This Saturday, Deep Ellum will become a North Texas music family reunion for the Dallas Observer Music Showcase, with 58 bands on eight stages. The lineup ranges from experimental noise bands to hypnotic singer-songwriters. There are rappers playing damn near their first gigs and rock bands returning from cross-country tours. Because you'll have to make some decisions here, we thought we'd let you know a little bit about each of the DOMA nominees playing at this year's showcase.
Trees, 2709 Elm St.
Fishr Pryce, 6 p.m. A veteran of the Dallas DJ scene, Fishr Pryce knows the city well, and knows how to get us moving. Though his background is in hip-hop, Fishr can rock a Top 40, R&B or dance set with the ease of a true pro. Vanessa Quilantan
Señor Fîn, 7 p.m. The fresh faces of Denton's Señor Fîn might have you thinking conventional indie rock. But you'd be missing the inventiveness of the group, whose spellbinding single "Spinning Circles" sounds like a night stumbling in the wilderness near the border. They jump time signatures and vocal octaves with effortless purpose, and the result is the rare young band that never gets boring. Kiernan Maletsky
Home By Hovercraft, 8 p.m. The remarkable debut full-length by Home By Hovercraft sounds like the soundtrack to a musical about the space race. Which makes sense, given the theatrical background of many of its members, including primary songwriters Seth and Shawn Magill. Their lead vocals are flexible and powerful. They are more than enough to carry the mini-orchestra employed by the rest of the band. KM
Danny Church Band, 9 p.m. Etched from neon lights and high fashion, The Danny Church Band's reputation only gets better each week. Like the Dram, where they remain the regular house band, the group is as classy and uptown as Dallas bands come. Their beatific electrosoul instrumentals paired with Church's glorious R&B vocals assure that they are every bit as musically interesting as their hyper-tailored outfits make them out to appear. Jonathan Patrick
Ishi, 10 p.m. One of the most popular live acts in DFW, Ishi is a blast to the senses who have supported acts like Snoop and New Order. Coming off new album Digital Wounds from earlier this year, the Best Electronic Act nominees will be a mainstay of Dallas music for as long as they want to be. Gavin Cleaver
Parranda Venezuela, 11 p.m. These 20 North Texas-dwelling Venezuelans are extremely skilled in performing their native folk music. Their holiday sets of Venezuelan Christmas songs are sure to add a little Latin flavor to your season. VQ
A.Dd+, midnight The MC duo of Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy had yet another breakout year in 2013, playing for more than 750 people at the Granada in February and making plenty of new friends on the festival circuit. A national release of their long-awaited Dive Hi Fly Lo is imminent. It's been a steady climb, but these two always seem to be having more fun than everyone else. KM
Booty Fade, 1 a.m. The dynamic duo of DJ Sober and producer Picnictyme have been a driving force in Dallas' party scene for some time. With Booty Fade, they celebrate their city, turning Dallas rap samples into high-energy club music. VQ
Three Links, 2704 Elm St.
