that I have a community of friends that I can play for who I respect, and whose opinion I respect."
Palomo still refers to the Dallas/Denton area as his "stomping grounds." And, with so many friends and loyal fans in the area, it's no wonder that his Austin-based project was nominated.
In the coming weeks, VEGA will announce which prominent label scooped up the band's Well Known Pleasures EP. In the meantime, Palomo and crew are readying for three months' worth of touring and, surely enough, plenty more buzz. —Catherine Downes
There are plenty of "experimental" and "avant garde" bands that specialize in pummeling their audiences with volume.
But the real power of Shiny Around the Edges is its quietest moments. Denton husband-and-wife team Michael and Jennifer Seman take the music from driving tribal beats with growling distorted guitar to hushed dirges. The excellent Holy Roller, released on Sounds Are Active in March, captures that range beautifully as the band shifts from the quiet acoustic-guitar and hushed vocals of "Every Hunter Needs a Kill" to the snarling, riotous rocker "Come Closer."
Hopefully, Holy Roller will have a follow-up soon. The band spent part of July in the studio at Echo Lab laying down tracks described by Michael Seman as "heavier, but with more hooks." The project, in the band's estimation, is about three-quarters completed. But you haven't heard Shiny until you've seen the band live, where you can see how Michael strangles all that noise out of his guitar and how Jennifer can spellbind an audience with her breathy, quiet vocals while pounding out a trance-inducing beat on a single floor tom.
Other bands could take a lesson in doing so much with so little. —Jesse Hughey
If you thought that adding an older member to a young group like the greaser-punk outfit Spector 45 would tame 'em down a bit, then you'd be wrong. Sure, the band's been playing in and around Dallas since 2003, and the rest of the band may top-out at 22, but at 26, new bassist Adam Carter has quite literally brought some hot new blood to the band's live performance. (And not just because he plays an upright bass adorned with a demonic-looking skull.)
Before Spector 45 even finished its 6 p.m. set at last weekend's DOMA showcase, blood was splattered all over Carter's bass and on The Cavern's main stage. Halfway through the band's set, the bassist smashed an empty Miller Lite bottle over his head. Within seconds, red stained his forehead and left forearm. But, he, and the rest of the band, kept right on spittin' out songs about Satan, time warps and transvestites.
After the show, frontman Frankie Campagna rushed Carter to the hospital. It wasn't even 7 p.m., but for the remainder of the night, the sidewalk in front of the most well-attended venue of the night was splattered with blood. Campagna checked in with us from the hospital, saying, "He's got a 6-by-2-inch laceration in his arm, but as soon as we're done here we'll be back."
Sure, enough, by the end of the night, Carter was back in front of The Cavern with a bandaged arm. Dragging off a cigarette, he says, "I'll be all right; it was only 29 stitches." And to think, the band ended up garnering enough of your votes to win Best Punk Act. —Daniel Rodrigue
Less than a year after releasing its last album, A Plague of People, onto unsuspecting North Texas metal audiences, the Joe Ortiz-fronted Jacknife is already promising a follow-up.
And though the hilariously named Metal Face doesn't yet appear to have a release date scheduled, this much is certain: Fans of this flashy, melodic metal act can expect more of Ortiz's impossibly strained (and thus, highly alluring) vocals to be leading the way. But they also might be able to expect an invigorated pacing to the new output: Earlier this year, the band added a new drummer to its fold, former A Dozen Furies kit man Mike Miller. Consider that move an immediate, if somewhat unnecessary, boost in street cred within the metal community for the already well-respected act that has shared stages with the likes of Slayer, Lamb of God, Avenged Sevenfold and Killswitch Engage.
With this award, the band cements itself atop the local metal circuit. But expect the real celebration for this award to take place on Saturday night as the band headlines the annual Summer Bash at Skillman Street Pub. —Pete Freedman
When your act boasts 11 members, you run into problems—namely on the road. Which is to say, well, this: When Backside Pick hits the road, as it did in recent months, touring the Southeast in support of its newest release, the light, joyful funk romp, Higher Place, it's rarely able to do so at full force—it's just too tough to tour with the full ensemble, frontman Rocky Ottley says.
Even so, Backside Pick was able to score a major coup recently when, while touring, it was able to book itself a gig at the New Orleans House of Blues—a bit odd, maybe, since the band's never played Dallas' own version of the venue chain. It was a pleasant surprise for the band and its ever-growing fan base. Another pleasant surprise? For the first time in its touring career, the band was able to ditch its van in favor of a tour bus.
"This was the first tour we've had where I wasn't driving," Ottley says, relieved at just the thought. "We were able to get to venues and just be so much more relaxed."
