With the 26th annual Dallas Observer Music Awards just around the corner -- in fact, voting is open right now at musicawardspoll.dallasobserver.com -- we're looking to spend the next several weeks taking the opportunity to highlight some of the nominees for this year's awards. And when we say that these artists are the "Best," don't just take our word for it: We polled 150 local music experts to pull together the nominees this year, so they come on pretty good authority.
The punk category is one with especially stiff competition -- there were more than enough bands that could've been considered worthy candidates -- but these five represent a perfect sampling for the diversity of options in North Texas. From the poppier end of the spectrum to industrial, this list runs the gamut.
Denton's Bad Sports is not a punk band the way most people understand punk music. For Bad Sports' Greg Rutherford, Daniel Fried and Orville Neeley, punk is a way of life. The trio are in a parade of critically acclaimed punk projects both in Denton and Austin. Bad Sports is a bit of a history lesson for audiences as they explore the punk genre's roots and history to craft and hone their sound. On 2011's Kings of the Weekend, the band excels the U.K. '77 punk sound. Their follow-up, 2013's Bras, is a call back to the days of New York City's early punk scene. The sound on Bras is more snarky, sarcastic and biting. Bad Sports is an embodiment of the idea that punk is more than music, but a full-on way of life.
HEX CULT is a case study for the argument that punk is supposed to be abstract, abrasive and different. HEX CULT is not your ordinary punk band. They incorporate a heavy industrial influence and use it to their advantage as they take the fight to the audience during performances. The band's vocalist and synth player Tesh Cwalino, a veteran of the Dallas punk scene for many years, puts his experience to good use during the band's shows, launching himself into the crowd more often than not. The other half of HEX CULT, vocalist and guitarist Karl Roehling, uses his eccentric personality to help press the band's lesser virtues. They are releasing their debut single early 2015 with plans for a full-length release sometime later in the year. In the meantime, they will be hitting the east coast with Street Sects in late November.
The Phuss are Dallas' answer to Goner Records. For people who swear by Reigning Sound, Oblivians and Ty Segall, the Phuss is your local fix for that brand of garage rock. Formed in 2010 by Joshua Fleming, Trey Alfaro and Forrest Barton, the Phuss have made a name for themselves on the backs of their high-energy performances and catchy songs. Understanding the garage rock game well, the Phuss have made it a point to be prolific and celebrated the release of their most recent album, On The Prowl, last month with a tour of the East Coast.
One of the most popular measuring sticks for pop punk bands is, "Can I listen to this in the autumn?" Sealion, self-described "margarita punk," are Dallas punk's go-to hand-holding and foliage observation band. Formed in 2011, members Cole Denton, Hunter Moehring, Alex Poulos and Samantha Villavert have been having plenty of fun as Sealion. In the various tribes of the punk subculture, it seems that only the pop-punk kids remember to have fun. Sealion doesn't ever forget as they play through their songs. Their new album, Heavy Fizz, is a good time. Sealion shows are a good time and you can't ever really argue against a good time, can you?
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Formed in 2012, Matt Powers, Scott Boothe, Dan Guerra, Aaron Barker and Chris Mancini are the Street Arabs. The Street Arabs are nothing if not snotty. Emulating the sneering persona of their heroes, thet play a style of garage punk that conveys an evolved understanding of music: The Street Arabs' vocals incorporate a great deal of range with the band going so far as to declare that they have a soul influence. To this point, the band does well to make sure that the audience is treated to something different when they catch the Street Arabs. The band is currently playing on their latest release, Blessed Fruit, which was released in April 2014.