Big Charles Young, 6 p.m. There are very few more purely entertaining musicians in North Texas than Big Charles Young. He got his start working all the odd jobs at R.L.'s Blues Palace #2 in South Dallas, and the time spent observing served him well when he finally took the leap behind the microphone. His voice is clear as a bell and his smile is seductive. KM
Paul Slavens, 7 p.m. Very few artists were nominated for the first DOMAs, in 1988, and also this year. One is Paul Slavens, who has proven himself a versatile player for bands like Ten Hands (with whom he got that first nod) and The Baptist Generals (one of four he got this year). His solo work is impressive -- for proof of his skill, one need look no further than his nights of improvised songs. You give him a few words (and a tip) and he comes back with an invention that's as frequently entertaining as it is just plain good. KM
The Phuss, 8 p.m. Fort Worth trio The Phuss sound like a bad part of Detroit on a bad day. Their music is greasy and loud and their demeanor is mean and the whole thing makes them one of the best live acts in North Texas. KM
Jessie Frye, 9 p.m. The full-length debut of Denton songwriter Jessie Frye has been a long time coming. Specifically, it comes two and a half years since her excellent EP, Fireworks Child. The new stuff promises more instrumental complexity, at least if lead single "White Heat" is any indication, but the highlight is still Frye's voice, a desperate, powerful thing. KM
-topic, 10 p.m. The Team From Nowhere rapper is one of the most consistent performers in the city, constantly playing shows and steadily releasing new material throughout the year. Both -topic's lyricism and production skills make him a standout in the Dallas rap scene. VQ
Blixaboy, 11 p.m. Wanz Dover, aka Blixaboy, is one of the musical constants of our area for the last 25 years. A jack of all trades, and a master of all of them too, Wanz can sometimes be seen in his band The Black Dotz. But recently he's become best known for his outstanding electronic project, Blixaboy. GC
Pinkish Black, midnight While most metal bands merely posture in a façade of grim doom, Pinkish Black were literally conceived in it -- spawned in the wake of a former bandmate's suicide. (The band name is an allusion to the bloody color of the walls where his body was found.) Apart from being one of the most adventurous metal acts around, Pinkish Black have achieved what was once thought impossible: success as a metal band sans guitar and bass. Fresh off their second LP release -- which, like their first, has received international critical acclaim -- the analog synth and drum duo continue to show that they are out to tear the metal scene asunder. JP
Eat Avery's Bones, 1 a.m. At a recent gig in Denton, Eat Avery's Bones began their set by asking, "Are you ready? You better be," and then, amidst a torrent of mangled noises and tumbling improvisation patterns, proceeded to crash the eardrums of everyone present. Therein lies the wonderful problem with EAB: There's no way to properly ready yourself for their eruptive DIY freak-outs -- a music that is always boiling toward fruition while destroying itself in the process. This is the stuff of Iggy Pop's wet dreams. JP
The Door at The Prophet Bar, 2513 Main St.
Yeahdef, 6:20 p.m. Joey "Yeahdef" Liechty is notorious for his long-standing role in Denton's nightlife scene. The skilled, still-young DJ knows the college town demographic like the back of his hand, and rarely disappoints live. VQ
Sweatloaf, 7:20 p.m. Butthole Surfers tribute band Sweatloaf bring a pandemonium to their performances the real thing would be proud of. There are weird back-up dancers, cross-dressing singers, clothespins and general mayhem. They can play the hell out of the songs, too, but that hardly seems like the point. KM
Rhymin 'n' Stealin, 8:20 p.m. Three former stand-up comedians combine to make Beastie Boys tribute Rhymin 'n' Stealin. As we'll never get to see the real thing again (oh Lord, why?), this is the closest thing you'll get, and the impression is remarkable. So good is R&S' Ad-Rock, I'm still unsure as to whether or not it was the actual MC. GC
Mayta, 9:20 p.m. Dallas supergroup Mayta is a seven-member collective of working musicians, who fuse every aspect of Latin music into a sound that's entirely their own. Brothers and bandmates Ivan, Renato and Victor Rimach bring a taste of their native Lima, Peru, to the city with every show. VQ
Dustin Cavazos, 10:20 p.m. Dustin Cavazos was already one of Dallas' best rappers. Then he enlisted a live band and found new focus in his material, and now his show is a singular experience. The Oak Cliff native has charm and wordplay to spare. KM
Def Rain, 11:20 p.m. Def Rain is the electronic project of prolific songwriter Ashley Cromeens. From metal to hip-hop and now to synth-pop, Cromeens has done it all. The hazy, globular synths of Def Rain's music may sound like soundtrack excerpts from retro-futuristic sci-fi films (think Blade Runner), but they never cease to stir the mind and move the body in equal measure. JP
The Effinays, 12:20 a.m. It's jazz, it's funk, it's soul, it's rock, and most importantly, it's fun as all hell. The Effinays' multi-genre stage show is made even more entertaining by the band's penchant for theatrics. VQ Prophet Bar, 2548 Elm St.