And being more relaxed? That led to better performances. Which has led to more fans. Which, with any luck, might mean a bigger tour bus, with all of Backside Pick's members hitting the road. Until then, we'll just have to put up with the fact that the band's local performances are the only ones in which the band puts on its complete show.
Lucky us. —Pete Freedman
Though their rise to prominence in Dallas is both unconventional and meteoric, the members of local hip-hop duo Damaged Good$ seem to be taking it all in stride. Fueled by the undeniably rump-shaking beats of London electronic producer Xrabit, Coool Dundee and Theodore Beard have been surfing the wave created by their debut, Hello World, and Dallas fans are clearly along for the ride. Boisterous performances inevitably include a healthy dose of audience participation; people come to the shows, and they actually dance. Go figure.
But big upcoming things are in the mix for the duo as well. With a split EP reminiscent of Outkast's two-part opus in progress, Theodore and Coool are on track to do nothing but gain momentum en route to their second full-length release. Just don't expect them to run through the same routine this time around: They understand the need to progress; the EP was born from an exploration of a variety of styles that Theodore hints will find the band in new territory not seen on Hello World.
Thing is, either way, it's new territory: This group has managed to avoid most stereotypes of Texas hip-hop, side-stepping many conventions of the region and the genre. Maybe it's their infectious, danceable soundtrack. Or maybe they just get how to vibe with a city that has championed the group as its own. "Dallas has definitely been a blessing," Theodore says. "We're just gonna keep feeding 'em, keep feeding 'em new material." —Nic Hernandez
Well, Snarky Puppy did it again, and the band's been up to a hell of a lot since the group pretty handily won Best Jazz Act in last year's DOMAs. For starters, the band went on two two-month-long tours that took them around the States, up the East Coast and into Canada. During those tours, the band caught the ear of a rep/scout from Rope-a-Dope Records. Snarky Puppy ended up signing a contract, so, yeah, the band is now label mates with acts such as Charlie Hunter and The Harlem Experiment. Also this year, founder, bassist and primary composer Michael League moved to New York, leaving the rest of the band based in Denton.
But that hasn't hindered the group's progress: Earlier this year, the band released Bring Us the Bright, its third album and, by far, the band's most ambitious work to date. But, as ambitious as that last one was, Snarky Puppy's first album on Rope-a-Dope promises to be a doozy. League says the album (and its DVD companion) will be recorded at the famous Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, where artists as diverse as B.B King, Ani Difranco and Dr John have recorded. According to League, the studio is set "way out in the woods in an antebellum part of the state outside of Lafayette."
"We're going to gather together some of our closest friends and our biggest fans and record the album live," League says. —Daniel Rodrigue
Surprised that a DJ from Denton would get nominated (and then win) a DOMA for Best DJ? Well, you shouldn't be, because, in the last year, Joey Leichty, aka Yeah Def, has gone from playing Denton's house party scene to droppin' bangers at Dallas hipster haunts such as Fallout Lounge and The Basement at Suite. And, along the way, Leichty's earned some serious cred among his Dallas-based peers by dropping high-energy cuts that run the gamut from '90s hip-hop hits and Italio to chiptunes and electro.
Nowadays, the guy spins three to four nights most weeks, but Yeah Def first blipped on most people's radars by filling a vacancy (left by an Austin-bound Alan Palomo) in what was then Hailey's Wednesday-night weekly It's What We Get night with Jason Faries aka Females. Since then, Leichty been trying to bring hip-hop to Denton with his monthly Aight Yo! Hip-Hop Series. And he and fellow Denton-based DJ Ian Bangs have managed to officially bring the '90s back with their Tuesday-night residency at Hailey's.
After last week's showcase, Leichty said he was surprised by the nomination. "I never thought that something like this could happen in such a short a time," he says. "But I guess it means that people like what they're hearing. And, I guess I'll keep at it, because who am I to argue with people's ears?" Exactly. –Daniel Rodrigue
After conveying my interest in talking with one member of Tejas Brothers about being nominated for Best Tejano Act, Leah Lavine, publicist for the Fort Worth group, gave it to me straight. "The band doesn't consider themselves Tejano, so they don't want to be considered for the award."
Lavine continued: "They say that they sing all of their songs in English and that they should have never been in the category to begin with."
So it goes. Despite having a definite Tejano influence to its feisty take on country and soul, it would appear that Tejas Brothers wants nothing to do with a DOMA.
"This really puts me in an awkward position," Lavine says apologetically.
