Observer Music Awards Winners Since Pete Freedman’s Reign (It List For October 20)

Ed. Note: This afternoon, moments before posting this piece, the news broke: Dallas Observer Music Editor Pete Freedman is stepping down after four years on the job. Fitting, then, that we look back at how the DO’s music awards have been doled out during Freedman’s tenure. 

This was much more rhythmic and repetitive than I had even anticipated, but I don’t necessarily mean that in as damning a way as one might think. For instance, do we necessarily expect anyone else besides Good Records to win the award for “Best Record Store?”  On the contrary, some of the winners do change at a healthy rate from year-to-year, especially in regard to the “best” hip hop, R&B, and DJ categories. Then there’s the tricky “don’t blame me” aspect of the nomination process. After all, they send the blank primary slip out to 122 people involved in North Texas Music, myself included. Admittedly, I did not fill one out. Don’t blame me.

People often point their fingers at Mr. Freedman. But it’s a general election and as influential as he may be, he’s no Scalia. But then again, if he has zero impact on the results, then what exactly is he posting about all year?

What do these awards ultimately tell us about Dallas music? Perhaps a professional statistician could sum that up in about thirty seconds. I have spent a brief part of today trying to make sense of it, continually readjusting my glasses like a concerned member of NASA in a Hollywood disaster film.

The most concerning part of the patterns presented below, is where these awards will go in the next three or four years. How long can we bear to be this redundant? For better or worse, if we’re to use this as a true gauge of local tastes, then one conclusion that can be drawn is that Dallas audiences will consistently support something, regardless of what’s going on trend-wise or even culturally outside of the city. A friend from Chicago recently bragged that the best thing about his chosen home was that the kind of tacky and rude sort of local music personality he took for granted in Dallas wouldn’t last a day in The Windy City.

On one hand, there’s a certain beauty to that blind yet focused support for certain artists and sounds that lasts long enough to constitute an era. And it does give the city its own character. But on the other hand if, heaven forbid, I were to have a child right now, the thought of that kid being twenty-years-old and watching Datahowler play in a Deep Ellum parking lot in 2031 is a tad bit depressing. It wasn’t what I wanted when I was hanging out in said neighborhood as a youngster, and I see no reason to accept it now. So, even though I strongly prefer looking forward, here’s an informative look back at the winners since 2008. Read it aloud, don’t squint, and tell me what you see.


Best Band/Group –

2008: Eleven Hundred Springs

2009: Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights

2010: RTB2

2011: Seryn


Best Solo Act –

2008: Sarah Jaffe

2009: Sarah Jaffe

2010: Sarah Jaffe

2011: Sarah Jaffe


Best Album –

2008: Country Jam by Eleven Hundred Springs

2009: Someday This Could All Be Yours, Vol. 1 by The Paper Chase

2010: Suburban Nature by Sarah Jaffe

2011: This is Where We Are by Seryn


Best Blues Act –

2008: Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights

2009: Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights

2010: RTB2

2011: The Red 100’s


Best Country Act – 

2008: Eleven Hundred Springs

2009: The King Bucks

2010: Boys Named Sue

2011: Eleven Hundred Springs


Best Alt-Country/Roots Act – 

2008: N/A

2009: N/A

2010: Whiskey Folk Ramblers

2011: Whiskey Folk Ramblers


Best Electronic Act  (Originally combined  with “Experimental.” Later a separate category called “Electronica,” then “Electronica/Dance” ) – 

2008: Mom

2009: Vega

2010: Ishi

2011: Ishi


Best Experimental Act (First Combined with Electronic. Eventually combined with “Avant Garde”) –

2008: (see above)