Deep Throat, 6:40 p.m. This Denton psych-punk outfit is not for the faint of heart. Fearlessly ferocious lead singer Taylor Kimbrough is as arresting as she is terrifying, howling and growling over songs like "EAT SHIT AND DIE" and "DAY STRIPPER." VQ
Yells at Eels, 7:40 p.m. A note on pedigree: The Penguin Guide to Jazz refers to local trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez (YAE's mastermind) as "the heir of Don Cherry." He too was on the very first DOMAs ballot. Along with his two sons, Stefan (drums) and Aaron (bass), Gonzalez has brought much-needed girth and an avant-garde bent to Dallas' wanting jazz scene. Not to be pigeonholed, the trio has extended its experimental tendencies to the pop realm as well, collaborating on more than one occasion with left-field auteur Ariel Pink (most notably on Pink's masterwork Before Today). JP
Violent Squid, 8:40 p.m. Forget music for a second. Onstage, this Denton-based improv collective looks like an LSD vision from late-era Beatles' dreamspace -- an extravagant spectacle of decadent costumes and bizarre masks. The large, ever-revolving cast that is Violent Squid draws from influences as disparate as Sun Ra, Can and Acid Mothers Temple, making them one of the most sonically unique groups in all of Texas. We thought we had lost these guys a few years ago when frontman Ty Stamp hightailed it to Austin. Luckily, for the time being, they're still here, helping keep North Texas as weird as ever. JP
Sober, 9:40 p.m. Dallas superproducer Picnictyme has said of his Booty Fade partner in crime, "No one understands the language of the party better than DJ Sober." If you've ever been to the DJ's Thursday-night residency at The Basement, you know how true this statement is. VQ
Lord Byron, 10:40 p.m. One of the most promising new acts of the Dallas rap scene is a mild-mannered 21-year-old named Byron Neal. After releasing mixtape Dark Arts 2, he's got every rap artist in the city working double time to keep up with his lyrical mastery. VQ
Miss Marcy, 11:40 p.m. The blues sound of Miss Marcy and her Texas SugarDaddys is unconventional. It swings a little harder and faster than does the work of some of her contemporaries in the genre. She's an energetic performer, capable of commanding a loud bar filled with strangers and a quiet theater of fans with equal shimmering confidence. KM
Dark Rooms, 12:40 a.m. Dark Rooms is the brainchild of Daniel Hart, a violinist and local music treasure who's played with everyone from St. Vincent to Broken Social Scene. The band's lush indie-pop sensibilities have made them a local fan favorite. VQ
Reno's (Inside), 210 N. Crowdus St.
Ronnie Fauss, 6:40 p.m. We finally got a full-length Ronnie Fauss album late last year, and we're still finding treasures in its 11 tracks of gritty Americana. The live edition features a few different lineups, but as long as Fauss is up there, straining to describe the Texas night sky with his acoustic guitar in hand, we'll be there. KM
Brutal Juice, 7:40 p.m. For most of the '90s, Brutal Juice pummeled audiences around the country with wide-eyed, vein-popping punk music. And in spite of the band's manic shows (many a cigarette was put out on lead singer Craig Welch's tongue), the music had such a strong melodic backbone that the band eventually signed to Interscope Records, where they released one album and then broke up. But it's time for the reunion, which started last year and promises new material in the imminent future. Don't worry -- they haven't calmed down at all. KM