You and me both, sister. But whatever label the band may or may not want associated with its music, Tejas Brothers are one damn fine roots act. Chris Zalez writes some wonderful songs (such as "Doing a Real Fine Job") that bring to mind the spirit of the late, great Doug Sahm. Just don't call what Zalez does Tejano, or he may never talk with you again. —Darryl Smyers
This year's DOMAs are a special one for Chris Holt—and not just because he's winning the Best Instrumentalist award again.
Rather, this time around is special because Holt was nominated for another DOMA: Best Solo Act. He didn't win—and, truth be told, he didn't really expect to.
"To be nominated in a category alongside Salim [Nourallah], Sarah [Jaffe], Doug [Burr] and Glenn [Farris]?" Holt asks. "That's pretty serious company, and it's flattering as all hell to be even considered in their same ballpark."
Holt should know; he's played with all of those musicians plenty before. This upcoming year, however, could see him finally stepping out beyond their shadows. In October, the rock outfit he fronts, The Slack, will release its new record. Then, come spring, Holt will release yet another disc—a solo record produced by Nourallah. And the early returns on both are looking quite promising, even if Holt's self-deprecation prevents him from getting too excited about the prospects before him.
"Just getting nominated for something at this point is great," he says. "At this age, it's good to know I'm still relevant." —Pete Freedman
If you like The Beatles—and who doesn't?—Hard Night's Day is about as close to the Fab Four as five guys can get. And it's really no surprise that they've reclaimed the title of Best Cover/Tribute Band that they lost to Boys Named Sue at last year's music awards.
After all, this year marks HND's eighth acceptance of the Best Cover/Tribute Act award. And though they'll happily receive the title, Doug Cox, the Ringo Starr of the band, recognizes that a few of his own band's members even voted for some of the other tribute bands it was competing against for this award.
"We've been for years thinking, 'Somebody vote for somebody else, please!'" Cox says. "There are so many other good bands."
With a repertoire of some 213 songs ranging from their unforgettable 1950s skiffle to post-India psychedelic rock, HND doesn't reinvent the classics, but rather reincarnates them. And if The Beatles is what it takes to keep the interest in Dallas' live music scene alive, Cox doesn't mind doing the gig.
In fact, he knows that even a crummy Beatles cover band would still draw a crowd. Lucky for HND, that's not a problem. —Melissa Crowe
With a stable that includes The Toadies, Bush and the just-signed Bob Schneider, Kirtland Records isn't trying to win cool points with the hipper-than-thou music intelligentsia. Founder John Kirtland and general manager Tami Thomsen are more concerned with doing right by their artists—and choosing artists willing to commit to music as a way of life.
"Smile Smile went out on tour with Metric literally with a couple days' notice," Thomsen says. "We have to have someone who is willing to make that commitment, no matter what it means for their job or any other situations...If I'm willing to work full-time for you, you have to be willing to work full-time for yourself."
Kirtland himself knows about doing music full-time. His stint as drummer for Deep Blue Something took him through the gears of the music industry, from low-paying weeknight club shows to chart-topping single to being dropped from a label. With that experience, he's sympathetic to his artists.
"When we're talking budgets, you might say, 'We have to get this record done in three days,'" Thomsen says. "And John will say, 'You can't make a good record in three days. I've tried to do that.'"
Coming months should bring new releases from Smile Smile and Schneider, whose Kirtland debut (tentatively titled Lovely Creatures) is set for a September 29 release. —Jesse Hughey
For the past few years, whenever Salim Nourallah's name has been brought up by a recording musician, it's usually just "Salim." This is not just because of the distinct nature of his name or some sort of Cher or Prince thing; it's because Salim has a great reputation as a producer and a singer-songwriter. There's a lot to be said for his reliability and his results, and his track record keeps getting longer every year.
As the co-owner of Pleasantry Lane Studios, Nourallah has helped numerous bands and solo artists, from Johnny Lloyd Rollins to Blackheart Society to Rhett Miller, document something worth preserving. —Eric Grubbs
Chelsea Callahan, admittedly, has her "fingers in lots of music pies"—Double Wide booking; Manhandler Management for Dove Hunter, Record Hop and Hello Lover; serving on the board of directors for Art Conspiracy and Carter Albrecht Music Foundation. There's a slew of other projects too: ReFactory 1, M2S2, charity events and whatever else strikes a chord in her music-loving heart. Hell, the brassy gal recognizable for her auburn curls and cowboy boots even DJs.
But while it's easy to chart her impact on the Dallas music scene with a run-down of accomplishments, Callahan probably makes the biggest mark when she simply has a conversation with someone. She attends countless shows to experience and meet bands, aims to respond to every booking inquiry and tries to recommend a venue if a good band doesn't fit hers—all in an effort to keep music flowing into Dallas.