2009: Shiny Around the Edges

2010: Mount Righteous

2011: Diamond Age


Best Metal Act – 

2008: Fair to Midland

2009: Jacknife

2010: Fair to Midland

2011: Warbeast


Best Folk/Acoustic Act – 

2008: Sarah Jaffe

2009: Sarah Jaffe

2010: Sarah Jaffe

2011: Sarah Jaffe


Best Funk/R&B Act – 

2008: Erykah Badu

2009: Backside Pick

2010: Fergus & Geronimo

2011: Ducado Vega


Best Rap/Hip-Hop Act – 

2008: Astronautalis

2009: Damaged Goods

2010: Dem Southernfolkz

2011: The Mohicans


Best Jazz Act – 

2008: Snarky Puppy

2009: Snarky Puppy

2010: Snarky Puppy

2011: Paul Slavens


Best Female Vocalist – 

2008: Sarah Jaffe

2009: Sarah Jaffe

2010: Sarah Jaffe

2011: Sarah Jaffe


Best Label – 

2008: Good Records

2009: Kirtland Records

2010: Kirtland Records

2011: Spune


Best Producer – 

2008: Salim Nourallah

2009: Salim Nourallah

2010: Salim Nourallah

2011: Salim Nourallah


Best Venue – 

2008: Granada Theater

2009: Granada Theater

2010: Granada Theater

2011: House of Blues


Best Record Store – 

2008: Good Records

2009: Good Records

2010: Good Records

2011: Good Records


Best Booking Agent/Talent Buyer – 

2008: Kris Youmans

2009: Granada Theater

2010: Granada Theater

2011: Granada Theater



Best Music Advocate – 

2008: Chelsea Callahan

2009: Chelsea Callahan

2010: Chelsea Callahan

2011: Mark Schectman


Best DJ – 

2008: DJ Burlap (of Eleven Hundred Springs)

2009: Yeahdef

2010: Merritt

2011: Wanz Dover


Best Instrumentalist – 

2008: Sean Kirkpatrick

2009: Chris Holt

2010: Ryan Thomas Becker

2011: Chris Semmelbeck


Best Cover/Tribute Act – 

2008: Boys Named Sue

2009: Hard Night’s Day

2010: Boys Named Sue

2011: The Gorehounds


Best Male Vocalist – 

2008: Matt Hillyer of Eleven Hundred Springs

2009: Jonathan Tyler

2010: Jonathan Tyler

2011: Trenton Wheeler of Seryn


Best Indie Act – 

2008: Dove Hunter

2009: The Paper Chase

2010: Midlake

2011: Burning Hotels


Best Hard Rock Act – 

2008: The Backsliders

2009: Toadies

2010: The Backsliders

2011: The House Harkonnen


Best Song – 

2008: “Slow Southern Home” – Doug Burr

2009: “What Should We With the Body? (The Lightning)” – The Paper Chase

2010: “Clementine” – Sarah Jaffe

2011: “We Will All Be Changed” – Seryn (Also Nominated in 2010)


Best New Act – 

2008: Whiskey Folk Ramblers & Tejas Brothers (tie)

2009: The O’s

2010: Ishi

2011: Datahowler


Best Radio Show/Podcast:

2008: N/A

2009: 90.1 at Night

2010: The Local Edge  

2011: The Local Edge


Best Latin/Tejano Act: 

2008: N/A

2009: The Tejas Brothers

2010: Mad Mexicans

2011: Mariachi Queztal


Best Punk Act: 

2008: N/A

2009: Spector 45

2010: Spector 45

2011: Mind Spiders


Best Blog: 

2008: N/A

2009: N/A

2010: Gorilla vs Bear

2011: Gorilla vs Bear

The It List:

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth/White Drugs/Final Club/Bearbare (Hailey’s): Had to stop myself from using the word “roaring” in this When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth description, because that’s just too easy, and well, nauseating. But it makes perfect sense. This group has been on a long-standing mission in Austin’s crowded scene, to poke, provoke, and annoy through a blend of high-pitched vocal antics and noticeably heavy riff-work. All which sets them apart from the more cooperative artists with which they share scene-space. They also have released work and been involved with Monofonous Press, which describes itself as an “Austin-based record label and multimedia organization.” Indeed, I had a chance to briefly visit their facilities on a recent visit, and was impressed at the seemingly round-the-clock work of the screen-printing chores coupled with a gigantic room of stock. Monofonous is no bedroom-operation, as is the vogue in this century. Solid locals round out this tough bill.

