By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
CLASSICAL PERFORMANCE ENSEMBLE
Dallas Symphony Orchestra
The 1995-96 season for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra holds much promise: mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, who canceled her only North American opera appearance, with the Dallas Opera, last year because of illness and injury, is scheduled to perform with the DSO on October 2 at the Meyerson Symphony Center; violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg will make her debut with the orchestra in February 1996; and such classical superstars as pianists Emmanuel Ax and André Watts will return to town. If there is any doubt that the DSO can top last season, which marked the full-time debut of conductor Andrew Litton, the schedule for next season should quiet the doubters.
Certainly, last year was marked by the death of conductor emeritus Eduardo Mata in a plane crash; just as the jubilation over Litton's taking the baton was calming, the tragic news cast a pall over things. (John Ardoin's "obituary" in the Morning News, which read more like a scathing attack on the dead, did little to soften the blow, outraging even Mata's greatest detractors.)
Undoubtedly, the DSO ranks among the best orchestras in the country, selling out each season and garnering critical acclaim with each CD release. Litton's arrival and the now-legendary Meyerson only add to the prestige the DSO has built up since the days when George Solti was music director for a brief time in the 1960s. But this award goes to the DSO for the same reason McDonald's wins best restaurant in the Best of Dallas issue each September--because it's familiar, easy, what readers know best.
Cafe Noir, which won last year, may not explicitly fit the bill--no more than they are a jazz band or a Western swing group--but theirs is a background firmly entrenched in classical music. But like Kronus Quartet or any number of avant-garde groups, they experiment with the form, attacking Stravinsky's "Andante and Gallop" (from his "Five Easy Pieces") and Gene Autry's "Back in the Saddle Again" with the same passion, the same respect. Nothing against the DSO, ever, but like Miles Davis says in much stronger terms, theirs is "dead European music" whereas Café Noir's is very much alive.
LIVE MUSIC VENUE
All night, throughout the Cartwrights' set and continuing through the New Bohemians' highly anticipated reunion concert, the bass reverberated throughout the club like a train off its tracks. The godawful thump was like a sledgehammer to the chest, so painful it drove men and women from the place like rats from a burning building.
In the days that followed the show, both the Morning News and the Observer commented about the horrendous sound, blaming the sound man for the mix. Only later, after stumbling across much derisive graffiti concerning the personal habits of a particular music editor, would we discover the fault lay with New Bos' bassist Brad Houser, not with the guy behind the board. Apologies followed, on both sides.
It was, as memory best serves, the only time Trees ever sounded bad, and for that reason alone, Trees deserves this award--good sound, after all, being such a rare commodity in Deep Ellum, where the tone-deaf are apparently hired without qualification.
No doubt about it, Trees has much going for it as a nightclub--good sightlines, friendly bartenders, groovy upstairs hangout, delightful people at the door, a decent-to-excellent roster of touring acts (from Paul Westerberg to Throwing Muses, Nick Lowe to Cyndi Lauper), and so forth. And if the readers prefer it over Club Dada, the Galaxy, or the jukejoint on the country side of Deep Ellum, Naomi's, so be it. (Honorary mention to Sons of Hermann Hall, though, the jewel of Dallas music venues.)
But Trees is just that--a nightclub, no more or less. Which means, for the thousandth time, Dallas is left with relatively few "live music venues" that do not require a valid Texas I.D. for entry. Since the Bronco Bowl never re-opened (and what happened with that, anyway?), the Majestic rents out for concerts with such infrequency, and the Arcadia's still sweatin' with the oldies, Dallas has been without a decent mid-sized venue for far too long.
Fact is, after all these years of moaning, the best live music venue in town still goes unused most of the time--the Fair Park Bandshell, which slowly decays beneath the searing summer sun and the wet, cold rain of winter. With its spacious front section, room enough for blankets and those who want to stand, and the rows of bleachers, the Bandshell is a treasure that is dusted off so infrequently it has been all but forgotten by promoters. Instead, shows get stuck in the way-too-cavernous Bomb Factory or Deep Ellum Live--crowds forced to stand when they ought to sit, eyes and lungs seared from the cigarette smoke that stagnates inside those structures and the other clubs.
RADIO PROGRAM THAT PLAYS LOCAL ARTISTS
"The Adventure Club," kdge-fm (94.5)
Josh Venable's fixation with Morrissey and Hagfish aside--way aside, if you know what we mean--"The Adventure Club" is like an oasis in the desert that is Sunday night radio, so good you almost wonder whether it's a mirage.