And with audience members and music fans, her passion and ceaseless energy are infectious. She's in the crowds almost nightly, gauging responses and just talking music.
Getting crowds to shows is what puts a fire under Callahan. "Can you imagine what kind of a difference it would make if everybody just went to see one local band or one local show a week?" she asks earnestly, in response to a question about how our music scene needs mending. She knows her push for attendance—Callahan is more action, less bitching—landed her with a second Local Music Advocate nomination after last year's win. "I think I won it because I'm always bugging people about going to shows. I think they're like, 'Aw, she's always trying to get me to go to shows! She's definitely a music advocate.' " —Merritt Martin
There's the selection, of course—from the most obscure indie acts out there to the tried-and-true classics, such as The Replacements and The Pixies.
And there are the employees who do their darnedest, all with a certain charm, to help you find your next favorite band—or maybe order you a copy of that rare import you've been looking for.
But if there's one thing that truly sets Good Records apart from the other record stores in town, it's the fact that the store goes out of its way to keep us entertained, as it does nearly every week by offering up free in-store performances from local and touring musicians alike.
"What that does, more than anything, is offer exposure," store manager Chris Penn says—for the bands that play those in-stores, for the discs those bands are trying to sell and, most important, for the store itself.
Each in-store event isn't so much a performance as it is a rallying cry, announcing to the consumers that the store is still there, current economy or not, still giving a damn. By voting Good Records your favorite record store yet again, well, that's us just reciprocating the sentiment. —Pete Freedman
The history of Dallas music is littered with the obituaries of venues large and small, but few of them would elicit the outcry that might ensue should we ever lose our beloved Granada Theater, our winner once again for Best Venue.
Luckily, the Granada marks its fifth anniversary with a Slobberbone show next month, an occasion to celebrate one of its strongest years yet, with thousands of spectators taking in shows by everyone from Calexico to Grizzly Bear to Old Crow Medicine Show to Ratatat (as well as hundreds of local music fans coming to the venue's defense when a certain prima donna Canadian duo abruptly canceled its show and bad-mouthed the venue's sound system).
Sure, owner Michael Schoder and booking agents Kris Youmans and Helen Eaton constitute the best major booking team in town, stocking the schedule with loads of talent from across the musical spectrum and walking away with the award for Best Local Booker, but booking alone isn't what keeps the crowds and talent coming back for more.
"We run the theater like a family," Schoder says. From the staff to the customers, everyone at the Granada is treated with the kind of respect not often found in your average music venue. And with a backstage complete with a shower and the coolest crew in town, it's easy to see why bands love to play there too.
"It's so key for the bands to be in a good mood when they hit the stage," Schoder says. "If we're having fun, it's a lot easier for the customers to have fun... [and that] rubs off on the bands and then the bands rub off on us by bringing the spirit up onstage."
Tellingly, Schoder's own favorite Granada show of the year wasn't a big, sold-out rock affair, but a show that might have amounted to a massive failure for a lesser venue.
"We had all the power die up and down Greenville, and we had [country singer-songwriter] Hal Ketchum," he says. "And all of Greenville's totally dark. So we said, 'We're gonna light a bunch of candles, have the show anyway.'
"We didn't know if people would actually show up or what 'cause there were big storms and stuff. But we lit about 250 candles and had the show by candlelight. That was unbelievable.'"
For most big venues, maybe. But not for the Granada. —Noah W. Bailey
Paul Slavens has a long performance history in North Texas, having been a member of local music legends Ten Hands and an improvisational performer with Four Day Weekend in Fort Worth, and performing a standing gig at Dan's Silverleaf in Denton each Monday.
For the past five years, though, Slavens has also hosted KERA-90.1 FM's 90.1 at Night broadcast on Sunday evenings, serving as a slender link between today and a golden era when the station was the only one in town worth listening to for music. I refer, of course, to the days of Chris Douridas, Liza Richardson and others, who spun unconstrained playlists that informed, influenced and entertained a listening audience—an audience that included Slavens himself.
If you listen to the show, you will each week hear Slavens entreat the listeners to send him suggestions for music. He takes these suggestions seriously and figures that in any given show "about 25 to 40 percent of the playlist" comes from recent listener suggestions. Another 40 percent comes from music that he has been turned on to by listeners over the past five years. The remaining balance is the truly "eclectic" music, stuff ranging from classical to country to show tunes.
"Nothing is more gratifying than for a listener to tell me I turned them on to some music they'd never heard," Slavens says. The votes cast for this Dallas Observer Music Award suggest the 90.1 at Night show is a mutual pleasure. —Doug Davis
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