Fogg, 8:40 p.m. This Fort Worth metal trio is heavy -- scorched tar oozing out of battered amplifiers heavy. The very young, and newly formed, Fogg have the sonic chemistry of seasoned veterans, playing like they've been joined at the hip for years. These boys have successfully parlayed their love for early-'70s metal into a grave and beautiful sound all their own, sounding like a doom-weary Black Sabbath passed through Dante's hell and back. JP
Cutter, 9:40 p.m. Winners of last year's Best Electronic Act award, Cutter have been a Dallas staple for a good few years now, popping up in venues all over town. Like a precision-guided dance bomb, their combo of beats and keys is extraordinarily effective at making you move. GC
The BoomBachs, 10:40 p.m. We put The BoomBach into a category because that's how this thing works, but the Denton collective can hardly be contained. There are distinct hip-hop and R&B sounds, which are cozy enough bedfellows. But things get strange later in the band's discography, where you'll find dark synth rock and sultry funk. They even have "gospel" listed in their own description. Things are much less complicated live, where the band is simply moving. KM
Brain Gang, 11:40 p.m. If you've never seen a mosh pit at a rap show before, you've obviously never seen Dallas rap collective Brain Gang take over a stage. Their high-energy set will make even the most conservative live music fan throw inhibition to the wind and "turn up," as the kids say. VQ
Terminator 2, 12:40 a.m. Denton can add another feather to its cap. It's now host to the best/worst band name in the entire world. Terminator 2 are one of the best experimental metal bands on the planet. Self-described as "the sound of the human machine shutting down forever," these guys don't so much play their instruments as deconstruct them. It's a bloody, sludgy treat to have a world-class group like this in our backyard. JP Reno's (Outside), 210 N. Crowdus St.
Venetian Sailors, 6:20 p.m. Venetian Sailors have roots across the gamut of guitar-based music. There's some folk, some rock and some '60s pop. Across several lineup shifts, frontman Robbie Saunders has found a timeless sound. KM
Nicholas Altobelli, 7:20 p.m. Without a Home is the name of Nicholas Altobelli's latest CD, but it could also describe his sound up to this point. He's dabbled in folk, alt-country and its related ilk, but they were never what he really wanted to be doing. No, he wanted something with more nuance and oomph, and he found it on this new album. Recorded by Salim Nourallah, Without a Home was worth the years Altobelli put into it. KM
Catamaran, 9:20 p.m. Catamaran make rhythmically enrapturing, heady surf rock. The quartet use tremolo-ed guitars and syrupy melodies to craft songs that marry the Beach Boys' warmth to Vampire Weekend's highbrow East Coast pop. On the back of their new single, "All Around" and a flurry of shows, the boys have made big ripples here in Dallas. National exposure is in their future. JP
Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers, 10:20 p.m. Danny Rush is a songwriter who wears the demands of his songs' dark themes on his face as he plays. His new album with backing band The Designated Drivers is full of brilliant lyrical turns and indelible melodies. KM
Tunk, 11:20 p.m. Kevin "Tunk" Arradando has the rare ability to execute classic Southern rap style without sounding stale, dated or gimmicky. This year his mixtape Direct Deposit was met with widespread critical acclaim, both locally and nationally. VQ
Black James Franco, 12:20 a.m. This Denton jazz/R&B/pop hybrid trio's seductive melodies and impressive musicality are matched by few. Drummer and lead vocalist Eddie Terrell is the icing on the cake, with his haunting lyrical prowess. VQ
Dada (Inside), 2720 Elm St.
