By Aaron Ortega
Band members, adorned in President Barack Obama and spy masks, elicited finger-pointing attention in an otherwise mask-less artists’ soiree. Spreading name recognition through comicality in their promotional photos, members of Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers successfully made an impression in a room surrounded by fellow musicians and an assortment of members of the press. This photo opportunity occurred during the Dallas Observer-sponsored artists’ party, highlighting various bands on this year’s awards ballot.
The Dallas Observer Music Awards is nearing its end as the showcase approaches Saturday, Nov. 10. Dallas’ inventory of local talent survives on the life support of its fan base. However, recognition and the spotlight can project bands out of the occasional live performance and social media review and into one night of fan appreciation and notoriety.
The process behind the DOMAs begins with the selection of local acts, submitted and compiled by various heads throughout the Dallas music community. After narrowing down the nominees, the ballots are set live for all of Dallas to cast their votes either online or by phone, and choose their favorite acts of the past year.
Once the voting and awards are complete, a cover story about the award-winning band gets tackled by the editor, to be written in a relatively short amount of time. Pete Freedman, former music editor of the Dallas Observer, said: “It’s an incredibly crazy turnaroud. The voting isn’t finished until late on Saturday night. Then you write lovingly about them on that Sunday, and proof it on Monday and Tuesday. It’s a big grind on top of having to throw, hopefully, a big party to celebrate the music.”
Winners of the awards may vary in their personal journeys of achievement over the year, but their satisfaction and gratification over such noteworthy appreciation can be very similar. Freedman said: “I’ve seen some bands that I thought were pretty hard or too cool for school, but, like, super excited over winning an award.”
“It’s kind of adorable.”
This year, Dallas Observer music editor Audra Schroeder experienced her first year overseeing the DOMAs as well as the showcase events.
Schroeder said, “I wanted to get more of the unknown bands of Dallas out there, get them in front of readers and a live audience.” Names such as Pinkish Black, Snow Tha Product, and Jessie Frye are just a few acts Schroeder notes as making waves on the Dallas music radar.
Schroeder said she has received various comments from people who did not know all of the acts on the ballot. “Well, that’s great,” Schroeder said. “Do you really want to see the same bands every year? Sort of defeats the purpose.”
The grassroots support of Dallas’ underground music community will play a role in this year’s awards; however, Schroeder hopes readers will invest the time to familiarize themselves with various new bands.
On the Dallas Observer’s DC9 At Night blog, the “Getting to Know” series introduced various bands on the ballot this year, albeit with different perspectives. Instead of prototypical band interview questions, citing influences or discussing group camaraderie, the series introduced the bands through a list of random questions, giving the reader a glimpse into a different side of the band off-stage and out of the recording space.
One example: Schroeder asked Denton punk band Atomic Tanlines, “What political figures, past or present, would you like to see fight in the Thunderdome from Mad Max?” Casual and haphazard conversations with Dallas and Denton acts created another forum for uninformed voters to better familiarize themselves with the nominees.
The other forum, the awards showcase, will feature 50-plus acts performing live all in one night at various venues throughout Deep Ellum. This year, Schroeder said, the performance schedule is staggered in an effort to avoid people seeing acts of one genre confined to a single club. Schroeder said, “We encourage people to be a human pinball that night and try to see an array of local acts.”
Former Brookhaven College student Daniel Folmer and his band, Danny Rush and the Designated Drivers, is up for nomination this year in best Americana/Roots category, and will be performing in the awards showcase.
Folmer aspires to solely perform for an Americana audience, in an effort to subvert their expectations and create buzz. Folmer said, “We’ll probably play half rootsy-country songs, and the other half just blow-your-ass-off punk rock.”
Folmer said his band is one of the acts on this year’s ballot that are among the lesser-known names in the Dallas music scene. Also up for best Americana/Roots and Country, bands such as Somebody’s Darling and Boxcar Bandits, perhaps draw more name recognition among fans.
Folmer expects a loss this year, but maintains a positive outlook. Folmer said: “There’s so many good bands in our category that I know we’re gonna lose to, which I’m fine with. But the goal is to bring extra attention to the band.”
As far as the winners of the music awards, the fruits of their musical endeavors over the last year vary in promotional forms. Name recognition and social media expertise play factors in generating fan votes and awareness.
However, Freedman said that despite notions of the ballots being a popularity contest, the right acts generally win. Freedman said: “I think it ends up being a pretty fair representation, if only a snapshot of what Dallas music was like that year.”
Voting ends at 2 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, the night of the Dallas Observer Music Awards showcase. Tickets are priced at $10, which includes admission into participating clubs in Deep Ellum that night.