Best Country Act
Cal Quinn
Rolling Stone recently listed Vandoliers in its New Country Artists You Need to Know. But Josh Fleming, John Pedigo, Guyton Sanders and Mark Moncrieff have been turning heads in Dallas for a couple of years as an alt-country band with punk roots and songs that cross the musical spectrum from mariachi and country to folk and punk rock. "It's always fun to get into a genre that you know nothing about because then you don't have a bias," band founder Fleming told the Observer in May. The band's latest release, The Native, takes the country genre far away from bro country and red-dirt country and offers fans something fresh. "It's Texas music played by Texans," Fleming says. "But we're not saying anything about dirt roads. We're not talking about farms because we don't live on them. We love and respect the people who do. I'm just singing about my life."

Now that Mötley Crüe is retired, it's up to tribute bands like Dallas' Crüed and Tattooed to take fans back to the late '80s. But these guys and lady don't just sound like Mötley Crüe rehashing old classics like "Shout at the Devil." They also kind of resemble them from a distance. Mike Crue (Vince Neil), DieTrich Thrall (Nikki Sixx), Jay Patterson (Mick Mars) and Nikki Heimann (scantily clad backup vocalist) dress in similar fashion as their Mötley Crüe counterparts onstage. Crued and Tattooed drummer Matt Cayer even jams onstage strapped to his drum kit and spinning like Tommy Lee from the Girls, Girls, Girls tour. "Crüe is the reason I bought my first guitar, got my first tattoo, got into hard rock," Patterson says.

Best Rock Act
Messer on Facebook

Messer recently came in third place in Metallica's Hit the Lights local band competition, but it's no loser. Formed in 2009 in Dallas, the group creates a synergy when it goes onstage, a kind of magic that propelled bands like Drowning Pool to stardom in the early 2000s. It's called a "cutting-edge modern rock sound," and it can be addictive. The band — Dereak, vocals; Javier, guitar; Kenn, drums; Maddox, bass; and Donnie, guitar — quickly became a favorite in Deep Ellum when it formed in 2009, but it didn't take long before it hit the road to bars and venues outside of Texas. The band recently completed its self-titled debut album and made an appearance onstage with Local H on Metallica's 2017 Worldwired tour. Local H members may have simply felt like douches for winning the Hit the Lights local band competition when they were, in fact, a signed band.

It was the contest of a lifetime for one local band: a chance to play 30-minute set openings on a partial leg of the Metallica Worldwide tour, it sounded like a pipe dream come true. And two Dallas bands — Mothership and Messer — made it to the final round. Fans voted online, and the two Dallas bands were nearly neck and neck, with Mothership appearing to be the winner. The WTF moment happened when Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich announced the winner was Local H, an alternative grunge band from Chicago with eight studio albums, two greatest-hits albums, a live album and three concert films. Radio disc jockey Cindy Scull from KEGL-FM (97.1 The Eagle) said it best: "Maybe we didn't read the small print, but if signed bands were up for this, then we could have had a myriad of Dallas-Fort Worth bands that would be awesome, starting with Drowning Pool. Please, they would have obliterated Local H in a national vote."

Best Blues Vocalist
Jason Janik

Charley Crockett, a Rio Grande Valley native, started singing and playing the blues on the street in the French Quarter and Deep Ellum when he was a teenager. "That's where performance started for me," he told D Magazine in March 2016. "Playing on the street was hard love. You make the sacrifice to not have the stability of a paycheck, but you're playing music every day and sharpening your voice and guitar skills." Like an old bluesman from the roaring '20s, Crockett hitchhiked and rode a freight, traveling from town to town around the country to perfect his music on the streets with other performers along the way. He released his debut album, A Stolen Jewel, in 2015, followed by In the Night in 2016. Crockett is known to take an artful blend to his music, sometimes incorporating R&B and honky tonk with his blues.

Best Blues Act
Christian McPhate

Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch — Brandon Katona and Mike Talbot — blends jump blues, hard-hitting rock and vintage soul with a trace of 1960s country into a blues-inspired sound that offers a fresh take on Texas blues. Elmore grew up immersed in all genres of American roots music and mentored for a time under Jim Suhler, and it shows in his soulful vocals and guitar licks that always seem to evoke an emotional response from the listener. Formed in 2008 in Dallas, the band's most recent album, Champagne Valet, debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard blues charts, No. 3 on the Roots Music Report blues charts and No.1 on the Texas music chart for six weeks.

Best Rock Vocalist
Mike Brooks

Jasen Moreno says one of his greatest influences was Freddie Mercury from Queen, but he didn't envision himself as a singer when he first walked into the store and bought a Queen album. Listening to Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson and Pantera's Phil Anselmo helped to shape his vocals as the frontman first for The Suicide Hook and later Drowning Pool. He joined the band in 2012 after Ryan McCombs left to reunite with his original band, SOiL. Moreno's joining took some fans outside of Dallas by surprise. Drowning Pool, however, has always been one of those bands that could be considered heavy metal or hard rock, and Moreno is the kind of vocalist who can feel and relay the emotion in songs of both genres, much like his predecessor and friend Dave Williams, who helped to lead Drowning Pool to the national spotlight with hits like "Bodies" and "Tear Away" until his death from cardiomyopathy in 2002.

Best Metal Vocalist
Jason Janik

Bruce Corbitt, frontman for Warbeast, has spent the last 35 years perfecting his dark vocal art. Influenced by Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson and many others, Corbitt evokes a similar power, the kind that causes heads to bang. He first unleashed it as the frontman for speed metal band Rigor Mortis in the '80s with the late legendary speed metal guitarist Mike Scaccia by his side. A year after he joined the band, it signed with Capitol Records and released its self-titled debut album. Some called the group "the next Metallica," but Corbitt doesn't sound like James Hetfield. Instead, he assaults the microphone with his unique sound — one part demonic, two parts monstrous — as he unleashes lyrics such as "the fragrance of the corpse is the stench of his kin" on fans who seem to devour his music in the mosh pit.

Best Metal Performance
Mike Brooks

Five years had passed since Iron Maiden slayed a Dallas stage, but the six-piece British metal band proved why it's considered a legend of heavy metal when it took the stage at American Airlines Center in late June. Jamming in front of a Mayan ruins backdrop, the band played a 15-song set filled with classics such as "Wrathchild," Children of the Damned" and "Fear of the Dark," along with new songs from its 16th studio album, The Book of Souls. Frontman Bruce Dickinson performed to a sold-out crowd with "his characteristic intensity, vigor and showmanship," as our reviewer said in the June review, proving that even a cancer couldn't keep this legendary frontman down.

Tigger's Body Art set the standard for modern-day tattoo shops in Dallas when the late Mark "Tigger" Liddell began slinging ink at the shop in the '80s. It was the first tattoo shop in Deep Ellum and the kind of shop where art was explored and challenged. Tigger started tattooing in Oklahoma but moved to Dallas, where it was legal to tattoo. He was the first to take tattooing out of the backroom and put everything on display. Today, Tigger's Tattoo Shop no longer resembles its former self after a remodel in 2014 updated it with a more modern feel, but its artists — Joey, Jake, Randy and Chef Joey — are still slinging ink as if Tigger is guiding their tattoo guns.

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