By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
"I don't like it when groups put a piece of vinyl on and claim it's their own sound," Young insists. "Our live show is what really says it all."
The chemistry between the musicians and the rappers is also evident in the recorded output of BassX (their debut CD is due shortly), on which they show the only thing that can confine you musically is your own limited perceptions. The band is not afraid to venture out, mixing rock and psychedelia into the music. And for their part, Kid Homeslice and Snick G. rap about life in Texas--about the everyday highs and lows, their love for Coltrane and beer, about "inflation of the mind and not the pocket," and, of course, girls.
"Our whole philosophy is get off your butt and have fun," Young says. "We only have one life to live that we know. With BassX, I do what I love and enjoy it to the fullest."
No music ever dies--not disco, not rockabilly, not ska, not new wave, not any of those so-called short-lived sub-genres that have been written off, dismissed, erased from the history books. Try telling Reverend Horton Heat (or Ronnie Dawson, for that matter) that "rockabilly is the purest of all rock & roll genres...because it never went anywhere," as Peter Guralnick wrote in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll; try telling Bobgoblin that "by the mid-'80s, new wave was old hat," as Ken Tucker wrote in the same book.
And try telling the Grown-Ups that ska is dead, that it was supplanted by reggae in the early '70s and suffered a second death in 1979, after Madness and the English Beat and Selecter had their shot at it. Grant them this: the Grown-Ups, however much their shtick may be a direct lift from the British Two-Tone movement, are at the very least one hell of an exciting band. Theirs is a sound--enormous, brassy, propelled by the chukka-chukka of two electric guitars and the faux-Brit accents of singer Grant "Stoom" Cornett--that's rooted in an old-school dance craze but gets by enough on the wild-eyed love for the stuff. The legs never stiffen if you don't stand still.
Though the Grown-Ups get little attention outside the area--a recent issue of Alternative Press failed to include them in a massive listing of ska bands in the South that included the likes of Provo, Utah's Swim Herschel Swim--but their 10-inch EP for Direct Hit was among 1994's swellest local releases. Packaged with loads of stickers and posters and complete with its own cut-out mask, the album (pressed on white vinyl, no less) contained the band's now-immortal anthem, "I'm a Grown-Up," which encourages you to be a grown-up, too. "The responsible ones keep questioning me: 'Whatcha gonna do when you run out of youth?'" they wonder, knowing full well that when you listen to--or play--ska, that won't ever happen.
Dallas Brass & Electric
Dallas Brass and Electric, a musical institution in the Metroplex since the days when Tripping Daisy were in high school, operates out of the office that houses their parent company, Solid Brass Productions. And if that sounds a bit corporate and sterile--artists holed up in an office, sitting at desks and fielding calls and booking appointments like regular Joes on the clock--maybe it explains why musicians would make a career out of playing copy music: for the money.
"Actually, it's a hard way to make a living," says Don Bozman, DB&E's trombonist and spokesman. "In the mid- to late '80s, when the economy was cool, you could make a good living. But now, though the band is our primary source of income, the musicians all pretty much do happy-hour gigs or session work. But no one's flipping burgers."
Hard times or not, Dallas Brass and Electric has survived the ever-altering stylistic and financial landscapes of the Metroplex music scene since the early '80s. And if they haven't garnered a reputation for writing original material (one critically acclaimed EP, released a few years back, met with indifference in the marketplace), at least they've consistently attracted great musicians.
"DB&E has always been about having the best players available," Bozman insists. "I hesitate to call us a 'variety' act, which connotes cheesy tunes and cheesy arrangements, but this is an extremely versatile group."
The band's playlist, which evolves on a monthly basis, is heavily R&B flavored, but also includes contemporary jazz, rock and even a few alternative-rock tunes--all rendered with a distinct DB&E flavor. Bozman stresses many copy bands have no other musical goal than to replicate the chosen material note-for-note, while in DB&E a song might change from night to night.
"Because the players are so good," Bozman says of his band, "it's possible for us to get to the heart of the song--copy or original--and go beyond the song and get to the music...There's a ton of original bands whose music sucks. There are plenty of good ones, too, like Ten Hands. But just because you write your own stuff doesn't mean it's good."