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Started by best friends Cortinas and Romero, who also write the majority of the songs, the band's whimsical name came from a "stupid thing" Cortinas once said to her mother to explain away what she'd been doing out late the night before. Cortinas' creativity also extends to personal touches like the homemade refrigerator magnets available for sale at shows and her quirky MySpace postings. The band's only official recording, an eight-song, self-titled EP released more than a year ago, is now somewhat out of date, but with a bit of luck and a new CD due for release in August there's no reason why Fishing for Comets can't make next year a three-peat. --Sander Wolf

Best Funk/R&B

You people really screwed this category up. Do you even bother to read these ballots anymore? Dallas is and always has been about style over substance, form over function, the cover of the book being the only thing we read in this town. Now you've gone and blindly cast your votes awarding Woodbelly, a trio of panda-shaped crackas, as Best Funk/R&B Group. While they may look like rotund Best Buy employees and their reggae riffage may initially smack of a ska band that couldn't even scrape together a horn section, Woodbelly has the performance mileage, college credits and well-weathered chops to tackle a seemingly disingenuous formula with mastery and respect. Cas Haley, Ben Drake and Brandon Morris combine two decades' worth of formal education and tireless in-the-trenches gigging to produce music that is firmly rooted in an encyclopedic knowledge of their sonic ancestry without forgetting how to craft a hook that pop radio can't deny.

Despite certain inescapable Caucasoid persuasions, Woodbelly has already shown that they're in the midst of careening toward greater and grander things. It's not like they needed a Dallas Observer Music Award to solidify their street cred. Has your frumpy-ass white-dude band opened for Burning Spear lately? Didn't think so. --G.J.

Steve Austin
Best Hip-Hop/Rap

To some voters, the hip-hop/rap category is as simple as picking the artist with the best songs. By that criterion alone, this year's ballot is pretty tough, as every dude here has it, from Tahiti's mega-watt wit to Pikahsso's sing-funk insanity to Headkrack's Uzi-style presence to Money Waters' molasses-drawl porch preaching. Steve Austin's win is indicative, to some degree, of his power on the mike, but that's only a fraction of his success.

It makes sense that "the Bioniq MC" has Dallas' best shot at national rap fame right now. His nonstop networking and promoting have landed his slick, fiery rhyme style--a perfect mix of underground cred and mainstream-ready polish--on Universal subsidiary YMC Records, which he says will finally release his long-awaited 800 Pound Gorilla album in August. After proving his business savvy in Dallas' competitive mix-tape scene, Austin's definitely excited about the official album, but he's also hesitant to hype it. "I don't get discouraged, but I don't think, 'Hey, I made it,' either. If you stop working now, when you finally put that album out, it's gonna be double-wood."

Austin says he's been preparing Gorilla "his whole life," so why stop working hard now? His live show reflects that attitude, packed with dancers, video displays and his cocksure stage presence, but just as important is his love for the Dallas scene, which he believes has actually benefited from a criminal lack of attention for so long. "You've got people sitting back, so, so, so hungry for it, that all we've been doing...we have our own slang, our own mannerisms, but at the same time, we've been open-minded because we've had to receive so much over the years. Now, we have so much to give."

The only excitement Austin doesn't hold back about is the hope that any success he gets will "kick the door open" for fellow Dallas rappers. He compares it with his recent treatment for tumors in his nervous system, a subject he hasn't gone on the record about until now: "I've been a big inspiration to the people I've been in chemo with, the kids there, because I can move around," Austin says. "They can't move. They can't get up. That's the same way it is with music here in Dallas. We've been held back for so long...and we don't wanna take no for an answer." --S.M.

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