Peopleodian/Spooky Folk/Shiny Around the Edges/Botany (Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios): Botany is yet another off-shoot from the Mom (see above)/Sleep Whale family (by way of drummer Spencer Stephenson) and I must say, he really impressed the crowd in his opening slot for Panda Bear last month. He produced a fairly enveloping mix of guitar effect fog with a consistent drum machine beat that had everyone saying either how much they preferred him to the opening act, or assuming he was another big national on tour with that other well-known drummer on the bill. The Storm Thorgerson-like visuals from Sleep Whale’s Bruce Blay didn’t hurt his cause either.

And of course, I should mention that this is a release show for Peopleodian’s anticipated new EP “It Woke to the Moon.” We’ll have more on that very soon, but for now, download a track from the release by going here.


  • Chris Bryan

    The Peopleodian CD release is at Rubber Gloves in Denton, not the Granada.

  • Christopher Mosley

    Wow, quite a difference. Fixed.

  • Chris Bryan

    Haha, yes. Maybe someday. Thanks for the quick fix.

  • ace

    what is most noticeable about this list is that it focuses primarily on acts that are truly “local”. their fan bases are here and they are here. consistently left off this list are a myriad of performers who find fans elsewhere and, hence, do not focus any efforts on promoting a local “best of…” contest. so, this is a proper list of sorts, though it does no justice to the acts that have made headway in other arenas.

  • ghost

    one word to sum up these dallas music awards: circlejerk.

    and I don’t think that many people are paying attention..

  • ghost

    one word to sum up these dallas music awards: circlejerk!

    and I don’t think that many people are paying attention.

  • ghost

    one word to sum up these dallas music awards: circlejerk!
    and I don’t think that many people are paying attention

  • chris

    and your point caller?

  • truly yours

    the guy has always been shit, but I doubt VV will do any better in his replacement. what i wonder now is, where will i get my daily dose of calhoun news?

  • Theguy

    I don’t think Sara Jaffe or Jonathan Tyler has ever lost an award they have been nominated for. Does anybody find it odd that house of blues won best venue the same year that they hosted the awards? The drinks are expensive, the sound can be pretty bad at times, and it seems like the majority of their shows are tribute bands.

  • It’s cool that Mind Spiders won best punk act even though they’re in Ft. Worth.. It shoulda been Hood Rat though.

  • Joy

    “Admittedly, I did not fill one out. Don’t blame me.”

    No, that’s exactly why you do share the blame. You’re wringing your hands over how repetitive it is and how Dallas isn’t supporting the trends going on elsewhere in the country, but when you had a chance to nominate anyone you wanted, you did nothing. If you didn’t vote, don’t gripe about who wins.

  • Anthony Mariani

    Well, it’s a popular vote, correct? And there are, like, seven or eight nominees in each category. (??) I’m just guessing that the DOMAs are similar to our Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards: Several months before the big festival, I send blank ballots to several dozen North Texas music folk, most of whom aren’t professional musicians, and tally up the results to arrive at a ballot for readers’ votes. We Weekly folk tally up the votes after the festival and arrive at our winners. Yes, certain artists — the Hotels, Calhoun, Telegraph Canyon, Whiskey Folk, The Orbans, The Me-Thinks, Stella Rose, Kevin Aldridge, Scott Copeland, etc. — are on the ballot every year, and why not? If they’re still churning out music and still doing it well — and still residing mostly in the 817 — then they deserve to be on the ballot. The problem with our awards is that it’s like any other popular-voting contest: popularity — and beauty — reign.