Dallas Uber Alles, 6:40 p.m. Dallas tribute bands have dedicated fan bases, and Dallas Uber Alles have one of the best. After all, the Dead Kennedys covers they perform are flawlessly and entertainingly executed. VQ
War Party, 7:40 p.m. Apparently there's a place where punk, slacker-rock and beach-pop meet, because War Party have found it. The five-piece Fort Worth band's sound is rough in texture, yet swims in the same marijuana daze that fogs most contemporary indie music. In many ways they're an atypical garage band, as gifted at plunging emotional depths as they are at cranking out meaty riffs. If the Ramones fell victim to Brian Wilson's nightmares, it would sound a lot like this. JP
Vulgar Fashion, 8:40 p.m. We like Vulgar Fashion -- Dallas' premier proto-industrial synth duo -- as much for their music as for their feather-rustling performances. Earlier this year, with lead singer Julie McKendrick adorned with streams of faux blood splatter, Vulgar Fashion performed a prematurely halted set at the Dram. Only 20 minutes in and they got the hook. Damn yuppies couldn't recognize good ol'-fashioned alienating, art-damaged pop music, even when it barked in their faces. JP
Pageantry, 9:40 p.m. The band Pageantry describe themselves as "inspirational pop-gaze," which is telling. The individual adjectives there are valuable: There's an admiration of repetition that does indeed feel a bit like gazing at something, and the pop is expertly constructed. But "inspirational" is the real kicker. It's not that their debut EP, Friends of the Year, makes you want to run a marathon or get your bills paid. It's more that it inspires you to keep listening to it, again and again, until those killer guitar lines are soundtracking your dreams. KM
Son of Stan, 10:40 p.m. Son of Stan is the creation of touring drummer extraordinaire Jordan Richardson. His synthy opus, Divorce Pop, is astonishingly good and a breath of fresh air into the city's rich indie-rock scene. VQ
Super Sonic Lips, 11:40 p.m. Here in Dallas by way of Mexico, the omnivores of Super Sonic Lips borrow equally from the traditional music of their home country and the odd, dark corners of '80s new wave and postpunk. It doesn't all fit together seamlessly, but there's skill and energy to spare. KM
Sam Lao, 12:40 a.m. One of Dallas' most sought-after breakout performers, Sam Lao has had a very busy year. With her signature fierce flow and bombshell stage presence, the energetic musician is quickly becoming the poster girl for the city's new rap underground. VQ
Dada (Outside), 2720 Elm St.
Biographies, 6:20 p.m. Denton's Biographies possess youthful angst and musical patience in equal measure. It's a rare combination that gives the passion of their songs some substance. It's easy to make a song about heartbreak and hard to make one that feels right even if your heart is just fine. Biographies walk that line, and they are rewarded with an impressively large fan base for such a new band. Credit the songs, yes, but note also the power of six people (and a set of timpani drums) on stage at once. KM
Fox and the Bird, 7:20 p.m. Go to the Fox and the Bird website and, at the moment, you'll find photos from their summer tour out West. There are its members, leaning nonchalantly on small-town storefronts and crouching on some rooftop somewhere and driving down the highway with the mountains off in the distance. It's a fitting collage for a band whose music sounds as though it's fueled by wanderlust and sunshine. KM
Dim Locator, 8:20 p.m. Will Kapinos (who also plays in Dovehunter) brings unusual inventiveness and oddity to his music as Dim Locator. It's psychotic blues or soulful psych or something all its own. A favorite of the vaunted Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff, Kapinos has performed with like-minded innovator Roky Erikson and others. KM
Sealion, 9:20 p.m. Their self-proclaimed genre is "Margarita Punk." They describe themselves like this: "If Jean Michel Basquiat beat the shit out of Norman Rockwell, we would be the blood on his knuckles." Their Facebook "about" section reads: "We make music?" Like a shot straight through their veil of inscrutability, we simply describe them as really, really good. JP
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Jeff Whittington, 10:20 p.m. After a long hiatus from music, songwriter Jeff Whittington returned this year with the excellent, Stuart Sikes-produced Whittington. Its songs are the kind of nimble rock you associate with Elvis Costello or Nick Lowe, but Whittington's got some moves all his own. KM
Tony Schwa, 11:20 p.m. For years, Tony Schwa has been an authoritative funk, soul and disco DJ in Dallas' nightlife scene. His party, Cool Out, has made a resurgence this year, picking up right where it left off at The Crown & Harp. VQ
George Quartz, 12:20 a.m. With one of the most confrontational and envelope-pushing live shows in Dallas, George Quartz aims to turn you on and turn you out with every performance. Imagine a late-'70s talk show host on mescaline, with his own troupe of subservient backup dancers. VQ