Beyond the Red Carpet

Unlike other awards shows, you don't need anything special to host the Dallas Observer Music Awards--talent, experience, Tony Danza. Nope, there's really only one requirement for this job: You have to be me.

I was the perfect candidate.

The following is a condensed diary of the 2005 DOMAs that took place May 3. Though the jokes are occasionally lame, the events are entirely real.

6 p.m. I'm in the dressing room practicing my introductions when I suddenly realize what I'm missing: the awards envelopes. You know, the envelopes with the nominees and the winners. Surely someone thought to make these. Someone?

6:15 p.m. Anyone?

6:30 p.m. Zac Crain and I scribble out the nominees and winners with all the care of retarded 4-year-olds. The Boys Named Sue are playing the VIP party, and they sound terrific, high-energy and tight. Splicing the White Stripes into old Hank Williams, they turn out a foot-stomping, crowd-pleaser of a country set that even the rappers appreciate.

7 p.m. I should really eat something. Ooh, free booze!

8 p.m. The show kicks off with a COPS satire directed by my friend Rob McCollum. The idea is to make fun of the moment at last year's ceremony when Roy Ivy, eccentric front man for the Tah-Dahs and former member of the Polyphonic Spree, stole two of Tim DeLaughter's trophies in the Spree's absence. As part of the film's final gag, Ivy takes the stage wearing only his boxers to introduce the awards. For reasons only he can articulate, he has written on the back of his boxers the word "JUICY." I love Roy Ivy.

8:05 p.m. I take the stage. Blah-blah-blah, failed joke, attempt at self-deprecation, veiled hostility toward audience for not being quiet, award to Burden Brothers, and I'm out. Thank God.

8:15 p.m. Our first performer is Zayra Alvarez, a Puerto Rican-born singer-songwriter who plays occasionally in Deep Ellum. Last year, she put out a Spanish-language album, Ruleta, on Sony International. I became a fan after seeing her at the New Music Festival, where she won over the most cynical among us with a hip-shaking striptease of a Latin pop set. Her set is far more subdued this time--acoustic, lots of slow power ballads--but there's an accompanying video featuring her in a bra. Come on. You know you love it.

8:50 p.m. The show hits its first genuine snag when Tahiti, the rapper slated to play next, isn't ready in time. He's asked fellow MC Headkrack to join him, and Headkrack is MIA. Tahiti's backstage on his cell phone, I'm combing the aisles frantically, and onstage, Zac Crain kills time enticing fellow presenter Sam Machkovech to yell f-bombs as loud as he can. Somewhere, in the balcony, my parents are looking for earplugs.

9 p.m. Headkrack arrives, and he and Tahiti knock it out of the park. I'm backstage, but every time I poke my head in I see white people dancing.

9:15 p.m. We are officially the first rock show in history to run 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Bands are confused. Managers are pissed. The swank backstage VIP bar--supposedly an exclusive area for performers and their friends--has swollen to an unmanageable size. Who are these people? And why aren't they getting me a drink?

9:30 p.m. Daron Beck, American Idol reject and veteran of the Denton art-rock scene, gives an inspired a cappella performance of "I Put a Spell on You," which he sang for the AI judges. That kid's got balls. And I would take him over Anthony Federov any day.

9:45 p.m. Backstage, things are hectic. Sam Machkovech has to break up a fight. I have to fish a CD and a towel out of the toilet. I discover a guy rifling through the awards envelopes, reading the unannounced winners. I handle this like any calm, veteran host would: "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE!" I scream.

10 p.m. The schedule is completely effed. We have told Radiant* to play for 20 minutes. We have told Radiant* to play for 15 minutes. We have told Radiant* to play for 35 minutes. I consider, briefly, letting Radiant* simply play the rest of the night and going for an ice cream sundae somewhere. Mmm, peanut butter and fudge.

10:30 p.m. Highlight of the evening: A group of nominated artists, whom I dub the Dallas Observer Supergroup, performs the five nominated songs. Singers Cory Watson of Black Tie Dynasty and Sara Radle turn this into an amazing Grammy set piece, jumping onto the second stage, singing to each other. With Carter Albrecht and Chris Holt on guitar, Ward Richmond on bass and Daniel Hopkins on drums, I'd sign these guys in a second.

10:40 p.m. Awards speeches at this thing are generally short and/or forgettable. But there are exceptions: This year's most memorable speech award goes to A Dozen Furies, who won for Best New Act. First off, nominated band The Hourly Radio takes the stage and thanks Ozzy Osbourne and MTV. (Later, THR's Ryan Short tells me if Black Tie Dynasty had won, they planned to thank Maybelline and Nick Rhodes.) Confused and a wee drunk, A Dozen Furies starts a chant of "Dimebag! Dimebag!" and proceeds to tell the audience they don't know shit about metal, which is an extraordinarily odd thing to tell voters during an acceptance speech for an award that you won. Of course, I hear none of this onstage. What I hear is "Rah-rah-rah. Mlf! Brr!"

10:50 p.m. Someone in the audience has brought his baby, and every time presenter Zac Crain or I announce a band this man likes, he holds his baby high in the air. This fascinates us. Before long, we are not interested in the winners but in whom the baby will like. Burden Brothers? Sorta? Radiant*? "We have a winner! The baby likes Midlake!"

11 p.m. The most difficult thing about hosting something like the DOMAs is swallowing the paralyzing fear that you will suck or trip or bomb. This, of course, is the same fear confronting the artists we write about. And so, on some level, it's appropriate that once a year, we find ourselves on the other side of the criticism.

The Burden Brothers win eight awards that night--a rather astonishing nod of success. But when Todd Lewis accepts the Best Act Overall award for the Burden Brothers, a drunk guy in the audience yells out, "You suck!"

"Keep up the you-sucks," Lewis says. "It makes us stronger." Fortunately for Lewis, the front of the stage is bristling with kids who have come to see his band and who are throwing up the devil horns at basically anything he says.

After Lewis leaves, I say to the heckler, "Hey, dude, you know what? You suck."

He gives me a double-fisted flip-off, and I leave the stage, smiling.

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Sarah Hepola